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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Abortion Question, Obama, Biden, McCain and Palin

For some people abortion is settled Federal law. For liberal Americans like Mr. Obama and his NARAL allies and contributors, the people who make a fuss about ‘reproductive rights’ are “dangerous”, “deranged fanatics” or “right-wing nut-jobs”. Are they? Or is this another example of left wing hyperbole? For the Left, “reproductive rights” are a cherished civil right as dear as suffrage or laws against child labor or school segregation. But for the Right, or social conservatives like Sarah Palin, abortion is a moral affront, a human rights issue. It should be clear to everyone now –some 35 years after Roe v. Wade- that the struggle against the judicial ukase that is the Roe case has not diminished, quite the contrary. Will 2008 be a turning point for the Roe ascendancy (which after all was only a 5-4 decision)? Will the rise of Sarah Palin on the coattails of John McCain (or vice-versa!) have an impact on this cause célèbre? Can there be articles of peace over the issue of abortion?

In televised interview in August 2008, California minister Rick Warren asked the presidential candidates when human rights should be granted. McCain answered, "At the moment of conception." Obama , appearing unwilling to be candid before the camera, said that the question "is above my pay grade." Presidents don't write abortion laws of course and neither do governors or vice presidents. But governors and vice presidents can become presidents.

And presidents DO appoint Supreme Court judges, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and eventually Supreme Court judges might overturn past decisions. It is almost impossible to override a Supreme Court decision with a Constitutional amendment. (though it has happened: see the Dred Scott case). Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s choice for Republican VP has come under withering attacks from the Left, particularly “pro-choice” Democrats because they see great danger that their ascendancy on this issue may be challenged if McCain-Palin make it to the White House. The election of Obama-Biden on the other hand would assure Ruth Bader Ginsberg that if she should retire she would be placed by an equally left-liberal Supreme Court Judge. Sarah Palin has said she is ‘pro-life’ and this choice is not acceptable at all to the left for a whole host of reasons. One reason is many Ivy League lawyers see their federal judgeships going away. But the other reason is it would be a humiliating defeat for the liberal elite.

We can see the strong emotions surrounding the abortion controversy when South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler made a vicious and totally gratuitous ad hominem attack on Gov. Palin. Ms. Fowler by asserting that the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.” I think this was not only an ignorant and bigoted remark –Palin is arguably more experienced than Mr. Obama- but it was very condescending and one Democrats will come to regret. I can’t help but thinking that we might have had a “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion moment” in this campaign. (In case you don’t remember Blaine lost New York State by only 600 votes and the presidential election by one state in 1884 and this one gaffe was considered responsible). Recently it seems the Democrats are the deranged ones, making gaffes almost daily. My gut feeling is Mrs. Palin and the never say die Old Navy Pilot Old Mac, will have the last laugh. They who laugh last, laugh best.


There are at least three states have measures on their November ballots that could test the abortion issue further in the courts during the next several years. California has yet another parental notification measure on the ballot but I think, as a Californian, it will probably lose again. This is a very socially liberal state once overall though I know the San Joaquin Valley is a conservative pro-life stronghold. But one never knows about these things. Popular opinion ebbs and flows and spectacular events can change the political mood overnight. Prop 8 (the marriage amendment) is energizing voters who are rightly outraged at judicial overreach. Californians already voted for Prop 22 in defense of traditional marriage but this was ignored in favor of a 4-3 court vote. South Dakota, voters will decide whether to restrict abortions except in the case of rape, incest or threat to the woman's health. That is John McCain’s stand, essentially. In theory, Palin is more hard-line but I am sure she would be happy to endorse this law FOR STATES that want it (as opposed to states that DON’T WANT IT.) Colorado also has a measure on the ballot defining human life as beginning at conception, though it should be obvious that such a law would not make any difference one way of another. The South Dakota law is much more likely to be the historic law that might lead to a Roe challenge

The Left says –though they obfuscate with euphemisms like ‘reproductive rights’ and the “right to choose”- that abortion on demand is the cornerstone for Women’s Rights and so is as essential and sacred as the right to vote or the right to go to school or the right to accommodation. To them the issue was decided long ago. It is all about freedom and privacy. They won (never mind how) in 1973 and they can’t understand why this silly issue keeps raising its ugly human head.

