Cathleen, a technical question: How do you know this reply was written by Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec? I read the response but did not see their names. What did I miss.
Well, the main reason I know is because I’m Kaveny! But our names are right under the subtitle.
Prof. Kaveny’s Newsweek article responding to George Weigel is unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, a misrepresentation of the choice facing Catholics. Furthermore her misrepresentation, given the clarity of the facts as they exist and as have been presented to her and her co-authors, can only at this point be called dishonest. I regret to say that, but the conclusion is unavoidable.
The article describes the presidential choice on abortion as follows: McCain will maintain the status quo of Roe as currently interpreted by the Court, and Obama will maintain the same status quo plus will fund low income pregnant women and help the economy. Therefore the pro-life and Catholic thing to do is choose Obama.
But the second half of this comparison is blatantly false. The choice for Obama is not a choice for the status quo.
The choice for Obama is to massively expand abortion. As a friend accurately describes it, he will bomb the pro-life movement back into the stone age. Obama’s top priority is the Freedom of Choice Act (more important to him than the economy, or than his sugary, empty words about how abortion is a moral choice). FOCA will destroy all pro-life limits on abortion in the states and federal government. There are many, and they save well over 100,000 children from abortion every year–probably several hundred thousand. In fact they save children for the same reason Kaveny thinks Obama will reduce it–economics–because they stop the government from paying for abortion in many places and instances. The pro-life laws also reduce the abortion of minors by placing obstacles for those abortions–parental involvement. And the current court is allowing more laws, like the partial birth abortion ban, which Obama and FOCA will strike down (because Obama supports “health” exceptions for abortion, which always and everywhere has meant abortion on demand). FOCA will prohibit parental involvement laws, and will mandate tax funding of abortion for poor women, and for rich women too, in Obama’s universal “health” plan. It will force states to violate pro-life dorctors’ consciences, and Obama will vastly promote abortion worldwide. This is but a fraction of what a vote for Obama means. He will without doubt appoint radical pro-death judges like Ginsburg, who will not only ensure FOCA is interpreted this way, but who think that the Constitution alone mandates these things. Obama is so extreme on abortion that he *said* that calling a born-alive baby a “child” violates the fundamental right of abortion in the Constitution. That will be the policy of his administration top to bottom, and of his courts.
Both pro-lifers and anti-lifers unanimously agree that this is what will happen under FOCA, and Obama is not shy about wanting such things independently. Kmiec’s one attempt to argue differently on FOCA was completely pathetic, which is why he chose not to address it at all in this article.
There are so many other things Obama will do to the far extreme on abortion that I can’t even list all of them. But, with the exception of some (much less) embryo-killing, McCain will do none of these things. That is the choice.
It is unsubstantiated to say McCain will fund pro-life choices significantly less than Obama. Obama opposed part of Democrats’ for Life’s Pregnant Women Support Act, and opposes funding for pro-life pregnancy centers, and will help Planned Parenthood make the centers illegal. These centers save thousands of babies every year. McCain supports government help for these centers. The idea that Obama will give us massive economic improvement so that it reduces abortion, while McCain will give us the opposite, is smoke in the wind. It is pure speculation. The economy will not be much different under either man as far as anybody can tell, certainly not to any abortion reduction degree. Only pure partisanship can firmly promote Obama’s economic rhetoric.
But even if Obama would reduce abortion by economics and funding, the reduction will pale in comparison to the massive and permanent expansion of abortion he says that he intends to cause, in supporting all his foaming-at-the-mouth abortionist loving policies.
Therefore the choice, in this election, is not status quo vs. status quo + funding. The choice is massive permanent expansion of abortion paid for by the government, vs. a slowly improving status quo (with a non-negligible possibility of a fifth vote against Roe, but at least a court that will allow more state laws on parental involvement and tax restrictions, and other innovative laws like the one upheld in the Eighth Circuit recently that shut down abortions in South Dakota for six weeks).
If would be fair if Kaveny et al said, the choice is to massively expand abortion or not, but we think other issues like the economy and the war are more important for Catholics. But that would be a weaker argument. It’s more persuasive to tell Catholics that the choice is to reduce abortion or maintain the status quo. So even though that is a lie, and they know it, because it has been pointed out ad nauseum to them in articles they have read and critiqued, that is the argument they made. Describing the Obama v. McCain choice on abortion as they did, is a lie. And lying to persuade is called propaganda.
I was hoping that their response would be a genuine argument. Instead it is simply a partisan piece to get Obama elected by pulling the wool over the eyes of less-informed Catholic voters. It is beneath the dignity of these scholars.
I’m so gflad Matt doesn’t think his approacj is “massively” partisan.
Cathy, Thanks for this piece and the one on intrinsic evil. The clarity and balance you bring to these matters is greatly appreciated.
Well done! I had decided that I had no choice but to vote for Obama on the merits, even though in New York I very much doubt that he needs my vote, and that in no circumstance could I support McCain and Co., but I am delighted to say that I now find you summary on the abortion question convincing and helpful, and one more reason to support Obama’s candidacy.
Matt Bowman –
It is time you learned something about human nature: one don’t persuade by calling names. If you already know this, then shame on you for insulting people whom many on this list respect greatly.
Remember the words of Jesus, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Sinners all, we have no option in the matter.
I would find this sort of argument much more convincing if it didn’t justify the choice for abortion: “Obama … recognizes abortion for what it is: a tragic moral choice often confronted by a woman in adverse economic and social circumstances (without spouse, without steady income, without employment prospects, and a particularly stigmatic and cumbersome adoption procedure).”
I’m appalled by the willingness of Catholic intellectuals to accept and approve of blatantly evil attitudes for political purposes. Not particularly surprised, but appalled.
Although I raise many questions about pro-life arguments, I don’t think of myself as being involved either in the pro-choice or pro-life movements. Having spent the last several months reading discussions on sites like dotCommonweal and Vox Nova, even though I do believe criminalizing abortion is not the answer, I have been feeling more and more the desire to become, in some way, part of the pro-life movement. But when I see diatribes like yours — questioning the honesty of people just because they disagree with you — and read accusations about “infanticide” and “killing babies” and “blood-thirsty abortionists,” I wonder how to do what little I can to end abortion without associating myself with people who rant and rave and consign people who disagree with them to hell.
Are you interpreting “moral choice” to mean “morally good choice”?
Would you condemn the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for saying “a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion”? It seems to me they recognize abortion as “a tragic moral choice often confronted by a woman in adverse economic and social circumstances (without spouse, without steady income, without employment prospects, and a particularly stigmatic and cumbersome adoption procedure).” I find it interesting that they include “possible” in the list of adjectives modifying “alternative.” The implication I see there is that abortion is sometimes not a “tragic moral choice,” but the only choice.
On a lighter note, can I observe that “Cafardi, Kaveny and Kmiec” is fun to say out loud? It has a nice ring to it.
Ann you are judging and insulting me, and David you have ranted and raved in attributing me a damnation to hell which I did not make.
It was not my intention to attribute to you everything I said about people in the pro-life movement who I believe go too far. I did mean to characterize your message as a diatribe, otherwise I was speaking in general terms, and not about the pro-life movement as a whole, but about those I believe give the movement a bad name. My apologies for not being clearer.
What is your response to the argument that, before a pro-life voter proceeds on the basis of an assumption that Obama’s social-welfare policies could reduce the number of abortions, one needs to factor in also not merely the Obama-will-appoint-pro-Roe judges issue — which you, Cafardi, and Kmiec have addressed (though I do not agree that this is the time to give up on undoing Roe’s error) — but FOCA, the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and the repeal of the Mexico City policy? It seems to me that, even if one assumes (as I am willing to do) that improvements in social-welfare policy could change some women’s circumstances in a way that removes perceived incentives for abortion, one has to be open to the possibility (the likelihood?) that undoing all of the state- and federal-level regulations of abortion (as FOCA purports to do) and increasing federal funding of abortion (which the Democratic platform supports) both here and abroad would result in a *net* increase in the number of abortions. What is your view? Rick
Rick, it seemed to me that the end of the article dismisses the public funding question as “a theoretical debate about hypothetical public support,” and as a mere “seminar topic.” This is a bit disconnected from political realities: if Obama is President with a Democratic House and quite possibly a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, who is going to re-enact the Hyde Amendment or similar measures?
Is is quite reprehensible that Matt went totally ad hominem without relating to the substance of Cathy’s very thorough essay. If ad hominem were ever pertinent it certainly is concerning the author of the Hyde Amendment, Henry Hyde, who is a champion in Catholic circles. While also going after other people’s sexual sins, Hyde completely discounted his seven plus years adulterous relationship with a woman other than his wife. He had the effrontery to call this adultery a “youthful indiscretion.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/martin-lewis/henry-hyde-prochoice-he_b_74758.html
There is also this. “Congressman Henry HYDE: “I am greatly disappointed,” Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) told columnist
Thomas Roeser, “with the failure of much of the church hierarchy to take an unequivocal stand on abortion.” Hyde added that “If the church doesn’t come out strong and condemn those who want to receive Holy Communion while not in the state of sanctifying grace, then the church has lost its moral authority, and that is tragic.”
Chicago Sun Times June 12, 2004
You say “very thorough,” about an essay which simply uses a lot of words to promote error and confuse consciences.
“Their words are bold but their deeds are few.”
“Beware the lawyers.”
I also thought this bit from the article was disingenuous:
For 35 years, however, pro-lifers have followed that intellectual siren call, asking the Supreme Court on multiple occasions to reverse Roe v. Wade. We have no objection to pursuing this legal avenue, which does not depend on who occupies the White House . . . .
Yes, it obviously does. As these law professors well know, the next President may well have the chance to replace Stevens and Ginsburg, if not more. If McCain makes those appointments, he might be able to swing the current 5-4 balance pro-Roe balance on the Supreme Court. If Obama makes those appointments, there is no doubt whatsoever that the balance would stay the same.
In a spirit of sisterly correction I pointed out that you have apparently tried to do what you are not qualified to do — judge the moral quality of a decisions of others. It is a an objective fact that you called the authors “dishonest”. This was unfair, though I do not claim to judge the moral quality of your judgment. Perhaps if you read the article more carefully you would see the distinction between subjective good/evil and objective good/evil.
Your ad hominem comments do not do your cause any good, and in fact make your comments less cogent. One might even say that name-calling is the last resort of those with weak arguments.
Cathy Kaveny is in line with a long line of moral theologians in the Catholic Church who have protected people against headline hunting hierarchs who are more into the guillotine than proclaiming the gospel. Chaput is silent on pedophiles, minimal on the poor and and a no show on the evil of torture. Henry Hyde anyone?
Moral theologians like Kaveny do not confuse. They liberate.
“…., he might be able to swing the current 5-4 balance pro-Roe balance on the Supreme Court. If Obama makes those appointments, there is no doubt whatsoever that the balance would stay the same.”
Read my lips. Republicans do not want to overturn Roe Vs Wade. They just want it for political capital. Republican women would leave the party en masse if this ever happened. The fraud is obvious with people who want to see the truth.
As Matt noted, it is more than a little odd that an article on Obama and abortion would not make one mention of the Freedom of Choice Act. It’s especially unusual considering he stated in a speech to Planned Parenthood, “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.” I would imagine the authors of this article are not ignorant of the FOCA, because that would insult their intelligence. But if they do know about FOCA and decided not to include it in their article, they might think of renaming the piece. Maybe “Defending the Indefensible”?
Bill – in fact, Chaput is not silent on pedophilia. He financed, spoke out, and attacked some Catholic Colorado representatives because they dared to sponsor a bill that removed the statute of limitations. He used a legal argument (public schools’ liability is limited but not the Catholic Church by state law so it is not an even playing ground) that has been detailed and discredited by Catholic legal scholars.
He also has hidden and resisted attempts at making personnel files available; he hired a high profile public relations firm and paid millions to defend the dioceses and has yet to reach out to the victims.
His diocesan financial records are not transparent; nor do they reveal the amount of money he spends on lawyers.
This, from a man, who questions any good faith Catholic who might want to investigate his claims. His arguments about writing the book a year ago; then, publishing date not in his control, etc. is smoke and mirrors. What does it take to realize even two years ago that abortion would again be a part of the national election scene; what would it take to figure out that a published book by a Catholic bishop whether two months or 12 months before an election will have an impact. He tries to play both sides.
Sorry, he is a Vatican careerist looking for a way to move up.
I am not much of a systematic thinker. However, I do know that our transformation comes about when we encounter experiences and people whose truth is generous. Cafardi, Kaveny and Kmiec are the type of people who transform lives. They have steady willingness to listen and to learn about what gives hope and understanding.
To sum it up. Abp Wuerl published an article entitled “Who Speaks for The Church” (H/T Whispers in the Loggia). Essentially his answer is this: the bishops because the bishops say that the bishops speak for the church. The Catechism sez so … and guess who approved what is written in the Catechism?
Why is it necessary, in criticizing the Newsweek piece, to question the integrity of the authors?
There are many things those of us who support Obama might say about FOCA (which I oppose). The first is that the Obama quote always mentioned leaves the impression that FOCA will be sitting on the president’s desk, and if Obama is elected, he will sign it on January 20, 2009. In fact, it hasn’t been passed. A version of it was introduced in 1989, and it hasn’t made its way into law yet. Even if it does make it on to the legislative agenda next year (or in the next four or eight years), it will have to make it through committee in both a House and a Senate version, and those two versions would have to be reconciled in conference. How closely would it resemble the bill that has been introduced in the Senate? It’s anybody’s guess.
I don’t think it will ever become law, and certainly not in its current form. It is far too sweeping in undoing what the states have done. An attempt to pass it would create a firestorm. Also, many including Kmiec believe it is unconstitutional. Granted, Obama’s statements are not irrelevant, in that they make clear his strong pro-choice position. However, when I vote for Obama, it will be with the belief that even if he wants to see FOCA become law, there is little he will be able to do to get his way. In fact, I think whoever becomes president will have to devote so much time to cleaning up the messes of the past 8 years, he will be severely limited in what he can do to further his own agenda.
David–Democrats have a monster lead in congress and it will increase significantly precisely because of your and these authors’ support for Obama. If you hand a loaded weapon to a crazed madman, you are responsible for the people he shoots and kills. You can’s say you didn’t believe he would really shoot anyone, or you were just helping his in his weight lifting routine.
“If you hand a loaded weapon to a crazed madman, you are responsible for the people he shoots and kills. You can’s say you didn’t believe he would really shoot anyone, or you were just helping his in his weight lifting routine.”
Great description of W. Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld, Neuhaus, Weigel, Novak et alii. Of course, photographs are not allowed of returning soldiers in body bags. The unveiled torture in Iraq brought please from the Bush Whitehouse not to publicize. These deaths are incontrovertible just as Henry Hydes’s adultery and Chaput’s ambition is. You just put the gun in the wrong hands.
More on the manipulation by Republicans of abortion as way to get votes.
