On the Moral Meltdown of the Catholic Right

5 11 2008

Wherein I put on the mask of an empty soul

Some people believe in big government. Some people believe in small government. Some believe in no government. I believe in screwed-up government. It builds character, and it is precisely what we deserve.

According to some, today is a day we should wear black with the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency. It’s funny that many of these Catholic mourners did not wear black when our country began the unjust invasion of Iraq condemned by the Pope himself. One maverick Eastern rite even threatened excommunication against anyone who participated in that war. Yet no good Catholic Republican wanted to wear black then.

All of these mourners condemn Obama’s messianism and the rhetoric of naive hope for a new future. Where was this same sobriety when the current president thundered against the “axis of evil”, when the powers that be assumed the right to wage war on anyone who dislikes this glorious “city on a hill” known as America?

Politics is a cesspool of hyperbole, broken promises, and back-room deals. I really feel sorry for anyone who thinks otherwise. Americans are some of the only people in the world who expect good government. Everyone else expects their government to be lousy. The local politician may be able to deliver the goods on some things, but in the end you wouldn’t even trust him to baby sit your gold fish. That’s how it is, that’s how it’s always been. St. Paul doesn’t exhort obedience to secular authority because it’s easy, and Aquinas doesn’t give very limited conditions to overthrow tyrants because tyrants are nice people who are easy to follow.

I know, people will bring up the whole “abortion” thing. Well, I am all for criminalized abortion. The only difference is that I know exactly what that would mean. If women are at the point that they will kill their children in their own wombs without a second thought, what types of mothers would they be if they were obligated to have those babies? Maybe they will give them up for adoption, or maybe they will just abandon them. Who’s going to take care of them then? The problem with the pro-life movement in this country is that it is only passionate about babies, especially black and brown babies, for the first nine months of their existence. For the rest of their lives, it’s all about racial and cultural politics, free market capitalism, and jails (lots of jails) if all that doesn’t work out. So where is the simple answer? I was raised by a single mother who was in a rocky relationship. It never crossed her mind to abort any of us, even though she was poor, in a bad marriage, and at times homeless. That type of love and dedication is something you can’t legislate.

And if you are still bitter, and still think that we are on the brink of socialism, chaos, and the reign of the culture of death, keep in mind that if we are being chastised for our sins, they are not the sins that you are necessarily thinking of. This country was founded on the original sin of slavery, it grew by the injustice of Manifest Destiny that stole half of another country to make itself bigger, and it slaughtered the inhabitants that had lived there for thousands of years. So all of the abortion and immorality is just the chickens coming home to roost. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, America has not been America for many, many people. So if you are starting to feel the pinch, welcome to the club. Get comfortable, because it’s not going away any time soon.


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27 responses

13 04 2010
Marie

So, who’s sorry now?

3 01 2010
Gregor

An excellent article. I am an Orthodox European and whilst I would have found it difficult to vote for Obama if I were legible to, I found the religious right’s endorsement of John MacCain absurd. Is there any bloodshed that this man would not endorse? Look at his support for Michael Saakashvilli’s demented use of airoplanes and tanks AGAINST HIS OWN CIVILIANS???!! And that’s not even including McCain’s dislike of his own country’s poor.

By all means, criticise Obama for his numerous faults, but don’t give the Republicans a blank cheque.

12 11 2008
Ian Woolcott

A great post and a great discussion.

8 11 2008
Leah

I suppose one of the last things that should be said is that I don’t know if making abortion illegal is even feasible at this point. The cat is already out of the bag with portable suction devices, abortion pills, and other technological developments that remove the need even for the presence of an abortion clinic. There is a common belief in political science and economic development literature that legalizing access to birth control and abortion is a sign of a modernizing society. That view certainly won’t be going away anytime soon. Who exactly would we put in prison? Doctors, probably but what about the women? Sure, the woman forced to have an abortion by her abusive boyfriend or husband may have diminished culpability, but what about the woman who doesn’t want pregnancy to prevent her from wearing a certain dress? Or the woman who wants one baby, not three (this was documented in a New York Times magazine story and even hard-core pro-abortionists were creeped out)? The woman who wanted a girl but got a boy or vice versa? Or the woman who just likes having child-free sex? More thought needs to go into figuring out exactly what the end goal of the pro-life movement should be and what the legal and social implications of such goals might be.