That is the essence of the disagreement: for some the fetus counts for nothing; the rest of us are haunted by a feeling this is wrong. One cannot dismiss the tears and anguish of millions who think they are witnessing the greatest slaughter since Hitler’s holocaust. I can’t help but think the tears and prayers of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin are authentic. I know the tears and prayers in my local community are authentic. I know my prayers and tears for the Silent Ones who now number forty million or more are authentic.

Surely the fetus must count for something –but even I will admit a fetus by tradition and common law has NEVER counted as much as a live baby or an adult human being.

This is why comparing abortion on demand to slavery or the holocaust –though powerful- are analogies which don’t quite fit. It is, perhaps, a case of right-wing hyperbole. But perhaps, it is not.

But surely, I say, we KNOW, everyone KNOWS, the fetus DOES count for something.

If it didn’t we wouldn’t have ANY restrictions whatsoever.

To return to the slavery analogy, Lincoln pointed out that even the strongest advocates of slavery KNEW a black slave WAS a human being and not a dog or mere property BECAUSE slave states had laws against the unlawful killing of slaves.
It is only my personal opinion but I think we, as Americans, ought to worry that a society which has so little regard for the value of a single fetus –which is arguably human life or potential human life.

A society which callously embraces abortion on demand as just another convenient form of birth control is a society that some day may accept the legal killing of comatose children and adults whose lives are –to use a Nazi phrase lebensunwerten Lebens (“not worth living).” A society that may accede to the “mercy killing” of the severely psychotic or the developmentally disabled. It is a society that will kill fetuses because the gender is wrong or the hair color or race of the fetus is not to the mother’s liking. People interested in human rights should be aware of The German book of the 1920’s (and propaganda film of the 1930’s with this title) Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens: Ihr Mass und Ihre Form (Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living. Its Extent and Form).

Let me say I am not saying that Obama or anyone else is a Nazi. I am just saying one cannot dismiss the slippery slope argument. The tyranny of Nazi Germany did not start with WWII or the Holocaust. It started with hundreds of thousands of “mercy killings” who were usually claimed to have died of natural causes. Before they were murdered the disabled often signed a series of post cards telling their loved ones what a wonderful time they were having. I have seen the cards. The Nazis were great liars as well as great killers.

We who stand for the protection of human life –and I have finally come around to consider myself at least as pro-life as John McCain if not Mrs. Palin- are very concerned about this bloody slippery slope, this road to horrors not yet imagined, such as the cannibalism of Soylent Green. It is well-known that in China today –as in Nazi Germany- human body parts are playthings of the state and pig feed is mixed with human protein often from aborted female fetuses. If we care about human rights, we should care about such things and see to it that they never happen.

(see also Henry Harrison’s 1966 novel MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM)

The fundamental issue at play, as I see it, is what value we Americans place on one human life. If Americans accept abortion on demand as just another medical procedure or just a ‘reproductive right’ like any other form of birth control what are we doing?

We are saying, that in some circumstances, human life (or potential human life) may be legally terminated perhaps just because the mother feels like it or it is inconvenient at the moment. Americans all believe in rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If pressed almost all Americans would say that life is the supreme value. The natural law I am expressing is not a sectarian Catholic or Christian, belief only. The Hippocratic oath sworn by doctors is to “DO NO HARM” be they men and woman of faith or not. Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians and even secular humanists believe in the intrinsic value of human life. There is no getting around it. The right to abortion on demand is not merely a private issue any more than ritual Santería animal sacrifice, cock fights, euthanasia or infanticide are entirely private issues. The private domain is strong in a free society and the right to privacy is strong but it is not absolute.

Everyone reasonable would agree to that.

