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Obama’s Abortion Extremism – And His Evangelical Pro-Life Apologists (Part 2)

October 21, 2008

A pet peeve of mine in political discussions has long been the pejorative use of the term “partisan”. One you are labeled such it would seem no further discussion is needed; the partisan viewpoint can be safely discarded as hopelessly biased and beyond the reach of reason. As a corollary to this pet peeve is the use of other related phrases such as “bi-partisan”, “non-partisan” and my new favorite hopeychangey version “post-partisan”.

All of these hyphenated phrases run the danger of being deployed in deceitful fashion, and have typically aided the party with the weaker headcount. Fair enough. I’m a believer after all of a liberal muddling through of the issues. But it remains a fact that appeals to the bi/non/post -partisan position tells you nothing about whether something is right or wrong or if it is a wise course of action based on sound thought. Ultimately they are relativistic phrases that emphasize a process over a result. Again fair enough.

Sometimes though an issue doesn’t lend itself well to the bi/non/post approach. The issue of life has long been one such topic.

22Then the other woman said, “No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” But the first woman said, “No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” Thus they spoke before the king.

23Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.'”

24The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king.

25The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.”

26Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for (A)she was deeply stirred over her son and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!”

27Then the king said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.”

A child or fetus is either alive or dead. On that much we can agree. So a bi-partisan approach sometimes simply not possible.

Obviously, their are other approaches. It used to be the case – pre-Roe v. Wade – that opposition to abortion was a non-partisan issue. It was simply viewed as wrong. Take for example this letter from Ted Kennedy to a constituent in 1971 (pdf available at link):

“While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized – the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.

“On the question of the individual’s freedom of choice there are easily available birth-control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy. But once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire. …

“When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”

Roe v Wade ended the “non-partisan” era, and Kennedy’s defense of life for the unborn.

After Roe v Wade there was a generation of tussling around with the details of what exactly is permissible. Abortion was established as a right, but reasonable people differed as to what restrictions should be allowed. In that process – the legislative process – a variety of solutions based on local preferences were enacted.

This era – which continues today – is what I would call the true “bi-partisan” era. It is full of passion on both sides, and does not guarantee a consistent result, but I think that’s closer to what our Founders envisioned when they gave the states the control over these kinds of issues.

Enter Barack Obama and his Catholic/Evangelical/Pro-life supporters like Doug Kmiec. Here a “post-partisan” approach is being hawked. This era looks a lot like the inverse of the “non-partisan” era: virtually all of the restrictions legistlated at the local level will be removed via the Freedom of Choice Act. Medicaid will, for the first time fund abortions at taxpayer expense. How this will reduce abortions in the real world remains a mystery to me.

The defense offered by Kmiec and co. seems to be that Obama’s admission that abortion “needs to be reduced” is a great victory and will be supported positively by a host of programs that will encourage women to bring their babies to term. While these are certainly laudable goals, and the admission on some level that abortion is wrong is also welcomed, I find it hard to see how sacrificing all the hard-earned state restrictions can be worth it.

The solution being offered, to my eyes at least, looks simply like yet another expansion of the welfare state, laudable in it’s goals, but simply counter-productive in it’s results.

In that context, arguing for the status quo seems to me to be the real “bi-partisan” solution. The post-partisan world argued by Obama is more like a uni-partisan world; one which the opposition has been swallowed up and co-opted by the other. In so many ways, this is the moral and legslative climate we face if Obama is elected along with a Democratic super-majority. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em might make political sense for the living, but I don’t see how it will benefit the unborn in anyway.

It’s a fascinating contradiction: those tending towards moral absolutism on the subject favor rejecting the absolutism of Roe v Wade and the Freedom of Choice Act; those tending towards moral relativism on the subject favor the legislative and judicial absolutism of the same. A world without Roe v Wade would mean that a Constitutional amendment to override it would not be needed; and localized “truths” could be legislatively enacted as per the will of the people as guided by their conceptions of truth and moral order. Yet this decidedly “post-modern” approach is decried as absolutist by those very same people who identify with “post-modern” themes. It’s time to face the fact that their is a lot of wishful thinking being engaged in by those who support Obama at yet think his policies will reduce the number of abortions. Show me the numbers.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Timmy C permalink
    October 21, 2008 10:21 pm

    So your criticisms of obama as not genuinely interested in Abortion reduction seem centered on FOCA and the Hyde Amendment….

