Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10

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Abortion woes for Obama?

Amidst all his economic challenges, President-elect Obama is heading towards a showdown with America’s Catholic bishops over the issue of abortion.

At their bi-annual meeting in November, the president of the bishops’ conference, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, said that while the bishops “rejoice” at the election of an African-American president, they should confront him over his support of abortion rights.

President-elect Obama’s views on abortion are reflected in the party platform. The Democrats support a woman’s right to choose. But very significantly the abortion plank was extended this year to include measures to reduce abortion. These involve strengthening the social and economic safety net to enable more women to bring their pregnancies to term.

It would seem at first glance that programs to reduce abortion are something that both sides of the abortion debate could agree on. But that is not the case, at least with the leadership of the Catholic church in the United States and also in Canada.

Cardinal George said in a news conference that while the bishops supported “social welfare programs that come to the aid of the poor,” they also would continue to lobby for legislative and legal restrictions on abortion.

It would seem from this and other episcopal statements that the primary objective of the bishops is not only the reduction of abortions but their elimination.

This reveals the inherent weakness of the bishops’ position. It is simply not realistic to think that the United States (or any other western country) will pass laws and restrictions that will criminalize abortion.

The American Catholic bishops have been at war for a long time on the abortion issue. But, after having spent an enormous amount of political capital on this issue, it is difficult to see that they are any closer to their objective, the elimination of abortions.

Nor do Catholics themselves seem to support the bishops unqualifiedly. Most polls show that about the same proportion of Catholics in the United States and Canada support a policy of restricted abortions as do the rest of the population. And despite the warnings of a number of bishops not to vote for a pro-choice candidate, exit polls found that 54 percent of Catholic voters supported the Obama-Biden ticket. Is it likely that a growing number of American and Canadian Catholics are realizing there is more merit in the gradualist approach (reducing abortions) than the absolutist one (trying to eliminate them altogether). Is it also possible that the pro-choice group is more effective in reducing abortions than the pro-life group is? And what a relief it would be if both groups abandoned their sterile debate on abortions and pooled their resources to reduce them.

It would seem that the key to lowering the rate of abortion is preventing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Pro-choice supporters such as President-elect Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, a practising Catholic, champion wider access to birth control. It’s also been pro-choice elected officials who have fought for insurance coverage of the procedure and the introduction of new and more effective contraception.

Only 11 per cent of sexually active American women forego contraception, and this 11 percent account for half the abortions in the United States. Both Senators Obama and Biden support the comprehensive sex-education programs that seem to work as opposed to advocating no-sex-until marriage programs which do not.

In addition to abortion, the bishops also said they were concerned that President-elect Obama was reportedly planning to overturn President Bush’s directive that banned most research on embryonic stem cells.

As the bishops wrapped up their meeting, the abortion debate continues. But one thing is sure. The absolutist position, eliminating all abortions because they are considered murder, will not be realized now or later in either Canada or the United States. The gradualist position, reducing abortions as much as possible, will carry the day. It is indeed a pity that the bishops do not realize that their absolutism does not help their cause, it hinders it.

However the bishops confront him on the abortion issue, it would seem that President-elect Obama has most Americans, including Catholics, with him on his policy to reduce abortion.

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2 Comments:

At January 5, 2009 9:45 AM , Blogger RH Reality Check said...

Thanks for this article. I am curious where you found this statistic: "Only 11 per cent of sexually active American women forego contraception, and this 11 percent account for half the abortions in the United States." If at all possible to post a link, that would be fantastic.

Thanks,
Brady Swenson
RHRealityCheck.org - Information, commentary and community for Reproductive Health and Justice.

 
At January 5, 2009 10:44 AM , Blogger One Dove said...

You wrote, "It is simply not realistic to think that the United States (or any other western country) will pass laws and restrictions that will criminalize abortion."

I'm not sure where you are getting your information Neil, but there are already laws and restrictions in most civilized countries (except Canada) that criminalize some forms of abortion.

Then you wrote, "But one thing is sure. The absolutist position, eliminating all abortions because they are considered murder, will not be realized now or later in either Canada or the United States."

Abortion reduction, while it is certainly acceptable as a step on a path in the right direction, it is hardly acceptable as a destination. And for anyone who believes abortion is the taking of a human life, "abortion reduction" is a very small step indeed.

The Abolitionists would not have accepted "slavery reduction" as an acceptable end to their fight. The Allied Forces in World War II would not have accepted "Final Solution Reduction" as an acceptable end to their fight. And yet there were many who fought and died for the continuation of slavery and many who were firmly against the United States and its allies joining in the war against Adolph Hitler's Germany and the Nazis.

If our forefathers with backbones had followed your wobbly-kneed line of reasoning Neil, blacks would still be slaves, Jews would be an extinct race, and I'd be writing this in German.

Why would those who understand that abortion is the termination of an innocent and valuable human life accept “abortion reduction” as an acceptable end to their fight?

I hate to sound like your mother Neil, but if everyone else jumped off the cliff, would you? Just because everyone else is doing something, that doesn't make it right. Just because 54% of catholics are misguided, that doesn't make the remaining 46% wrong.

And just because something is legal, that doesn't make it "right" either. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who told us to "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."

The kind of rationalization employed in your article does nothing but to further enable the senseless destruction of human life.

One Dove
AbortionAbout.com - Against the Holocaust of Our Unborn Children

 

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