Monday, November 03, 2008

Dean's Response

Here's Dean's response to my email from this morning:


Thanks for your thoughtful reply. As you (probably) know, I completely agree with you on the fact that I want no abortions to happen, period, but I hesitate to align with a "pro-life" candidate for the following reasons:

1. Studies have shown that abortions haven't decreased under a Republican White House/Congress combo, abortions are strongly affected by economic situations, and I'm not convinced most Republican candidates really intend to work tirelessly to defend the child in the womb. Sure, it's easy to drop a sound byte here or there, but I have to admit that I don't know what the Republicans I campaigned for in Hillsdale have done to decrease the number of abortions.

2. Overturning RvW would put it back in the state's hands. Which is strange to me considering that those trying to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment want the moral enforcement in the hands of the feds, not the states. But I digress...

I think overturning RvW, which probably couldn't happen for 15-20 years considering they've tried 5 times already, would create a big mess. Then we'd be back to dealing with young girls hopping buses to California or whatever other states kept abortion illegal.

The bottom line for me is that abortion is a "no big deal" to a ton of people in America. That is unsettling for me. But Christian voters, like with many issues, just wake up on election day, pull the lever for the pro-lifer, and go back to hibernation for another 2/4 years. Or they stand on the road with a sign that says "choose life." Neat. My struggle with all of this is that I knew two girls in high school, both of whom got kicked out/disowned by their "Christian" families. One ended up having an abortion because she had no where to turn (her church had thrown her out too) and the other was taken in by a family and allowed to raise her baby alongside/with her adoptive family.

I think this goes to a lack of understanding among Christians and especially a lack of willingness to get their hands dirty. "I can love Jesus by holding this sign on the street, but having to take someone into my own home? I can't make that kind of sacrifice!"

It's my belief that the only way Christians will change the world is by truly, seriously, loving their neighbor.


Civil comments are, as always, more than welcome.


rklllama said...

Nice discussion, I read everything, and I agree most with Cous's sentiments: at the very least you have to vote for the guy who says he's pro-life instead of the guy who says he's all for abortion.

Of course I also agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment about changing hearts and minds. I would also like to note that while doing this we also effect the political landscape, so it does both at the same time. We are doing the right thing in personally being involved in lowering abortions, but also doing the right thing in getting people voting pro-life to make it illegal also. (I operate under the assumption that someone who is taken into someone's home, like in the given example, will then go on to vote pro-life themselves. Maybe that isn't a safe assumption?)

E. W. Lynch said...

"When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion . . . but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

This is a quote from the article which started this discussion and is attributed to Pope Benedict XVI.

Would someone care to explain the source of this quote (I could find no link on the site) and its potential meanings to me? I would also like to know what falls in place of the ellipses in the first sentence.

That being said, if this quote means what the author of the article implies that it means than I am very much disturbed. If the Pope is actually saying that it is alright to support Pro-Choice candidates than I am prepared to stop supporting the Pope. I sincerely hope this quote is being used in as grossly misleading a way as it seems.

D.Cous. said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Eric, I don't know of the source of that quote, bearing in mind that "proportionate reasons," which would make voting for a pro-choice candidate the lesser evil, would have to be pretty bad. I'm not even entirely sure they exist, but my experience with His Holiness speeches and writings is that he chooses his words very carefully. I'll try to find the source of that statement.

L. H. Lynch said...

Regarding the quote from the then Cardinal Ratzinger, here's an article I found clarifying the issue.

D.Cous. said...

Thanks, Laura. I myself had just dug it up.

If my quick perusal of google is any indication, it raised quite a stir when it was first made public in 2004.

Unfortunately, the then-cardinal did not clarify the idea of "proportionate reasons" within the document, I suspect because it was initially a private correspondence. I think that context here is, in fact, very important.

I think that rather than taking an out-of-context quote, Catholics wishing to make an informed decision would do better to look here:

Evangelium Vitae (See par. 73)

or here:

SCDF Declaration on Procured Abortion.

Kate said...

