Friday, May 29, 2009

Robert P. George on "Obama and His Pro-Life Apologists"

Three months into President Obama’s first term, one of his most prominent pro-life opponents, Robert P. George, engaged in a debate with one of his most prominent pro-life supporters, Douglas W. Kmiec. This article at The Public Discourse is adapted from George's remarks, which called for candid speech on Obama's abortion record:

... In my judgment, citizens who honor and seek to protect the lives of vulnerable unborn children must oppose the Obama administration’s agenda on the taking of unborn human life. Our goal must be to frustrate at every turn the administration’s efforts, which will be ongoing and determined, to expand the abortion license and the authorization and funding of human embryo-destructive research. Because the President came into office with large majorities in both houses of Congress, ours is a daunting task. But the difficulty of the challenge in no way diminishes our moral obligation to meet it. And I here call upon pro-life Americans, including those who, like Professor Kmiec, supported President Obama and helped to bring him to power, to find common ground with us in this great struggle for human equality, human rights, and human dignity. [ED.: Yeah, good luck with that. As Regular Guy Paul has noted, " I have yet to see any "pro-life" Obama supporter engaging anyone in the Democratic Party on the issue of abortion. All I see from them is calls to social conservatives to either convert to become Democrats, or to sit down and shut up."]

Professor Kmiec and I share common ground in the belief that every member of the human family—irrespective of race, class, and ethnicity, but also irrespective of age, size, location, stage of development or condition of dependency—is entitled to our care and respect and to the equal protection of our laws. This is what it means to be pro-life. In this shared conviction, Professor Kmiec and I are on one side of a crucial divide, and President Obama is on the other. Professor Kmiec and I stand together in our opposition to abortion and human embryo-destructive research, but we share very little common ground on these matters with President Obama and those whom he has appointed to high office who will determine the fate of vast numbers of our weakest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

The President is right. His view regarding the status, dignity, and rights of the child in the womb, and the view shared by Professor Kmiec and myself, are irreconcilable. A chasm separates those of us who believe that every living human being possesses profound, inherent, and equal dignity, and those who, for whatever reasons, deny it. The issue really cannot be fudged, as people sometimes try to do by imagining that there is a dispute about whether it is really a human being who is dismembered in a dilation and curettage abortion, or whose skin is burned off in a saline abortion, or the base of whose skull is pierced and whose brains are sucked out in a dilation and extraction (or “partial birth”) abortion. That issue has long been settled—and it was settled not by religion or philosophy, but by the sciences of human embryology and developmental biology.

So it is clear that what divides us as a nation, and what divides Barack Obama, on one side, from Robert George and Douglas Kmiec, on the other, is not whether the being whose life is taken in abortion and in embryo-destructive research is a living individual of the human species—a human being; it is whether all human beings, or only some, possess fundamental dignity and a right to life. Professor Kmiec and I affirm, and the President denies, that every human being, even the youngest, the smallest, the weakest and most vulnerable at the very dawn of their lives, has a life which should be respected and protected by law. The President holds, and we deny, that those in the embryonic and fetal stages of human development may rightly and freely be killed because they are unwanted or potentially burdensome to others, or because materials obtained by dissecting them may be useful in biomedical research.

President Obama knows that an unborn baby is human. He knows that the blood shed by the abortionist’s knife is human blood, that the bones broken are human bones. He does not deny that the baby whom nurse Jill Stanek discovered gasping for breath in a soiled linen bin after a failed attempt to end her life by abortion, was a human baby. Even in opposing the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which was designed to assure that such babies were rescued if possible or at least given comfort care while they died, Barack Obama did not deny the humanity of the child. What he denied, and continues to deny, is the fundamental equality of that child—equality with those of us who are safely born and accepted into the human community.

President Obama’s supporters do him no good service by pretending that his expressions of willingness to find “common ground” with pro-lifers involve, at some level, recognition that abortion or embryo-destructive research is bad or tragic because it kills a living member of the human family. Unlike, say former President Clinton or former New York Governor Cuomo, or even Vice President Biden, President Obama does not profess to be “personally opposed” to abortion, or to believe that abortion is a wrongful act that must nevertheless be legally permitted because the consequences of outlawing it would be worse than those of tolerating it. His belief, and his policy, is that abortion, if a woman chooses it, is not wrong. That is why he is not personally opposed to it. There is no wrong there to oppose. Indeed, the President made crystal clear his view that abortion can be an entirely legitimate and even desirable option, when he said that if one of his daughters made a mistake and became pregnant, he would not want her to be “punished with a baby.” In such a case, he saw abortion as the right solution to a problem—a solution that we should be happy is available, and that we should make available if it happens not yet to be available. Without it, a young woman would be “punished.”

All of this was made transparently clear at a recent meeting at the White House in which people on both sides of the abortion issue were brought together to see if they could find some common ground. The meeting was led by Melody Barnes, the Director of the President’s Domestic Policy Council and a former board member of Emily’s List, one of the nation’s most aggressive organizations devoted to legal abortion and its public funding. At one point in the meeting, she recognized pro-life activist Wendy Wright, who attempted to explain ways that the President could begin to achieve his reported goal of reducing the number of abortions. Barnes interrupted her to make clear that the precise goal of the administration is to “reduce the need for abortions.” Two days after the meeting, the President spoke at Notre Dame, and he chose his words carefully. In speaking of common ground, he did not propose that we reduce the number of abortions, but rather [and I quote] “the number of women seeking abortions.” Get it? The President and his administration will not join us on the common ground of discouraging women from having abortions or even in encouraging them to choose childbirth over abortion. The proposed common ground is the reduction of unwanted pregnancies—not discouraging those in “need” of abortion from having them. The idea that the interests of a child who might be vulnerable to the violence of abortion should be taken into account, even in discouraging women from resorting to abortion or encouraging alternatives to abortion, is simply off the table.

The President and the people he has placed in charge of this issue, such as Melody Barnes, have a deep ideological commitment to the idea that there is nothing actually wrong with abortion, because the child in the womb simply has no rights. This commitment explains the policy positions President Obama has consistently taken since he entered the Illinois legislature. It crucially shapes and profoundly limits what he and those associated with him regard as the “common ground” on which he is willing to work with pro-lifers. And it explains why he and they reject what we, as pro-lifers, propose as common ground.

[Read the whole thing]
(emphasis and editorial commentary added)

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Robert George vs Douglas Kmiec: How Should a Pro-Life Citizen Respond to Obama? [UPDATED]

Obama Culture of Death Update™: Obama Advisor Says “It is Not Our Goal to Reduce the Number of Abortions” [UPDATED]

Catholic University of America Offers Forum to Discuss Life Issues at National Press Club

Prof. George Schools Prof. Kmiec ... Again

Scholar vs. Hack: Prof. George Schools Prof. Kmiec re: "Did Obama Allow Human Cloning?"

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