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The Pro-Life Affordable Care Act

It's far from conclusive, but there's growing evidence that the Affordable Care Act could lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions performed in the United States. (If true, it also follows that repealing the Affordable Care Act would result in more, not fewer, abortions than leaving the law in place.)Writing for The Atlantic, Brian Fung reports, "As the number of insured has gone up in Massachusetts, new state data show a corresponding decline in the number of abortions performed there since 2006." Since passage of "Romneycare", Massachusetts' abortion rate has dropped 17%.Fung hastens to add, "it's possible that the decline in the abortion rate had nothing to do with Romneycare", noting that Massachusetts' abortion rate has declined steadily since 1991.Nonetheless, researchers think there's a link. Fung quotes Dr. Patrick Whelan, who first identified the trend as saying, "When women have more stable access to medical care, they're more likely to see doctors, they're more likely to have somebody inquiring about their sexual health. The fact that you have somebody who cares about you results in people being healthier, and that includes not getting pregnant if they don't want to be."

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We've published a lot about the USCCB's dubious claims about the ACA's abortion-funding mechanism. Here's the latest, from Timothy Jost: http://commonwealmagazine.org/separation-anxietyWhat's more, Jim, you're ignoring an important development: When HHS learned that New Mexico and Pennsylvania were poised to use federal ACA dollars to fund elective abortions, Sebelius blocked them. The chairman of the USCCB prolife committee praised the move: http://www.archspm.org/departments/respect-life/news-events-detail.php?i... finally (for now), Jim, this is not an example of Catholic moral reasoning: "At a very minimum, this should include a ban on distributing federal funds to other entities such as states, insurance exchanges and private entities like Planned Parenthood that would use those funds to pay for abortions, either directly or indirectly." During the health-care debate, the USCCB let it be known that they were committed to maintaining the status quo with respect to federal abortion funding. That would be the Hyde Amendment, which requires, for example, states that allow Medicaid enrollees to receive elective abortion coverage to segregate federal Medicaid subsidies in separate accounts. Why doesn't the fungibility-of-money argument apply there? Why would the USCCB be all right with that arrangement but not with the one in the ACA? Money is always fungible. That's why we have it.

Hi, Luke, I agree with both points in your post: it seems logical that offering prenatal and postnatal care to women will have some marginal effect on the incidence of abortion. The size of that margin - wide or narrow - probably would be difficult to determine with exactitude. But there is no doubt that health care is a life issue, and support for adequate health care for all is a pro-life position.It's worth noting, though, that the specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which is not the same as Massachusetts' plan in many respects, was deemed by the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops to be insufficiently pro-life - so much so that pro-life *Democrats* were not able to support it until President Obama issued an executive order that prevents a number of its potentially pro-abortion provisions from taking effect. Subsequently, only the vigilance of pro-life organizations, and President Obama's personal integrity in supporting the provisions of his executive order, has prevented the Affordable Care Act from funding abortions. That executive order is a slender reed. It could be rescinded by another president. It could also be ignored by another administration - or by President Obama, who has shown a distressing willingness to not enforce laws that are unpalatable to his administration.The right course of action, and one that the USCCB supports, is to enact health care legislation, whether at that national level or some other level, that adequately supports the fundamental human right to life. At a very minimum, this should include a ban on distributing federal funds to other entities - such as states, insurance exchanges and private entities like Planned Parenthood - that would use those funds to pay for abortions, either directly or indirectly.Many provisions of the Affordable Care Act are still ramping up, so we don't know yet how effective it will be in extending health care to the uninsured. But we know already that the Affordable Care Act is flawed in a number of ways, both morally (absent the executive order, it would fund abortions) and fiscally (despite the Administration's unpersuasive claims and the CBO's now-obsolete analysis, it will increase the deficit substantially). In the event that Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress starting in 2013, we should insist that the ACA be fixed, rather than repealed, and of course Democrats will be motivated to do that. But pro-life - meaning Catholic - Democrats need to be equally insistent that the ACA be fixed in the event that President Obama wins a second term.

