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.
10 years 10 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.
10 years 10 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.
10 years 10 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.
10 years 10 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.


The latest from america

Sister Bibiana Emenaha
A combination of a rapidly growing population, extreme poverty, unemployment and armed conflict push people to cross Nigeria’s porous borders in search of a better life.
Linus UnahMarch 22, 2019
As we come to grips with a national history of violence, greed and racialized privilege, this fable of noblesse oblige rings hollow.
Brandon SanchezMarch 22, 2019
In "Miracle Workers" Simon Rich balances the surreal with the mundane and anchors fantasy with practicality, providing the perfect stakes for dramatic and comedic tension.
Jake Kring-SchreifelsMarch 22, 2019
Sharon Hogan and Rob Delaney (photo: IMDB)
The hit Amazon show asks: Can we really just be unapologetically ourselves?
Jim McDermottMarch 22, 2019