When the National Pro-Life Alliance asked congressional candidate James Woods (D-AZ) to fill out a survey about whether he supports the “sanctity of life,” Woods came back with an unusual response. He pointed out that he does support some policies proven to lower the number of unintended pregnancies, and mailed back condoms emblazoned with the phrase “prevent abortion.”
“Thank you for taking the time to write to me about your anti-abortion stance,” Woods replied in a letter to the right-wing group. “While I cannot support policies that jeopardize the health and stability of women and their families, there are many measures that I do support that are proven to quickly enhance the well-being of women — and to significantly reduce abortion.”
In his letter, the candidate went on to list several sexual health policies that can lower the abortion rate — like expanding comprehensive sex ed, ensuring greater access to birth control, and strengthening government safety net programs for low-income women and their children. “I look forward to working together with you to promote policies like these,” he concluded.
Woods, who is open about the fact that he identifies as an agnostic Humanist, also released a press release about the incident explaining that his “reproductive justice position is part of a progressive Humanist platform that he hopes will motivate other politicians to be open about their Humanist values and identity.” If he defeats his Republican opponent Matt Salmon to take Arizona’s Fifth District, he could become the first openly atheist candidate to be elected to Congress.
Woods’ response to the National Pro-Life Alliance underscores the point that, although abortion opponents want fewer women to choose to end their pregnancies, they don’t necessarily support the policies that would get closer to that goal. In fact, one faith-based lobbying group recently crunched the numbers and found that Democratic administrations are more likely to oversee bigger drops in the national abortion rate than Republican administrations. The Arizona candidate is hardly the first to make this connection. Last year, when Texas lawmakers approved a harsh package of abortion restrictions, Democrats retorted that the legislature ought to focus its attention on implementing comprehensive sex ed programs and expanding access to birth control.
Even as the abortion rate has recently fallen to historic lows thanks to more widespread use of birth control, anti-choice organizations have continued to focus on closing abortion clinics instead of furthering family planning programs. According to a recent report from Guttmacher Institute, “the philosophical divide over what constitutes effective and acceptable ways to further reduce the incidence of abortion in the United States has never been more stark.”