A wonderful book is Garraty’s QUARRELS THAT HAVE SHAPED THE CONSTITUTION (ed. John Garraty Harper and Row 1987). It is an anthology of short articles on famous Supreme Court cases. The last article in the book is “THE ABORTION CASE” by Rosalind Rosenburg. It is the single best article on the Roe v. Wade case I have ever read. Another splendid book on Supreme Court decisions in general is John J. Patrick’s The Supreme Court of the United States (Oxford, 2001). I attended a seminar presented by Dr. Patrick at San Diego University July 30, 2002 and we had a splendid lunch together talking about Constitutional issues such as the Roe case and it was he who recommended the Garraty anthology as well as Sarah Weddington’s Question of Choice and Laurence Tribe’s book Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes. In these books and the Rosenberg article we find the facts and background of the case. We learn that public reaction to the Roe case was muted because LBJ died the same day (January 22, 1973). We learn something about Norma McCorvey who for many years was the anonymous “Roe”. We learn that McCorvey (“Roe”) lied (or her attorneys Weddington and Coffee though they deny this) about the circumstances’ of Roe’s pregnancy claiming falsely that “Roe” was gang raped by three men, one White, one Black and one of Mexican descent! The purpose of this fiction was to appeal to the moral outrage as well as racism of the Texas jury. We also learn that McCorvey claimed to be raped to gain exemption from Texas’s strong anti-abortion laws. I urge everyone to read Rosenberg’s article. It made a strong impression on me and not because it takes sides on the issue. Rosenberg, I think, favors the pro-choice side. But she is honest enough to recognize that there is a moral and legal conundrum here. As Rosalind Rosenberg has written:

“The debate concerns the most basic problem of our political system: how to resolve the tension inherent in our Constitution between a respect for majority rule and a commitment to individual liberty. Whenever the Court attempts to mediate between a claim of liberty denied (such as that made by Jane Roe) and a conflicting public interest (such as Texas’s desire to protect potential life). The Court poses a threat to majority rule and risks losing the popular respect on which its power ultimately rests. Whenever it abjures that mediating function, however, it risks sacrificing the individual liberty without democracy cannot survive. “
Now let’s get back to Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is American democracy in action. Her entire career is one of populism, honesty and moral integrity, arising from the people. She is not a typical, slick lawyer politician financed by corporations and special interests. Part of the enormous appeal of Sarah Palin is that she is just another American woman who holds heartland values.

And in the Heartland –unlike in the halls of Planned Parenthood , NARAL and Yale Law school- Roe v. Wade has never been embraced or accepted. Newsflash to Boston, New York and San Francisco.

It never will be. However the Left tried to bury the issue and cloak it with euphemisms, abortion remains a cause célèbre in places like Sioux City, Iowa, Bakersfield, California and Wasilla , Alaska.

There is solid evidence that the majority of the American people –and supermajorities in the Red State heartland- repudiate the UNQUALIFIED RIGHT to an abortion established by Roe V Wade.

There would be widespread support of a moderate, restrictive public policy that rejects abortion on demand BUT ALLOWS IT (remember the “legal but rare” slogan?) in cases of rape, incest, a threat to the life and health of the mother or grave fetal deformity. This is why the South Dakota proposition (John McCain’s position essentially) has a chance to pass. If America were to embrace this policy –which represents a compromise and is not an absolutist position, 90-95% of all abortions performed today would not be allowed.

But the Left would never hear of his and I admit many of my friends on the Right – perhaps including Sarah Palin- would refuse to make any concession at all as well. Which I think is a mistake. Politics, as George Will once wrote, is all about settling for the ‘half-loaf’ and incremental reforms and changes. Mind you I respect Mrs. Palin’s view very much and it is the view of many of my pro-life friends and family.

I am not in this later category because I accept the reality that abortion will not go away even if Roe is overturned.

I peacefully coexist with many things I think that are wrong for me as a Catholic –a serious Catholic-but a person of a different faith of lifestyle may feel differently.

I accept artificial birth control (chemical and barrier contraception) as a fact of modern life just like the machine gun or the atomic bomb other instruments of our modern culture of death.

I accept divorce as a legal fact and a necessity because the people believe in divorce and many do not believe as I do that marriage is a sacrament.

I accept Civil Unions for Gays and Lesbians and can peacefully coexist with something I don’t care for but oppose à outrance changing the definition of marriage.