Prior to about the 1950s or so, the main factor that prevented more women from having more abortions was the threat of fatal injury or death rather than the presence of a “culture of life.” Throughout most of history, the desire to have an abortion or practice contraception meant buying a strange concoction from a woman who could politely be described as the village hag. The stuff that she gave you might cause a “safe abortion,” act as a contraceptive potion, or possible lead to loss of life and limb. Given these options, all but the most desperate choose to have the baby.

However, by the end of World War II the world of medicine had changed to the point where safe surgical abortion was possible. Due to other medical advancements, the events where a mother’s life would actually be in danger to nessesitate an abortion (a common smokescreen used by rich women to obtain abortions) were very rare. This was another reason why doctors sought to decriminalize abortion. The Church was really unprepared to confront what would happen if abortion and contraception became common, because without access to scientifically tested forms of birth control, these scenarios are almost thought experiments. People certainly wouldn’t be so wild about birth control if it meant getting some strange herbal brew from the village hag, rather than pills with a 99.9% chance of accuracy. While the contraceptive mindset is old, the ability to control one’s fertility with such deadly accuracy is new.

7 11 2008
FrGregACCA

While Obama has an undeniable track record in support of so-called “abortion rights,” it an overstatement to say that he is “vehemently pro-abortion”. Because of certain “present” votes in the Illinois state legislature, NARAL, et. al., initially supported Hillary over him, and he has stated that he “can claim no infallibility” with regard to his positions on abortion. In any event, the election is over, he is now the President-elect, and it incumbent upon all of us to communicate our concerns -on abortion and other matters – to him and to our respective members of the House and Senate. We can start by opposing FOCA, the “Freedom of Choice Act” with regard to abortion and supporting the “Employees Free Choice Act” which will facilitate the rights of workers to organize themselves into unions.

7 11 2008
AG

Walt C, I should have briefly addressed the claim that “unwanted children” are more likely to be criminals: legalized abortion reduces this population thereby reducing crime.

I should also state that there are studies that contradict the above, finding that legalized abortion leads to higher rates of crime and increased murders (see Lott and Whitley) in addition to other societal problems like increased rate of out-of-wedlock births, increased poverty, etc. While studies of Sweden, Denmark, and the U.S. have suggested a correlation between legalized abortion and reduction of crime, there are studies of Canada, Colombia, and most recently the UK, where no correlation between legalized abortion and lower crime rates has been found (I think I got my countries right).

The claim about “unwanted children” was first made in a paper out of Sweden comparing the children of mothers who were denied an abortion with mothers who did not seek an abortion. Mothers who were denied an abortion had “unwanted children” who were more likely to engage in crime than the “wanted” children. But this finding can only be seen as a correlation, and we can add a seemingly endless number of correlations to this if we extract out info about what type of women most often seek an abortion. What we may end up with is the finding that women who live in poverty, engage in high-risk behaviors, suffer from physical/psychological abuse or other psychological problems, etc. are more likely to seek out an abortion, and if they do have the child these children – because of poverty, neglect, abuse, etc – are more likely to grow up to be criminals. So if we can just rid ourselves of those problems, we’d have a reduction in crime (duh). The problem isn’t the “unwanted children” per se, the problem are the conditions; “unwanted” children can then be seen as a possible consequence of those other factors. That’s quite different than blindly asserting that “unwanted children” cause high crime rates (although this argument was even used in the Roe v. Wade decision).

