Monday, October 27, 2008

Compromise or Chäos — a reply to my friend Rob

If we are living in the world, the question is never are we going to compromise or are we going to remain pure. The question is always how much are we going to compromise. Ideally, if we had perfect discernment, we would know exactly how much to compromise to get as much of what we want as we can, but I haven’t perfect discernment, I only have opinion.

I am certain that you yourself have already compromised, possibly without thinking about it.

The Pill is well known as an abortifacient, you know that and I know that, but no one in this day and age is talking about banning hormonal contraceptives. Even Evangelical Christians, who are with us on the abortion issue, are against us on this one. And so I am sure you don’t even bother asking if a candidate favors banning the pill. I in fact recall, hearing Alan Keyes mention on a radio show here in Chicago, back when he was running for Senator, that he favored Natural Family Planning and thought it should be taught in the schools. Yet even he, whose pro-life credentials are among the best, made no mention of banning the Pill.

Similarly, we are both aware that fertilized embryos are routinely destroyed, discarded, or turned over to medical research because they have been harvested but not used for In Vitro Fertilizations. Think you can ban I.V.F.? It is way too popular and most people don’t even think of these embryos as babies.

If you would only vote for a candidate who was truly pro-life, and opposed the Pill, and the I.U.D. (which works by not allowing fertilized embryos to implant), and I.V.F. — would you have anyone to vote for?

I think not.

And this time around, are you voting for Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party? He promises that his presidency will end abortion. Or will you be voting for McCain, a waffler on the abortion issue.

You see — you have already compromised to what you know are political realities.

These are some political realities as I see them:

• Abortion isn’t going away.

We can cite polling figures from morning until night but at the end of the day they don’t count for anything. What does count is actual votes at the ballot box. And if South Dakota, one of the most conservative states in the union, rejects an anti-abortion measure by a large majority, then what makes you think that the rest of the country, which is far more liberal, would accept such a thing?

The political situation right now is that pro-aborts feel pretty secure in their position and only pro-lifers tend to be one-issue voters on that subject. Abortion has never really come before the American people as an up or down proposition and I fear you would be disillusioned if it did. Every so often we hear about how “young people are pro-life” but then this never translates into a pro-life vote ten years down the line. Why? Because it is very easy for a fourteen year old virgin living with her parents to adopt a hard-line pro-life position, but once she gets out in the world and has a few lovers, she decides that she’s not so eager to walk that tight-rope without a net. It is telling that, among women, only the very young and the post-menopausal (or those women who don’t “need” abortion) are pro-life. There is simply way too much self interest at play to get a working majority of Americans to agree to abolish abortion.

• It can’t get any worse.

America has just about the most liberal abortion laws in the world. Where else can you get a completely discretionary abortion in the ninth month? I like to shock my kids by pointing out that, five weeks after my Bean-Girl was born (she was premature), we could have legally aborted Pod-Man or Pumpkin who went full term. I show them photos of Bean-Girl asleep two weeks after she was born and point out that, were she still in the womb, we could have had her killed.

There’s really not much Obama could do to make things worse. FOCA only makes Roe v. Wade federal law, it’s completely redundant. Yes there are things he could do at the margins. He could reverse the Mexico City Policy and he could try to repeal the Hyde Amendment, but these are relatively minor. Most Federal employees, the Army and Navy, are already receiving tax-payer funded abortions and it is my understanding that the funding for abortion in the Third World that we do not provide is made up for with funds from Western Europe that would otherwise be going to digging wells and buying seed corn. Money is fungible, you know.

The Republican position on stem cell research and human cloning is not that they are against it,merely that they will spend no government money on the project. This is a crass calculation on their part that these are going to be very lucrative fields and they want their rich friends to cash in on it, not the taxpayer. [Just as their Medicaid prescription benefit was a huge give-away to the drug companies.] The Republicans are no more principled here than they are about anything else.

Lives will not be lost by a vote for Obama. I doubt if even a dozen more abortions will take place because of changes he puts through, yet I firmly believe that McCain’s warmongering will cost many, many lives. I believe the net gain is worth voting for.

• The Republicans have done nothing.

Why do you keep rewarding them for bad behavior? When will it be time to teach them a lesson?

Nine of the last eleven Supreme Court appointments were made by Republicans, and yet only two, Thomas and Scalia, are demonstratively pro-life.

More importantly: if I think they are lying, then why am I required to vote for them?