    Let me start with FOCA, a bill that has had several versions, and has been in Congress stalled since the 90s.

    So I’ve looked over the history of this Act and Barack’s support of it. I’m convinced that the pro-life movement and even some of the pro-choice movement have largely overstated the impact of FOCA.

    The prolife groups made it a “scary scary” boogie-man and the prochoice groups painted it as a nirvana/promised land of unrestricted rights. Both were overstatements.

    But the claims that it would do the following are false:

    1. overturn partial birth abortion bans that include a life and health exception
    2. Ban Parental Notification or Consent laws for minors
    3. Outlaw the funding at the State level of abortion
    4. ban states laws requiring all abortions be done by medical licensed doctors
    5. ban the counseling requirements prior to abortions in states

    During the 90’s these were all false ghosts brought out by the prolife movement, and were specificially denied by the bills authors, and by an independent Congressional Research group.
    Some versions of the Federal FOCA had specific language saying that it wouldn’t do these things listed above.

    In fact, I cannot find one major State law effecting abortion that is A. SHOWING PROMISE AT AN ACTUAL EFFECT at reducing abortion and B. would be done away with by FOCA.

    (The one exception MIGHT be waiting periods, but even then, there was proposed language in the House version of FOCA that called out a waiting period as specific call out and that had bipartisan support.)

    And forget PAST history:

    Barack HAS been clear he believes that States should have the right to do things like Parental Consent, and other restrictions, including bans on all late term abortions and partial birth abortions. So his view is that it is valid for States to make such laws and he’d sign them.

  2. Timmy C permalink
    October 21, 2008 10:34 pm

    Doesn’t Sen. Obama support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, that would fund abortions for poor women on Medicaid? Wouldn’t that SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE the abortion rate in this country?

    So start here:

    18 states – comprising 38% of the country’s population – already provide State-based funding for abortions for poor women:

    Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, District of Columbia

    So for 38 percent of the country’s population, repealing the Hyde amendment would make no difference whatsoever, it would just move funding from State to Federal sources.

    For the remaining states, the majority by far of the women there that want abortions are in fact getting them already, regardless of public funding.

    How many? I need to do a bit more research but I’ll post that shortly….

  3. Timmy C permalink
    October 21, 2008 10:52 pm

    One last question: I’m sure this was hyperbole:

    “The solution being offered, to my eyes at least, looks simply like yet another expansion of the welfare state, laudable in it’s goals, but simply counter-productive in it’s results.”

    But still… it deserves to be fact checked.

    When you look here:

    Which of those are “welfare”? …. over half of the initiatives listed are TAX CUTS and TAX CREDITS…

    – Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
    – Cutting taxes for 95 percent of all working families
    – Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit
    – Reduce the EITC marriage penalty
    – Expanded adoption tax credit

    And EITC has been a HUGE success story…it simply works to help folks get out of poverty. The nurse-family partnership — a huge success… And which of these or anything else on that page has proven “counter productive…”?

  4. TImmy C permalink
    October 22, 2008 9:34 am

    So Part II on Medicaid Funding/The Hyde Amendment:

    Joseph Wright, a political science professor at Penn State University and a visiting fellow at the University of Notre Dame, and Michael Bailey, a professor of American government at Georgetown University conducted one of the largest studies to date on abortion trends of all U.S. states from 1982-2000.

    They find that in the early 80’s it DID make a difference likely of 10 percent…but studying the abortion rate from 1990 to 2000: “The finding for Medicaid, however, is not statistically different from zero….These data indicate that the effect of Medicaid payments is no longer significant….”

    This fits with another study by of all places the Heritage foundation:

    Even the Heritage Foundation research (no fans of Medicaid funded abortions) estimated the reduced abortions via Medicaid funding restrictions to be at about 2.2 percent for the rate in THOSE states that had no Federal or State funding.

    And as you might expect States that culturally don’t fund State Medicaid for Abortion culturally have less abortion incidences overall. (For example as Utah or Idaho) So for those it is a 2.2 percent drop of an already low number.

    Every abortion is a tragedy, but the data is that the Hyde Amendment repeal would NOT be statistically meaningful on increasing the abortion rate.

    So to sum up the effect: that is 18 states NO DIFFERENCE, as they already see State funding. The others, a difference of maybe 2 percent reduction in the abortion rate for inside those States alone.