7 11 2008
Leah

Josh:
This election has been incredibly stressful for me. On the one hand, I’m caught between the Atlanta black community, who thinks that Obama will be a political messiah and the Catholics I encounter (in real life and the Internet world) who think that Obama is a cross between Stalin and the anti-Christ. My own mother called John McCain the devil. I’m almost afraid to go to mass on Sunday because I’m afraid of what I’ll hear. I will be going of course but I’m sort of scared. The rhetoric has been so extreme that I’ve been fearing possible assassination attempts and race riots.

7 11 2008
AG

Walt C, William Bennett’s exact quote was, “But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”

The claim of economist Steven Levitt (in Freakonomics) that the reduction in crime in the 1990s is linked to the legalization of abortion two decades prior is controversial and has been attacked for inadequately taking into account the increase in crime related to cocaine and crack in the 80s that subsided in the 90s. (Look up Christopher Foote’s refutation of Levitt’s claims if interested; there are a multitude of factors like the difficulty of tracking the number of abortions, mobility among populations, crime per capita, changing economics, increased incarceration, etc. that make Levitt’s hypothesis nearly impossible to prove, IMO.) A tangential, but important point to mention is that Levitt never mentions race, only the unsupported notion that ‘unwanted children’ would be more likely to engage in crime. Thus, since the rate of abortion is higher among blacks (and Hispanics) compared to whites, one would think they’ve ‘gotten rid’ of a whole lot more unwanted babies per capita. So Mr. Bennett’s comments are still way out of left – or far right – field, unless he’s asserting that all black babies inevitably end up criminals.

Leah, thanks for your comments, particularly about the battle between the medical community and feminist mid-wives, to use a catch-all term for the latter, when it came to abortion. This conflict is still ongoing: there are doctors very concerned about the push for “at-home” chemical abortions, especially the push to provide abortion pills to women in developing countries who often lack access to the medical care that would be necessary if complications arose. When you mention the failure to recruit non-Christians, I think this is one of the communities that pro-life religious often miss: those in the medical fields (religious or not) with concerns about the physical and psychological affects of abortion on women’s health. More emphasis on just how far those in the abortion agenda are willing to go, ignoring the deaths of women and permanent physical and psychological damage in order to make chemical abortion freely available to every woman on the planet, might gain the ear of non-religious and make them at least a bit more aware of the agendas surrounding the abortion issue.

7 11 2008
Josh

I think you are much to harsh on pro-lifers and Catholic conservatives and you are not accurate.

Many Catholics opposed the war in Iraq. Many opposed and oppose racism and other ills.

Many pro-lifers adopt babies “of color” and do a lot to help unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock. In fact, my experience is that pro-lifers are more apt to help and provide resources and I have been to shelters and the like and resource centers.

Obama is vehemently pro-abortion without exceptions and limitations. McCain is a good man and much more pro-life.

I do not know when God is coming because he will come like a thief in the night so we must always be prepared for judgment and the second coming and confess frequently and receive communion regularly and pray (especially the Rosary) and fast and help others. So I don’t know if there is judgment or not but I do believe there can be collective punishment by God.

God Bless you all and God Bless the USA

7 11 2008
Walt C

Arturo,

A very poignant post and sums what I’ve thought since Sept 2001.

Also all of the commenters here have given me much to think about. ( As this blog frequently does.)

I recall a brouhaha over William Bennent’s remarks several years ago regarding observations made by the authors of Freakinomics concerning the legalization of abortion correlating with the drop in crime among the poor.
So many people called onto Rush Limbaugh’s radio show chiding him apparently thinking he was advocating legal abortion to lower crime rates. He wasn’t.Many of the callers perefectly understood that good consequences do not justify evil actions as I saw this story debated on a few online discussion boards. Yet, when it comes to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture) or a doctrine of “preventive war” as a means of national security, most of the dicussions on these subjects were very muted or ambivalent about these things at best. Maybe the “preventive war” subject is a bit too abstract, but I would have thought the torture debate would be clear to pro lifers but even then some people couldn’t see a big deal about it.