Good discussion...and most of what I take from it is the tragedy that Dean should have seen such a disconnect between the values people claim to profess and their actions. I agree with rklllama that the answer is not an either/or, but a both/and.

And I believe that the lowering of abortion rates over the last 15 years actually corresponds with increased legislation on the part of the states, particularly things like informed consent, waiting periods, and parental notification. As you all vote (something, I note, that I cannot do..., not being a citizen) you should keep in mind that Obama has promised to push FOCA, which would enshrine abortion as a right and potentially remove the ability of individual states to limit access in any way. That would be a gigantic step backwards and would without question increase the number of abortions.

John Lynch said...

In my view, Kmiec's position has two major problems: one pragmatic and one idealistic.

Pragmatically, Kmiec is arguing that we should choose a local minimum of abortions instead of working for the global minimum. Even assuming that electing Obama will reduce the current number of abortions, it will almost assuredly prevent us from eliminating abortions. We can't afford to take a view that is even as narrow as the next thirty years. It's far better to have a million abortions a year for the next thirty years and then zero abortions a year forever, then it is to work towards 500,000 abortions a year from now until the end of time. Respect for human life is the most serious issue of our time; indeed, it is the most serious issue of any time. I do not think that we can lose sight of the big picture for short term gains.

Idealistically, I think it is helpful to put the argument in different terms. Suppose we, in 1840, were to suggest voting for a candidate who would try to better the working and living conditions of slaves, but would fight tooth and nail to keep slavery legal. Slavery is a sensitive issue, after all. It is really complicated. There are people whose livelihoods depend on it! It's too ingrained in the fabric of society. It's regrettable, but it's far better to keep slavery safe, legal, and rare than to eliminate it all together. So, we'll ensure that slaves are well taken care of, but we just can't end slavery. It's just too complicated.

No one, absolutely no one, who believes in true liberty in the United States today would ever dream of voting for such a candidate, absent an issue which is itself of greater moral severity, because the candidate's position is itself morally reprehensible. Even though it would actually better the lives of many, many slaves, it would do so only by continued legitimization of the very evil that oppresses them. Apply the same line of reasoning to the Jews who were murdered in Hitler's Germany. I don't think anyone would argue that genocide should be safe, legal, and rare. It's absurd on its face because of the intrinsic evil of the act itself.

Yes, we must choose between imperfect candidates. Yes, I feel let down by public pro-life advocates. Yes, anything that reduces the number of abortions is a good thing. Yes, it is unfortunate that we may (though I believe not) be asked to choose between fewer abortions now and fewer abortions later. Nonetheless, I do not feel that a Catholic may in good conscience vote for someone who is committed to the support of intrinsic evil for purely short term gains.

It is also important to note that the whole pro-Obama argument on abortion assumes that his social policies will have the desired effect and that his abortion policies, as Kate notes, will not overwhelm them. Personally, I find both of these to be highly unlikely, though that is a matter for legitimate debate, but the fact that it is truly uncertain greatly weakens the argument.

Finally, I will note that there is an excellent chance that electing Obama will prove to greatly increase the incentives for poor, disadvantaged women to have abortions. Why?

Because it's so much cheaper for the state to pay for an abortion that it is for the state to pay for pre-natal care, post-natal care, and the education and development of a child. If you don't think that this will happen, you just aren't paying attention. It may not happen next year; it may not happen in ten years, but the types of policies that Obama advocates with respect to abortion and national health insurance almost guarantee an outcome whereby government strongly incentivizes abortion over carrying a child to term.

I weep for our country and for our world.

saracita said...

Thought provoking discussion. I have a problem with single issue voting in general, particularly for moral reasons... but I've come to believe that abortion (in particular) isn't *the* single issue to be considered in a presidential race (in particular.)

Realistically, the Ex. branch doesn't have a whole lot of swing when it comes to abortion. They do appoint Justices - occasionally. Which may or may not lead to the end of RvW. Probably not anytime soon. On the other hand, the president has direct involvement in other crucial moral issues - war, for example. I would rather vote for those who will directly be able to save human lives and human rights... rather than gamble on the chance that someone may have a minuscule effect on the evil of abortion, while directly promoting other evils.