    And rather than spend our time and political cycles fighting over contentious issues that don’t move the needle much either way at BEST…Barack’s position is to go after common sense common ground ways to make significant efforts that could lower the abortion rate dramatically OVERALL.

    By contrast: If the first study’s numbers are right. Economic policies such as those Barack supports could effect the abortion rate by 20% or more NATION WIDE.

  5. Toayminator permalink
    October 22, 2008 11:07 am


    You asked for someone to “Show me the numbers.”
    Try these on for size:

    $305.3 million – U.S. government (meaning TAXPAYER) money Planned Parenthood received for 2005-2006.

    $55.8 million – Planned Parenthood profit for 2005-2006.

    (source: Planned Parenthood official 2005-2006 annual report, June 6, 2007.)


    $336 million – U.S. TAXPAYER money Planned Parenthood received for 2006-2007.

    $115 million – Planned Parenthood profit for 2006-2007.


    this and the following article also details CRIMINAL activity by PP)

    Always follow the money. With numbers like these, and a perfect pro-abortion score from PP, is it any wonder PP endorses Obama? What do they know about Obama that the Mathew 25 crowd doesn’t?

  6. Timmy C permalink
    October 22, 2008 5:52 pm

    >PP endorses Obama? What do they know about Obama that the Mathew 25 crowd doesn’t?

    Um, planned parenthood endorses barack because he is not for recriminalizing abortions prior to viability… kinda simple actually.

    But that in no way negates his strategy to reduce abortions overall…

  7. Timmy C permalink
    October 22, 2008 7:55 pm


    I’m in a very cool and theologically centered discussion over at another blog that I’m involved in on the very topic of Scripture and the beginning of life…

    Here is the good part

    and here is the setup to the good part:

    At the first link you’ll see a prolife nurse there put the issue of recriminalization this way:

    I don’t see what it helps to make abortion illegal. If you’re not going to incarcerate women (though many would choose this), what would you propose? Fines? Then those with money simply see it as the cost of abortion. Traffic tickets? Pointless. Misdemeanors? Generating a criminal record that impacts one’s ability to work doesn’t seem helpful. Incarcerating the abortion provider? As I recall, that didn’t work very well.

    My final thought is that if we would just take the punitive approach – the argument of making abortion illegal – off the table, then maybe we could start making the argument for life without getting everyone’s back up who wants to defend/ have mercy on the woman (btw, that would be me).

    She rightly puts why I disagree with Grec’s statement that there is nothing new here, and nothing truly crossing battle lines in this approach.

    She didn’t mean to but she described Barack’s overall view well: “Take pre-viable abortion criminalization off the table, then you can make the argument for life without getting everyone’s back up.”

    Both “prolife” and “prochoice” sides COULD come together.

    And despite what Grec says, they BOTH not just PROLIFE folks would have to sacrifice at least one of their own sacred cows, but both would get something — and more importantly, women and the unborn would get something — better than the endless and pointless legal stalemate has produced as long as anybody can remember.

    Prolife folks would have to sacrifice a biggie: Give up for the forseeable future your goal of making a law that you believe would be just in protecting the unborn prior to them being viable.

    Just give that up. Gone.

    But Prochoice folks would have to sacrifice their own sacred cows… They would have to firstly agree that abortion itself is a failure and a tragedy, not a moral neutral act done on valueless cells. They will have to give up that view of abortion as a value free act, and therefore something to which any reasonable restriction is only seen as a needless slippery slope leading towards banning all abortions legally.

    Kiss that idea goodbye.

    But if the pro-family planning groups REALLY care about the health and well being of the Moms and the developing unborn life, and if the ProLife groups REALLY care about their original goal of reducing abortions…. THEN something like this coalition CAN work to actually reduce abortions.

    I’m pretty convinced by now after 20-30 years of cold war on the subject that has done virtually nothing to reduce abortions, nor changed ANYONE’S minds that this is only kind of solution that could do much of anything meaningful.

    Then the arguments over abortion purely become academic arguments of WHAT WORKS to reduce abortion…no longer are they clashes of absolutes, with the prolife deamonizing the others as baby killers, and the prochoice side deamonizing the others as facists.

    Arguments over WHAT WORKS by contrast, can end up somewhere good. New ideas and new studies can create new previously unseen solutions. Old ideas can be proven, or innovated upon. Both liberal and conservative methods can be sussed out for their effectiveness.

    It would however I think take Presidential leadership to get there.

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