Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama's Policies Would Not Reduce Abortion

Sidney Callahan’s recent post both proposes and endorses an increasingly common claim which goes something like: "Yes, Sen. Obama’s views on abortion – inparticular, his support for the Court’s Roe v. Wade decision – are misguided. However, ‘his policies and programs more comprehensively follow Catholic socialteaching than McCain's -- and they even result in fewer abortions.’"
Now, I know a fair bit about the matter, and do not believe that, in fact, Sen.Obama’s "policies and programs more comprehensively follow Catholic social teaching than McCain's." Sen. Obama, for example, strongly opposes any use ofpublic funds to help low-income children attending Catholic schools, but theChurch’s social teaching points clearly in the other direction.

In addition,Republicans, at present, better appreciate the demands of religious liberty,and the connection between so-called "social issues" and the common good, than do Democrats. But, in any event, let’s say (as we should) that with both candidates, from the perspective of the Church’s social-teaching tradition, it is clearly a mixed bag. What is not true, though – even if pro-life Democrats sincerely want it to be true – is that the policies that will pursued by anObama administration (and a Pelosi / Reid Congress) will "result in fewer abortions."

The "Obama will reduce abortions"claim rests on the assumption that increases in various social-welfare programs will reduce what the Democratic Party’s platform calls the "need" for abortions. Let’s assume this is true. In order to have any confidence, though, that an Obama administration’s policies would reduce abortions, it is essential to consider – a Catholic aspiring to faithful citizenship should consider – the facts that, for example, (a) in an Obama administration, public funding for abortion would increase, both here and abroad; (b) President Obama supports, as does the Democratic Party’s congressional leadership, the Freedom of Choice Act, which will un-do a wide range of regulations (e.g., informed-consent laws, the Hyde Amendment) that clearly do reduce the number of abortions; (c) PresidentObama has said that he opposes federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers,whose work helps encourage pregnant women to reject abortion; (d) PresidentObama would use the bully pulpit of the presidency to proclaim and defend the view that the abortion license is a fundamental constitutional right; (e)President Obama would appoint federal judges who would vote to invalidate even reasonable regulations of abortion, and (f) President Obama supports massive increases in federal funding for research that involves the creation and destruction of human embryos. I do not believe that the abortion issue is just about the numbers; it reallymatters, wholly and apart from abortion rates, that our fundamental law not endorse the view that unborn children ought not to be protected in law.

That said, when it comes to abortion, the numbers-argument does not support the election of Sen. Obama. It has been estimated, for example, that the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act would itself result in 125,000 more abortions each year. Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life, has observed: [B]y even the most conservative estimate, there are more than one million Americans alive today because of the Hyde Amendment, which cut off federal funding for abortion starting in 1976. Some of them are probably turning out for the Obama "Faith, Family, Values Tour" meetings. Even the Alan Guttmacher Institute (linked to Planned Parenthood) and NARAL admit that the Hyde Amendment (and the similar policies adopted by many states) have resulted in many, many babies being born who otherwise would have been aborted -- indeed,the pro-abortion groups periodically put out papers complaining about this. So, the Hyde Amendment is a proven "abortion reduction" policy, big time. Yet Obama advocates repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- and he also wants to enact a national health insurance program that would also mandate coverage of abortion on demand.(As a state legislator, he voted directly against limits on public funding of elective abortions.) If he were elected president and succeeded in implementing these policies, the likely result would be a very substantial increase in the number of abortions performed in the U.S., quite possibly an increase in the hundreds of thousands annually.

To be sure, there is plenty of room for reasonable, facts-based disagreement ona wide range of policy and political questions among faithful Catholics. Many faithful Catholics will, perhaps with mixed feelings, vote for Sen. Obama notwithstanding the fact that his election will set back the pro-life cause when it comes to abortion and embryo-destroying research. To be sure, our current abortion-regulation regime and practices – while gravely wrong – is not the only matter of concern for those aspiring to faithful citizenship. But, that regime and those practices do matter. And, with the election of Sen.Obama, they will get worse.

Rick Garnett


Jim Belna said...

Let me add a further reason why the election of Senator Obama would be a set-back for the pro-life cause. As Ms Callahan herself points out, "to roll back and change laws in a democracy, the legislators, the courts and the majority of voters have to be convinced, and this process of moral reorientation on abortion can be a slow process. Think of the arguments you have with your friends and family."

On every other issue of public controversy, this is in fact the process that we follow. Legislation is introduced, debated, compromised, and ultimately weighed in the court of public opinion - typically in 50 different such "courts", as the people of each state may adopt different laws. Unfortunately, Roe v. Wade has made it impossible for there to be any discussion of abortion either in congress or state legislatures. The Supreme Court has declared that there can be no law which meaningfully impinges on a woman's right to abortion on demand. They have made it impossible to roll-back or change our abortion laws. Consequently, the process of moral reorientation is not only slowed, but permanently frozen.

The next president is likely going to be responsible for appointing several justices to the supreme court. The consequence of these appointments will either be to return the responsibility for making laws on abortion to the states, or to validate abortion on demand as a fundamental right beyond the the reach of legal regulation. If Ms. Callahan really does believe that there ought to be a democratic process for debating abortion, and for morally educated voters to have their say, she ought not to be supporting the candidate who is committed to killing that process.

Peacemike said...

Sorry, Rick...with your avoidance of mentioning the things that Obama has promised to work for --including a safety net for women who become pregnant (pre-natal care, job training and provision of child care, increased support for adoptions) -- and your refusal to point out that McCain is also supportive of embryonic stem cell research, you come across as nothing better than another shill for McCain. Better luck next time!

Unknown said...

peacemike, re-read my post. I did not "avoid" mentioning those things. The whole point was to say that those things do not change the fact that, on balance, those things will not reduce the overall number of abortions.

On ESCR, I did not "refuse" anything. I said (and it is true) that Obama supports federal funding for clone-and-kill research. Such reseach will involve the creation and destruction of *millions* of embryos. Sen. McCain does not (although he has supported funding research that involves the destruction of so-called "spare" embyros.)