Abortion is a battle fought at more local levels... but not by fear tactics, either (such as those horrible signs that show up on Michigan avenue and ostracize people on both sides of the pro-life issue.)

I think the *most* important thing for any pro-life voter is to make sure they are not blinded by just the pro-life issue. Look at other issues, as well - other things affecting human life, even the slaughter of innocents. So much evil is pushed through on a "conservative" agenda, just because they play the pro-life card and some people go all in, just on that.

D.Cous. said...

Thanks to all for your comments, I'm very grateful.

Sara, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that the fight against abortion is primarily a local and a personal one. If we haven't convinced the electorate of the evil of abortion, it shouldn't surprise us that our leaders share our ambivalence for discussion of it.

Your reference to the war in Iraq is an apt subject for discussion in and of itself. It is truly unfortunate that anti-abortion often have to choose to vote in favor of war if we are to vote in opposition of abortion. I don't believe that this (potential) inconsistency escapes the anti-abortion movement.

From a simple pragmatic point of view, it should be pointed out that the highest estimate for casualties in the Iraq war since the US invasion in 2003 is just under 100,000, while the number of abortions in the US alone is over 1 million per year (please, correct me if I'm wrong). If we had to choose between ending the war in Iraq now and ending abortion in the US now, it should not be a difficult decision. We could continue to fight in Iraq for quite some time, having ended abortion, for that ratio to balance out.

Sadly, ending abortion in the US right now is incredibly unlikely, and there is an argument to be made (though I shall not attempt it myself) that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq on the part of the US would result in further loss of life (one could, of course, also argue the opposite). Anti-abortion advocates are playing for whatever reductions we can get, which unfortunately looks like a gradual change (if indeed, any), while anti-Iraq-war advocates are (generally) playing for an immediate withdrawal. Naturally, there is some overlap between these groups.

Those, as I see them, are the components of that side of the debate: Less war now, or less abortions later. I'd appreciate anyone else's thoughts on the matter, and I thank you for your civility towards me and one another.

E. W. Lynch said...

I think the real question, concerning the war in Iraq, and really in almost all wars, is "What else would you have us do?"

If Cous' number of 100,000 casualties is correct then we would need to repeat the entire cycle of the war for about another 50 years just to equal the numbers of people that were killed under Saddam Hussein during a time of peace. Now that we've already destabilized the country is it responsible to leave? This might save American lives but it would almost surely result in a greater loss of human life in the aggregate. I for one don't think American lives are worth more than others. So if opponents of the war say we can't stay, but it appears that it is grossly irresponsible to leave, what else would you have us do?

Let's look at Vietnam. The Vietnam War was a tragedy and a huge mistake. We had no business being there and we got a lot of people killed. Right? The answer is, unfortunately, not so easy. As soon as we pulled out of Vietnam the Kmer Rouge (sp?) came in and executed tens of thousands of people for political reasons. Hundreds of thousands more were driven off their land and starved to death. In two years of "peace" after Vietnam more people (around two million in all) were murdered than in the whole of thirteen years of American war.

It seems to me that we are in a similar situation in Iraq and Afghanistan now as we were in Vietnam in the late sixties (except with many fewer casualties and a much better chance of leaving a stable nation behind). There are also other areas of the world, Sudan and Darfur (sp?) where the world's governments are attempting diplomatic solutions and, instead of saving anyone, are effectively standing by and watching genocide happen.

I can say, at least of myself, that I don't like war for it's own sake. I don't get excited about the idea of dropping bombs on people and watching civilians die. I didn't stay up nights to watch Shock and Awe on the telly and I usually turn off the History Channel when they present war footage as entertainment. I understand that this is not how we would choose to resolve situations if we had any other way. But since more innocents seem to die at peace under tyrants than at war with the United States what else would you have us do?

I really do want to know.

D.Cous. said...

