Abortion Politics Part II

There have been eight presidential elections since Roe, and five of them have been won by Republicans who opposed the decision and ran as pro-life candidates. They held out the prospect of appointing conservative judges to the Supreme Court who would reverse the decision. Pro-life marchers make their annual pilgrimage to the Supreme Court. Nothing changes. Some conservatives are beginning to recognize that the pro-life movement needs a new approach. Doug Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University who served in both the Reagan and first Bush administrations, is leading the charge. Kmiec endorsed Obama in February and caught all manner of flak from fellow conservatives precisely because of Obama’s support for abortion rights. But, as Kmiec noted recently, voters have to make a prudential choice between more of the same and trying something new. While Obama’s position on abortion is far from what it could be, Kmiec notes that his focus on preventing pregnancy by encouraging responsible behavior might actually do more to lower the number of abortions in America. It should also be obvious that if Roe were overturned tomorrow, many if not most states would enact legislation to codify Roe. It might be more difficult to procure an abortion in a few southern or Midwestern states, and some states might introduce some kinds of restrictions on third trimester abortions. But if the pro-life movement really wants to reduce the number of abortions, it needs to find ways to get to the women procuring them and offer them a better way. The pro-life movement can set aside the placards and the protests and volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center. This is where the decision is made. "As anyone who’s ever had a conversation with a pregnant woman thinking about abortion knows," Professor Kmiec argues, "good, evenhanded information and genuine empathy and love save more children than hypothetical legal limits – which, as best as I can tell, have saved: well, zero." It is beyond refreshing to see someone in the pro-life movement recognize the lip service to their cause the GOP has been doling out these many years. In Obama, Kmiec perceives an alternative: "working with a new president who honestly concedes the abortion decision poses serious moral issues which he argues can only be fully and successfully resolved by the mother facing it with the primary obligation of the community seeing to it that she is as well informed as possible in the making of it." Again, Kmiec’s conservative credentials are not in dispute. This is not a leftie, latte-sipping Obamaniac who has drunk the Kool-Aid. It remains to be seen how many other conservatives will reach the same conclusion: betting the house on overturning Roe has accomplished nothing for the pro-life movement. Today, almost 35 years after Roe was handed down, it is imperative that we in the pro-life movement focus less on the law and more on the culture, less on the courts and more on the women facing crisis pregnancies, less on protest marches and more on volunteering. Whatever your thoughts on Obama, Kmiec’s argument on abortion is the most sane thing I have read in years. Michael Sean Winters
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 5 months ago
"Conservative credentials" should never be used as a way of giving undue legitimacy to a view which is morally wrong.The fight for life is not based on Pragmatism alone and to in any way associate Mr Obama as an ally of the unborn,shows a misunderstanding of the very cause itself as the intrinsic evil of abortion is something wholly supported by Mr Obama.He neither shares the vision of the Church on how to avoid pregnancies as he believe the answer lies primarily in the chemists.
9 years 5 months ago
What I don't see in your argument or in Kmiec's is how there is anything in the slightest "new" in Obama's position. How is it at all different from Clinton's (Bill) position, other than the power of the Obama magic force field to change people's hearts? And even there, Obama doesn't give the impression of wanting to use the bully pulpit on this issue.
9 years 5 months ago
Doug Kmiec is a brilliant man who has my respect and is probably the only believabe pro-lifer with Obama. But your ad vericundiam is rather silly, and to follow Kmiec as a tactical ploy would be odd. Hadley Arkes made a brilliant tactical shift for moving life forward by shifting to convincing voters to reject head-drilling abortion. This is hardly the same kind of tactical shift as supporting someone who has NEVER voted against nor worked against abortion in any way. This is the difference between trying to lose weight by reducing one's pie intake vs keeping it the same with no articulated supplemental change.
9 years 5 months ago
What my friend Doug Kmiec overlooks, I think, in declaring that the pro-life movement should move away from the law-reform approach, is this: Roe v. Wade, etc., are offensive not only because they have facilitated millions of abortions, and the reason we should want Roe overturned is not so much because its overturning would end, or even dramatically reduce, abortion. (It probably wouldn't.) The problem with Roe, as I see it -- and the reason Doug is wrong to minimize the "Supreme Court issue" this election -- is that the decision and its progeny have erroneously constitutionalized a wrongheaded and destructive view, namely, that our Constitution removes from the political arena the question whether and how we should regulate abortion. This view is unsound, and it needs to be purged from our Constitutional law, whether or not this purging actually results, in the short term, in substantially fewer abortions.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

It is astonishing to think that God would choose to enter the world this way: as a fragile newborn who could not even hold up his own head without help.
Ginny Kubitz MoyerOctober 20, 2017
Protestors rally to support Temporary Protected Status near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 26. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Around 200,000 Salvadorans and 57,000 Hondurans have been residing in the United States for more than 15 years under Temporary Protected Status. But that status is set to expire in early 2018.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 20, 2017
At the heart of Anne Frank’s life and witness is a hopeful faith in humanity.
Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J.October 20, 2017
Forensic police work on the main road in Bidnija, Malta, which leads to Daphne Caruana Galizias house, looking for evidence on the blast that killed the journalist as she was leaving her home, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Caruana Galizia, a harsh critic of Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat, and who reported extensively on corruption on Malta, was killed by a car bomb on Monday. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)
Rarely does the death of a private citizen elicit a formal letter of condolence from the Pope.