Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Douglas W. Kmiec on the "Pro Life" Republican Party

I regret to say the current Republican Party thrives on demonizing its opposition to win elections ... Talking strongly pro-life, Republicans often do little, promising that some judge not yet appointed is the answer or advocating leaving it all up to the states to decide, seldom acknowledging that many, perhaps most, states would end embedding the "legal status" of abortion.

Douglas W. Kmiec is Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University School of Law. He headed the Office of Legal Counsel for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was Dean and St. Thomas More Professor of the law school at Catholic University of America (2000-2003). For nearly twenty years he was a member of the law faculty at the University of Notre Dame from 1980 to 1999. he founded the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy.


John Jansen said...

Having read certain of your previous posts (and comments on other blogs), and after having some brief conversations with you along these lines, I was wondering if you had come across any of Kmiec's writings in support of Obama.

Suffice it to say, I think Kmiec is dreadfully wrong to support Obama. Much has been written by folks much wiser than I as to why (Fr. Richard Neuhaus, for one).

Also, in response to Kmiec's column which you excerpted, my boss, Ann Scheidler, wrote this letter to the Tribune (it hasn't run yet, but it was just two days ago, so I'm hoping it will):

Douglas Kmiec ("How Catholics can oppose abortion, back Obama") misrepresents Barack Obama's support for abortion. Obama pledged to Planned Parenthood that his first action in office would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, making sure that no efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, even at the state level, could succeed. He stated at that speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in July 2007, "There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice.
On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield."

He specifically argued against the Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v.
Carhart, upholding the partial birth abortion ban. If Obama was open to "alternative ways to promote the culture of life," as Kmiec claims, it is reasonable to expect him to reject the procedure performed on babies who are almost completely born when they are killed. Instead he has the unqualified endorsement of Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the National Organization for Women, as well as Douglas Kmiec.

Kmiec claims that the rate of abortion is directly tied to the state of the economy, citing an increase in abortions during the period from 1979 to 1990, and a subsequent drop in the abortion numbers in the next decade. As someone who has been involved in the pro-life movement for thirty-five years, I believe it is more accurate to attribute the decline in abortions to the effectiveness of pro-life educational efforts and the widespread use of ultrasound.

Cardinal George is absolutely on target in his letter published in Catholic Church bulletins last weekend:" One cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good." The common good is not served by Barack Obama's pledge to protect the most liberal abortion laws in the world. Perhaps Kmiec should take more seriously his grandmother's admonition, "Why can't you be like the 'saintly Francis George'?" Cardinal George understands our moral obligation to protect the defenseless. Kmiec seems to think they can wait for "common ground." In the time it took you to read this letter, at least five babies were aborted. That's the status quo, and it adds up to more than 1.3 million this year. No, Professor Kmiec, Catholics cannot back Obama and be true to the teaching of their Church to oppose abortion.

Also regarding the economics of abortion, I'd recommend this post by blogger DarwinCatholic, who crunched the numbers and concluded that the commonly held assumption about a strong correlation between economic well-being and the abortion rate is unfounded.

The Dutchman said...

My point in posting this (and it is only a minor point in Kmiec’s article) is that the Republicans have yet to do anything about abortion. Our choice would be clear if it were between Pro-Abort Democrats and Pro-Life Republicans, but it is actually between straightforwardly Pro-Abort Democrats and Republicans who have spent the last thirty years lying to people like you and me about their intentions of actually doing anything about abortion!

Aside from a few hard-liners (e.g. Alan Keys or Pat Buchanan) I think that just about every Republican politician knows in his bones that if he were actually to do something about abortion he would be turned out of office, as some two-thirds of the American electorate believes that first trimester abortion should be legal. South Dakota, probably the most conservative state on this issue, recently rejected an ant-abortion ballot initiative by a whopping 55%.

Everything that has been done about abortion in the last thirty years has been completely on the margins. I doubt that the ban on partial birth abortions saved even one child, as women wanting a third-trimester abortion were free to use another procedure. Similarly, I don’t think the Freedom of Choice Act will change anything either.

I think the only way we will ever see any progress on this issue is by abandoning a no-compromise position (which has been so consistently manipulated by the Republicans) and to work for more limited goals that can be achieved with bi-partisan support (e.g. parental notification laws, banns on second and third-trimester abortions).

In the mean time, I think that we are faced with a real choice between a bona fide peace candidate and one who favors the continuation of an immoral war. That, I believe, is our real choice.

John Jansen said...


My lunch is almost over, so I haven't the time to do respond to each of your points, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this statement [PDF]
issued by Bishop Finn and Archbishop Naumann since both of us posted our comments here last week—specifically, these words:

"Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy? Could a voter’s preference for the candidate’s positions on the pursuit of peace, economic policies benefiting the poor, support for universal health care, a more just immigration policy, etc. overcome a candidate’s support for legalized abortion? In such a case, the Catholic voter must ask and answer the question: What could possibly be a proportionate reason for the more than 45 million children killed by abortion in the past 35 years? Personally, we cannot conceive of such a proportionate reason."

The Dutchman said...

"Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy?"

No, absolutely not. But there is no real choice!

And if the Republicans, who have controlled the Supreme Court since the Johnson years were really anti-abortion, then Roe v. Wade would have been overturned years ago. Nine of ther last eleven justices appointed have been Republicans — where's your victory?


If you think the Republicans are better on the war or the economy or anything else then by all means vote for them.

But they are worse about abortion because THEY ARE LYING TO YOU ABOUT BEING PRO-LIFE!