Opinions Expressed in "Rants," while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.

Obama and Pro-Life – Is There Any Hope?

When Barack Obama was elected President, there were some members of the Catholic right who immediately regarded it as a tragedy – a defeat against the dignity of life.  Of course what they were talking about was the issue of abortion.

Millions of abortions take place in the U.S. every year – this is a serious cause for concern; in fact some have accurately called it the worst case of mass murder in human history.  Concerns increase when we hear of the possibility of new laws forcing doctors to act against their conscience and perform abortions, or when we hear stem-cell research restrictions being lifted.

And so the seemingly logical way to fight abortion is to elect officials that are against abortion, who will then nominate Supreme Court judges that are against abortion, and so on.  Both in the U.S. and Canada, and all over the world.  Right? 

But would that do the job?  I’m not sure that it would.

I think we on the pro-life side of this argument need to realize that our victory won’t be realized simply with the legal prohibition of abortion.  That accomplished, there will still be millions and millions of people who want it legalized again, and will simply wait for the political tide to turn again so that they can reverse such laws.

What we need to realize is that VICTORY of the pro-life movement is only achieved when we have CONVERTED the pro-choice side of the argument to our viewpoint.  And we need to do that in a way that doesn’t require them to also convert to our faith perspective.  This argument needs to be won on scientific, rational, and legal grounds, not on faith grounds – because in a country that maintains freedom of religion (which is a good thing), anyone not sharing our particular beliefs about the human soul would not be bound to its consequential laws.

So how do we do that? 

What is needed here, clearly, is a rational debate between rational people.

The common mistake is to divide this issue, very simply, into its two sides – the pro-life side – which considers any fertilized human embryo as a human person, and therefore with the right to live – and the pro-choice side – which considers the woman’s rights over her own body as paramount.  This latter view (in most cases) is morally defensible (for those who hold it) because they don’t believe that the embryo is a human person at all – and when that embryo, and later fetus, IS to be regarded as a person, depends on who you ask.

It is already very clear to me that dividing the issue on these grounds is anything but black and white.  The issue hinges on the central question – when is a person a person?  We need to talk about it and figure it out, in a way that is persuasive for everybody, Christian or not. 

An example: pro-choicers will argue, and ACCURATELY, that a woman’s body spontaneously aborts fertilized embryos all the time within the first month, simply because these embryos don’t attach to the uterine wall – this often takes place before the woman even knows that they are pregnant, and these embryos are discarded with their monthly period.  When this takes place, it is not considered a tragedy – funerals and prayers for such embryos do not take place, and so forth.  What answer do we pro-lifers have to this argument?

Well, we do have an answer – that when this happens, it was not a WILLFUL disregard for the life of the embryo – which clearly has the potential for becoming a human being.  In a sense, when this happens, it is an act of fate – I wouldn’t call it an act of God though; I don’t believe that God wills anyone’s death.  Nonetheless, the pro-choicers raise a valid point, and we should be consistent with our own view.  This is why I have often had prayers for miscarried babies, and even funerals and burials for children who have died before reaching their full term – even though there is no formal Catholic teaching that requires such rituals.

It’s odd that there isn’t.

Anyway, my point is: a rational debate between these two sides needs to take place.  But it isn’t taking place.  And why not?  Because there ARE, in fact, two types of people in this argument – there are those, on both sides, who are open to listening and discussing and debating in a rational way, AND there are those who are so RADICAL, so EXTREME in their views, that they can do nothing but polarize the issue – leading to more disharmony.

A really good example – I was watching Bill Maher’s show a few months ago – now Bill Maher is a RAGING liberal, but he is somewhat rational, sometimes (except when it comes to religion, a topic for another time).  Anyway, he always has a number of guests, some of whom he agrees with, some of whom he doesn’t, to banter with.  Usually the liberal guests agree with him, while the conservatives fight with him. 

Well on one occasion, the topic of abortion came up, and Bill Maher, LIBERAL Bill Maher said, “Well you have to admit, in the late terms of a woman’s pregnancy, the fetus IS a baby, with eyes and ears and fingers, and aborting it would be murder,” or something like that.  One of his guests, a radical feminist comedienne, was immediately offended that he would suggest such a thing, considering it a threat to her rights over her own body, bringing up images of back-rooms and coat-hangers and so on. 

This is a perfect example of a rational perspective coming up against an extreme perspective.  And we have extremists on BOTH sides – fudging statistics, demonizing the other side.  All that extremists are capable of doing is making their opponents MORE EXTREME. 

A really good example, something that has always bugged me – is when pro-lifers bring children to pro-life rallies, sometimes carrying signs, saying things like, “I’m glad my mommy didn’t abort me.”  Did the child write that sign?  No way!  Their parents did!  The kids don’t even understand the issues they’re protesting.  Basically, these children are being used as human billboards – talk about dehumanization of children– which is the very thing that the pro-lifer claims to be fighting against!!

So, okay – my ranting is done.  My point – victory for the pro-life movement, of which I DO consider myself a member, consists in showing EVERYBODY, on the left and the right, that WE are RIGHT.  This will require rational, open-minded, and logically consistent members of BOTH sides of the issue to enter into dialogue with each other. 

Because we ARE RIGHT, we cannot lose such a rational debate – if we think otherwise, any anger we may bring, any tendency toward the extreme we might have, merely betrays our own lack of self-confidence in our own position.

I do not believe that George W. Bush was one of these rational, open minded people.  Let’s face it – he’s a polarizer.  In fact, he’s a polarizer on EVERY issue.  And even though he is himself staunchly pro-life, despite eight years in office, abortion is still legal in the U.S.

So what about Obama?  Is he a rational, open-minded person, willing to respectfully dialogue on this issue?  He says he is.  His opponents say he isn’t.  I guess there’s really only one way to find out – give him a try.