"Whats more, Jim, youre ignoring an important development" - no, I mentioned it. Sebelius blocked them after pro-life watchdog organizations alerted the Obama Administration to the states' intent. She gets credit for doing what her boss told her to do. Given her long and infamous track record of supporting abortion, perhaps that's not nothing.Regarding the Hyde Amendment, Medicaid, segregation of funds, and fungibility of money: money certainly is fungible. That's why parish savings accounts go to sex-abuse victims and their attorneys. It's also why it's true that federal money that goes to Planned Parenthood is, to some degree of proximity or remoteness, funding abortions. It's also why federal government insurance exchange subsidies that fund plans from insurance providers who also have insurance-exchange offerings that fund abortions are, to some degree of proximity or remoteness, funding abortions. (The very complexity of that sentence suggests that it may not be overly proximate, but it needs to be discerned). It's also why insurance premiums paid to insurance companies on behalf of a pool of employees for a policy that doesn't include contraceptive coverage, when that same insurance company is ordered to offer a separate policy to the same pool of employees at no charge to the employee, are, to some degree of proximity or remoteness, funding contraceptives. (An even more complex sentence - not sure it would survive a diagramming exercise).The Hyde Amendment is a practical accommodation to political reality. Without it, Democratic legislators, and Democratic presidential administrations, surely including the Obama Administration and specifically the Department of HHS under Secretary Sebelius, would fund many more abortions with federal funds. This is not just speculation; this is the reality of the deployment of federal funds prior to the Hyde Amendment; and both Obama and Sebelius had earlier careers in state government in which, not hamstrung by the Hyde Amendment, they did their utmost to use state funds to pay for many, many abortions.In the same way, federal Medicaid funds to states that use their share of Medicaid funding to fund abortions are an accommodation to political reality. Much better would be an outright federal ban on abortion funding via the Medicaid program, regardless of the source of funds; an outright ban on insurance policy offerings that include abortion subsidies in ACA insurance exchanges; and a complete rescindment of the HHS contraception mandate. Much better would be an overturning of Roe v Wade. Democrats can work much harder than they do to imagine a world without widespread abortion. Democrats like to claim that they want abortion to be safe, legal and rare, but all they ever seem to settle for is legal. The relatively few Democrats who are conflicted about abortion need to call their party to greater responsibility. During our and our parents' lifetimes, the GOP has demonstrated, time and again, that it is willing to risk losing elections over principle. By nominating Rep. Ryan for the vice presidency, the GOP is demonstrating that again. Our society would be a good deal better off if Democrats would take a page from their book. One practical way to do that would be for pro-life Catholic Democrats to break ranks from the party of their grandparents.

And doesn't the Massachusetts subsidized plans include coverage for abortion? If so, that's even more striking: that we would see a substantial reduction in abortions with universal coverage, even where abortion is a covered expense.This evidence that universal health coverage reduces abortions is good news that we should all be very happy about.

Brian Fung appears to be quite young and hasn't yet learned to stop trying to confuse partisans with facts. Facts? Facts! We don't need no stinkin' facts!The Republicath Bishops don't like the ACA, so that's that! Episcopis locutus sum. Finis discussionis. Besides, we all know that the ACA is a secular Muslim plot.

Jim,I thought Luke's point was that more health care leads to fewer abortions, so why would you claim that Democrat do not work for safer, more rare abortions? That sounds like an appropriate criticism of Republicans, but not Democrats. It's an example of the confusion that runs through your notes. You assume things that you know others disagree with, and seem unaware of other positions.Another example. Do you really think Democrats do not have principles on this issue? The Democrats for life platform proposal was rejected because it violated the principle that Roe v Wade not be undercut. You probably disagree with that principle, but it does not mean Dems have no principles. Quite the opposite

Hi Mr. Pawels,You suggest: "At a very minimum, this should include a ban on distributing federal funds to other entities such as states, insurance exchanges and private entities like Planned Parenthood that would use those funds to pay for abortions, either directly or indirectly."When some Democrats complain about the GOP "War on Women," this is precisely the sort of thing they are talking about. From the standpoint of abortion, about 40% of unplanned pregnancies end up in abortion and about half of all abortions are for reasons of failed contraception. I've quoted before how the Netherlands has free love, legal drugs, legal gay marriage, and free abortion on demand, but that the Netherlands also has a dramatically lower abortion rate among native born Dutch than we have here in the far more restrictive USA. The Dutch aren't having less sex; they simply have better training in contraception. Planned Parenthood claims to prevent more than 250,000 abortions per year through contraception counseling, and this seems entirely credible.And there is more to it than unwanted pregnancies and abortion.http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57497344-10391704/syphilis-scale-... is just a single example of the huge importance in universal contraceptive education.There is this concept floating out there that all you have to do is to use a condom, and you are safe.Provided that they are put on properly and genital and peri-genital skin contact is avoided, then carefully withdrawn and thrown away and not re-used.Anyway, what's also not appreciated is that intact condoms, properly used, provide some protection against fluid-related STDs, e.g. HIV, GC, , chlamydia, Hepatitis B, but are not nearly so protective against HSV, HPV, syphilis, chancroid, unless used with extreme care. http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.htmIt's possible to use condoms in a way which do provide high level protection against STDs (and pregnancy), but this requires both education and technique.Teenagers and college students have high levels of ignorance. Mature people also suffer from differing degrees of the same problem.The vast majority of Americans would agree that abortion is a far greater evil than "artificial" contraception (I put that in quotes, because checking the pH of cervical mucous to insure that seed is spilled into barren soil somehow qualifies as "natural" contraception). Considering all of the above, de-funding Planned Parenthood can rightly be considered to be a tactic in a War on Women.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

It's hard to follow the logic that cutting contraceptive funding and sex education leads to fewer abortions. Where's the data supporting that?