Paul M. Weyrich, who tutored fledgling right-to-life leaders on the intricacies of fund-raising by mail, says in Drawing Board that “perhaps the most important lesson that can be drawn from the experiences with Reagan and [George H. W.] Bush is that even a committed conservative politician, a Reagan, cannot be trusted to take on a cause like abortion and gamble power and prestige to make abortion a truly national issue. It is useful to politicians, for their own purposes, to have life concerns be a niche issue of concern to Americans who adhere to the values of life.”
The issue here is not how guilty you think I am. The issue is FOCA, it’s chance of passing, and what the possible consequences would be if it did. If you want to argue that I am wrong and that FOCA will indeed pass, I would be glad to hear what you have to say. But if your position is that I am not wrong but evil, I really don’t want to hear it.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bush went to congress seeking authorization to negotiate and take any action necessary to ensure compliance with the UN’s desire to open up the country (Iraq) for the purpose of investigation of WMD’s. As you recall at issue was Hussein’s refusal to bow to these demands. The issue on the other side was how far they were prepared to go. I don’t recall the exact language of the senate resolution. At any rate, it was clear that this meant the authorization to commit forces if necessary. Clinton, Edwards supported and Obama of course was one of the very few who did not.
Bush was clear as to what his agenda was. This resolution authorized him to use force if necessary and bound congress to his choice.
Obama is seeking a broad mandate and may receive it from states that previously went Republican. Like the example above, Obama has been clear with respect to FOCA. If he wanted to send an olive branch to people of faith who struggle with this issue, and send a singnal to Catholics in Ohio and Pennsylvania and other swing states that he is sensitive to those concerns he could say that he is not going to push for this because the nation needs healing around this issue, etc., etc. He hasn’t. It is the other way around. Obama is saying to Catholics this is my position can you support me even so? And the answer is yes. So it is Catholics who are being moved to tacitly support FOCA and other issues related to Obama’s position on the abortion issue and not Obama shifting his position to accomodate legitimate difference and arrive at a consensus in the area of public policy. Status quo would be fine right now and would make the arguments outlined in the article above more credible and consistent with current political realities.
In Catholic tradition (although I am not much of a Thomist) truth of things is supposed to conform to the intellect.
Cognitive dissonance is created when one’s hopes and expectations clash with reality. Usually we have to spin theories and facts in our minds to satisfy choices to arrive at an equilibrium. Hence, many theo-cons supported the war against overwhelming logic with respect to just war tradition. Similarly here.
I will bet you that nine months down the line we will be here arguing how FOCA in whatever form is perfectly fine with Catholic teaching.
All of this could be solved if Obama simply said that this was not going to be a priority in this first term. Or if the writers above had enjoined him not to make it an issue and settle for status quo.
David Nickol said: “I don’t think it will ever become law, and certainly not in its current form. It is far too sweeping in undoing what the states have done. An attempt to pass it would create a firestorm. Also, many including Kmiec believe it is unconstitutional.”
Are you saying Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid would battle with Senator Obama and make it less sweeping? What purpose would that serve them economically or electorally? Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and Senator Obama have an historic opportunity to change the laws of the country to what they feel is best and to use the police power of the Federal government to overturn state laws they feel are not in the best interests of the country – it would be an affront to their supporters to do anything to water-down the FOCA. And who would the firestorm be coming from? And why would the hypothetical unconstitutionality matter? Laws which are later deemed unconstitutional are passed all the time – isn’t that what judicial review is for? Does that analysis assume the current composition of the Court or what it will likely look like in 4 to 8 years?
David–Your obsession with accusations of people being evil and going to hell are just projections. It is legitimate in principle, in egregious situations, to say that certain people (though they would never admit it) are engaged in lying propaganda. It doesn’t get any more egregious than large-scale baby-dismemberment. I am curious to know whether some of the commenters here have ever suggested that Bush lied us into war, or instead, when they have publicly opposed that accusation with the revulsion seen above.
There is no reason to believe Obama and his Democratic coattails won’t pass FOCA, and pass it very quickly, except to the extent that Catholics now work diligently to prevent it (which is the opposite of trying to convince Catholics to vote for Obama). For the pro-Obama advocate to suggest FOCA is really no threat is ridiculous, especially since it is Obama’s express purpose. The idea that he will be too busy cleaning up the economy is nonsensical. Unfortunately for them, that and a couple of Kmiec’s other arguments (like that FOCA doesn’t really do what everyone says it will do, or that Obama’s judiciary will declare FOCA unconstitutional while the current judiciary has universally upheld FACE) are the best they have been able to come up with, which is why he and Prof. Kaveny didn’t even attempt a defense in this article–instead they avoided the topic because it did not serve their persuasive purpose. It could not possibly serve their purpose because it plainly undermines their false contention about what the effects of a choice for Obama really involves.
The effects of a choice for Obama is FOCA and with other policies a massive expansion of abortion. To say otherwise is not only wrong but utterly unreasonable. For informed people to say otherwise and to suggest instead that the choice for Obama is really the choice of basically no change in abortion policy plus government funding for poor pregnant women, is lying. This is how the three Professors have chosen to culminate their last few months of work. It is disgraceful.
What is the source that quoted Obama as saying he would sign FOCA immediately? In the last debate he said in very strong terms that he was opposed to third trimester abortions.
Ann, Obama said he was opposed to 3rd trimester abortions unless the life and heath of the mother was at stake. As has been shown over and over since 1973, the “Doe v. Bolton” part of the Roe/Doe duo has cemented anything as a “health” exception. As McCain pointed out in the debate, this is the opt-out.
I think Senator Obama must have misspoken – for example, in the 2007 Democratic primary debate in South Carolina, sponsored by MSNBC on April 26, 2007, the Senator provided a lengthy response to the question “What is your view on the decision on partial-birth abortion and your reaction to most of the public agreeing with the court’s holding?” The transcript makes no mention of an exception, health or otherwise.
For those interested, there is discussion also going on about Senator Obama and the abortion issue at the Mirror of Justice blog, which is “dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.” DotCommonweal threads and posts are sometimes mentioned or cited by the MOJ contributors, who comprise about a dozen or so Catholic legal scholars.
We’ve gotten a response from Sen. Obama on his comments this week that he would support a ban on abortions after 22 weeks–even if a woman sought the procedure because she was in “mental distress.” Obama told a Christian magazine, Relevant, that only women with a “serious physical issue” should be able to get an abortion post-viability.
As I wrote yesterday, that’s contrary to 35 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence on the issue, which has always demanded that abortion bans contain an exception to allow the procedure to protect a woman’s “mental health,” as well as her physical health. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia have expressed the view that a “mental health” exception is not required.
Today, Obama tried to explain what he meant. I’m going to print his response in its entirety, because he’s trying to walk a very fine line on what is one of the most divisive—and deeply felt—issues in America today.
In clarifying his remarks, Obama said this afternoon that he has “consistently” said health exceptions are required for laws banning or seriously restricting abortion. But he then goes on to try to carve out exceptions to the exceptions, and he ends up suggesting, again, he would support more limits on abortion than the law currently allows.
Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane, Obama said mental health exceptions—which are a real battleground issue in the abortion debate–can be “rigorously” limited to only those women with “serious clinical mental health diseases.” He said mental health exceptions are not intended permit abortions when a woman simply “doesn’t feel good.”
“It is not just a matter of feeling blue,” Obama said.
Here’s the problem with that, and why Obama’s remarks are so startling. Obama is trying to restrict abortions after 22 weeks to those women who have a serious disease or illness. But the law today also covers some women who are in “mental distress,” those women who would suffer emotional and psychological harm without an abortion.
This standard has long been understood to require less than “serious clinical mental health disease.” Women today don’t have to show they are suffering from a “serious clinical mental health disease” or “mental illness” before getting an abortion post-viability, as Obama now says is appropriate.
And for 35 years—since Roe v. Wade—they’ve never had to show that.
So Obama, it seems to me, still is backing away from what the law says—and backing away from a proposed federal law (of which he is a co-sponsor) that envisions a much broader definition of mental health than the one he laid out this week.
That proposed federal legislation, the Freedom of Choice Act, refers to the key Supreme Court case on the issue, which was decided the same day as Roe v. Wade in 1973. In that case, Doe v Bolton, the Court said a doctor could decide to perform an abortion based on “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”
Subsequent cases in the Supreme Court and lower courts have said states cannot ban abortions where the doctor deems them necessary to protect a woman’s physical and mental health. Lower courts have taken that to mean a state cannot prohibit an abortion—even one post-viability–if the woman would suffer severe emotional harm without it.
Nowhere do those cases impose criteria of “serious clinical mental health diseases.”
That’s not what the law is today. The Court has said the Constitution prohibits states from banning post-viability abortions unless those laws contain a broad mental health exception—one that includes mental distress and severe emotional harm. Abortion rights groups have fought for decades to preserve these exceptions, and I’m awfully curious what they will think about limiting them to women with mental disease or mental illness. (A good question for Monday, when we’re all back in the office.)
Now maybe the law will change–now that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is no longer on the Supreme Court. On this issue, Obama seems to be suggesting it should.
Here’s his response:
“My only point is this-historically I have been a strong believer in a women’s right to choose with her doctor, her pastor and her family,” Obama said. “I have consistently been saying that you have to have a health exception on many significant restrictions or bans on abortions, including late-term abortions.
“In the past, there has been some fear on the part of people who–not only people who are anti-abortion, but people who may be in the middle–that that means that if a woman just doesn’t feel good then that is an exception. That’s never been the case. I don’t think that is how it has been interpreted.
“My only point is that in an area like partial birth abortion having a mental, having a health exception can be defined rigorously,” Obama continued.
“It can be defined through physical health. It can be defined by serious clinical mental health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue. I don’t think that’s how pro-choice folks have interpreted it. I don’t think that’s how the courts have interpreted it and I think that’s important to emphasize and understand.”
David–the health exception is a scam. Please tell me, when is it necessary to suck a baby’s brains out, or for that matter to rip off his arms and legs, in the third trimester, to protect mental health even as Obama supposedly defines it? He insists that it be allowed where no physical health threat exists. How is his position possibly acceptable or defensible?
And who determines health? The hitman does. The man paid $2000 for the late term abortion gets to determine whether it is needed for health. Obama opposed protecting *born* children by requiring a second opinion on whether they can be treated–he certainly won’t allow one to be required for the unborn.
And PBA occurs in the second trimester too–he doesn’t support banning it then, just in the late term.
The courts have interpreted health all-inclusively. Doe v. Bolton didn’t even just expand health to mental. Doe said health included emotional, familial and the woman’s age. So health, according to the courts, means I’m not ready to have a baby now, i’m not married, I have other kids, I’m too young, and indeed, I’m feeling blue.
But even this is peripheral. FOCA will mandate government funded abortion and strike down parental involvement and informed consent, all of which have reduced abortion by six figures yearly, and Obama wants to expand abortion in many other ways including internationally. These three profs admit that economics reduces abortions but they willfully omitted mention of goverment funded abortion under Obama and FOCA.
I find it difficult not to use an accusatory tone toward the authors in this particular case. Neglecting to mention FOCA is a glaring omission in a treatment of the implications of an Obama presidency for abortion. Clearly the authors know that FOCA exists and that Obama is a vocal supporter of it, going so far as to co-sponsor the Act in his short Senate career. In an article written for a Catholic audience who might have reservations about casting an Obama vote because of his position on abortion, not even acknowledging its existence is an act of deception. The authors are clearly trying to make Obama’s indefensible position on abortion more palatable to an audience that would be horrified by FOCA’s existence.
In the Senate 35 seats are up for grabs this year. 23 of those are currently held by Republicans. The Senate breakdown as we speak is 49-49 and 2 Independents, both of whom have 100% NARAL ratings. Pretty much all of the House of Rep seats are up for grabs this year as well, with a few exceptions. InTrade currently has the odds of the Dems retaining control, if not picking up even more seats, at 90%.
And don’t forget we have several pro-abort Republicans, but several fewer Senate Dems who will consistently vote pro-life. I would hope Casey will oppose FOCA, but he will be more than offset on the R side.
In the house they already have a lead and it is expected to increase significantly.
And who determines health? The hitman does. The man paid $2000 for the late term abortion gets to determine whether it is needed for health.
We see this whole debate from two quite different perspectives. There was an anti-Obama video (“Obama – Extremist”) that can be found on YouTube if you want to take a look at it. It began as follows:
There is no more difficult political issue facing Americans today than abortion. It raises questions about what it means to be human . . . when life begins . . . and whether the government should be involved. These are difficult questions, and good and honest people hold views on both sides of this debate.
I disagreed with some of what the video went on to say, but that statement describes the perspective from which I see things. I don’t believe doctors who perform abortions are “hitmen” who love shredding fetuses or sucking their brains out. (Some abortion procedures are grisly, no doubt about it, but that has little or nothing to do with the moral argument against abortion. Would you be any less opposed to abortion if the procedures were more like Lamaze births?)
If you believe women who seek abortions are conspiring to commit infanticide, abortionists are hired hitmen who have found a way to indulge their bloodlust and make big bucks doing it, and Cafardi, Kaveny, and anyone who disagrees with you is either self-deluded or “pro-death,” then we’re so far apart on basic premises that I don’t have a clue about what to say to you.
There tends to be an assumption that mental health exceptions are abused, but is there proof? I had an acquaintance who had a psychotic break that, details omitted, resulted in her being sexually abused, leading to a pregnancy. Aside from the fact that she had been legally raped (not competent to consent) no ethical physician would give her the medication she needed to treat her psychosis if she were pregnant. Untreated psychosis does not get better and can have permanently debilitating effects on mental health and overall well-being.
I attended a competency hearing in which another such woman was actually involuntarily committed to a state psychiatric hospital because she could not take her medication while pregnant and could not function without it. And just to remind everyone, the reason why Andrea Yates was off her meds when she killed her children was because she was trying to get pregnant.
So let’s say a woman decided to assume the risk, and stopped taking her meds in order to have a baby, and at 20 weeks pregnant has a relapse of a major mental illness. That’s not a “minor” threat to her health, it’s a major threat. It may be that a month or more without treatment, until viability, would not be unduly damaging. It may be that the drugs in question are only teratogenic in the first trimester. But this is a hard call for the woman and her doctors alike, and I reject the inference that threats to mental health are inconsequential. I defy you to come up with actual evidence that they have been abused.
I hear you but I am not so certain that is related to the availability of abortion. It is instead related to choice. I am aware of an actively psychotic woman who does not wish to be on medication to handle it. She is coerced in a variety of soft ways which only hardens her position.
She chooses to get pregnant for a variety of complicated reasons (maternal issues related to a desire to love and nurture, etc.). Child welfare authorities move quickly to apprehend the child and the children are eventually made wards due to her obvious incapacitation. She continues to have child after child (numbering five so far). As an aside I think that she should be granted supervised access but even that is fought (usually successfully) by the Child Welfare authorities. I think that if she had some relationship at some level that would stop the serial children issue which workers on the ground are continually frustrated about.