The point about pro-choicers consistently reaching out to the religious to side with them while pro lifers rarely do the same hit home also. Attending community college many years ago, our class had a debate about abortion. I was suprised to find out that the most ardent and well argued defender of the pro life position was an atheist. His example influenced me on how to discuss this subject with other people. Outside of Nat Hentoff and Doris Lessing of Libertarians for Life, are there any other noted agnostic or atheist pro-lifers?

7 11 2008
triunepieces

Leah,
What a fascinating and sad history. I really had no idea it was as complicated as all that in the post Roe v. Wade world.

7 11 2008
FrGregACCA

Given that McCain is so lukewarm on abortion, wanting only to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the matter to the States (something he cannot do directly), supporting embryonic stem cell research and Palin so hypocritical (vetoing money in Alaska for a pregnant women’s shelter), it is amazing to me that so many conventional pro-lifers, including RC bishops, were so staunchly supportive of McCain-Palin.

For his part, Obama has said that he “cannot claim infallibility” in his support of “abortion rights”. His transition team has a website and is seeking input from the American people. Follow the link below and let them know what you think

http://www.change.gov/page/content/americanmoment

7 11 2008
random Orthodox chick

Triunepieces,

I understand what you’re saying. I might be especially sensitive because I’m just the type to not respond to that kind of motivation (even though I understand you were directing it towards yourself). Maybe it’s a poor judge of character on my part, but I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when they make it clear that they care about something.

I somewhat of an activist, too. In high school, it was about education and unions.

I do agree with Leah, which is why I love how around here, it’s the pro-choicers who are mainly around screaming, while we are raising money for the local pregnancy center, gathering resources for pregnant students, and generally educating people on what abortion actually is (it’s surprisingly difficult to keep the topic on the actual procedure…). I hope that in the years to come, that this pro-life’s group activities will be more normative, and that we all will take a more holistic approach on the issue.

7 11 2008
Leah

One could argue that the pro-life movement was compromised from the start. As I mentioned in a previous post, there was relatively little controversy when Roe v. Wade first occurred. The Catholic Church was the only institution, secular or religious, that really put up a fight. The Protestant churches, even the conservative ones, generally felt that Roe v. Wade was a legitimate decision and Catholic opposition to it was another sign of how strange they were. Catholic activists did try to reach out to the Protestants in the early 70s to join, but they were politely ignored. Although the first pro-life activists were Charismatics who were influenced by the Civil Rights movement (many had been participants), as the decade wore on they were replaced by the kind of hard “Religious Right” people that the movement tends to be associated with today. I have a theory that the lack of interest in the pro-life movement among non-whites might stem from the tensions between ethnic Catholics and blacks in places like Chicago and Boston that were also occurring at the same time. When the evangelicals did join up in the 1980s, it was because they began viewing the pro-life movement through a scriptural, rather than a tradition lens as the Catholics did. But by this point, almost ten years had passed since Roe v. Wade. During that period of time, abortion had already become greatly normalized in American society. One problem, is that pro-abortionists will gladly enlist religious people justify abortion, but pro-lifers (the one’s I’ve encountered) have not made similar overtures to non-whites and non-Christians. This is problematic.

Meanwhile, there was not yet a consensus on the left that abortion was a good thing. Although many white feminists took up the abortion issue as central to women’s rights, there were many black and Hispanic women who were wondering why their white counterparts were so eager to share abortion, but not jobs or educational opportunities (still a relevant question IMO). Many civil rights activists like Jesse Jackson were pro-life at this point, and saw abortion as a threat to the viability of the black community. Far-left groups like the Black Panthers were crudely pro-natalist in that they believed that there needed to be more black people for the upcoming “revolution.” How exactly abortion became a “sacrament” to the left is a question that I don’t have an answer to yet.