What a surprise!?!When women, as in Massachusetts, have REAL, ALTERNATIVE CHOICES they tend NOT to be forced into abortions.If the hierarchs were to ever have a reflective cognitive moment, perhaps they could see that women's access to birth control is the best path to fewer and fewer abortions.Sounds like a good strategy!Alas, the hopelessly reactionary and political ideologues in the hierarchy have loss all sense of what is the greater good.

This seems a reach - perhaps a well-intentioned attempt to shine a little light on a much-maligned government program. The Affordable Care Act may also lead to better dental hygiene. I'll bet if the government starts handing out free baby aspirin there'll be a reduction in strokes.Also, of course, with free contraceptives, there will be fewer babies to abort.Geesh.

What is it about the USA that it has such a high abortion rate compared to other western democracies, Higher than Canada, and much higher than Northern Europe. IMHO it is universal health care, and sexual education.And why is it that places like Brazil have as high a rate if not higher, and abortion is illegal.If fewer abortions is a good thing, then surely the USA should be willing to learn from other people, but no.

Jim: If you believe that Romney picked Ryan for a reason other than Ryan's ability to help him win, then I have a bridge to sell you. Also, Jost explained why the ACA may actually make it more onerous to secure abortion coverage on the state exchanges.

As someone mentioned in an earlier post, all state subsidized insurance plans sold through the state exchange here in Massachusetts are required to cover abortions. That is a state requirement, not related to ACA. I have never heard any suggestion from the Archdiocese here that people should not buy those plans. http://massresistance.org/docs/marriage/romney/health_ins/

Of course it would prevent abortions, because it allows families to plan their children. It allows women with heath problems to avoid pregnancy thereby reducing dire outcomes for mother and child.Did you just think that contraceptives was just picked out of the air to be thrown into the Health care act???From what I understand, MD's made the recommendations for the Health care act. IWhichf there is the ability to have affordable,reliable contraception, then abortion rates go down. We also need to teach our children sex education and that includes sex education. If parents do not want their children to learn from school, then they can have their children sit out.

There are other aspects to this possibly than access to family planning services. I'm surprised no mention of women having access to affordable health care being a factor in choosing to carry out a pregnancy rather than terminate it for economic desperation.

"I thought Lukes point was that more health care leads to fewer abortions, so why would you claim that Democrat do not work for safer, more rare abortions? Jim McK - it's a fair point. As I said in a previous comment, I am sure ACA-driven insurance benefits will allow some women who would otherwise choose an abortion to go ahead and continue with the pregnancy. Of course, because money is fungible, ACA subsidies could also increase the number of abortions. That's the "shell game" that critics of the ACA refer to.

This is one of the more lame justifications for the ACA I have seen.

Dr. Weisenthal - if you believe that Planned Parenthood is a worthy recipient of your charitable donations, by all means, donate to them. You have a right to do that in the United States. Naturally, you would need to take into account that your donation is also subsidizing abortions. My point of view is that I don't want to subsidize abortion, via direct giving or via tax dollars. As I'm sure you know, more female babies than male babies are killed each year via abortions - not only because more females than males are conceived, but because of prenatal sex selection. So to summarize: o The GOP's "war on women" consists of opposing a regulation that would force employers or insurers, in some cases despite grave moral opposition, to fully subsidize birth control, i.e. the GOP would have women pay for some or all of their own contraceptives. o The Democrats' war on women kills women by the hundreds of thousands, last year, this year, next, year, the year after next - every single year.

"Do you really think Democrats do not have principles on this issue? The Democrats for life platform proposal was rejected because it violated the principle that Roe v Wade not be undercut. You probably disagree with that principle, but it does not mean Dems have no principles."Those principles are odious. They're repugnant. They're horrible. If you are a Democrat, how do you make peace with belonging to a party that advocates such things? I don't understand it. I think I'm a reasonably empathetic person, but that's beyond me.

