ORANGE CITY, IOWA — On the outskirts of this overwhelmingly Christian and deeply conservative town of about 6,000 in northwestern Iowa, motorists pass a sign on the edge of State Route 10 that poses a question: “If a fetus is not a child, why the rush to abort it?”
So many thousands have seen the sign since it was erected in the autumn of 2008 that observers generally agree it is the most powerful antiabortion message in the community. The sign sits on farmland belonging to 81-year-old Carl Mulder, a lifelong Republican and self-described “devoted Christian.” Lately he had been reading whatever he could about the possibility of a federal government shutdown sparked by Republican and Democratic differences over government spending cuts.
Republicans portray Planned Parenthood as primarily focused on performing abortions and using taxpayer dollars to do it, while Democrats and the organization counter that the group provides an array of services, from Pap smears to breast exams. (April 8)
On Friday, as the midnight deadline for working out a deal approached, nothing had aroused Mulder so much as talk that Republicans were demanding a slashing of federal funds for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Though none of the money Planned Parenthood gets from the government is used for abortions, conservatives have argued that even if federal funding does not pay for abortions directly, it frees up other money that does.
Mulder was excited, convinced that the congressional imbroglio offered conservative Republicans a rare opportunity to strike a major blow on behalf of the antiabortion movement. He did not want to see the GOP back down from what he views as a pivotal fight, even if it led to a shutdown. Compromise, Mulder said, would only betray weakness.
Mulder’s yearnings and warnings reflect the political risks facing House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and the other Republican leaders if they are seen as caving in on the issues that matter most to many social conservatives. With the shutdown deadline only a few hours away, Mulder gave voice to expectations and hopes: “We need people to be strong now on abortion funding, not to back down. This is the chance. My understanding is many Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood. And if it takes a government shutdown to do that, then I’d do it, because we have to stop the killing of unborn babies.”
The impetus for Mulder’s sign, set in a field where he and his family have been growing corn and soybeans for three generations, came about three years ago, when Mulder went to a local Christian organization that encouraged unwed mothers to put up children for adoption rather than seek abortions. Mulder asked them for language that he could put on an antiabortion sign, and the organization responded with not only the pointed question about the status of a fetus but also a slogan for the other side: “Adoption Is Still an Option!”
Delighted with the wording, Mulder paid $750 to a friend to carefully paint the large sign and help him erect it off Route 10. Suddenly, many motorists were being reminded of the cause several times a week.
“I got some compliments about it,” he said. “But, you know, maybe not as many as you’d think, and that’s probably because I personally don’t know anyone around Orange City and this county who isn’t antiabortion. The antiabortion feeling isn’t dramatic around here. It’s pretty common. People should know that — so many people feel the same way I do here. . . . That’s what I hope Congress remembers now. They gotta do something. They can’t let this go. You can’t just talk about it.”