Yes, I personally disapprove of pre-martial sex, adultery, cursing, incivility, truancy and conscientious objection to military service. These are not things I would do habitually myself but I do not condemn people who do engage in these activities. Who am I to know the circumstances of their education and private lives? If I were living in a certain environment perhaps I would talk to swearing like a sailor to get along or perhaps I would be an ardent pacifist. In any case I agree with the pacifist that peace is better than war. But unlike the pacifist I think there is a peace that can only come after a just war. (This is my opinion of WWII, the Afghanistan war and the Iraq War).

But I do not condemn anybody who does not believe as I do because for one thing, many people are not Catholics or former Marines or members of the NRA. I don’t expect non-Catholics or females –even my wife- to share my beliefs nor do I support the coercion of the state to enforce uniformity in these matters. And outside of my home and my classroom I am very tolerant of people private choices, private religion, private non-religion and private lifestyles. I believe in living and let live.

I DO EXPECT, however, my parish priest and church leaders to uphold church teaching and I DO EXPECT practicing Catholics to support and embrace Church teachings. If they do not –like Nancy Pelosi- that is their right but it is not their right to prevaricate and say their personal heresy and apostasy is just all right and yes to use Ms. Pelosi’s words that she is an “ardent Catholic”.

I am sorry that is like Fidel or Raul Castro saying he is an “ardent Democrat” and can’t wait to have another rigged election. This is why Joe Biden, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi give scandal as so-called “Catholic” leaders. I dislike Obama’s view but at least he doesn’t pretend to be a ‘born-again Christian’ or an “ardent Catholic.”

What do the American people think? I think most Americans can peacefully coexist as I do with the right to abortion under some conditions.
The real problem is the government financing of abortion, the profits made by abortion doctors, proposals to experiment with the cells and body parts of fetuses, and the unqualified right to an abortion on demand established by Roe even for minors (without the knowledge and permission of parents).

I do not believe the American people would ever support a Constitutional amendment restricting abortion in virtually all cases.

But I do believe most Americans believe in parental consent (no abortions for minors without the consent of parents or guardians) and most Americans would allow the right of abortion in the cases of incest, rape, or if the mother’s life were in danger.

I think many Americans, if not the majority, would support the right to abortion in the case of a grave fetal deformity (such as Down’s syndrome). I personally do not agree with this choice but I can peacefully coexist with people who make that choice if society agrees to allow that choice.

But how many American’s believe that a healthy baby can be aborted just because of its gender, race or physical characteristics? Americans would have doubts about that, I feel certain.

I do not deny I applauded the Palin’s decision not to abort little Trig. I personally will never forget the image of little Piper tenderly and innocently caressing Trig at the Republican convention. How sad it would have been for there to have been an empty chair! Life and love are better than nothingness. We all have met someone who has Down’s syndrome. They have a whole range of symptoms. Here is a moral question to consider. If 80% of Down syndrome babies are aborted, how many of THOSE might be able to lead a normal productive life? 5% 10% 3%? Even it were as low as 1 % it would have to give pause to anyone who has a deep respect for human rights and for life. And I have met so many loving and happy Down syndrome children. Their joy for life, despite their disability, seems to be sending a message to all of us, that life itself is a precious, special gift of God.

But there is no question that I thinking may be impossible to develop a final moral consensus regarding the issue of abortion. Part of the issue, surely, has to do with separation of Church and state and the privacy rights of women and men (be they single and married) as well as married couples. I don’t think there will ever be a satisfactory resolution over the value and right to life for the fetus.
Nonetheless, in my view we have to move past the view that the fetus COUNTS FOR NOTHING, NOTHING AT ALL and –to be fair- that its value is as great as that of a one day old baby or an adult.