Thanks to everyone who has commented. I hope it was clear from my original post that I view the post-2006 trend of a declining abortion rate in Massachusetts as offering only tentative evidence for the theory that the ACA would result in a declining abortion rate nationwide.Not only is Massachusetts demographically, economically and culturally different from the United States, but Romneycare is different in its particulars (as some folks noted) from Obamacare. (And that's not even considering the near-certainty that the ACA would be repealed under Pres. Romney.)Nonetheless, as John Hayes astutely noted (8/25, 10:53 pm), Massachusetts *requires* abortion coverage as part of any state-subsidized health insurance plan offered through its exchange. And yet despite that fact, the abortion rate continues to decline.At a minimum, it seems to me, the evidence from this study is worthy of consideration when seriously debating how---as a practical matter---to reduce the number of abortions in the US.

"If you are a Democrat, how do you make peace with belonging to a party that advocates such things?"Notice that this not exactly the same question as: "If you vote for a prochoice Democrat, how do you justify voting for a candidate who advocates such things?" You might justify that by pointing out that whoever is elected as president in November is unlikely to change the status quo with respect to abortion law and policy but is certain to have great influence over economic and foreign policy. The issues that matter most to the voter are not necessarily the issues that matter most in a particular election, and the latter are the issues the prudent voter will concentrate on when he makes his choice.

Jim Pauwels: If you really don't want to subsidize abortions with your tax dollars, then you had better stop paying taxes. Because the Hyde Amendment does not conform to Catholic teaching against abortion. You are already "paying for" abortions, and have been for decades.

Those principles are odious. Theyre repugnant. Theyre horrible. If you are a Democrat, how do you make peace with belonging to a party that advocates such things? I dont understand it. I think Im a reasonably empathetic person, but thats beyond me.Jim Pawels,It seems to me that if the United States were the only country that permitted abortion, then there might be some reason to condemn the political party that supports it. But it seems to me that almost any country in the West where Americans would be comfortable living permits abortion. Wikipedia tells us, "Almost 2/3 of the world's women currently reside in countries where abortion may be obtained on request for a broad range of social, economic or personal reasons." The complete rejection of abortion is a minority view. Even Romney backed away from prohibiting abortion in the case of rape, and although that contradicts Ryan's own position, he has made peace with it. There really is a true difference of opinion on abortion, and in spite of a well known atheist or two who is pro-life, the idea that personhood begins at conception is basically a religious idea. And, by the way, it is not an idea that all religions hold. An absolute ban on abortion would be an infringement on the religious freedom of Jews, for whom abortion is not merely permitted to save the life of the mother, but more or less required. You may find it unconvincing or even abhorrent, but there really are plausible arguments that no human person exists in early pregnancy. And of course, whether people like it or not, it was a 7-2 decision by the Supreme Court that legalized abortion in all 50 states. There are probably few Catholics who would agree with me, but it seems to me from a Catholic point of view, there is no need to feel anguish or sympathy for aborted babies. They are in God's hands, and it is presumed that they are saved. If personhood begins at conception, it is likely that far, far more persons die before birth (in fact, even before implantation) than die from abortion. From a Catholic viewpoint, the fate of every individual who dies before birth is the same. And yet no one weeps for the millions who fail to implant. As I have said countless times, nobody even prays for them. There is a great deal of irrationality and fantasizing when it comes to weeping over the alleged suffering of aborted babies. I also think I am a reasonably empathetic person, but I really don't get all the emotionalism over the fate of aborted babies. What would make sense to me is concern about those who procure and perform abortions. Mother Teresa said, "And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" Pro-lifers are willing to excoriate the Democratic party for upholding the right to choose an abortion, but they fall all over themselves attempting to hold blameless women who actually do kill their own children, half of whom, in any given year, have had abortions previously.

At a minimum, it seems to me, the evidence from this study is worthy of consideration when seriously debating howas a practical matterto reduce the number of abortions in the US.For people who don't see artificial contraception as wrong (or as wrong as abortion) it seems self-evident that enouraging the use of contracepion will reduce the the number of unintended pregnancies which may cause women to feel a the only solution is to abort. Certainly, that is the thinking behind the HHS mandate. That is an example of choosing the lesser of two evils. It differs from he Church's view that you should not do either because you have the option of continence. It is the same issue that comes up in sex education programs in high schools between people who argue for teaching abstinence only and people who argue for "avoid sex before marriage - but if you do have sex use effective contraception."