I always find myself cringing when I hear some whites say that society doesn’t value life anymore. I would say that our society has never valued life. It didn’t just start with legalized abortion. Any society where picture postcards are sold depicting a smiling lynch mob with their victim in various stages of dismemberment is not pro-life. The abortion issue has never been about valuing life. The initial push in the nineteenth century to criminalize abortion was done to 1. stop midwives and others from practicing medicine without a license 2. stop Protestant women from getting abortion because it was feared that the “wrong kinds of people” (i.e., blacks, Jews, Catholics, poor whites) were having too many kids. Similarly, the first pro-abortion activists were the “white male doctors” who didn’t want amateurs doing abortions that should be done in sterilized medical facilities. It had nothing to do with “women’s rights” or the ability to control one’s body and everything to do with the ability of physicians to make professional decisions. This is why doctors and feminists clashed during the first years of legalized abortion clinics; doctors viewed abortion as just another medical procedure, but feminists thought that abortion should be a grassroots “women helping women” type thing. Since many feminists have become doctors now, this tension has largely disappeared.

So given this history, what should be done? Abortion needs to be placed in the public’s consciousness. For all of the complaints about the “mainstream media” it is possible to work the media effectively if you’re an outsider. It’s simply a matter of drawing attention to yourself and having an effective spokesman. This is why PETA does what it does; do something crazy and everyone pays attention. Free publicity. I’ve mentioned the issue of disruptive tactics, but I don’t know how many people would take up that mantle. Less time should be spent on reversing Roe v. Wade (which is not going to happen anytime soon if it ever does) and more on changing minds. The laws will change when people actually think that abortion is an evil thing, which is certainly not the case now. Probably, the best thing to do would be to actively cultivate pro-life views among other groups. If the pro-life position is framed as a human rights issue, it would certainly attract more secular attention. If pro-lifers embed themselves in low-income areas and actively work to change the grassroots culture surrounding sex, marriage, and relationships, that would crowd out the influence of the pro-abortion activists. This idea would be much more difficult to implement and should probably be undertaken by an archdiocean pro-life committee, but a community approach to social problems is generally the most effective. I’m actively thinking about ways to use new media to advance the cause, but this idea is still in its embryonic stage (no pun intended).

7 11 2008
triunepieces

ROC,

Peace. If if is condescension, then it is directed towards people like me, because I am pro-life in a lifestyle/identity politics kind of way, but not in an activist way like you are. I make it clear in the comment that I’m definitely lukewarm. I’m not an activist. I have a family. I have a career.

(Back in January ’03, when I was still a student, I was part of those crazy Chicago demonstrations against the looming Iraq war. I used to be a member of Amnesty International and would write letters against the unjust use of the death penalty. So, I have it in me somewhere. Or I did.)

Is abortion genocide? Can we use such inflammatory language? Is it helpful. I’m not sure. Maybe, sometimes such language is helpful. I hear it all the time on conservative Catholic and Evangelical radio. I can find myself nodding my head along in agreement. But…if it is true. Then I’m convicting myself of apathy, and of not doing enough. Because if genocide is happening all around me, does that not call upon me to act in such a way that I defend my defenseless neighbor? Am I truly no better than the German rank and file who said nothing about the pogroms against the Jews? Or am I worse because there’s actually no S.S. patrol in my neighborhood and I have the freedom to stand in front of Planned Parenthood and call their services genocidal?

If abortion is what it is, then your activism isn’t an elitist endeavor, and neither is celebrating its importance. You are the vanguard of the world’s most important human rights movement. My point is that for all of our pro-life rhetoric (mainly conservative Catholics/Prots), I believe there is only a dedicated few in each community who keep the pro-life movement alive and cohesive. Good for you if you’re part of it.

They (you) deserve to mourn the Obama presidency. Because they’ve been fighting. Us “from the couch” pro-lifers are just indulging in pessimism when we predict the end of the free world. Because casting a single vote in a national election in a “first past the post” 2 party system isn’t really that influential anyway.

As Leah said, the media, the parties, and everyday Americans were more worried about the economy than the potential Freedom of Choice Act. The issues were framed a long time ago, and abortion was cleared from the table after the Saddle Back Church “debate”.