As painful as that compromise would be for me it is one I could live with. If we were to make such an article of peace it would be have to be based upon the fact that human life is a rare, magical and special thing and the realization that life itself is not the only value. There are values such as privacy, liberty and justice, for example. Many liberals feel “reproductive rights” are a social justice issue. I respect that. I am not a woman. Ultimately my wife and children will have to make their own choices. I just hope and pray they make good choices and moral choices. There is no question that a great many Americans today consider abortion to be a morally justified act. Though I find myself more and more indentifying with the pro-life view and abandoning the pro-choice views I have held most of my adult life (albeit in a conflicted and precarious fashion). I can respect people who believe that abortion is, for them, a civil right and a morally justifiable act IN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES AND FOR SOME PEOPLE according to the lights of their belief.
I am not in favor of killing myself but I was trained to kill in the Armed Forces and I would not have hesitated to kill in defense of my country or my company. I am not a pacifist and I believe that a society has a right to defend itself. I believe there is such a thing as a just cause and a just war. Therefore, I believe that killing (as opposed to murder) is morally justified under some circumstances. I did not shed a tear at the hanging of Saddam Hussein and my mother , a very tender woman, did not shed a tear at the news of the death of Adolph Hitler, the destruction of another Nazi u-boat or the assassination of Heydrich, his ruthless lieutenant. Some people need killing. Sometimes killing or execution is necessary for the safety and common good of all.

My mother was a devout loving Christian but she was not strongly “pro-life”. As a nurse she remembered the time of illegal abortion mills. So she was pro-choice though not ardently all of her life. I think it fair to see she would have liked to have seen an America were abortions were legal but rare. I respect that view. It was the view my mother held.

I know many of my pro-life friends often let slip the word “murder” when they talk about abortion and sometimes call doctors “murderers”. I never have used language like this myself because under the law of our land as it stands neither the mother who asks for an abortion under the parameters of Roe or the doctor who performs one are murders under our law. We, as Americans, must respect the law and the Constitution.

(See for example the Dr. Tiller case, a doctor infamous –called an abortion profiteer by some- for his late term abortions: )
QUOTE: But jurors wrote that as the current law has been written — and interpreted by the Kansas Supreme Court — late-term abortions will continue for many circumstances that as a matter of common interpretation do not meet the definition.
“Unless, and until the state Legislature is willing to amend the present statutes and provide clearer and more definitive guidelines regarding ’substantial and irreversible impairment,’ or impose new or additional statutory limitations on the ability of a woman to obtain an abortion of a viable fetus, we doubt that any investigation into the practices and procedures of Dr. Tiller and the Women’s Health Care Services will yield an outcome that will provide any basis for indictment,” the grand jury wrote.

But even NARAL has to admit –if they are honest- that a killing happens in such instances. A legal killing or a morally justified killing under the law, not an actionable murder (as in the case of Dr. Tiller) but a killing none the less.
The NARAL and Planned Parenthood crowd –strong supporters of Barrack Obama-clearly are very annoyed at John McCain and especially Sarah Palin because after all isn’t she a woman? Shouldn’t she show solidarity with womankind?

Gov. Palin would laugh at this suggestion, I think, because when it comes to this issue Mrs. Palin knows no gender, nor race, no nationality. For Mrs. Palin abortion is and always will be a moral tragedy and the sanctity of human life will always be the supreme value. I admit that this might seem incomprehensible to some people just as prohibiting a glass of sherry on a Saturday night seems incomprehensible to me.

But I can’t help but thinking that Palin and McCain have the high moral ground here. For years I have hesitated to call myself pro-life as I straddled the fence and appeased pro-choice NARAListas. The more I pray and the more I think about the rights and wrongs I pray that I will pass on to my children and grandchildren an America where abortion may be legal in some circumstances but rare. I hope to bequeath to them an American were abortion -though not family planning- is discouraged. I hope to bequeath to them an America were abortion and human body parts are not a multimillion dollar business in all fifty states for abortion profiteers like Dr. Tiller. Who could be proud to be associated with people like that? That is the essential issue. What kind of people do we want to be? A country of Tillers or Palins? McCain has made his choice: he wants America to be more like Palin. Obama has made it clear “he don’t care” (a la Stephen Douglas). If we do not find some common ground between the pro-life absolutists and the ‘reproduction rights” absolutists, the long run effect could be a gradual weakening of the bonds of humanity that most reasonable people believe are essential for a decent, free society. Whatever America chooses in 2008, or future days, we have to respect the election results and Supreme Court decisions or oppose them or protest them in a legal, reasonable fashion. That is something Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden, Mr. Romney, Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin would all agree on.

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