I don’t think the answer is to put an abortion and contraceptive clinic on every corner for poor and marginalized people. Here, at least, abortion is fairly available and accessible. That is not the issue. I have read where poor and marginalized young women have children young because the only power they have is procreative power. The sociological theory is that if you permit these people access to the public life of the community in terms of its social, economic and political life they will be able to exercise power in different more responsible way. I am persuaded by this argument. However, this requires a massive social and political shift which is nowhere near happening.
Even in the example I mentioned above, she needs to access a lawyer which requires Legal Aid. She is on a low income and legal aid will only pay for so many hours. There is no medical authority that will support her in court (in the sense of saying that supervised access might help in her recovery) since she has opted out of what they consider treatment (simply because she has chosen not to take medication she is denied access or discharged from services as she is ‘non-compliant’). How is that for choice!!!!
Also I know of a case where a doctor said a young woman (16) was being immoral for NOT choosing an abortion. He actually used the word immoral!!! He is a service provider not a moral arbiter! These issues (morality) are issues for the girl, her family and spiritual community to make.
I doubt he would have said that if the young woman was a middle to upper-middle class girl.
The girl in question was what you would call ‘street’ and one could easily draw inferences which would be incorrect.
‘Choice’, at least in this particular instance, is not so free as people might think.
I am not saying that this anecdote is reflective of the broad spectrum of complicated cultural and class issues related to it but it is a significant underbelly of the whole issue.
Are you still sure FOCA won’t pass?
I am not sure of anything, and I have yet to find anything on the Internet that rationally discusses the chances of FOCA passing. If anybody has come across good information about its chances, I hope they will share it.
My own opinion is based first on the fact that nothing has passed in the almost twenty years since the first version was introduced, even during the Clinton administration.
Second, no legislation, let alone a bill as controversial as this, just sails through the house and senate. If it even goes to committee, I doubt that it would make it out, but if it did, I believe it would be greatly modified.
Third, although I am no expert on this kind of thing, it appears to me that the bill is unprecedented in attempting to undo legislation that exists in a majority of the states. I can’t imagine fifty governors sitting by while congress undid the laws of their states. I don’t think the American people would stand for it even if they agreed with it in principle, which of course they don’t, since it would set a precedent of congress sweeping aside years of legislation and court decisions in one fell swoop. I think it would be seen as the legislative branch overreaching on a huge scale, and although I am sure those who hate Obama will disagree with me, I don’t think an Obama administration is going to be the kind that rams sweeping legislation through in the face of a firestorm of criticism just because they have a majority in the house and the senate.
When, during the last debate, Obama noted that he did not vote for some abortion restriction/ban bills because they contained no clauses for health/life of the mother, McCain waved away that concern. He said “health of the mother” had been construed to mean anything–which, in my mind, made him look pretty cavalier about women’s health.
Certainly “health of the mother” clauses could have some teeth.
Many years ago, a Canadian acquaintance applied for abortion on the grounds of depression. At that time, a three-doctor panel considered your petition to determine if there were sufficient grounds for the procedure. She was rejected by two of the doctors because they felt her depression stemmed from being overwhelmed with family problems. The doctors managed to save the pregnancy by getting the woman some counseling and outside assistance.
In the U.S. mental health care is often out of reach for low-income women and mental health coverage in most insurance programs is very meager, so where doctors might send a despondent woman who needed help during a pregnancy in this country is an interesting question. Especially when on major candidate has waved away that issue as a mere political ploy, a fiction.
I thought the Colin Powell endorsement yesterday said what had to be said, viz. the Obama choice is what’s needed at this time for the people, all the people of this country.
Meanwhile the one issue argument proceeds here apace with some of the usual political rhetoric and spin thrown in for good measure.
Archbishop Chaput’s remarks Friday serve as a lightning rod between the one issuers and those with the “whole Gospel” view; Bill Mazzella is right to wonder about the Archbisjhop’s integrity on the sex abuse front, but, the continuing divisieness on the issues of life he presents seem to only weaken hierarchical credibility, except those who see the Church as essentially the hierachy.
And so the nastiness of the campaign spills over into discussion here as well, and anger, and lack of respect for critical thought.
(We haven’t talked much about thew Synod; interestingly, Allen’s latest reports show that the initial comments about exegetes and historcritical methods undermining faith have now been met with balancing and appreciative views of their work.)
I note this because there has been, in a number of places at this site, facile critiques of serious scholarship, say from Tracy, Lonergan and here, Cathy, usually by folk whose credentials I wonder seriously about.
It’s their view and the only view that matters. I found Scott Simon’s reflection at NPR Weekend Edition on division in the Country and how we need to move away from that I only listen to what supports my view approach wasquite good. It brings me back to Powell’s endorsement which was gentle, balanced and concerned first and foremost with the future of our country.
Just my thoughts; now continue to rant on if you will,
“I don’t believe doctors who perform abortions are “hitmen” who love shredding fetuses or sucking their brains out…we’re so far apart on basic premises that I don’t have a clue about what to say to you.”
David–at last we agree on something, which is similar to what Prof. Peñalver and I also discovered. Our difference, and the difference between many pro-life Catholics and liberal Catholics, is that you don’t think that sucking a third trimester child’s brains out is sucking a third trimester child’s brains out. More broadly, you don’t think killing innocent children is murder and that abortionists are mass murderers. You disagree with Evangelium Vitae and the universal teaching of the bishops on abortion–what it is and society’s duty with respect to it–and you obscure what actually happens in abortion.
I think it is helpful to point this out. It is also helpful to note that your position on these issues is incompatible with Catholic teaching, not to mention basic human decency. Consistent ethic of life advocates are selling a bill of goods if they say that pro-life means more than the Church’s teaching on abortion, but in fact they believe it doesn’t include the Church’s teaching on abortion. I am respectful of a Catholic consistent ethic if it includes pro-life on abortion, but I am disdainful of calling it a Catholic consistent ethic if it is really minus pro-life on abortion. There’s a difference, and it can’t be hidden or minimized if we are to have a discussion about it.
First thing: if you are going to hold your position, don’t call it an authentic Catholic perspective. It’s a “despite my Catholicism” perspective.
Second, we can discuss the error of your position too. You stand in judgment of who is and who isn’t a full member of the human community, and whose brutal murder counts as brutal murder. It’s not liberal. Liberalism doesn’t exclude some human beings from the human family.
George D, that was a totally non-responsive answer. Did you assume that the people in my examples were poor and black and uneducated? Because they weren’t. They were white, reasonably well-educated and basically middle class (mental illness is a real economic challenge).
The issue is, are such risks so minor or insignificant that they belong in sneering air quotes as trumped up examples of health exceptions. I am just one person and can think of three examples of mental health risks associated with pregnancy that clearly don’t belong in air quotes.
Jean, yes, it ‘s an interesting question. The lady being involuntarily committed wanted to have her baby (and did) but the only thing offered to her was involuntary commitment, through the duration of her pregnancy, which, as you might imagine, is economically catastrophic for many people (you can’t work if you are in the equivalent of jail).
Just my thoughts; now continue to rant on if you will,
Thanks so much, Bob!
Not related particularly to you Barbara but I get the feeling that people (me included) are just talking past each other. Any further conversation will be unproductive and just lead to further misunderstanding and the placing of me in a particular frame. Then I will feel that I have to argue from a particular ideological place where I am not actually located.
Quite honestly I am indifferent (in the positive sense of the word) to the outcome of this election. I am just trying to get a handle on the issue as it is handled as a policy matter in the US from a particular segment of the Catholic community who are actively engaged in leadership positions in the Democratic party.
More broadly, you don’t think killing innocent children is murder and that abortionists are mass murderers. You disagree with Evangelium Vitae and the universal teaching of the bishops on abortion–what it is and society’s duty with respect to it–and you obscure what actually happens in abortion.
Some decent and thoughtful people honestly believe that abortion is murder, and some decent and thoughtful people honestly believe it definitely is not murder. It’s my contention that the decent and thoughtful people who believe abortion is murder are mistaken in any number of ways to accuse the decent and thoughtful people who don’t believe it is murder of approving of murder or, in the case of doctors who perform abortions or women who have them, of being murderers.
The difference between us, unless I am mistaken, is that you believe you are right — actually, you know you are right — and you believe people who disagree with you are wrong, and you further believe that they are knowingly and willfully wrong and are lying when they defend themselves against your accusations.
Bob, David, Bill – agree with your analysis. My concern this late in an election cycle that continues to become more negative by the hour, is the bishops who only emphasize one issue reinforce the partisanship, divisions, and attacks (no matter how well intentioned or even right their statements may be).
Here is an even more disturbing note from Rocco Palmo, Whispers in the Loggia:
Just in case anyone thought the Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden’s nationally-corrected foot-in-mouth on abortion was a one-off last month, segments of a 2007 interview with his hometown Wilmington News-Journal that never ran previously in the paper were unearthed and saw the light of print yesterday.
And, well… snips:
It is not choice. It’s always a very, very, very difficult, difficult decision. I know that, my church has wrestled with this for 2,000 years.
We’ve always believed from the outset that abortion is wrong. But throughout the years, debated the degree to which it is wrong. There are always cases where it is never a first choice. It is always viewed as a dire decision. But throughout the church’s history, we’ve argued between whether or not it is wrong in every circumstance and the degree of wrong. Catholics have this notion, it’s almost a gradation.
We have mortal sins, venial sins, well, up until Pius IX, there were times when we said, ‘Look, there are circumstances in which it’s wrong but it is not damnation. Along came Pius IX in the 1860s and declared in fine doctrine, this was the first time that it occurred that it was absolute human life and being at the moment of conception.
It’s always been a debate. I take my religion very seriously.
Further down comes the real kicker: “To sum it up, as a Catholic, I’m a John XXIII guy, I’m not a Pope John Paul guy.”
As if it wasn’t surreal enough already, no?
In a sidebar, Biden provides fresh written answers on abortion as a vice-presidential contender, noting that the Dem ticket “strongly support[s] Roe v. Wade, but we’re firmly committed to reaching common ground on this issue.
“We can do that by preventing unintended pregnancies,” he added, “ensuring that pregnant women have access to pre- and post-natal healthcare, income support, parenting skills, and by making sure adoption is a real alternative. These things will help reduce the number of abortions.
“People who claim to be ‘pro-life’ and then vote against such measures are not affirming the full range of human life.”
Whatever one’s impressions on both, you can tell the latter is top of the ticket-grade; unlike the older quote, it doesn’t make your head spin.
This is completely discouraging for me – it is so polarizing. Find a quote from a year ago, take it out of context, and then condemn. Even moreso, discouraged by the unobjective comments by Palmo – Jado was actually a truly good bishop – fired by JPII because he was not a YES man; any objective historian will state that JPII’s flaw was appointing unqualified non-pastoral bishops (we continue to suffer from this pattern in the US) – bishops were appointed who met JPII’s loyalty oath – allegiance to his particular theology, piety, and beliefs.
Then, to take a cheap shot at Biden because he thought John XXIII was a better pope than JPII – so what? many of us agree but does this make us “bad” catholics.
Jean – McCain knows his jurisprudence on “health of the mother” better than you do, apparently. The point, which to his discredit he did not make clear, was not that the health of the mother is not a big deal, but that Doe v. Bolton, Roe’s companion case, assures that a “health of the mother” exception cannot have any teeth. Your Canadian example would be relevant if it were only an American example; as it is, it only serves to indicate how truly radical the US abortion regime is, even by the standards of Canada and Western Europe. It also indicates how oblivious most people are to how radical the Roe regime is – surprisingly few people know how extreme Roe+Doe is.
I agree with those above who have questioned the cavalier treatment Cafardi, Caveny, and Kmiec give to the Supreme Court. It’s no secret that the SCOTUS confirmation process is now highly politicized, that a major area of contention in that politicization is Roe v. Wade, and that the next president is likely to nominate multiple candidates for the highest court. Granted, it is not a question of straightforwardly picking “pro-Roe” and “anti-Roe” candidates, but on the other hand it is far too quick, at the very least, to just pronounce that this consideration doesn’t depend on who is president. The professors no doubt have a view on this point, but they just glide right over it as if it is a complete non-issue. Nor is it particularly relevant that the GOP’s interest in Roe is largely about getting votes – hello! It’s a political party-do you expect it to be uninterested in getting votes? The point is that Obama seems highly likely to contribute to the Court’s swinging away from a place where returning the abortion question to the people of the fifty states becomes unthinkable. The authors note that the legal route may never succeed, but again that’s not relevant. Nobody thinks voting for McCain is a guarantee that Roe will fall – far from it – but holding open that possibility is a major, major consideration in the abortion issue. It boggles the mind that anybody could deny that.
As to the general tactic of painting the legal route as purely an intellectual exercise, surely one only needs to look back at Roe itself to see that the ideas in play in the Supreme Court’s reasoning can have massive social consequences. There’s no credence to be given to a reading of that decision as merely epiphenomenal on economic and social change. We went in one day from having one of the world’s most restrictive regimes on abortion to having the world’s most liberal. One day’s work, depending on the reasoning of a handful of people. So it does not help the authors’ cause to say that public opinion will make a repeal or limitation of Roe impossible. The connection between the people’s voice and the Supreme Court is precisely through the President and Congress – who will, if Obama is elected, very likely constitute a supermajority with no checks on the Democratic party’s agenda on “reproductive rights” as a touchstone of Constitutional interpretation. And again, the fact that abortion wouldn’t be outlawed by any but a handful of states discounts the extremism of the current abortion regime. Even if some states only adopted policies typical of, say, Western Europe, there would almost certainly be a dramatic reduction in abortions.
The point bears repeating: the Roe regime is judicially imposed, and can be judicially repealed; Obama’s nominations would likely move that from the realm of possibility to that of unthinkability, the Roe regime is so extreme, relative to American opinion and the regimes of other developed nations that returning the question to the states would likely result in a dramatic decrease in abortions.
Frankly, the authors’ serene acceptance that the legal situation will never change is belied by the NARAL crowd’s hysteric fear of a more “conservative” Supreme Court. That crowd, and Obama as he said in the last debate, knows that their abortion view can’t be sustained by the will of the people in the several states. They know it depends on Roe’s tie of abortion rights to the Constitution, and hence they know that preserving Roe is for them not something to be taken for granted.
Jean cited an instance in another country where a woman’s request for abortion was denied. I ask this because I’m genuinely curious: do any women who present themselves for abortions in the US these days get denied for health reasons? I’ve never heard of a woman complaining, “such-and-such a place wouldn’t give me an abortion – I had to go down the street!”. But people don’t talk to me about their abortions in general. I’ve never really examined the claim that there is, for all practical purposes, an unlimited abortion license. Is there?
I second the call for Cafardi, Kaveny and/or Kmiec to comment on FOCA.
Correction: in the second paragraph, the sentence should read: “The point is that Obama seems highly likely to contribute to the Court’s swinging away from a place where returning the abortion question to the people of the fifty states is a real possibility, to a place where it is unthinkable.”