You have stated elsewhere that I am reluctant to mention Obama by name, and this is true. Because my message here is that the issue of abortion is not in play. I earnestly believe that no matter who we vote for the abortion issue is not going to change in the near-term. I am not trying to sway voters who favor Republican policies on the war, the economy, or any of the actual issues that are in play, to vote Democratic. I am merely point out that voting for the Republicans because you think they will do anything about abortion is a fool’s errand.

• Extremism leads to bifurcation and bad government

Back in 1952 and again in 1956 America had a choice between Adlai Stevenson and General Eisenhower. They were both decent, capable, patriotic Americans and either would have made an excellent president. They both spoke to the center, the differences between them were slight,they probably agreed on most principles and disagreed only in degree, in judgement, and in execution. And our democracy was much healthier for it.

Since then (and going into the why of this would take volumes) we have been splitting as a nation. Now we have two extremists running for office, campaigns are nasty, filled with lies,punctuated by dirty tricks. Our Supreme Court has been disgraced by its partisanship in the election of 2000.

I favor democracy, not because I believe that a majority of Americans define what is right and true, but because every dictatorship know to modern man has proven to be more repressive than any democracy. If we can’t make democracy work (as Weimar Germany, Republican Spain, or Kuomintang China couldn’t) then we are doomed to something worse.

And, democracy is the surest guarantee of religious liberty.

Compromise is the essence of the democratic process. A compromise on abortion would not only save lives, but it might just save our democracy.

Or, let’s put it this way: Stalin was pro-life; he banned all forms of abortion in the Soviet Union. Would you vote for him before Barak Obama?

• I am not like Biden or Pelosi.

I affirm the teachings of our Catholic Faith. Life begins at conception. It is a sin to destroy life. Neither Obama nor Biden represent my views on abortion. I have tried to instill in my children a horror of abortion. I have written frequently of my opposition to abortion and of my own experiences with it. I have gone to the protests, said the Rosaries, counseled my friends against it. By my efforts I have brought at least two people into the Church (both were radical feminists when I met them). I have done my best to toil in the Lord’s vineyard.

On election day I will be voting for peace and you for life, not because you don’t want peace, nor because I don’t want life, but because we both think we can get only the one and not the other.


John Jansen said...


You grossly underestimate the damage FOCA would do. This analysis [PDF] from the USCCB tersely explains its devastating potential—to wit, why it is actually worse than Roe.

As I recall, you have previously (and quite rightly, it goes without saying) expressed grave concerns over a lack of due respect afforded the conscience rights of pharmacists who want nothing to do with filling birth control prescriptions.

Are you aware, then, that the current version of FOCA would bar laws protecting a right of conscientious objection to abortion?

Are you also aware that the current version of FOCA would nullify parental involvement laws? As ample research has demonstrated (most recently that of the policy wonkish Professor Michael New), such laws have a marked impact on lowering abortion rates among minors. New summarizes his findings here; his 35-page report is here [PDF].

This having been said, I'm having trouble getting my head around your conclusion: "It can’t get any worse."

The Dutchman said...

John —

It’s hard to say what FOCA would actually do since both pro- and anti-abortion activists have been grandstanding on this issue.

Supporters of FOCA say that the act was introduced into Congress to counter-act the Supreme Court rulings in two cases, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart, in which the court upheld vaguely-written bans on Partial Birth Abortion. And that’s it.

[And let’s dispense with the bogus ban on “Partial Birth Abortion” right now. Such acts only ban a method of third-trimester abortion (and the safest one at that) not third-trimester abortion itself. The net effect then is not to save any babies, only to make the procedure more dangerous.]

Detractors of FOCA list all the dire consequences that you have outlined and many more besides.

I wasn’t sure what to think until I read what Doug Kmiec, who has an impeccable pro-life record, said about it in an interview. It is his claim that Congress lacks authority to redefine constitutional rights and liberties and thus does not have the power to overturn any state legislation on abortion, nor would FOCA bar Congress from renewing the Hyde Amendment (which needs to be renewed annually).

I think Kmiec knows what he is talking about and I trust him.


On a personal note, I would like to thank RobK for introducing John and me. We met for the first time on Rob’s Catholic Dad’s Blogspot despite having been fellow parishioners for some time at Saint John’s. We’ve become pretty good friends in the past year and good friends aren’t something you find easily. Thanx Rob!

John Jansen said...

I hope you and Kmiec are right and I'm wrong.

Btw, ditto your thanks to RobK.