There really is a true difference of opinion on abortion, and in spite of a well known atheist or two who is pro-life, the idea that personhood begins at conception is basically a religious idea.David,I agree there exists a true difference of opinion on abortion but equating it to a religious idea is really a false justification for abortion. The argument for when a unique human life begins (or any life) is now readily definable and understandable entirely within the realm of biology. After the union of egg and sperm, a unique life exists and will continue to its death given proper nourishment and care. Its human life we are called to protect; IMHO human personhood is a way to discriminate against human beings who fail to meet some artificial definition of being human.

Bruce, one cannot talk about "unique human life" before all possibilities of twinning have disappeared, and that possibility is open for about two weeks after conception.

David N.Re your 1:06 pm post: It seems to me that if the United States were the only country that permitted abortion, then there might be some reason to condemn the political party that supports it. But it seems to me that almost any country in the West where Americans would be comfortable living permits abortion.Perhaps Im missing something, but this seems like a non sequitur to me. Even if every country in the world permits abortion, what does that have to do with working to eliminate or reduce abortions in the country in which one chooses to live? Is abortion somehow more acceptable because its practice is widespread? It may be legal in many places, but so was slavery until there was a paradigmatic shift in attitude about a practice that most people now find both legally and morally repugnant. And while I agree with you that the complete rejection of abortion is a minority view and probably will be for some time to come, I dont see anything inconsistent in someone taking a strong stand against abortion wherever he or she finds it, including codemn[ing] a political party that supports it. The idea that personhood begins at conception is basically a religious idea.I dont think thats true at all. There is a strong secular argument that can be made by both religious and non-religious persons alike that personhood begins at conception. The fundamental question is who counts legally and morally as one of us, and no reference to religion is needed to articulate such an argument. And of course, whether people like it or not, it was a 7-2 decision by the Supreme Court that legalized abortion in all 50 states.True it was a 7-2 decision, but thats no guarantee that Supreme Court cases decided by such a margin will stand the test of time. Todays majority opinion can someday be the Courts minority opinion (and vice versa, of course). If a 7-2 decision does mean something, however, then I assume that whether pro-choice advocates like it or not, any future 7-2 decision overruling Roe and Doe should also be accepted as settled law. There are probably few Catholics who would agree with me, but it seems to me from a Catholic point of view, there is no need to feel anguish or sympathy for aborted babies. They are in Gods hands, and it is presumed that they are saved.By this reasoning wed be doing all infants and young children a favor, and thus ensuring their eternal salvation, by killing them before they reach the age of reason. And because they would be safe with God, it would be incongruous if we were to mourn for them. And yet no one weeps for the millions who fail to implant. As I have said countless times, nobody even prays for them. There is a great deal of irrationality and fantasizing when it comes to weeping over the alleged suffering of aborted babies.It definitely is a shame that the non-implantation rate is high, but perhaps many of those embryos had genetic defects that prevented implantation. I dont know the answer to that and there should be more medical research into the implantation issue. Still, there is still a huge moral difference between the conscious destruction of human life by another human being and embryos that fail to implant.I don't see the Democratic Party as evil--I'm still a member if but by a toehold--but I do see the leadership of the Democratic Party as having betrayed one of its most cherished principles, i.e., the defense of the defenseless.

Grant - yes, I pay taxes, and yes, I realize that to some degree of remoteness, I'm probably subsidizing abortion. I'm not satisfied with the status quo in that respect. I think I've come across as more than a bit shrill on this particular topic, and I know that isn't pleasant to read, and I will try to dial down the tone a bit.

David N - I actually do pray for the miscarried and the stillborn. (Maybe I'm the only one :-)). We've experienced miscarriage in our family, as of course have many, many other families. In point of fact, we don't know, even by divine revelation, the destiny of infants who die before baptism. I certainly have a reservoir of hope that they are with God in some way. Whether they would be with God to the fullness that a saint like St. Monica is with God, we don't know. I happen to think it's worth praying for.