I think that’s partly because I read blogs about how bad abortion is. But, that’s pretty much all I do. Me and thousands of pro-lifers just like me.

Abortion is bad…but, I need to follow this link. Click.

7 11 2008
Deacon Jim

What always amazes me is the huge focus on God’s “punishment, chastisement, rage, etc. etc.” among a certain set of folks. These are the folks that watch Fatima and Lourdes moves all through the night and think of God as an entity expressed through private/non-doctrinal, you can believe it if you want, apparitions, but not through the salvation brought by His Son.

The mean punishing god releasing the anthropomorphic devil doesn’t exist. The Father proclaimed by the Son does exist. He came that we might have life — and yes that includes life from conception to natural death.

There is no implicit or explicit punishment from God coming down he pipe, only our sin which conflagrates into sin after sin. Winning the game begins with our personal ‘change of heart’ and what we do to change the hearts of others. Politics won’t do it – the Gospel will.

When we pray we must not pray like the hypocrites – Lord pull the speck out of my brother’s eye because he’s the devil, but rather pray in charity. Lord send out Your Spirit and renew us – renew the face of the earth. Pray in love, fast and sacrifice in private, but pray in love.

6 11 2008
Jonathan Prejean

Those in the latter group seem to cling to the belief that America was once a paragon of moral virtues, no matter that her Founding Fathers calculated how much someone of a different skin shade should count as a person.

What always gets me about the “count as a person” part is that it’s even worse than it sounds. They were counted as 3/5 of a person (or any nonzero amount) for apportionment of legislative votes to their white masters! It’s like saying “Even though we consider it appropriate to give you the legal status of animals, we will allow you to count at least partially as humans for purposes of apportioning political power to the white people who claim to own you.” Need more seats in Congress? More electoral votes? Buy more people! If you look “chutzpah” up in the dictionary, that should be the definition.

As to “the hysteria that this country just took a horribly wrong turn and we should expect divine persecution,” I agree with this assessment as well. We’re not going to be punished for electing Obama; Obama IS the punishment. He’s exactly the leader we deserve, because he’s exactly what most people want. Yes, he will screw things up, but only by doing exactly what he was elected to do. The truth is it’s Satan’s world, and any time Christianity gets any semblance of power, it’s usually being rented at an exorbitant cost.

I’m just amazed that people weren’t more thankful that there was at least a brief period where cutting funding for abortion and passing restrictive state laws actually happened, and even that came at the cost of electing a torturer whose blundering war effort has probably eradicated the hope of peace for the Chaldean Catholic Church. That’s about the best you can hope for: compromises in which the candidate does just barely less harm than good. And I don’t think we can expect much better. Being really pro-life generally gets you labeled as a religious nut trying to force Christianity down someone’s throat, and that is more the norm than the exception.

6 11 2008
random Orthodox chick

“Involvement in the movement can have consequences for people with careers. This is beyond the comfort level of many pro-lifers, which maintain a certain absurdity in their position, in which they rightly identify abortion as murder, yet take no concrete action to stop it, aside from pray a rosary now and again, and vote in the national election. These two things are great and all, but a movement they don’t make.”

As someone who does it all – active pro-life advocacy, praying in front of abortion clinics, and all that jazz – I find this really condescending. I recognize I can do what I do because I have a lot of free time on my hands as a student I probably never will again, given my career choice. I’ll probably be one of those who pray to the Mother of God for the aborted, the doctors, the parents, and all others involved “now and again”.

I think those of us who are “more active” should be careful to not make it an elitist endeavor, as if we’re actually the ones upon whom the sanctity of life hinges on, and not God Himself and His grace and understanding that He bestows on us all. This sort of attitude certainly does not change hearts.

6 11 2008
AG

“I have no end to serve, no creed to uphold, no government to defend; and as to nation, I belong to none. I have no protection at home, or resting-place abroad. The land of my birth welcomes me to her shores only as a slave, and spurns with contempt the idea of treating me differently. So that I am an outcast from the society of my childhood, and an outlaw in the land of my birth. ‘I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were.’ “(Psalm 39:12). Frederick Douglass,1846.

