Prolife & Prochoice

CAN THE DEMOCRATS ENLARGE THEIR TENT?

I was not surprised when Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) shocked a group of abortion-rights supporters last month by telling them that prochoice and prolife groups need to work together to reduce unwanted pregnancies. In 1994, just about two years into the first term of the Clinton presidency, I had the opportunity to ask the first lady whether her husband had had any recent contact with then Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey. Presumably because of his outspoken defense of unborn human life, Casey had been denied an opportunity to speak at the national convention that nominated Bill Clinton. “We make sure to let him know when we’re coming into Pennsylvania,” she replied. I suggested that a more direct and personal outreach to the popular prolife Democratic governor was needed.

This prompted the first lady to ask how the abortion debate might be raised to a more civil, constructive, and respectful level of discourse. I suggested she might invite prolife thinkers to elaborate moral arguments (as opposed to arguments from authority, or based on emotion, fear, or threat) for their position. And I added that she should think about articulating a moral argument, rather than just a rights-based one, for her position on choice.

Now, a decade later, in the aftermath of a presidential election that appears to have turned to some significant extent on “moral values,” New York’s Senator Clinton finds herself...

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About the Author

William J. Byron, SJ, is university professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He is an Army veteran of World War II and received his college education on the GI Bill.