Monday, May 19, 2008

Deal Hudson on Prof. Kmiec and Blurring the Lines Between "Pro-Choice" and Pro-Abortion

Deal Hudson writes at InsideCatholic:

... It's one thing to read tortured logic in a liberal newspaper, but it's quite another to find it in a column by an esteemed Catholic law professor like Doug Kmiec. Kmiec's endorsement of Obama took the pro-life community by surprise, but next to calling Obama a "Catholic natural," nothing he has said up to now surprised me more than his saying that Obama "is not pro-abortion, but of the view that the civil law best leaves this question to the mother in consultation with their own clergyman and doctor."

Here Kmiec reveals how he has been able to justify for himself his support for a candidate who supports not only abortion-on-demand but infanticide. He has embraced the reasoning of pro-abortion Catholic politicians that being "pro-choice" is not the same as being "pro-abortion."

Indeed, Kmiec is forced to accept this distinction, because a document from the bishops on "The Duties of Catholic Politicians and Voters," which he had previously cited, reads: "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."

Kmiec's attempt to justify his endorsement ... represent[s] both sophisticated and clumsy attempts to fit Obama into a palatable moral universe... If Obama's support for abortion and infanticide is a problem for Catholic voters, it will be declared somehow "not pro-abortion."

Meanwhile, the plain-talking Donohue is not going to let Obama's Catholic supporters get away with it. While on Fox & Friends last week to discuss the Hagee affair, Donohue "broke" the story about the media blackout on Obama's support of infanticide -- the practice of providing no medical care to babies born alive after failed attempts to abort them. Donohue told me privately that no one he talked to on the Fox staff was aware that Obama held this position. (Kmiec has not addressed infanticide in any of his Obama apologias.)

My Comments:
This all sounds so familiar. I'm glad Regular Guy Paul and I aren't the only ones noticing the bogusness of the effort to paint one of the more clearly pro-abortion candidates ever (or as the USCCB might refer to him: "a candidate who takes a position in favor of abortion") as "not pro-abortion, but rather 'pro-choice' ".

Look, I understand that there might be (if I squint my eyes hard enough so that everything is all blurry) a conceivable philosophical distinction between a hypothetical "pro-choice" politician and the politicians we actually have who fight tooth and nail to protect the "sacrament" of abortion at all costs (even opposing small measures that just tinker around at the margins - like, for example, parental notification, laws mandating ultrasounds, waiting periods, etc.). All the Regular Guy and I (and, it seems, the Bishops) are saying is that such a distinction is meaningless in how it actually plays out in public policy and in the lives of the unborn.

Besides, any party and any politician who fights as hard to preserve the legality of abortion on demand as the Democrats do - even promising to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act as the first order of business - is PRO-ABORTION. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Bishops' Document on Voting Refers to Purely Hypothetical and Non-Existent "Candidate Who Takes a Position in Favor of ... Abortion"

Did Doug Kmiec Just Now Catch On That Obama and NARAL Are Politically Conjoined? [UPDATED]

Deal Hudson on "How Obama's Catholics Will Dodge the Infanticide Question"

Kmiec's Dishonesty [UPDATED]

Catholic Teaching and Political Risk Taking: When Credit Isn't Given Where Credit is Due [UPDATED]

Kmiec's Wishful Thinking on Obama and Abortion

The Curt Jester: "Shameless Garment" [UPDATED]

So-Called "Catholic Reaganite" Doug Kmiec Endorses Obama [UPDATED]

"No'bama for Me, Thanks"

Can a Catholic Vote for Obama?

Obama's Pledge to Planned Parenthood: “I Will Not Yield"

Deal Hudson: "Barack Obama's Catholic Problem"

"Why American Catholics are Supporting Barack Obama

Catholics at the Ballot Box

How the Catholic Left Will Tackle McCain

Why Does Kmiec Criticize McCain for Positions on Which He Gave Romney a Pass?

Deal Hudson on "Douglas Kmiec and the Lure of Obama"

Douglas W. Kmiec on "The Moral Duty to Inquire"

Professor Bainbridge: "Will Catholic Reaganites Go for Obama?"

Deal Hudson: "Preacher Man: Barack Obama and the the Gospel of Liberalism"

"Sorry, Doug Kmiec, But This Catholic Isn't Buying Obama"

Ramesh Ponnuru on Douglas Kmiec and "Catholic Reaganites for Obama" [UPDATED]

Romney Advisor Says Obama "a Natural for the Catholic Vote"

Obama "Post-Partisan"? Ask John Roberts

Obama and the "Pragmatic Center"

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At 5/19/2008 7:27 PM, Blogger Kyle R. Cupp said...

I don't see an ardent pro-choicer much less destructive of life than an advocate of abortion, at least thus far, so I take your point there. Nevertheless, I think the distinction is an important one, and not simply as philosophical exercise. Moreover, I dislike the “pro-abortion” label. Two reasons, mainly. One, it’s inaccurate. Two, it hinders discussion.

As the pro-life movement's success absolutely rests on persuading the pro-choice movement's members to embrace a pro-life philosophy—otherwise political and legal victories will be fleeting—pro-lifers have to engage the opposition is honest dialogue and debate. It is a fundamental rule of honest debate that one present the opponent's positions and arguments in ways the opponent would agree is accurate. St. Thomas Aquinas was the master here; he could articulate the opposing views better than those who held them! If an abortion debate is to go anywhere, both sides have to understand one another and speak of one another's positions in ways that each agree is true. It is in this matter that I think the term "pro-abortion," while in some ways certainly accurate, in other ways falls short of the mark.

Obama is in a sense pro-abortion, but the meaning of "pro" here is very different than its meaning when I say that I am pro-life. When I say I am pro-life, I mean that I have a love and respect for life. But when I say Obama is pro-abortion, I shouldn't mean that he loves and respects abortion, as if bloodlust for killing babies motivated his position. Obama supports abortion rights because he thinks in doing so he supports woman's rights. It is the support of woman's rights that motivates him. Neither does he support infanticide. He worked against a particular legislating protection for abortion survivors because he saw the legislation as an instrument to weaken Roe v. Wade. In sum, pro-abortion really doesn't do justice to Obama's philosophy on abortion in the way that pro-life does for mine. (The pro-choice label is also inaccurate, btw, for different reasons).

Many of those to whom we would apply the term pro-abortion don't see themselves as pro-abortion, but rather as pro-women or pro-choice. Sometimes "pro-abortion' is an apt term, but it's incomplete. And when people who defend abortion rights hear themselves described inaccurately, they are less likely to give ear to our pro-life message, just as we are likely to turn deaf when we're described as oppressors of women or against women's rights. With the majority of Americans supporting the legality of abortion in at least some circumstances, the pro-life movement has far more work to do than enacting laws and overturning court decisions. It has to persuade, and to do that it has to use language that is accurate and hospitable. In my opinion, the “pro-abortion” term is neither of those things.

One thing that might help is to avoid loaded labels like pro-choice, pro-women, or pro-whatever. The abortion debate is complex; language concerning it should express that complexity.


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