I think the reaction among the Catholic Right that is being decried is not that of shame that abortion will undoubtedly continue, but the hysteria that this country just took a horribly wrong turn and we should expect divine persecution. Those in the latter group seem to cling to the belief that America was once a paragon of moral virtues, no matter that her Founding Fathers calculated how much someone of a different skin shade should count as a person. Really, the government’s endorsement of evil should not come as a surprise and once upon a time Catholics, along with racial/ethnic minority groups, understood that they should expect persecution here. Not that Obama is a harbinger of it: he’s just your typical liberal Democrat with a different name and skin color playing the role of black angel come to save the despairing white folk.

In addition to the points already raised, I think the problem with the pro-life movement is that there is not a wide gulf between contraception and abortion among Americans: acceptance of the two really goes hand in hand, and has been that way historically. There is indeed not a strong distinction between the two on many levels, particularly in the case of some contraceptives, and see where “getting rid of contraceptives” would rank on a list of concerns for Americans.

The other problem is the lack of acceptable pro-life candidates. Many Catholics I know – including my mother – wouldn’t vote for a pro-choice candidate, but they’re not going to vote for the “pro-life” candidate either if that means voting for the typical Republican. And I think that dilemma is going to become even bigger as the Hispanic population increases.

6 11 2008
The Scylding

Arturo – you are spot on in this post. I’ve wanted to say some of the same, but as a non-American, it would have been interpreted as liberal anti-Americanism, and discarded.

6 11 2008
Leah

I said that pro-lifers are delusional in that they think that abortion plays a larger role in the American consciousness than it actually does. If you look at the issues that were most important to voters, abortion wouldn’t even make the top ten. Obama’s support of FOCA was not brought up during the debates or in any other forum outside the pro-life world. Most people don’t know about FOCA, so it wasn’t a factor in their vote. It would be foolish for Obama to assume that he has a mandate to do whatever he wants, which is why experts of all stripes are encouraging him to govern from the center. If he heeds this advice, FOCA may remain unsigned. We’ll just have to see.

About Roe v. Wade: Even before Roe v. Wade, many states had already decriminalized abortion and were continuing to do so. The Georgia governor who signed into law abortion decriminalization was none other than arch-segregationist Lester Maddox. There was considerable sympathy in 1962, when Romper Room host Sherri Finkbein wanted an abortion because the thalidomine she had been taking caused serious birth defects in the fetus (she eventually had to go to Sweden for the procedure). The Catholic Church was also the only organization, secular or religious that was monitoring and fighting against abortion criminalization before 1972. When Roe v. Wade first happened, there wasn’t even much outrage. The newspapers literally said, “Abortion legalized… and they’re some Catholic people complaining apparently.” The Catholic Church, the Mormons, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations were the only groups to come out against abortion. Even then, the Catholic Church was the only one of those three to encourage resistance. The evangelicals didn’t join the pro-life movement until the mid-1980s, because they thought it was one of those weird Catholic things like Marian devotion or the Eucharist. If you go on the Southern Baptist Convention website and look at their pronouncements about abortion from the 70s and 80s, they all support abortion. In any event, to get Roe v. Wade overturned, there would have to be a case brought before the Court, and I have no idea what kind of case that would be. And 75% of the states would just legalize it on the state level.

