Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"I don't know anyone who's pro-abortion."

It is truly amazing to witness pro-lifers melt when Obama utters category-blurring, gravitas-soaked farts like this. Darwin Catholic has a good deconstruction of the Obama-Dean meme.
As best as I can make out, this view boils down to holding that while abortion may not actually be wrong, it's no fun and people don't (all other things being equal) want to have one. Thus, when Howard Dean announced, "I don't know anyone who is pro-abortion" he means it in the same sense one might say, "I don't know anyone who is pro-wisdom-tooth-extraction." No one wants to have his wisdom teeth out. It's not fun. It's not something you'd do unnecessarily. But in a situation where your other options are clearly painful or expensive, you have them out.

At a minimum, abortion is unpleasant. So of course, no one is going to seek one when she doesn't "need" one. In that sense, no one is "pro-abortion".

But since my teeth do not in and of themselves have any rights, dignity or moral worth, I didn't have a whole lot of qualms having my wisdom teeth cut out when they threatened to cause problems for the rest of my body. On the other hand, if my aunt is causing a lot of trouble and pain in the extended family, I cannot legally take her out somewhere and have her surgically divided into several pieces in order to remove the strife. That's because she's a human being with her own rights and inherent dignity.

So contra Howard Dean, the question is not whether there are people sitting around thinking, "Wow, I wish I could get an abortion. That would be so much fun." but rather whether it is wrong to procure an abortion in order to avoid undesirable consequences. And it is, so far as I can tell, on this point that there is considerable division in our politics and our culture. (What Mr. Dean has attempted to do is redefine "pro-abortion" in a ludicrously null set, while remaining blind to the moral issue at play.)
The confused pro-aborts will come back crying that any law that banned wisdom-tooth extractions and forcing people to carry their dental impaction to full term would be a cruel violation of one's right to privacy. On the other hand, wisdom teeth do not result from anyone's free will. Neither is pregnancy due to rape. It would be a huge advancement if we could restrict abortion to rape cases, though even such tolerance for abortion is still full of contradictions.

Is it possible for a pro-choice politician to parse the issue in such a way that truly advances the national debate so that a pro-lifer could support him/her in good conscience? DC's the first pro-life Catholic I've read who's done the homework for pro-choicers:
I do not think it is possible for one to argue, from a pro-life perspective, that the election of any politician who is only anti-abortion in the abortion-is-like-having-your-wisdom-death-out sense will move us closer to a culture of life. However, there is a kind of pro-choice candidate who I think could. Imagine that a pro-choice candidate emerged who said, "I believe that abortion consists of the intentional killing of an innocent human person. As such, it is a great moral evil. A just country would ban such a practice. Unfortunately, we are not a just country and too many of us rely on evil to maintain our standard of living. I don't believe that during the next four years it is possible for us to make any progress towards outlawing this act of killing. So while I will support policies that will give women in crisis pregnancies other options, I will not advance any new legislation to end the slaughter. Some day, I hope, we will reach the point when we're ready to stop, and then we will change our laws to protect every human life."

Now, I disagree with that approach, but I can respect it a lot more than the "safe, legal and rare" rhetoric. I could see how electing that kind of pro-choice politician would help move us forward.
I would only add that such a politician would have to also include, in his promise to not advance any new legislation to end abortion, a promise to not advance any new legislation that expands it or overturns the modest restrictions already lawfully in place. A moratorium on all abortion or reproductive choice laws would impose more of a freeze on the pro-choice agenda than on the pro-life agenda.