Following up on Obama’s position in the last debate: This is important, isn’t it? His position is not that the abortion license is the pragmatic way to go, but that the Constitution ensures a right to privacy that includes the right to an abortion. To which I might add, from the Democratic platform – “regardless of ability to pay.” So his position is that while abortion is always a tragedy, and a profound moral issue, and one on which both sides have important things to say, in spite of all that, the Constitution requires a right to abortion, on society’s tab. So much for the protection of conscience. One might expect the professor’s to give a little more weight to the question of moral complicity, since their favoring of Obama is so explicitly tied to questions of moral complicity in unjust wars. I don’t see how it is part of a comprehensive Catholic social teaching to minimize questions of moral implication in mass unjust killings as an intellectual exercise.
David Nickol: I do not think one needs to “hate” Senator Obama to think that veto-proof, one-party control of two branches of government (and likely three shortly thereafter) will result in legislation, like FOCA, which is very well received by that party and may be disliked by the (perhaps vocal?) minority. That is what elections are for. What is the point of the people giving control of the Legislature and Presidency to the Democrats if they are not going to enact policies favored by the vast majority of Democrats. If the people wanted the federal government to legislate / govern like Republicans, they would elect them. After November, they will have an historic moment to re-make the laws of this country in a fashion they deem best for all of us – what possible political motivation would they have to not capitalize on that opportunity?
I think fundamentally where we disagree is on this notion of a “firestorm of criticism” – I have a feeling Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are not going to be too concerned about the criticism of the Federalist Society and First Things, let alone a handful of governors such as Gov. Palin and Gov. Barber. And both Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid have said they want to institute fairness in political speech over the radio airwaves precisely for this purpose – so that the public is not unfairly swayed by intemperate political speech on potentially contentious political issues. It does not require “hating” anyone to take them at their word and assume these measures would be implemented fairly quickly in 2009 and before any debate began on FOCA. Do you honestly think that FOCA will not make it out of committee – or be watered-down somehow – because of the objections of the National Review and Senators Coburn and Brownback?
And on the notion that the Democrats would uphold Amendment X of the Constitution is bizarre – that is probably the single most fundamental ideological dividing line between Conservatives and Liberals. The notion that Senators Obama and Reid and Speaker Pelosi are some sort of closet Federalists despite every indication to the contrary in word and deed as well as the foundational principals of Liberalism and their party platform stretching back to President Roosevelt strains credibility.
Another point, this time on the more general dynamic here: It may indeed be unsavory that the GOP is able to make a moral pitch to pro-lifers and hold their votes hostage, but I would like to know whether that is a censure of that party, or rather a reflection on just how bad the Democratic position on abortion is. It should be easy for the competing party to present itself as more deserving of the Catholic vote, shouldn’t it? Ask yourselves: is the GOP’s past success in this strategy really due to brilliant and evil Machiavellian-Rovian tactics, or is it more fundamentally a result of the fact that the Democratic party is held hostage to abortion-on-demand as a fundamental requirement of the Constitution and human equality? When one American party takes a position more liberal than that found in most of Europe on a social issue, and not only embraces that in their platform but ostracizes anti-abortion members in their party and denies them a voice, how much Machiavelli does it take for the other party to capitalize on it? Note that the Republicans at least initially considered a pro-choice Catholic as a presidential nominee, and at least flirted with the idea of a pro-choice running mate. Where is the Democratic analogue? Kmiec, Caveni, et al. wouldn’t have to argue so hard for Obama’s pro-life acceptability if the party whose dominance, perhaps including a filibuster-proof Senate majority, is all but assured for the next several years, would display a little flexibility on the issue. The professors have a surprisingly pessimistic view of the Democrats’ ability to push through their platform agenda without check in the House, Senate, or Presidency. What exactly is going to check that agenda? There is almost no intellectual diversity acceptable on this point in the Dem. party, certainly not for high-profile national politicians.
David–I don’t think *everyone,* or even most people, who disagrees with the Church’s position on abortion “are knowingly and willfully wrong and are lying”. I have only asserted that about the three professors, and only with respect to the specific issue I describe above, for those particular reasons.
Still another point: the long view vs. the short view. SC justices serve for life, presidents for a maximum of eight years. If Obama’s economic and social policies reduce the number of abortions during his tenure, but his SC nominations foreclose the possibility of a less radical abortion regime, to say nothing of the possibility of getting FOCA passed and upheld by an Obama-stacked court, then we are looking at a complete closure of the legal strategy for decades.
It’s easy to think that Roe is just something to be held constant as a background assumption, but looking at the long-term that’s not really justified. It doesn’t correspond with public opinion on what a reasonable abortion regime would look like, its continuing reign is not inevitable, and there is reason to think that its repeal would result in a much more restricted abortion license in the overwhelming majority of the states. There are a lot of variables there, and the relevant time span is long, but the reduction in abortions in the long term could easily dwarf the supposed downturn caused by Obama’s economic and social policies.
Bottom line: the authors make light of Weigel (with some justification) for being stuck in the realm of principles and pronunciations, and claim to be getting down to reality. But they seriously underestimate the potential for real-world change, the advent of which is artificially restricted by ongoing judicial fiat. The principles and pronunciations of a certain group of nine people have oversized real-world consequences, as three law professors surely know. It is the Roe regime that is sustained in the real world by the imposition of principles and pronunciations on a population whose view on the matter is significantly more restrained. If you want to get down to real-world change, the first place to look is the judicial imposition that has been imposing, from the top down, an abortion-on-demand policy that could not be sustained in all its extremism if delivered to the popular will.
Do you honestly think that FOCA will not make it out of committee – or be watered-down somehow – because of the objections of the National Review and Senators Coburn and Brownback?
I think FOCA is extreme, and I believe there is a large majority in the United States who would oppose its passage. And as I said before, it is not necessary to be opposed to what FOCA would do to be opposed to the way in which it would be done. You don’t have to be a pro-life governor to object to a bill that would invalidate your state’s laws and your courts’ decisions.
Also, let’s assume FOCA is passed in something like its present form. Don’t you think it would be challenged in the courts, all the way to the Supreme Court? And how long do you think that would take? And are you certain of the outcome?
Finally, nobody seems to have pointed out that if FOCA is passed and makes it through judicial challenges unscathed, it can be repealed. It is not like a Supreme Court decision that is very difficult to overturn.
Also, if those who believe Obama’s policies will help lower the rate of abortion, even assuming FOCA is passed and there is (as some predict) an initial increase in the number of abortions, what if in the long term there is a decrease? Why should those who believe outlawing abortion is not the solution to the problem be convinced that all the legal impediments the pro-life movement has managed to enact are in the best interests of a long-term solution either?
to say nothing of the possibility of getting FOCA passed and upheld by an Obama-stacked court, then we are looking at a complete closure of the legal strategy for decades.
Even if FOCA is passed and is found constitutional, it can be repealed the next time there is a Republican majority. This is one of the reasons I don’t think it will be passed. I don’t see the majority accepting such a sweeping “solution,” with the possibility of an equally sweeping undoing of it the next time the political pendulum swings the other way, and so on, and so on.
That’s fair enough, and I’m not well-informed enough to make a good guess on the plausibility of FOCA’s passage. The larger point still stands, however: it doesn’t make sense to minimize the issue of judicial nominations when the long-term, real-world consequences are potentially enormous.
Stepping back a moment, I don’t think we should forget that in addition to the number of abortions occurring, there is a question of justice here as well. An entire class of human beings are in law regarded as subject to being killed at the will of another. Along with the pragmatic considerations must come a realization that that situation is fundamentally unjust. I’m not saying that one should privilege the denunciation of that injustice over the prospective for reducing the number of abortions, but it should not be entirely written off either. Saying that the legal strategy is not the most effective is fine, if arguable, but we shouldn’t imply that the legal regime is just fine and the only realm for moral considerations concerns outcomes.
Forgive me if I missed it in all the above replies, but I recall Senator McCain making it very clear (in the third debate last week) that he would apply no litmus test in choosing a Supreme Court justice. If my memory serves me, he repeated this a couple of times: “no litmus test”. This legal strategy to ending abortion in America is currently based on the assumption that a President McCain will be nominating anti-Roe candidates for the SC. But he clearly made no such promise…so what gives here in this ongoing conversation? Was he lying? Was he saying the expedient thing to the nation and somehow “we know” that in reality, he will apply an anti-Roe litmus test to a SC nomination?
Nearly all the US Courts of Appeals have upheld FACE, a restriction on abortion, and multiple seats are being held open on those courts to be quickly filled, not to mention Supreme Court justices, all of whom believe that the Constitution alone, quite apart from FOCA, requires everything that FOCA will do. I hope FOCA will be declared unconstitutional too, but the chances are so small that the theoretical possibility does nothing to diminish the responsibility people have for putting in place the things that will pass FOCA. It’s like stealing $10 million from someone’s bank account, and abdicating responsibility for the theft because you bought them a lottery ticket in return.
You can’t just repeal FOCA as a practical matter. Policy has tremendous inertia, and the increased abortion will dig this country further into its bloodguilt so that the culture won’t want to repeal it. You think the voters will lightly let go of government paid abortion, and a legal regime that TEACHES that parental involvement in abortion is unconstutional and pro-life doctors must participate in abortion or lose their licenses?
It’s not plausible that there will even be an economic abortion reduction at all, much less one that will offset the massive increase that will result from across the board pro-abortion policy including FOCA and more. If it is possible, then for the same even stronger reason, government-paid abortions will cause a greater and more thoroughly documented increase. There is a concrete, massive increase on one hand, and a speculative decrease on the other which will either happen in any event or won’t happen much. Abortion decreased from 1980 to today steadily, independent of executive economic policy, but in direct correspondence with the pro-life laws that FOCA will eviscerate.
Moreover, there are pro-life laws that can be passed now to decrease abortion, but that FOCA will not allow. So that means we could decrease abortion even more but won’t be able to. Those numbers count against the people who will cause FOCA. California has a ballot measure on Nov. 4 to require parental involvement. It is the largest state population in the nation, and those laws are proven to reduce minor’s abortions by a lot. South Dakota passed a law that the courts upheld, requiring that women be told that abortion kills a human being. Because of the law, abortion stopped completely in South Dakota for six weeks. That law can be passed in all the nearby states, but not under FOCA. These numbers matter and they aren’t even factored into what we currently know.
FOCA is going to amount to hundreds of thousands of more abortions every year than there would have been. Economics won’t touch that, and there not even a clear indication that we will have good economics with one result and not with the other, but you must have that clear indication to claim there will be a reduction.
sorry–FACE is a restriction *relating to* abortion, not a restriction on abortion. it was upheld on the grounds that Kmiec thinks FOCA is unconstitutional. so the idea that FOCA will be struck down is irresponsible.
sorry again–the idea that we can pass FOCA, relying on the prospect that it will be struck down, is irresponsible.
“You can’t just repeal FOCA as a practical matter. Policy has tremendous inertia,”
Ditto for Roe V Wade.
–Jean cited an instance in another country where a woman’s request for abortion was denied. I ask this because I’m genuinely curious: do any women who present themselves for abortions in the US these days get denied for health reasons? I’ve never heard of a woman complaining, “such-and-such a place wouldn’t give me an abortion – I had to go down the street!”. But people don’t talk to me about their abortions in general. I’ve never really examined the claim that there is, for all practical purposes, an unlimited abortion license. Is there?–
Jim, the rumor mill in the women’s room in my neck of the woods is this: Most ob/gyn’s will not perform abortions on site, and many hospitals where those doctors have privileges will not do abortions. They don’t want the picketers, the notoriety, etc.
Usually an ob/gyn tells you on your first visit if they’re a pro-life clinic, or that they do not do terminations.
As a result, women who want abortions have to go to the abortion mills, where a stranger performs the procedure and counseling depends on the clinic’s policies and state legislation–informed consent, parental consent for minors, waiting periods, etc.
My point about the Canadian law is that, barring Doe v. Bolton, a law that considered life and health of the mother COULD have some teeth. To simply dismiss the “health of the mother” issues as mere political ploys struck me as fairly callous.
Abortion decreased from 1980 to today steadily, independent of executive economic policy, but in direct correspondence with the pro-life laws that FOCA will eviscerate.
It seems to me it would take a pretty sophisticated analysis to explain why abortion has been on the decline. Do you have any solid evidence that it is because of pro-life laws?
I took a quick look at the most recent data I could find for New York (where I live). Here are the years 1997-2006 and the total number of abortions performed in the state. New York is known as one of the easiest places in the country to get an abortion, with virtually no pro-life laws, and the rate is clearly declining here. If I am not mistaken, women even come from other states to get abortions.
While looking to find another source of statistics for New York, I came across this editorial from The New York Times, which contradicts your assertion that it is pro-life laws that account for the decline in abortions (see the passages I have put in bold):
Behind the Abortion Decline
Published: January 26, 2008
Coinciding with this month’s 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized abortion, a new study shows that the United States continues to make progress on reducing the abortion rate. The progress would be greater if more was done to avoid unintended pregnancies.
Between 2000 and 2005, the last year in the study by the Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions performed yearly dropped from 1.3 million to 1.2 million, the fewest since 1974. The proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion also declined significantly.
Abortion opponents like the National Right to Life Committee seized upon the numbers as vindication for their strategy of demonizing abortion and making it harder for women to obtain one. Many states now mandate counseling sessions beforehand. But a harder look at the data suggests another explanation.
Almost two-thirds of the decline in the total number of abortions can be traced to eight jurisdictions with few or no abortion restrictions — New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, California, Oregon, Washington State and the District of Columbia. These are places, notes the Guttmacher Institute’s president, Sharon Camp, that have shown a commitment to real sex education, largely departing from the Bush administration’s abstinence-only approach. These jurisdictions also help women avoid unintended pregnancies by making contraception widely available.
The lesson: prevention works. Restrictions on abortion serve mainly to hurt poor women by postponing abortions until later in pregnancy. While shifting social mores may change some people’s behavior, the best practical strategy for reducing abortions is to focus on helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies.
One of the most intriguing findings of the abortion study has to do with RU-486, which allows women to safely terminate a pregnancy in its first weeks without surgery. Guttmacher Institute researchers found that a significant decline in the number of abortion providers over the past decade is being offset by an increase in providers that offer the drug.
This growing access, along with refinements in ultrasound imaging help explain the positive trend toward earlier abortions. It has long been true that nearly 90 percent of abortions in this country occur in the first trimester, but the number that occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy has increased sharply.
The relevant distinction is that one is a court decision and the other is a piece of legislation. Roe wasn’t the result of a national consensus, or even of a majority decision in the legislative branch. It was and remains judicial fiat. The comparison isn’t salient for the point at issue, anyways. The point was that it’s rather irresponsible to think that the passage of horrendous legislation is ok because it will just be repealed when the Republicans come back into power. What does Roe v. Wade have to do with that?