" It definitely is a shame that the non-implantation rate is high, but perhaps many of those embryos had genetic defects that prevented implantation...."True it was a 7-2 decision, but thats no guarantee that Supreme Court cases decided by such a margin will stand the test of time."Bill C. --It is also a possibility that the organisms that do not implant were so imperfect to begin with that it was impossible for them to develop to the point that they could actually be persons. In other words, there was no baby to start with.The Roe decision, contrary to popular belief, did NOT decide that the little creature was not a human person and therefore has no legal right to life. The Court said that expert opinion was divided on the matter, and the experts had not yet settled whether the organism had been "ensouled". (Roe actually uses that term.) It said that until the matter was settled by the experts that the Court had to find for the pregnant woman.There is another point involving poor thinking that hasn't been brought up here. Many argue that because the DNA of the organism(s) remains the same throughout the gestation process and so at every point in the process it is definitely a baby. One should not kill babies, so one should not kill it at any point during the gestaton process, even at the very, very beginning. In other words, a person's DNA is identical with his/her personhood -- so every cell with a complete set of chromosomes is a person. However (and this is where contemporary biology is extremely relevant), it is also true that every single cell in a person's body (except the sex cells) has a fu set of chromosomes, and -- this is almost miraculous -- each cell could theoretically be cloned into a duplicate of the person from whom the cell is taken. Then In other words, if your DNA makes you a person then a human body is a collection of billions of persons. What nonsense.Conclusion: personhood is not reducible to having a full set of chromosomes, and that includes the original multi-potent stem cell(s) which is the zygote. There is no reason to think that the zygote is a person (or collection of persons) any more than there is reason to think that the mature human body is a collection of billions of persons. (IF that were possible, then *I* would really be *us*. (I might also add a religious argument here: if one human cell were to produce a clone of a whole person, that would biologically be the same sort of conception as Jesus' conception -- it would be a whole person from only one cell. It would be biologically a virgin birth. But theology says there was only one virgin birth.) Finally, I read a book review just yesterday of a work by an academic who decries political correctness of every kind, including the automatic pro-choice view of the vast majority of feminists. Well, it turns out, according to this academic anyway, that some of the feminists are starting to wonder whether they're right about abortion. So it seems that the non-religious arguments against killing babies in the womb are starting to have their effect even among some radicals. And, yes, there are respected academics who argue against it on completely non-religious grounds. It is a popular myth that only religious people argue against abortion and then only on religious grounds.

During our and our parents lifetimes, the GOP has demonstrated, time and again, that it is willing to risk losing elections over principle.... Our society would be a good deal better off if Democrats would take a page from their book.Those principles are odious...My objection was to your earlier statement, that Democrats were unwilling to risk election over principles. I assume your rejection of "those principles" means that Democrats do have principles, and that those principles alienate voters. I do not see how those positions do not exclude one another. That is why I feel confused when I wade through your notes here. It is not that they are shrill, but that assume an absolutism with which everyone agrees, even though it is clear not everyone agrees with it. I just get bewildered.

Is abortion somehow more acceptable because its practice is widespread? It may be legal in many places, but so was slavery until there was a paradigmatic shift in attitude about a practice that most people now find both legally and morally repugnant. William Collier,I think abortion is more defensible because it is so widespread. That does not mean it isn't wrong, but the more people who find it acceptable, the more one can argue that its widespread acceptance is at least an indicator that many countries have seriously weighted the issue and come to a similar conclusion as the United States. It is true that almost everyone now finds slavery repugnant, but don't hold people who lived before the paradigm shift you speak of as responsible for approving of slavery as we do now. Jesus himself said nothing against slavery, and Paul told slaves to obey their masters. We are in a period right now, it seems to me, when acceptance of abortion is increasing. So the paradigm shift is moving toward the acceptance of abortion, not away from it. By this reasoning wed be doing all infants and young children a favor, and thus ensuring their eternal salvation, by killing them before they reach the age of reason. And because they would be safe with God, it would be incongruous if we were to mourn for them.Yes! If unbaptized infants who die are not "punished" by Godeither by being sent to hell or having a less blissful eternity than baptized babies or adults who die in the state of grace, then it is indeed a favor to spare innocent babies the risk of eternal damnation by killing them before birth. The problem is, if they are human persons, it is a favor you have no right to do for them. A wise man once argued that if there is a risk, no matter how small, that a person who leads a life on earth will go to hell, then it is better to skip earthly life and go straight to heaven. I can't remember whether it was Pascal or me. :P I don't see how this can be denied. If someone were on Let's Make a Deal and were offered curtain 1, which had behind it life on earth and a finite chance of damnation or a finite chance of eternal bliss, and curtain 2, which had behind it no life on earth but a guarantee of eternal bliss, that person would be a fool to choose curtain 1. Still, there is still a huge moral difference between the conscious destruction of human life by another human being and embryos that fail to implant.There is a huge moral difference, but it makes no difference to the (alleged) person who dies. I am arguing that sympathy for the huge number of infants who never implant and the lesser number of infants who are aborted is irrational. They have a guarantee of eternal happiness. If anyone had a choice, he or she would be insane to turn down eternal happiness for a brief life on earth and a risk of eternal damnation. Abortion may be murder, but this doesn't mean we should mourn for the aborted. They are in the majority in bypassing a life on earth. If you believe that God set up human reproduction, and that he allows the majority of persons conceived to die even before implantation, and that majority meets some unhappy fate, you have a God who has set up most of the human race to have an unhappy fate through absolutely no fault of their own. I have talked with Protestants who claim those who die without baptism go to hell. If that is true, God set up human reproduction mainly to populate hell.