Eric, I could be wrong, but I think the Khmer Rouge were the genocidal commies in Cambodia, not Vietnam. I think you're thinking of the Viet Cong.

Thanks for the comment.

John Lynch said...

With respect to war and single issue voting, I think a couple of points can be made.

First, I think it is inaccurate to say that many pro-life voters are "single issue voters." I, for one, have considered all of the issues many, many times and have concluded that the issue of abortion is so much more grave than any other that I cannot vote for a pro-choice candidate. The question is not whether or not one should be a "single issue voter." One should always consider all issues. No, the real question is: how important is each issue relative to other issues? That's where the disagreement lies.

So why do "single issue" pro-life voters consider this issue to be so profoundly different? Why am I more passionate about ending abortion than ending war?

The first reason is that abortion is inherently evil. War is not. Whereas abortion is never just and never moral, war is often the only just and moral recourse to preserve human life and human dignity. That doesn't make it a pleasant or happy thing, but it may still be just and necessary.

Because war is sometimes moral, reasonable people may disagree with each other in good conscience about particular instances of war. I supported the war in Iraq because I felt that as the world's only superpower we have a duty to do what we can to prevent tyrants like Saddam Hussein from murdering and oppressing the citizens he rules. I do not think that the war can be justified on any other grounds, including national security or to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I felt at the time that the cost of war would be outweighed by the liberation of the Iraqi people.

In this I may have been naive, though I am hesitant to draw to many conclusions after so short a time. Certainly the war could have gone better. It also certainly could have gone worse. However, now that we are there we have an obligation to do what is best for the people of Iraq. If immediately withdrawing is what is best for them, then I support it wholeheartedly. If staying and continuing to rebuild the country is what is best for the people of Iraq, then I support it wholeheartedly also.

The point, however, is that the issue of whether or not the war is just is a highly complex issue. It is not clear which course of action is now the most moral, just as I do not believe that it was obvious in 2003 which course of action was the most moral.

The same level of ambiguity does not exist with abortion. Abortion is always the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. There is no justification for abortion, particularly in the wealthiest nation in the history of the human race.

Please note that absolute, intrinsic evil of abortion does not imply anything about the culpability or guilt of those involved in a particular abortion. Women procure abortions for many complex reasons and sometimes under the most trying of circumstances. It is not for us to personally judge or condemn them. Yet at the same time, we must recognize that justice in society demands that the right of the unborn child to life must be protected by law, even in situations where we rightly feel compassion for those involved.

In any case, it is very, very rare to find issues with so little moral ambiguity as abortion. For example, I want everyone in the United States to be healthy, but I don't think that right way to achieve that is to nationalize health care. I want everyone in the world to eat well, but I don't think that increasingly socialist economic policies will help alleviate famine. I want everyone in the United States to be employed, but I don't think that protectionist trade policies will make that a reality. I would love to see war all around the world eliminated, but I don't think that standing back and allowing men like Hitler, Stalin, and Hussein to live in "peace" is a just alternative.

In other words, the issue is not whether, for example, I am pro-starvation or anti-starvation. Everyone is anti-starvation and we disagree about the best way to end famine. The issue is not whether I am pro-war or anti-war. Nearly everyone wants to avoid war, yet we disagree about what constitutes a just war.

That is why I bristle at the "single issue" label. Implicit in that label is the idea that abortion is not a significantly more grave issue. Whereas with those other issue, nearly everyone wants the same end and we disagree about the best means, with abortion people actually disagree on what a just end is! A pro-choice politician doesn't just believe in a different way to end abortion; he or she actually believes that abortion is not an intrinsic evil.

But it is. It's one of the few issues in the history of the United States about which we have a clear moral imperative and a grave need to act. That's why it's so much more important than any other issue in any given election in the United States today.

D.Cous. said...

Thank you all for your comments, and for the time you spent formulating them. Counting Dean, it appears that I have seven of smartest and most thoughtful commenters on the internet.

I'm always open to more discussion on this (or any) topic, either on this page, or (preferably) over coffee. Many thanks.