And Marcia Mann, surely you realized that both candidates, when asked about appointing justices, did the expedient thing and affirmed their distaste for a litmus test, and then not-so-subtly implied that consideration of competence and temperament could of course include reference to particular points of jurisprudence. McCain was pretty transparent on that, actually. He wasn’t lying, just the usual waffling. Obama did the same thing, only more smoothly. The point, anyway, is not that there is an absolute assurance that McCain will impose anti-Roe judges. It is that everything we know about Obama points to the strong likelihood that any nominations made by him would definitively close the window on any judicial relaxation of the extremist abortion regime that we have now. McCain – it’s a pretty good bet anybody he nominated would be less likely to have a lefty-liberal reading of the right to privacy, for example. And let’s not pretend that the nomination process is so independent of the party line; my main point is that it’s now very partisan and politicized, and the bases demand a certain level of conformity in their elected leader’s choices.
Back to the Newsweek piece.
If I understand the professors’ argument correctly, it goes something like this:
* The legal/judicial strategy for rolling back Roe v Wade is dead/exhausted/failed
* Some (unspeficied) percentage of women who obtain abortions do so for reasons related to poverty: lack of money; lack of a stable family and social support system; lack of medical coverage; etc.
* Obama, through a combination of tax policy and social spending, promises to boost the incomes and strengthen the safety nets of the poor such that the economic/safety-net justification for abortion evaporates.
Trying to be objective about this, I would say that there *might* be some merit to this line of argumentation. Its underlying approach seems to be, “look, ending all abortion isn’t within our reach. So let’s find some achievable, concrete things that can get done, and that will at least incrementally decrease abortion’s prevalence.” I’m a fan of that sort of practical approach – although I strongly disagree with the fatalistic outlook that nothing can be done about Roe v Wade from a legal perspective.
For things to happen as the professors sketch it out, a series of dominoes need to fall:
* Obama’s tax and social-spending legislation needs to pass. Given that he will have solid majorities in both legislative houses, let’s concede that this is certainly possible. On the other hand, the gargantuan size of the debt, coupled with government commitments to bail out the economy, may make it more difficult to pass bold (and expensive) new social programs. The reality of politics these days is that a President has 1-2 years to get major programs passed. After that, election, re-election and lame-duck factors make legislative stasis almost irresistible.
* If these new policies are enacted, they need to have the desired effect on pregnant women. This seems to be far from a sure thing. It’s worth noting that these policies, that the three authors find so compelling as ways to reduce abortion, won’t be specifically tailored to address the problem of abortion. Rather, they are intended to address much broader social and income-distribution goals. While I’m sure the authors hope that the goal of decreasing abortions aligns with these other goals, that is not something to take for granted. The legislation may be ineffective; and it may have unintended effects that negate or even outweigh the anti-abortion effects.
* Finally, even if all of the economic and safety-net goodness happens that the Obama campaign predicts, where “the rubber hits the road” will be whether or not the incidence of abortion actually decreases.
This line of argumentation is really a gigantic wager. It banks on uncertain outcomes. Of course, all policies and legislation do this to greater or lesser extents. But we’re well justified in asking ourselves, “What is the likelihood that all of the stars will align, and these things will all come to pass?”
Nor are the economic and safety-net policies the whole picture of what to expect regarding abortion from an Obama presidency. As has been discussed in detail here, against this hopeful scenario of economic and social gains for poor pregnant women must be set other possible outcomes of an Obama presidency:
* It is quite possible that the federal government will begin funding abortions, in any or all of the many ways it can: through public aid; through government-funded medical programs; through grants to state governments; through foriegn aid; through funding to pro-choice organizations such as Planned Parenthood; and many other ways.
* It is possible that federal judicial vacancies will be filled by nominees who are implacably committed to perpetuating Roe v Wade
* It is possible that legislation like FOCA will pass
If any of these come to pass, then the incidence of abortions probably would marginally increase.
We seem to have a mixed picture here. An Obama administration *may* be able to enact tax and social policies that *might* reduce *some* abortions. At the same time, it *may* (probably would, some would say) pursue other policies that probably would increase abortions.
I have another point, not made by Weigel but pointed out in Robert George’s much more tightly-reasoned piece on “The Public Discourse” [www.thepublicdiscourse.com]:
“He has co-sponsored a bill-strongly opposed by McCain-that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning. It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term. This “clone and kill” bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China-the equivalent of legally mandated abortion. In an audacious act of deceit, Obama and his co-sponsors misleadingly call this an anti-cloning bill. But it is nothing of the kind. What it bans is not cloning, but allowing the embryonic children produced by cloning to survive. ”
Anybody care to respond to this? George’s link to the bill didn’t work, but he typically knows what he’s talking about with respect to embryo research, so if he’s wrong here I’d like to know why. It seems to me someone who thinks late-term abortions are wrong but doesn’t really care about very early embryo destruction would of course pooh-pooh this point. But that’s not the Catholic view, which is supposedly what’s at issue here. Obama is in favor of mass-producing embryos and destroying them. It’s not like McCain has a good record on embryonic stem-cell research funding, but he apparently is strongly against this proposal. So how does that impact the numbers? I’m going to hazard a guess that a federally-funded mass production research method like that would overwhelmingly offset the numbers that Obama’s economic and social policies would supposedly deliver.
If nothing else, George’s piece shows that Obama is not only “not ideal” as a pro-life candidate, his record is incredibly extreme on this issue. But I’d like to know if there’s any response to the point in the text I just quoted. I suspect even if an Obama administration sponsored a big birth-control education and proliferation push and reduced unwanted pregnancies by half, and abortions by one-third, it would still be easy for all those scientists working away on their federally-funded projects to wipe out that advantage. And again, that may seem academic, since the embryonic humans involved are so young and relatively undeveloped, but that’s not the Catholic view. Is there a Catholic response to this point?
We seem to have a mixed picture here. An Obama administration *may* be able to enact tax and social policies that *might* reduce *some* abortions. At the same time, it *may* (probably would, some would say) pursue other policies that probably would increase abortions.
It seems to me the kinds of things it is hoped Obama will accomplish that might reduce the abortion rate are the kinds of things that the Catholic Church says government should be doing under any circumstances. So much emphasis is put on what the Church says the government’s role should be regarding abortion that all the other things the Church says government ought to do are lost sight of. This makes it a lot easier to make arguments about how Catholics ought to vote.
Marcia: McCain’s answer about appointing SC judges was pretty slippery. From CNN’s transcript:
“McCain: I would never and have never in all the years I’ve been there imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the court. That’s not appropriate to do. …They should be judged on their qualifications. And so that’s what I will do.
I will find the best people in the world — in the United States of America who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution. And not legislating from the bench.
Schieffer: But even if it was someone — even someone who had a history of being for abortion rights, you would consider them?
McCain: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.”
Sounds to me like he’s saying “No, I wouldn’t appoint a judge who supports Roe — but I prefer not to call that a ‘litmus test.’”
Here is the link to the bill that Robby George was talking about. It had one character missing:
It seems to me George is outrageously distorting the bill. Obama did cosponsor it, but which never even went to committee. Orrin Hatch was also a cosponsor. Here is what you quoted, in bold, with my responses. I am not a lawyer, and this is only my opinion, so take my comments for what they are worth and read the bill yourself.
He has co-sponsored a bill-strongly opposed by McCain-that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed.
As I read the bill, it doesn’t authorize “large-scale industrial production of human embryos,” it just doesn’t prohibit the initial act of cloning — that is, transferring the nucleus of a human cell into an emptied out human egg cell.
In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning. It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term.
The whole point of the bill is to prohibit the creation of human clones — that is, making new people out of a nucleus and an egg cell. Consequently, while it doesn’t forbid the initial manipulation of the cell material, it forbids the implantation of that artificially created equivalent of a fertilized egg into a human uterus or an artificial uterus. It would make it a crime for a woman to offer herself to be impregnated and be the host mother of a clone. Since the Catholic Church is unalterably opposed to cloning, it would of course be unalterably opposed to a woman who cooperated with scientists to try to produce a human clone. It would be an intrinsic evil, so it is disingenuous of George to portray such a person as someone who was trying to save a life. She would be helping to create an “artificial life.”
This “clone and kill” bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China-the equivalent of legally mandated abortion. In an audacious act of deceit, Obama and his co-sponsors misleadingly call this an anti-cloning bill. But it is nothing of the kind. What it bans is not cloning, but allowing the embryonic children produced by cloning to survive.”
In my opinion, the audacious deceit is George’s description of what this bill attempted to do. As I said, the bill’s purpose is to prevent the cloning of human beings. It is to prevent the making of new people out of bits of cells. It does not prohibit putting a nucleus in an egg cell, but as I said, that is not the same as “authorizing” it. And it does require that if a nucleus is put in a cell to make an artificial equivalent of a fertilized egg, that cell may not be allowed to be grown into a human being.
So I would say the bill clearly does not go as far as the Catholic Church would like, since I assme the Church would be opposed to “nuclear transplantation” (as defined in the bill) as an intrinsic evil. But it prevents the next step in making a human clone — the attempt to grow the cell into a fetus, a baby, a child, and an adult.
To equate this with mandated abortion is preposterous. From the Catholic point of view, creating the initial cell is strictly forbidden. An interesting question that I don’t know the answer to is the following: Would it be the position of the Catholic Church that if you perform “nuclear transplantation” (which is intrinsically evil), you are then obligated to try to raise that cell into a living and breathing human being? That seems to be what Robby George is implying, since he is equating allowing these cells to die with abortion. I know the Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception, but I don’t know if the Church teaches that when you put a human nucleus into an emptied out egg cell, that constitutes conception.
Given the great uncertainty of what might happen if a human being were cloned, is he really arguing that anything that is created in the lab should have a right to life? Is he really trying to stand up for that hypothetical woman who volunteers to become pregnant and give birth to a clone? Is there a realistic scenario in which a woman is not complicit in the the act of human cloning but happens along to offer to be a host mother to save the artificially created egg?
I don’t buy any of his arguments.
David: You are clearly one of the heavy lifters here at dotComm. I genuinely appreciate your efforts.
Thank you Molly and Joe for your response. The debate transcripts reminded me that Senator McCain cited his support for Justices Ginsburg and Breyer (Clinton appointees considered pro-Roe) as evidence that he did not and will not apply an “ideological” litmus test but rather, will appoint based on qualifications. I belive that his comment a few statements later is utterly without credibility: “I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications….” particularly since he had just stated he voted for qualified appointees that we know are not going to overturn Roe. It’s such a blatant contradiction, which he immediately follows with another assertion that he will not apply a litmus test.
This self-proclaimed maverick, who is beholden to no one, has a track record of voting in Roe SC justices, and reassures the country that he won’t apply a litmus test now as he didn’t in the past for SC appointees, and yet I am told by a cacophony of bishops and other Catholics that I am to vote for him.
Senator McCain also supports embryonic stem cell research, unapologetically, and we were told four years ago by quite a few bishops that to vote for a candidate who supports this stem cell research was a mortal sin and that to do so means one must refrain from communion.
This mystifies me; these statements four years ago were unequivocal. Has God changed?
What it all really tells me, I suspect now, is that those who not only eat at the Catholic Cafeteria, but are keeping the doors wide open, are our bishops, and the George Weigels of the world.
Marcia, I’ve also been wondering why the abortion-politics pressure is all on the voters — the Catholic voters — with comparatively little on the candidates. That’s a big part of what makes this all look so calculated and partisan: the reluctance to insist that McCain talk like or act like the prolife hero he’s made out to be. The Church’s leaders should be examining and addressing both parties, on this and every other issue where the Church’s voice is relevant. If they’re not, they forfeit their claim to moral authority. So far both candidates have been able to avoid too many hard questions about abortion, which is obviously how they like it. And the one debate question that touched on abortion was answered with a lot of nonsense by McCain; a far cry from the unequivocal support for human life that the Church insists on. If someone wants to try to convince me to vote for McCain because he’s better than Obama on beginning-of-life issues, fine. But being slightly better than the other guy (and not Catholic) shouldn’t get him a free pass.
David–the bill defines cloning as cloning plus implantation. It is a lie. Cloning is not cloning plus implantation. Cloning is cloning. The bill claims to ban cloning, but in fact it allows cloning, and mandates the execution of cloned embryos. Cloning is not illegal under the bill. Cloning is legal. Letting clones live is illegal. That’s not a ban on cloning, it’s something very much like the opposite, especially when coupled with federal funding for cloning.
This is redefinition of words to mean opposite things, and to hide the destruction of human life under euphemisms. Orwellian stuff. Don’t you liberals criticize the military for doing this all the time? Collateral damage, anyone? Strategic deterrence? Are you blind to recognize the euphemisms and verbal engineering that are being used to kill innocent children before birth?
Clones are people, David. The bill mandates that people be killed. The Church opposes the creation of people outside the conjugal act, but it just as forcefully affirms the personhood of human beings no matter how they are created.
Oh, I forgot that you don’t believe the church’s teaching on abortion. So my guess is you don’t think embryos are people either. Feel free to correct me on that point.
Fine. Argue against George. Just admit that your position is not Catholic, that you are arguing from outside Catholic thought. Your argument against George doesn’t make his views not-Catholic, but in fact your argument proves that his views are Catholic, because your criticism is directed precisely at his acceptance of church teaching.
I am simply asking for truth in advertising. People should abandon their “Catholic consistent ethic of life” posture if they are rejecting the Catholic teaching on life from conception/fertilization. It’s only a Catholic consistent ethic if you accept the Church’s teaching in that area too. Otherwise it’s a fraud.
Regarding FOCA, it seems that some Obama supporters – as evidenced in this thread – are discounting it because “it won’t pass.” First, I would like to know what evidence anyone has for this position. All the Democrat Party leadership supports it. There is a distinct possibility that there will be a filibuster proof Senate. What will stop them?
As for the position that social welfare spending causes a reduction in abortions, there is absolutely no evidence to support this – or at least not enough to claim a direct correlation. If there is a correlation, then why does New York, with one of the lowest poverty rates, highest per capita spending on health and social welfare programs have the highest reported abortion rate in the country? Conversely, why does Mississippi have the highest poverty rate, one of the lowest per capita spending on social welfare, have the fourth lowest abortion rate – more than three times lower than NY (6 per 1000 vs 30)? I am not saying some of the programs being suggested are without merit, but they should not be promoted as “anti-abortion lite.” Certainly, they can’t balance the radical pro-abortion changes envisioned in FOCA or the possibility that Obama will appoint judges who will strike down any abortion restriction.
Finally, where was all the concern with bishops surrendering moral authority from the 1930′s through the 70′s when they were perceived as actively supporting the Democrats?
Rather than really push their own party to go back to its roots, liberal Catholics have thrown in the towel and rationalize their cooperation. In 1968 Bobby and Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey were all against legalized abortion. It was only the far left and far right that supported it. The Democrat party is now so beholden to the far left that they will never change, and they have bought off liberal pro-lifer’s for a song.
Here’s the fruit of the rejection by many people here, commenters and official bloggers alike, of Church teaching that abortion is murder: if it isn’t murder, Catholic doctors must participate in it. Otherwise, what is their reason for objecting?