It is also a possibility that the organisms that do not implant were so imperfect to begin with that it was impossible for them to develop to the point that they could actually be persons. In other words, there was no baby to start with.Ann,I think it is known for a fact that many embryos that do not implant, and many embryos that do implant but are spontaneously aborted, have chromosomal anomalies. But if personhood begins at conception, who is to say that these are not persons at all, but rather seriously disabled persons? Part of the pro-life argument is to deny anyone the right to say who is and who is not a person. A baby born without a brain that is destined to live only a few days would certainly be considered a person by pro-lifers.

Question: What if humans are successfully cloned? Will the clones have souls? Would God cooperate with something as dastardly as human cloning by creating souls for clones? Could there be a human person without a soul? Are there tests for ensoulment? Might a clone without a soul appear human in every respect but be an automaton lacking self-awareness? As I understand Catholic teaching, souls don't automatically come into existence when a human being is conceived. God creates them directly. So assuming babies conceived by in vitro fertilization have souls, God cooperates with in vitro fertilization. And if human cloning ever succeeds, the conclusions, it seems to me, will have to be either that God directly creates souls for clones, or the idea of souls will have to be modified or abandoned.Someone was telling me about an article discussing the use of the Transporter on Star Trek. One someone "beams" from one place to another, he or she is (presumably) physically destroyed and a duplicate is created in the desired destination. I doubt that such a thing will ever be possible, but it would make an interesting science fiction story for it to be the case that "beaming" worked for all objects, plants, and animals except human beings, who arrived at the destination perfectly duplicated but always dead. And someone figures out that the reason is that bodies can be destroyed and re-created flawlessly, but humans have spiritual souls, and a soul can't be beamed from one place to another. (No fair stealing my story idea! Copyright 2012 by David Nickol.)

Abortion is NOT going to be made illegal in this country, even if the Teapublicans and their Republicath ecclesiastic supporters prevail. There are way too many wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, mistress and various and sundry other female connections to these posturing politicians and ecclesiastice who will have a "come to momma" talk with these boyos. The posturing might continue, but the repeal of RvW will NOT happen.The Republicans have had too many opportunities to advance the cause of repeal and here we are: the status remains quo.

"Abortion is NOT going to be made illegal in this country"I would wager that many years some Southern plantation owner made the same claim with respect to slavery.

Conclusion: personhood is not reducible to having a full set of chromosomes, and that includes the original multi-potent stem cell(s) which is the zygote.Ann,Personhood is not what we are called to protect. Its human life. Is a person in a vegetative state less human? What about someone with downs syndrome? The point is that humans are not to decide who is human because we tend to draw lines that exclude. Christ told us to love all our neighbors, not just those we deem persons. One person deciding another's personhood was, and is, exactly the issue in slavery.

GMTA, and at the exact same time!

I think abortion is more defensible because it is so widespread.David,Bunk! Is war defensible because it is widespread? What about genocide?

David, I apologize for my curt comments, I just find arguments that 'everyone is doing it' completely vacuous. All they suggest to me is that we are social beings and tend to look at others to decide what is correct because we cant really judge it on our own and/or don't want to be 'different'. Perhaps that is the 'original sin'. It also makes me think that Christ's description of us as sheep may be much more apt than we want to admit.

"But there is no doubt that health care is a life issue, and support for adequate health care for all is a pro-life position."It probably is obvious, but what is the relationship between "health care" and the quest for prohibition of non-criminal (or allegedly so) homicides people who self-identify as "pro-life" are concerned with such as capital punishment, targeted assassinations, abortion, and infanticide?

I just find arguments that everyone is doing it completely vacuous. Bruce,Suppose there was a successful movement in all Western countries to put very serious restrictions on abortion, and the United States was alone in keeping abortion on demand. Wouldn't you say, "Look at what everyone else is doing?" "Everybody's doing it" is not a moral argument, since "everybody" can be wrong. It doesn't prove a widely accepted practice is moral. But it's not totally irrelevant to look at what other nations with similar cultures are doing about abortion. Opponents of capital punishment in the United States can rightly point to many European countries who have abolished the death penalty and argue that the US is out of step with other similar countries.

I wonder why anti-abortion people have so much to say about women ("feminists") and nothing to say about men. Like their role models, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, Mitt, et al., they seem to think it takes only one to tango. Given today's DNA technology, it would be easy to identify the men who sire unborn babies. If they were held responsible for supporting their babies through the age of 21, there would be fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions.Why doesn't the Church go after men? Deny the sacraments to those who fail to provide for their children? Why don't those editors, commentators, etc., who RUSHed to the barricades to support the bishops in the war against women turn their attention to men? (Just kidding. No way will the men who rule the Church and the men who edit and write for the periodicals and the men who blabber on t.v. turn against other men.)

