Thursday, October 16, 2008

Abortion, Obama & The Debate

In between economic promises to Joe Plumber (or was it Joe Six-Pack?) at last night's presidential debate, Barack Obama uttered words that, four years ago, would have never left the lips of Sen. John Kerry. While defending the constitutionality of Roe, the junior Senator from Illinois pledged to reduce abortions through sex education, increased access to adoption, and improved health care. He did not repeat the language that has plagued Democrats since the days of JFK, namely, that his personal opposition to abortion should have no bearing on the right to privacy.
What perked my ears, however, was Obama's assertion of the sacredness of sexuality. Sen. Obama's statement of this very Catholic truth stood out even more given the rather lackadaisical answer of Sen. McCain. McCain did little to address the moral aspect of abortion, saying that he opposed Roe v. Wade (a decision made when Obama wasn't even in college) and that Abortion should be decided by the states. Apart from repeated statements essentially saying, "Vote for me, I'm pro-life," McCain failed to make any coherent moral argument against abortion. It also didn't help that the Arizona senator scoffed at the notion of women's health. While it may be true that this phrase is often over-applied, it will not play well to mock the idea of protecting a woman's health. Indeed, as soon as McCain sneered at the phrase, the lines on CNN measuring undecided voters trended steeply downward. In contrast, Obama's claim about the sacredness of sexuality sent the meters through the roof. It was a well-crafted answer (likely created with the assistance of professor Doug Kmiec), and it was music to the ears of this young liberal Catholic.
I had the honor of serving as co-president of my public university's Catholic ministry last year. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and affirmed my hope in the future of this church. In between a multitude of Sunday masses, meatless dinners, and movie nights, I'd like to think that that I developed a sense of appreciation for my friends' moral and political beliefs. It's safe to say that, while the Catholic students at my school consider abortion to be an urgent moral issue, it is by no means the sole issue on which they will base their vote next month. They will look at the whole spectrum of the candidates' positions, including abortion, the environment, foreign policy, and the economy (stupid).
Obama's answer to the abortion question will in all likelihood not sway those who will base their vote primarily on the issue of abortion. However, I believe his answer will qualm the fears of many voters who would like to vote for the Land of Lincolner in spite of his views on abortion. Especially in the midst of the current financial crisis, it's safe to say that most Catholics will be voting with their pocketbooks and look for the candidate who offers the best hope for recovery in this time of turmoil. Nonetheless, Barack Obama's nuanced answer on abortion should provide hope to Catholic Democrats seeking a candidate with more nuanced views on abortion than in previous election cycles.

Harry Johnson


Bikeguy said...

Kudos to those seeking higher ideals thru understanding and compassion for those of different persuasions and identities.

i.e. common ground for the greater good.

Single issue voting has done nothing but help get us in the mess we're in now.. Obama's voice of reason and compromise serves all of us better.

This is well written Harry. It reflects an insight and moral basis that is compassionate and welcomed.

You obviously come from good stock.

Keep it up.

Fred Sexton said...

There is something to say about compromise. Seems like a far cry for some these days. Many are so dug in and entrenched on a single particular issue they seem to lose focus.

And may I recommend a good read, Freakonomics, if anyone is interested in a highly controversial correlation between abortion and capital murder.

Well written Mr. Johnson. Keep your quill and ink close by.

Bikeguy said...

From David Freije.....

Thanks for sharing this article.

I agree with Harry that Obama did a great job in the debate on this subject and McCain a poor job. I picked up at the time that his visual response would hurt him and, based on my beliefs, McCain missed an opportunity.

My understanding is that the courts have consistently interpreted a woman's health to include mental/psychological issues and that liberals consistently included that clause in laws to outwardly support bans on partial birth abortion while subverting the very law they are supporting.

Pass that on to Harry Jr. I would love to get his take in the spirit of healthy debate and making sure I have the facts straight

Care to comment...?