Victoria Australia just passed a law that legalizes abortion including through the ninth month of pregancy, and says this about doctors who don’t want to kill babies:
the [conscientious objecting] practitioner must–(a) inform the woman that the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion; and (b) refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion. http://www.wesleyjsmith.com/blog/2008/10/australia-abortion-through-ninth-month.html
The pro-life doctor must send the woman to the killer down the road. But since he’s not a “killer” according to many of you EV dissenters here, no problem, right?
Well that’s just Australia, right? Wrong. This is the result everywhere in the US under FOCA. In fact, there’s no distinction in law between requiring doctors to refer for abortions, and requiring them to commit abortions, and denying graduation to med students who don’t commit abortions.
Pro-life doctors will lose their livelihoods, their careers, and their ability to support their families. Pro-life students will choose not to be doctors rather than be forced to aid in the murder of children. Real Catholic schools and hospitals will shut down rather than murder babies. Pro-life lay people will have no pro-life doctors to choose from–they must have their babies delivered by doctors who kill babies, and they must submit to gyn surgery by doctors who tie tubes.
Wow, what a culture of life! The pro-life choice is obvious! And the economy will be humming, too. Thanks dotCommonweal!
What a troubling thread. Actually, the logical extension of a series of troubling threads.
Troubling because of the unrelenting demonization. I find Matt Bowman’s tone singularly unhelpful, very much the mirror image of the harsh tone Bill Mazzella regularly strikes on this neuralgic issue.
Troubling because, as an Obama supporter, I had not understood the import of FOCA and I’m not buying reassurance that it’s ‘much ado about nothing.’
Troubling because I don’t resonate with the story that abortion should trump all other concerns, moral and political. Would that life were that simple.
Troubling because I don’t resonate with the counterstory that all initiatives to provide legal protection for the unborn are wrong since abortion incidence is merely a function of economics.
Troubling because I can’t resist noting how one set of arguments aligns remarkably well with Democratic talking points, while the other is in no way dissonant with those of the Republicans.
Troubling because, absent the occasional comment from William Collier, seamless garment themed discourse gets so little play here.
Who’s going to speak the prophetic word on this topic? Where are Dorothy Day and Joe Bernardin when we need them?
I hope you won’t mind a word of advice from a liberal who is also an ardent supporter of the consistent ethic of life from womb to tomb. You’ve made many good points in this thread and others–and I find myself in agreement with your positions on abortion, destructive stem cell research, and cloning. But IMO you dilute your argument greatly when you use insults and crass generalizations such as “[d]on’t you liberals criticize the military for doing this all the time?,” and “Thanks dotCommonweal!” It’s human nature for a person to minimize or ignore the substantive argument someone is making when the argument is delivered with a personal insult. Frankly, such insults are also unchristian. There are passionate positions being expressed on these life issues, and we as Christians have an obligation, I think, to search for common ground without compromising our ideals and beliefs. Finding common ground may prove difficult, but it can be done. Going into personal attack mode won’t help in the search for common ground or in your efforts at persuasion, however. I think you have a lot to offer; let the force of your arguments be front and center.
“That’s a big part of what makes this all look so calculated and partisan: the reluctance to insist that McCain talk like or act like the prolife hero he’s made out to be. ”
This is just my opinion. I don’t know that McCain is a “prolife hero”. He does have a long track record of voting along pro-life lines. And people who know him believe that he is genuinely pro-life in his personal philosophy. On the other hand, he doesn’t bring the pro-life evangelizing fervor of George W Bush. People have noticed that he isn’t comfortable talking about life issues – or of religion, either.
His legislative pro-life track record isn’t perfect, either. It’s good but not all-star.
My guess is that he’s pro-life because he’s conservative, and his instinct is to embrace the conservative worldview. Clearly it hasn’t hurt him, and may have helped him, in numerous previous elections in AZ, so there is also a practical side to it.
But his comfort zone is as a legislator, which means he is able to compromise on many things, and pro-life leglislation is not an exception.
Overall, from the pro-life perspective, he’s good. But he’s not heroic.
But from the pro-life perspective, the alternative doesn’t bear serious consideration. Senator Obama is our worst nightmare. He’s aggressively pro-choice. There’s really no other way to characterize his policies. He would be worse, because he’s far more principled, than President Clinton.
“Who’s going to speak the prophetic word on this topic? Where are Dorothy Day and Joe Bernardin when we need them?”
They’ve gone to meet their maker. Archbishop Chaput has spoken clearly, though, and in my estimation, prophetically. Do his words work for you?
Following up what Jean said: Most abortion clinics are not set up (or licensed) to provide abortions past the first trimester. There may be some stand alone clinics that do post-first trimester abortions but these are few and far between. So most later abortions are done in a fully licensed hospital, and most hospitals do not advertise the availability of abortion; rather Ob-gyns who practice there are well aware of what they can and can’t do under hospital policies and under state law.
Most states restrict post-viability termination. Google abortion laws and see for yourself. (I’ve done it before and posted the results and I’m tired of doing it.)
Even if your state won’t go out of its way to enforce abortion restrictions on health of the mother exceptions, many hospitals will internally police the circumstances under which post-viability abortions occur. They can do this because it is not a common procedure and they will know when it is happening. They don’t want the hassle or the loss of reputation that comes with being accused of skirting the law.
David–the bill defines cloning as cloning plus implantation. It is a lie. Cloning is not cloning plus implantation. Cloning is cloning.
Has a human being been successfully cloned? Do any human clones exist? I think anyone who is up on current research would say no.
Here’s the beginning of an answer from St. Anthony Messenger, Ask a Franciscan, by By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M, to the question “Do cloned babies have souls?” It is not dated, but since a later part of the answer refers to events in 2002, it clearly is recent. Do you find it deceptive?
Your question is currently hypothetical because there is no evidence that it is possible to clone a human being. Although human tissue has been cloned and animals have been cloned, it is uncertain that a person can be cloned, that God’s careful handiwork can be duplicated apart from using sperm and egg.
Most article I have read on cloning speak of two kinds — reproductive cloning (attempting to grow a new person) and therapeutic cloning (transferring the nucleus of a somatic cell into an emptied out egg cell in an attempt to grow certain types of cells or tissues). You could argue that a more explicit name for the bill would be the Human Reproductive Cloning Ban Act of 2005, but you can’t argue that there is anything at all deceptive about the way the bill is written. It takes neither a lawyer nor a scientist to know exactly what the bill does and does not regulate.
Further, Senator Feinstein said the following at a news conference introducing the bill, “”Let’s be very clear: human reproductive cloning is immoral and unethical. It must not be allowed under any circumstances. But at the same time, we must not prohibit nuclear transplantation research, which holds enormous promise for millions of Americans.” When the sponsor makes such a clear statement about the intent of the bill at a news conference, you can hardly accuse her of deception.
Clones are people, David. The bill mandates that people be killed. The Church opposes the creation of people outside the conjugal act, but it just as forcefully affirms the personhood of human beings no matter how they are created.
Actually, the bill doesn’t mandate any killing, since it doesn’t mandate any cloning. It prohibits reproductive cloning. It does not prohibit therapeutic cloning. It doesn’t require anybody to do therapeutic cloning. It doesn’t fund therapeutic cloning. It doesn’t prevent anybody from passing another bill to prohibit therapeutic cloning. Now, there have been a number of bills introduced that did prohibit both reproductive and therapeutic cloning, and I assume that this bill was introduced as an alternative to those bills, to ban reproductive cloning without banning therapeutic cloning. But none of these bills have passed, so we have no federal ban on any kind of cloning. It strikes me as more than a little dishonest to excoriate Barack Obama for being one of twenty cosponsors of a bill that at least attempted to ban reproductive cloning, when as things now stand, we have no federal ban at all on any cloning!
Fine. Argue against George. Just admit that your position is not Catholic, that you are arguing from outside Catholic thought.
What have I said that was outside Catholic thought? I do have some areas of real skepticism about Church teachings regarding when life begins. However, in general, I try to argue from within Catholic thought in these discussions, so I would appreciate it if you would point out specific instances of ideas I have introduced that are outside Catholic thought. I have merely argued that Robbie George’s interpretations of the bill are outrageous distortions of the bill. I have neither agreed nor disagreed that a human life begins when nuclear transfer is done. In this argument, I have not endorsed any kind of cloning.
I am simply asking for truth in advertising. People should abandon their “Catholic consistent ethic of life” posture if they are rejecting the Catholic teaching on life from conception/fertilization. It’s only a Catholic consistent ethic if you accept the Church’s teaching in that area too. Otherwise it’s a fraud.
In my opinion, Robbie George took an obscure bill that had twenty cosponsors and didn’t even make it to committee, let alone pass, and then claimed it authorized a gigantic commercial cloning industry, when in fact it simply did not ban therapeutic cloning. He presented a ridiculous scenario of a woman wanting to save an artificially created embryo and made it sound like the poor woman’s child was being murdered. He compared the bill to forced abortion, when the bill does not force anybody to do anything. A scientist working on therapeutic cloning has no intention of implanting the cells he is working with in a uterus and growing them into an infant and then an adult. So while the bill doesn’t prohibit therapeutic cloning, it also doesn’t require those engaged in therapeutic cloning to kill off the cells they are working on.
In essence, the only thing you can really blame Obama for is for not prohibiting both reproductive and therapeutic cloning. And since neither the house nor the senate has done that, I suppose they are all guilty.
David–you’re talking about what people call things. I’m talking about what the thing really is. Embryos are people. Making an embryo by somatic cell nuclear transfer is cloning. The bill mandates killing because it makes it illegal to let cloned embryos live. Reproductive cloning is a euphemism. Your criticisms are way off target.
William–I appreciate your perspective. I don’t think I cast any insults by the two things you quoted. First, I called people liberals. It’s not an insult. In other contexts people would declare it proudly. And I asked, how can liberals see euphemisms and verbal engineering when used by the military industrial complex, and not when used by the abortion industrial complex? Why can they see structures of sin in poverty and war, but not in actual much larger structures of sin to promote child murder? It’s a serious question. If people think it is an insult, maybe this is a matter of some people being extra sensitive, or maybe their consciences are really being challenged. I think that people get upset here because I occasionally call abortion what it is, and those words are inherently hard to receive, because abortion is a harsh reality. There’s no perfect way to do this William. David said that abortion is not dismemberment or brain sucking, and on that basis that it is not murder. You see, if we don’t don’t get through this kind of thing, David is actually right. If abortion is what he and the others describe it as, they are right to reject the Church’s teaching.
As far as saing “Thanks dotCommonweal,” that too is not an “insult,” though I can’t know for sure what you mean by that. It is satirical, obviously. If you are saying that satire is illegitimate, I must disagree, and in fact it is used quite a bit by the bloggers here.
This organization has responsibility for who it holds out to the public, and here’s the basic reality. Commonweal is using this forum, through its official blog posters (who are in turn reflected in the commenters) as a platform of a basically liberal, *Catholic* perspective on issues. Fine. Be liberal. I have not opposed such a thing. But their blog posters like Prof. Kaveny and Prof. Peñalver, and the extra-Commonweal Professors with them, are claiming to be speaking from a Catholic perspective, and to present a Catholic consistent ethic of life, and to say what the specifically Catholic and pro-life way to vote is, ***when they themselves reject the Church’s universal teaching on abortion and the foundation blocks of the pro-life position***. And they don’t tell people that–instead, they tell people they are Catholic pro-lifers presenting a legitimate Catholic perspective. And they aren’t just advocating an ethic that is utterly inconsistent with Church teaching on abortion–they are calling it the truly Catholic, pro-life ethic. And to convince people, they are saying things, as I describe above, that are quite simply lies, because they have been told the facts repeatedly and they are very intelligent people. Yet they persist in order to persuade people to do something that will bomb the pro-life movement back into the stone age, while they think they are doing good.
I can’t even describe the basic reality without violating the terms that you are suggesting. And who does that serve? We all have seen propaganda and have rightly called it that. But we have a blind spot for it.
I think that issues of tone and rhetoric represent legitimate concerns that we can discuss a little this way and that. But can you judge me on that scale, for asking people about “collateral damage,” while not stepping forth in the first place to call out the lies perpetrated here under the banner of Catholicism which will achieve a massive increase of slaughter by telling people it won’t?
William, you represent the true consistent ethic of life. These people are bad apples in your cart, and frankly, you’ve let them take leadership. If not for them, the ethic may have been adopted and celebrated widely in the Church, and we wouldn’t have a pro-live vs. consistent ethic civil war. But these people reject the Church’s universal teaching on abortion, and then have the gall to usurp the Catholic-consistent-ethic mantle and with it to publicly persuade Catholics to act on their ethic-minus-life agenda. For your own interests and the good of the Church, I beg you to take the lead back from them.
The other thing about therapeutic cloning, if David and I are talking about the same use of that term, is that the “clone” most definitely isn’t the result of the fusion between egg and sperm. It’s the creation of a zygote by other means entirely, and it has the same genetic code of the transferor, plus some fragments of the original ovum donor (that’s why no one does it anymore for fertility treatment in the U.S. — there was too much controversy around the phenomenon of chimerism).
From a philosophical standpoint, if the clone were implanted, even though the resulting baby would have the same genetic code as the DNA transferor (though epigenetic expression might be different), he/she would be a different person. Memories and experience are inherited. But at the nascent stage of development, you could not tell them apart based on their DNA.
Therapeutic cloning can be understood as using the unique properties of an egg in order to grow cell lines that are identical to those of the person who needs new cells for some kind of treatment. If researchers could reproduce those conditions without using an egg, presumably, the ethical objections would vanish. Wouldn’t they?
Oops. Memories and experience are NOT inherited. But you knew that . . .
“This organization has responsibility for who it holds out to the public, and here’s the basic reality. Commonweal is using this forum, through its official blog posters (who are in turn reflected in the commenters) as a platform of a basically liberal, *Catholic* perspective on issues. Fine. Be liberal. I have not opposed such a thing. But their blog posters like Prof. Kaveny and Prof. Peñalver, and the extra-Commonweal Professors with them, are claiming to be speaking from a Catholic perspective, and to present a Catholic consistent ethic of life, and to say what the specifically Catholic and pro-life way to vote is, ***when they themselves reject the Church’s universal teaching on abortion and the foundation blocks of the pro-life position***. And they don’t tell people that–instead, they tell people they are Catholic pro-lifers presenting a legitimate Catholic perspective. And they aren’t just advocating an ethic that is utterly inconsistent with Church teaching on abortion–they are calling it the truly Catholic, pro-life ethic. And to convince people, they are saying things, as I describe above, that are quite simply lies, because they have been told the facts repeatedly and they are very intelligent people. Yet they persist in order to persuade people to do something that will bomb the pro-life movement back into the stone age, while they think they are doing good. ”
Matt, you and I are in accord on the question of abortion. Also, I think you say things in this forum that should be said, and frequently you say them very well.
Having said that, I take issue with what is quoted here.