Bruce,The implications of common practice are broader than David's good answer suggests. Natural law is based on understanding human behavior, and common practice is evidence of human behavior. If any progress is going to be made on limiting abortion, it is going to come from natural law arguments, and those are much harder to make if empirically people have chosen a different behavior.That may be what I have been trying to tell Jim P. His notes here seem utterly unpersuasive to me; they reflect deep conviction, but they do not address pro choice concerns. They have little chance of connecting with any broader group of people because they do not appeal to our common human nature. (pro choice people have similar problems) Perhaps there is a value to taking a defiant stance but I don't see how it is helpful. It alienates rather than attract.

No David, I respectfully disagree. From slavery to smoking, the notion that everybody else does it has terrible precedent. Moms all over the world are correct when they tell kids; If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?

Jim McK: I suppose the word "principle" has more than one definition. A number of Catholic liberal lions have famously shifted from pro-life to pro-choice, in tandem with shifting public opinion. Perhaps that is an instance of a development in principles. I confess that, to me, it seems rather un-principled.

"That may be what I have been trying to tell Jim P. His notes here seem utterly unpersuasive to me; they reflect deep conviction, but they do not address pro choice concerns. They have little chance of connecting with any broader group of people because they do not appeal to our common human nature. (pro choice people have similar problems) Perhaps there is a value to taking a defiant stance but I dont see how it is helpful. It alienates rather than attract."You're right that I'm not out to persuade here, except insofar as stating the truth (my perception of it, anyway - truth can be elusive) has the ability to persuade.My larger point on the question of the Democratic Party and abortion is that it is up to pro-life Democrats to persuade the Democratic Party to change its position on the most important life issue, which is not health care but abortion. Judging by the choice plank in the party's 2008 platform, and from what I have read of its 2012 platform, its position on abortion may accurately be described as, "as pro-abortion-rights as it is possible to be." I am not a Democrat, and probably am perceived as being at least somewhat conservative (not that being conservative should preclude one from being a Democrat, but that's another topic), and so Democrats don't view me as one of their own. Most families don't clean their house because their neighbor tells them to, or not only because of that; they do it because they work it out amongst themselves that it needs to be done.I took Luke's point in the original post to be that Democrats can lay claim to the pro-life mantle, because they passed the Affordable Care Act. I agree that providing health care for the uninsured is pro-life, but in my view, the Democratic Party has a very long way to go before a claim of being pro-life would have any credibility.

A new social norm in the making: Do the right thing - but only if others do so and if it is also approved by the politically correct.

Natural law is based on understanding human behavior, and common practice is evidence of human behavior. Jim,Unfortunately, this statement has a number of fatally flaws. Natural law is not based on understanding human behavior but rather rationally discoverable rules inherent in human nature which will engender human flourishing. Natural law proscribes following many human desires which are expressed in human behavior. And natural law is not defined by common practice.It seems to me that you and others are expressing the entirely understandable human desire to find an acceptable solution to a very common human problem: an unwanted pregnancy. I want a solution to that problem as well. But abortion can never work. The crux of the issue is that the wrongful act which produced the problem was the man and woman engaging in sexual intercourse with the intention of avoiding of its the rationally foreseeable outcome. That wrong cant be morally assuaged by harming the entirely innocent human life created by that act. Its the old 'two wrongs don't make a right' and its particularly apropos here because the second wrong is committed against an a human life which did not exist at the time of the initial wrong act. Even human 'fairness' should be offended by those facts.Finally, I find it curious that in many areas of our lives we are regularly counseled to avoid even small risks of bad outcomes. Yet, in the issue of abortion, people regularly espouse ideas of 'ensoulment' or 'personhood' as justifications. IMHO, the least risky proposition is avoid taking any human life.

I wonder why anti-abortion people have so much to say about women (feminists) and nothing to say about men. Like their role models, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, Mitt, et al., they seem to think it takes only one to tango.Gerelyn,I've only heard it described as 'Women's right to choose' never even the couples. Further, I believe substantially all women know who fathered their child; yet many dont or wont tell the father anything at all. That said, I doubt the free pass you see here on earth for men will extend beyond our death. And unless I'm mistaken, the Church is preaching to men that they are responsible and accountable even here on earth, eg. no sex outside of marriage, marriage for live, love your wife and children, etc.

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