Before attributing dishonesty to Professor Kaveny, or to anyone else who campaigns for Senator Obama, you should consider more charitable possibilities.
From what I know of Professor Kaveny, she has been a good and faithful servant of the church for a number of years. What’s more, I believe she has reached her conclusions, not because she opposes life, but because she reveres life; and because they are where reason has led her. I don’t attribute malice or evil to her in this issue. I don’t think she speaks with forked or honeyed tongue.
I do, however, think she is mistaken. I disagree with her analysis of the situation, I think she has reached the wrong conclusion about whom to support, and I regret that she is advocating those conclusions and opinions in national publications.
Such mistaken conclusions and advocacy must be opposed, particularly on an issue of this moment. I try. I’m grateful to have your voice here, too. I urge you to continue to mount the best arguments you can against arguments such as Professor Kaveny’s. I ask that you also respect her – she deserves our respect, even when we don’t agree with her.
I second what Jim Pauwels said in his 3:39 pm post. He saved me a lot of typing, something I’m not particularly proficient at. Prof. Kaveny has been here a long time, and she’s contributed many threads and posts that have been both insightful and educational. I also disagree with her at times, but I would never question her intellectual integrity and commitment to the Body of Christ.
You covered a lot of ground in your post, but I’ll focus on your final comments:
“These people are bad apples in your cart, and frankly, you’ve let them take leadership. If not for them, the ethic may have been adopted and celebrated widely in the Church, and we wouldn’t have a pro-live vs. consistent ethic civil war. But these people reject the Church’s universal teaching on abortion, and then have the gall to usurp the Catholic-consistent-ethic mantle and with it to publicly persuade Catholics to act on their ethic-minus-life agenda. For your own interests and the good of the Church, I beg you to take the lead back from them.”
“These people”? What is that supposed to mean? Perhaps I’m wrong in my approach, but I try never to group people into us and them categories. It’s dehumanizing and it throws up walls to communication that block getting to know someone as an individual. No matter how much I disgree with someone, there are always common bonds I can uncover when I interact with the person one on one. I also find that I have more success making my point, and seeing the other person’s point, when I treat him or her with respect.
I’ve let “bad apples” take “leadership”? Again, I’m confused by this. If you and I are trying to convince posters on this blog of our common position on abortion, etc., I don’t think it’s a good strategy to call those who disagree with us “bad apples” or to try to assert “leadership” (dictatorship?) on this blog. First, such dominance wouldn’t be tolerated, and, second, our colllective voice is best expressed, IMO, as active but respectful participants in what we should hope would be a dialogue and eventual meeting of the minds.
I agree with you that the consistent ethic of life may be misunderstood by some here, but then I see our role as educators. I was a teacher in another part of my adult life, and any other teachers who post here will know that you don’t beat a student over the head to get him or her to learn. A teacher pesents information, initiates inquiry, etc., all the time striving to have the student reach the point of self-realization. I think every teacher has no doubt experienced the satisfaction of seeing a student’s eyes light up or face change when he or she has that “Aha” moment when a concept is grasped. It’s a blog, to be sure, but we’re all educators here of one sort or another.
“I beg you to take the lead back from them.” There are many different voices here, Matt, some that agree with you and me, and some that don’t. I don’t think there is dominance by one set of voices or another, or that there is any lead to take back. We all decide when best to respond to one post or another. I can assure you that I have no intention of backing off my beliefs on various subjects, but I am also willing to listen to, learn from, and sometimes disagree strongly but respectfully with other voices on this blog.
David–you’re talking about what people call things. I’m talking about what the thing really is. Embryos are people. Making an embryo by somatic cell nuclear transfer is cloning. The bill mandates killing because it makes it illegal to let cloned embryos live. Reproductive cloning is a euphemism. Your criticisms are way off target.
The bill does not mandate killing, because it does not mandate or fund nuclear transplantation. It’s really that simple.
It is the Catholic position that nuclear transplantation should never be done. Are you saying, then, that if nuclear transplantation is done, the people who do it are obligated to implant the artificially created embryo in a human uterus and try to grow it into a baby?
I don’t think you would be arguing the position of the Church. I can’t think of any teaching of the Church that says if you do one intrinsic evil, you have to do another. (Actually, I can say for a fact that there is none.) To the Church, nuclear transplantation is an intrinsic evil, but implanting the product of that nuclear transplantation into a human womb is also intrinsically evil. I think what authentic Catholic teaching would say is that if a person does commit the intrinsic evil of artificially creating an embryo, he must not compound that evil by trying to raise that embryo into a living, breathing person. Further, I think the Church would say that while he must not kill it, the only option is to let it die. You can’t make up for one evil by committing another one, and trying to raise it as a person would be gravely evil.
Now, here are two links to Vatican documents on cloning, which I shall read when I get a chance. But I am willing to go out on a limb here and say my interpretation is more in line with Catholic thought than yours. My interpretation is that (1) nuclear transplantation must never be done and (2) if nuclear transplantation is done, the artificial embryo must never be implanted in a real or artificial uterus. Your interpretation, as I understand it, is that (1) nuclear transplantation must never be done and (2) if it is done, those who do it are under the obligation to try to save the artificial embryo’s life by implanting it in a real or artificial uterus, otherwise they are killing a human being.
Robby George would have us be outraged that a woman who offers to save an artificially created embryo by having it implanted in her uterus is guilty of a federal crime. He says, “It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term.” It is my argument that the Catholic Church would be in 100 percent agreement that the woman would be absolutely wrong to make this offer and would be complicit in an extremely grave intrinsic evil. If Robby George advocates saving the lives of artificially created embryos by implanting them in a woman’s uterus, he advocates something gravely and intrinsically evil, and his argument is not in accord with Catholic teaching.
Robbie George says: “It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo [created in the lab by nuclear transplantation] by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being [that is, the clone] implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term. This ‘clone and kill’ bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China-the equivalent of legally mandated abortion. In an audacious act of deceit,”
I am virtually certain that this hypothetical woman, according to Catholic thought, would be compounding the evil already committed rather than mitigating it. Robbie George’s argument here is in no way consistent with Catholic thought. Further, I would say it should be illegal for a woman to offer herself as a host mother to clone. You can’t be against human cloning if you are going to advocate, under any circumstances, growing a cloned embryo into a baby, child, and adult. If an embryo is created by nuclear transplantation (which is utterly against Catholic morality), the only thing to do at that point is to let it die, not kill it, and definitely not try to raise it into a living, breathing human being.
David–you’re just wrong about Church teaching. Cloned embryos are people.
William–by these people, I mean those who reject EV and the CHurch’s teaching on abortion, yet claim to be presenting the Catholic consistent ethic of life, and not telling people they reject the Church’s teaching, but telling they represent the authentic teaching, and telling them that Obama = status quo on abortion plus gov funding, when in fact he represents a massive expansion, all to convince them to act according to their view.
Jim–I’ve explained my reasons, and I don’t reach my conclusion lightly. I reach it on an overwhelming abundance of evidence, and it is not offset by whatever other contributions you think people have made, because those don’t excuse deception. Prof. Kaveny and the other Profs. know very well that Obama means massive expansion of abortion. That has been proven over these past few months. There is no coherent argument to the contrary, and they have offered none. Yet they represented Obama as the status quo on abortion plus gov funding in their Newsweek article, because they wanted to persuade Catholics to vote for him. And they didn’t even tell Catholics that they reject the Church’s teaching on abortion–instead they postured themselves as representing a legitimate and even the correct Catholic view. It’s called lying.
David–you’re just wrong about Church teaching. Cloned embryos are people.
You are missing the point. Nothing in my criticism of Robbie George rests on denying that cloned embryos are persons. To implant a cloned embryo into a woman’s uterus is an intrinsically evil act, which means it is absolutely forbidden even if the intention is to save the life of the clone. I would add to, not lessen, the evil of creating the cloned embryo.
Just to put it simply, authentic Catholic teaching would be that nuclear transplantation to create an an artificial equivalent of a fertilized human egg may never be done. Period.
It would not be authentic Catholic teaching to say that if you create an artificial equivalent of a fertilized human egg in violation of Church teaching, you are obligated to save its life by attempt to grow it into a living, breathing person.
For multiple reasons, it is nonsense to speak of “an artificial equivalent of a fertilized human egg”. There are just embryos, no matter how they came about. Church teaching abhors any legal mandate to kill human embryos.
For multiple reasons, it is nonsense to speak of “an artificial equivalent of a fertilized human egg”. There are just embryos, no matter how they came about. Church teaching abhors any legal mandate to kill human embryos.
The point behind Robbie George’s argument concerns precisely this distinction between “reproductive cloning” and “therapeutic cloning”. If all it takes to turn the latter into the former is implantation, basically, then I don’t see how it can be denied that the former is indeed cloning, the result would indeed be a human being, and hence would have the dignity which accrues to such. As Matt said, the fact that they didn’t come about by the normal process doesn’t change what they are. What they are is apparent from what happens if you put them into the conditions favorable to an embryo’s development: they develop. I presume George is construing the bill as authorizing cloning – which strictly speaking seems inaccurate, and he shouldn’t have said that, at least not without explanation – because it appears that it is designed to equate cloning with “reproductive cloning,” hence leaving “therapeutic cloning” as not-cloning, something to be characterized as just a transfer of cell contents. It certainly does look as if this bill would really be just a set-up to legitimize the authorization of “therapeutic cloning,” precisely by defining it as something other than cloning. To be sure, George should have said something like that if that’s what he had in mind, but this bill would be pretty pointless if it weren’t eventually paired with the authorization or at least permission for “nuclear transplantation,” which, at least in this context, is really just cloning, period.
David and others complain about George’s example of the woman being kept from saving one of these embryo’s lives. I think you miss the point in a rather basic way. It’s not that he’s predicting the actual occurrence, much less the frequent occurrence, of such a case. He’s just showing, by a hypothetical example, why it’s Orwellian to call this an anti-cloning bill. In short: it doesn’t ban the actual cloning, but rather the implantation of the already-existent embryo. His point is not that anybody has an obligation to do what this hypothetical woman is trying to do, but that if the case were to arise, the bill’s true effect would become apparent. That is, it would just keep somebody from doing something after the fact of cloning, and, what is even more ridiculous, what it keeps somebody from doing would actually be the only way of saving the embryo’s life. Nothing in that line of thought depends on positing that such a case will come about, or on any claim about obligation to save the cloned embryo by implantation. Nothing.
David introduces a non sequitur when he implies that George’s position can only be consistent if he (George) thinks there is an obligation to save these cloned embryos by implanting them and carrying them to term. That’s just not the case. Compare: You’re walking down the street and come upon a burning building. You hear people trapped inside calling for help, but you don’t go in for fear of your life. It turns out the fire was set by an arsonist who blocked the exits so the people would die inside. In his trial he tries to defend himself by pointing out that the law doesn’t recognize any requirement on the bystanders, like you, who didn’t help the victims. The defense is fallacious, and it’s just like your argument against George. The fact that there wouldn’t be an obligation for random women to have these embryos implanted in them doesn’t change the fact that those who produced them, with full knowledge and intent to let them die or destroy them, are guilty of homicide.
At one point you (David) said something about all the things that could come about in a lab, and you questioned whether George really thinks there’s an obligation to save every random embryo-equivalent or something like that. That’s not germane–what he’s talking about is the evil involved in intentionally producing human beings with the full knowledge that they will just be destroyed or allowed to die once their usefulness is up. By hypothesis, we’re talking about people producing cloned embryos with every intention of destroying them or letting them die. (This of course goes back to the point that what you call the “artificial equivalent” of an embryo is really nothing less than an embryo) That’s not the same as the scenario of people deciding what to do with embryos already in existence. You can’t take advantage of the doing-allowing distinction if you’re the one who knowingly brought about the scenario in the first place, any more than the arsonist can claim that he did nothing wrong beyond violating some fire code by playing with matches and blocking the doors. He’s the one who brought about the situation (where other people might permissibly allow the victims to die), and he did so with full knowledge and intent, so it’s homicide. Similarly in the case here. What’s produced is an embryo, and it’s produced with the full knowledge that it will be killed as soon as its usefulness is up.
To Marcia and Mollie, above:
I agree that McCain is rather sketchy as a pro-life politician, and downright inconsistent when it comes to stem-cell research. You’re also justified in being less than fully confident in his judicial nominations. But let’s be clear: if we’re just talking about the candidates’ direct positions on abortion, not the indirect results of socio-economic policy, then it’s wildly implausible to say that McCain is just “slightly better” than Obama. Obama is, frankly, the perfect NARAL candidate. Take the Born-Alive Infants Act, as just one example out of many. His position was that requiring a second opinion as to such an infant’s viability would put undue pressure on the doctor’s initial decision to go ahead with the abortion. And this is what he construed as “undermining Roe vs. Wade” in the last debate, in spite of an explicit neutrality clause in the act. That’s rather remarkable. The situation at the time was the following: though protected by the letter of the law, there was a massive conflict of interest for the doctor performing the abortion (by early induction of labor), and that’s why even comfort care wasn’t given, let alone an assessment of viability and potential emergency care. And it had been acknowledged by the relevant authorities that enforcement was impossible. But no, Obama couldn’t tolerate the oblique influence on the initial decision, and so safeguards for live newborns in a systematically compromised situation couldn’t be tolerated. Complain about McCain as much as you want, and I’ll go along with it, but he is not just “slightly better” on this issue. Take any of a litany of examples from Obama: his support of FOCA, his understanding of the right to privacy as regards abortion, his support for taxpayer funding of abortions, his opposition to the Mexico City policy, his opposition to federal funding (or was it taxpayer-exempt status?) for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers (!), his opposition to benefits for unborn babies under S-CHIP, his opposition to funding alternative stem-cell research that doesn’t destroy embryos, his opposition to the partial-birth abortion ban, and on and on.
If your position is that in spite of this, the real-world effect of an Obama presidency would be a more pro-life outcome than that of a McCain presidency, then that’s fine. I don’t agree, but the position makes sense. It’s not at all accurate, however, or even close to accurate to say that McCain’s direct position on abortion is “slightly better” than Obama’s. Really, how could a politician be more extreme on the issue than Obama? He’s leftward of Barbara Boxer here. He says nice things about the gravity of the issue, and hearing both sides, but what more could he have done to be the perfect NARAL candidate?? You’re right: McCain is not a pro-life hero. Unfortunately he doesn’t have to be in order to look like one compared to Obama.
Thanks for taking my arguments seriously enough to spend time commenting on them.
One point I would like to acknowledge up front is that from the Church’s point of view, there is no moral distinction between the initial steps involved in therapeutic cloning and in reproductive cloning, in that those steps are fundamentally the same — the creation by nuclear transplantation of a human embryo, which the Church regards as a human person regardless of what is done from that point on.
Robbie George said, “He [Obama] has co-sponsored a bill-strongly opposed by McCain-that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed.” He is denouncing Obama for authorizing therapeutic cloning but banning reproductive cloning. We seem to be in agreement that authorizing is a very misleading word in this context. There are no prohibitions on either therapeutic or reproductive cloning at the federal level. As of January of this year, fifteen states had laws banning reproductive cloning, but only six (possibly seven, since one law is ambiguous) prohibited therapeutic cloning. Consequently, the federal government and 43 or 44 states have no restrictions on therapeutic cloning. Under the circumstances, it is a gross distortion of the facts to say that the bill Obama cosponsored “would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed.” A law can’t “authorize” something that is not prohibited in the first place. If he had said something like “tacitly approves” he would have been on much more solid ground.
I disagree with you about what George was up to when he said the following: “In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning. It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term.” He is clearly making a hypothetical case intended to tug at our heartstrings, giving as the only two alternatives the killing of the “tiny developing human being” or federal criminal charges against a compassionate woman who only wants to save a tiny developing human being’s life. It is not a logical argument against the bill. It’s pure emotionalism. The intent is clearly to make the bill (and Obama) seem callous to tiny developing human beings and women who volunteer to save them.
An authentically Catholic approach would be to say that the cloning process is absolutely forbidden, and making up hypothetical scenarios about what is permissible after the cloning has begun is not an appropriate matter for discussion.
By the way, Robbie George’s home state of New Jersey has a law (which he did speak out against) that goes much further than the law Obama cosponsored, explicitly approving stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning. The law does prohibit reproductive cloning (human cloning) but defines it as follows: “As used in this section, ‘cloning of a human being’ means the replication of a human individual by cultivating a cell with genetic material through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages into a new human individual.” The law Obama cosponsored prohibited implantation of the cloned embryo in a real or artificial uterus. It would appear that the New Jersey law permits that, as long as the process is stopped before the baby is actually born. So New Jersey is a state in which everything (and more) George envisioned about the failed federal bill is not merely not prohibited, but explicitly approved. http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2002/Bills/A3000/2840_R1.HTM
It is also interesting to note that all the horrors Robbie George foresaw as the possible result of the failed federal bill had already come to pass in his home state of New Jersy, since the New Jersey law went into effect in January of 2004, but the federal bill was not introduced until July 2005. It does not reflect badly on George that the law passed in New Jersey, but I do find it strange that he speaks of the horrific nature of the failed federal bill without mentioning he is the resident of a state where a much worse law was actually passed and is currently in effect.
The link I gave to the Robbie George article does not seem to work, but it can be accessed by using the following link and selecting “2008.10.14: Obama’s Abortion Extremism”
(Although it is actually against my better judgment to publicize it.)
Thanks for your response, David.
I still don’t quite get your point about RG’s example of the woman trying to save the embryo. You say it’s “pure emotionalism,” not a logical point about the bill. I think, really, it’s both a logical point and an example designed to “tug at our heartstrings.” There’s no incompatibility there. But what exactly is wrong with it again, over and above arguable emotionalism? The bill would in fact make it illegal to bring a cloned embryo to term, and since that’s the only way to avoid killing it or eventually letting it die, isn’t he just correct to say that the bill would “effectively require” killing any cloned embryos? You seem to think he’s pushing a false dichotomy between killing embryos and criminalizing implantation and surrogacy – but how else could such an embryo’s life be saved, exactly? If the bill “tacitly approves” the cloning, then slaps a federal ban on allowing those embryos to develop, then it seems perfectly accurate to say that it “effectively requires” killing embryos, or at least letting them die (which doesn’t help things, as I said above). There is the proviso that the bill doesn’t ensure or even address the actual production of cloned embryos – we agree on that point. But given that, it does “effectively require” that any cloned embryos that might be produced be killed or allowed to die. What’s the alternative?
But to be clear, it seems to me that you’re no longer making the same point as you were above about this hypothetical woman scenario. Before you seemed to me to be saying that George could only be serious about equating this kind of thing to abortion if he thought that there was an obligation to try to bring to term every embryo produced in a lab. My point was that that’s not correct. He is serious about equating this with abortion, because in both cases what you have is the deliberate taking of innocent human life – and the fact that people (at least people not involved in the embryos’ production) are not obligated to try to bring them to term doesn’t vitiate the claim that this is homicide. That was the arsonist example’s point. Do you agree with this now? I’m not trying to score points, but I’m a little fuzzy on what you’re saying about this hypothetical scenario now.
By the way, I think one should forgive a fair amount of “emotionalism” when someone is trying to articulate the moral status of the early embryo. The assumption of this conversation is the Catholic position, on which the embryo, however new, is a human being possessed of the fundamental dignity that goes along with being such. It’s not easy to be moved by the destruction of such tiny and relatively undeveloped humans, but on the position we share, we should be moved by it. So I don’t think it’s compelling to read George’s example as a cheap shot at Obama.
On the example again, I seem to recall that Bush made some appearance in the last year or so with some mothers and their children, who had come about by precisely this kind of scenario. Frozen embryos, surgically implanted, developed into children. So while I don’t think George’s logical point depends on this, if my memory serves there actually have been such cases. Why couldn’t they come up with cloned embryos?
And I don’t know that you’re correct to say that such an action as the hypothetical woman’s would be condemned by Church teaching. If she was complicit in the whole cloning process, then yes, but if she comes along when the cloned embryo has already been produced, I’m not so sure. (It’s clearly the latter case that George is talking about.) That’s a question for moral theologians, to be sure, but I don’t see how you can be so sure it would be verboten. Or maybe your point is weaker, just that it is arguable that the moral thing to do is just to let the embryos die, since saving them would require surrogate motherhood, which (the argument goes) is always wrong? I don’t know if that’s right, either. Is surrogate motherhood evil in itself, so that even when the in vitro fertilization or cloning or whatever has already been done, somebody can’t come along and volunteer to bring that embryo to term? That would surprise me, frankly, but I’m not sure. Compare the case of voluntary single parenthood. The Church, I believe, would regard it as an injustice to one’s child to voluntarily get pregnant while not in a marriage and fully intending to be a single parent. (That’s in addition to other moral questions about the process of getting pregnant outside of marriage.) But the Church doesn’t forbid single persons’ adopting children. So while the Church frowns on surrogate motherhood, might it not permit it when it’s equivalent to adoption? Do you have a source on this?
No one answered my question. I think RG’s argument is a cheap shot because I think the whole notion of therapeutic clones being little tiny persons is highly questionable. If the same DNA matter were being grown in any other substrate it clearly wouldn’t be a tiny little human because it would be nothing more than a cell culture. The egg is useful to grow special kinds of cells (or at least that’s the theory). If you never implant it it won’t develop into anything more than those cell lines, and humans are more than cell lines. You shed the DNA that could be used to start a therapeutic clone every day. No one mourns dead skin cells.
Barbara, to be fair to RG, he has a whole book on this, so it’s not like he hasn’t thought about it.
But anyway, I don’t see how your point holds up. “If you never implant it it won’t develop into anything more than those cell lines, and humans are more than cell lines.” Do you accept the converse, i.e., that if you DO implant it, it will “become” a human being? If so, what on earth is this thing that becomes a human being just by being implanted?
What else develops into a human baby by being implanted in the uterine wall? A human embryo. And what’s a human embryo? An individual human being, and hence a person. Where do you get off this bus? How do you distinguish between an egg fertilized in vitro and a “therapeutic clone”? (Other than the fact that one has DNA that’s cloned, rather than from two parents’ gametes.)
Calling the egg cell a “substrate” is pretty inadequate. Take a normally-produced zygote. It’s got DNA within an egg cell. Is the egg just the “substrate”? If so, why does the zygote go through the process of human embryonic development? Call it a substrate if you will, but that doesn’t absolve you of the burden of explaining why this substrate makes the difference it does.
As for your final quip: yes, and you once were a cell that held the DNA that could be used to start a therapeutic clone. The point can’t be decided just by saying there’s DNA there. Nobody has claimed that. But you obscure the relevant area for consideration when you equate the egg with any old substrate. The whole point is that when you have DNA in the egg in the right way, this thing develops along the human ontogenetic pathway, right? So it won’t do to just lump the egg in with other possible substrates. Yes, the egg is useful to grow special kinds of cells, including the particular ordered system of cells that is a human being, a person. Noting that it is “useful” doesn’t succeed in transferring it into the realm of pure artifact. That sidesteps the moral question.
At the risk of being repetitive, the Catholic position (rightly) recognizes the humanity (and hence personhood) of the embryo at every moment post-conception. That includes those moments prior to implantation. So if you’ve figured out a way to bring about a human entity that undergoes the process of human development under the exact same conditions that a pre-implanted embryo does – i.e., they both compass the human developmental pathway if they’re implanted – then why is one a person and the other just some DNA in a substrate? It seems that they have the same developmental potencies, right? What else would it take for you to recognize it as a human embryo?
But given that, it does “effectively require” that any cloned embryos that might be produced be killed or allowed to die. What’s the alternative?
Just a couple of quick thoughts for the moment, since you have raised so many interesting questions.
It makes little sense to say that the bill effectively requires any cloned embryos to be killed or allowed to die, because that is the situation we have now, and it would be unaffected by the passage of the bill we are discussing. The technology does not exist to take a cloned human embryo, implant it into a uterus, and grow it into a living, breathing human being. Robbie George’s scenario of the woman volunteering to save the cloned embryo is not hypothetical merely in the sense that it it hasn’t happened and is extremely unlikely. It is purely hypothetical and totally imaginary because there currently exists no possible way to “save” cloned human embryos. It’s a science fiction story. The most that can be said is that if the law had been passed, some time in the future, were the technology to be developed to grow a cloned human embryo into a living, breathing human being, this would not be permitted even to save cloned embryos.
Briefly put, the “tiny developing human being” and the compassionate woman who would be charged with a federal crime if she volunteered to save its life is an entirely bogus scenario. It can’t possibly happen.
“How do you distinguish between an egg fertilized in vitro and a “therapeutic clone”? (Other than the fact that one has DNA that’s cloned, rather than from two parents’ gametes.)”
Ding, ding, ding!
A little tiny imprint of your cells (which are all really tiny, all cells are tiny) growing in a culture that lets them develop into specific cells is to use the egg as a culture medium for the same kinds of cells we have by the billions.
A little tiny conceptus that is the fusion of egg and sperm is not same kind of cells we have by the billions.
I am actually not a fan of using eggs like this for the reason that I think it likely portends no good to harvest eggs in the number needed to actually use this technology even for research.
No one answered my question. I think RG’s argument is a cheap shot because I think the whole notion of therapeutic clones being little tiny persons is highly questionable.
You raise an interesting question. It seems to me the answer can’t be known until a living, breathing human being is actually cloned, on the one hand, or until scientists reaches the point where they give up because they conclude it is impossible.
A purely unanswerable question would be, Does God infuse a soul every time a scientist performs nuclear transplantation?
So while the Church frowns on surrogate motherhood, might it not permit it when it’s equivalent to adoption? Do you have a source on this?
I am researching this question. One thing that I have found that is closely analogous is the issue of “prenatal adoption,” in which women volunteer to have unwanted frozen embryos left over in fertility clinics implanted so that they can become living, breathing children, and adopted sons or daughters. (“Prenatal rescue” is similar, only the host mothers agree to bring the babies to term, but they do not commit to raising the children.) There is apparently no official word from the Church, but the issue is hotly debated.
I am looking into that more deeply, but even if there is some official pronouncement in favor of it, I would still go on the assumption that offering to save a cloned embryo, even if the woman had no prior knowledge of, and no role at all in, the original cloning, would constitute at least material cooperation with evil and perhaps even formal cooperation. She is, after all, volunteering to bring into the world a human clone, even though it was not her idea to start the process.
Unlike IVF, it doesn’t simulate a naturally occurring phenomenon because in nature, cells don’t just find eggs, attach themselves, and start growing. It seems almost presumptuous to call it a separate human being.
You raise another fascinating point. If a hollowed out human egg cell with the nucleus of a somatic cell transplanted into it were an embryo, human cloning would just be a matter of implanting that cell into a human uterus. But it doesn’t work. Just because it seems likely, based on cloning of other mammals, that such a cell might be coaxed into reproducing in such a way as to grow into a human being does not make it into a human being to begin with.
One might argue that every somatic cell nucleus has the potential to be coaxed into growing into a new organism. All you have to do is transplant it into a hollowed out egg cell. This would make every somatic cell nucleus an embryo. And scientists know how to do nuclear transplantation. That means that every somatic cell nucleus is closer to being a “therapeutic clone” than any cell created by nuclear transplantation is to being a “reproductive clone” that can become a living, breathing human being.
After all is said and done, the stubborn fact remains that some things are just wrong. All the slicing and dicing of opinions, parsing of the language and rhetoric that will be used to justify killing of the unborn cannot change the fact that abortion is an injustice. Can we view the Silent Scream, or an ultrasound of a child in utero, or watch its dismemberment in a suction abortion and not know right from wrong? Can we read the Freedom of Choice Act and what it portends for the unborn and then watch the co-sponsor of the Act as he pledges Planned Parenthood to make signature of FOCA the first item on his agenda and not see the perpetration of evil? Can we?
The question for most in this whole discussion is not whether or not abortion is wrong. It’s what to do about it and whether, wrong as it is, it totally overrides every other issue in voting. People who believe it does not override every other issue are not without consciences. And also, some who are very serious about ending abortion honestly believe Obama is the better candidate to achieve that in the long run.
Few if any minds are going to be changed at this point, but it’s doubtful that any minds will be changed by rhetorically asking people if they can’t tell right from wrong.
Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, but Weigel has responded to Cafardi, Kavemy and Kmiec.
In the Newsweek article, Weigel states:
Support for Roe was Obama’s stated reason for opposing Illinois bills aimed at providing legal protection for children who survived an abortion.
The law in question went a bit further than that. Here’s the complete text. Apologies for the long post, but it’s best to read the whole thing.
8 (a) In determining the meaning of any statute or of any
9 rule, regulation, or interpretation of the various
10 administrative agencies of this State, the words “person”,
11 “human being”, “child”, and “individual” include every infant
12 member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any
13 stage of development.
14 (b) As used in this Section, the term “born alive”, with
15 respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the
16 complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that
17 member, at any stage of development, who after that expulsion
18 or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of
19 the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary
20 muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been
21 cut and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction
22 occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean
23 section, or induced abortion.
24 (c) A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be
25 fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate
26 protection under the law.
As I understand it, fetal heartbeat begins at 5 weeks.
I’m not a lawyer, but this seems to have pretty wide-ranging consequences.
In reading the stenographic record of the debate on this issue (it’s also on the web), Obama said the following:
1. A similar law had already been struck down by the 7th District Court,
2. A narrowly-focussed law that *was* supported by pro-choice groups never made it out of commitee.
To me, Obama’s opposition doesn’t support Weigel’s assertion that Obama is an extemist on abortion. In fact, the contrary seems to be the case. Assuming there’s a genuine issue here rather than political posturing on the part of the laws sponsors, the real extremists are those who chose to put forth a measure that would not pass constitutional muster rather than work towards a compromise that addressed the problem.