The thing is finding the most effective way to spread the pro-life message and I’m don’t think that the current methods are helpful. Marches generally don’t work. They worked during the Civil Rights Movement because we’re talking about a society in which sitting in a Woolworth’s was considered a subversive act. Everyone marches for every sort of thing and no one pays attention. Successful social movements involve disruption of some kind. Not violence, but disruption so people take notice of you. Some people may find this controversial, but the use of PETA-style tactics (e.g., “culture jamming,” friendly pranks, undercover documentaries) may be in order. Despite the fact that most people don’t buy into veganism, PETA actually gets a lot done in terms of animal welfare legislation. We should be willing to do the same to raise awareness about the pro-life movement. A better use of social and digital media aimed at young people (probably the audience mostly likely to have abortions) would definitely help the cause. If you compare the aesthetics of the Planned Parenthood site and the American Life League site, the former is done much better than the latter. The pro-abortionists have also been good at creating “women’s health centers” that provide abortion and non-abortion health services in poor areas. Because abortion is one of many services they provide, the locals don’t pay as much attention and the abortionists are able to gain the trust of the neighborhood. Pro-life alternatives need to be established. A major part of the problem is bad framing of the abortion issue. If abortion was viewed as a human rights violation rather than a “choice,” the debate would be much different. This is a definition that could cut across ideological and religious boundaries. I don’t know if this is all too political for this blog, but I think that more people need to know the history of the abortion and pro-life movements so we can learn from past mistakes.

6 11 2008
triunepieces

I think there is conflation here between pro-life and pro-life movement. There are a lot of people who are pro-life. Many spend time on message boards bemoaning abortion. Many join in conversations with other pro-lifers about “baby killers” etc. when they’re in safe company.

Yet, there are very few who are pro-life that are actually part of the pro-life movement. The movement demands concrete action towards intervening on behalf of the unborn, either through letters to legislators, public witness of pro-life advocacy (e.g. public demonstration at abortion clinics), or side-walk counseling to save the immediate life of the unborn child who is about to die. Involvement in the movement can have consequences for people with careers. This is beyond the comfort level of many pro-lifers, which maintain a certain absurdity in their position, in which they rightly identify abortion as murder, yet take no concrete action to stop it, aside from pray a rosary now and again, and vote in the national election. These two things are great and all, but a movement they don’t make.

I think anyone involved in the movement has every right to see a dark future in the election outcomes. It will cause setbacks to the movement. It will end in the abortion of more infants. Let them talk about about dictatorship of the Left and of more dead black babies. Even if they didn’t march against the Iraq war for a consistent seamless garment. They’re acting consistently and putting themselves out there to stop an evil that they have identified.

The plain old pro-life-but-not-involved beyond the election cycle… I hope they wake up, lest the lukewarm be spewn from the mouth of God.

And I’m the most lukewarm of them all.

6 11 2008
Jay

Great entry. I love agreement!

6 11 2008
Lord Peter

P.S.,

The charge that the Pro-Life Movement only cares about a babies’ first 9 months is simply false. It a shallow left-wing canard that is swallowed by otherwise intelligent persons just as frequently as the myth that Eskimos have a 100 words for snow. (Eskimos only have one word for snow.)

To the contrary, the fact of the matter is that a large network of free pregnancy help centers and day-care centers are funded largely by Pro-Life Protestants, Catholics and Secular Humanists. Also, numerous adoption facilitators operate at no expense to a birth mother.

Indeed, any mothers that choses life, can do so at virtually no out-of-pocket expense to herself. And while some mothers are so callous as to utterly disregard the value of the life in their womb, most are not, but are pressured by parents, biological fathers, ignorance about readily available free assistance, and by other left-wing societal pressures into abortion notwithstanding their own serious misgivings.

6 11 2008
Lord Peter

“Politics is a cesspool of hyperbole, broken promises, and back-room deals. I really feel sorry for anyone who thinks otherwise.”

Any young person that believes this has no heart. Any older person who does not believe this has no brain.

6 11 2008
Leah

I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate this post. For mysterious reasons that I can only describe as masochistic, I’ve been spending a lot of time today on the Politics section of the Catholic Answers message board. The vitriol expressed there is just incredible. People saying that we’re on the road to communism (though you know none of them have ever read anything by Marx or Engels), Nazism, or some horrible form of government yet to be imagined. Obama hasn’t even been in office yet and they’re already proclaiming him Satan Jr. I think that equating our current situation in the USA with the experiences of people in North Korea or the Cultural Revolution to be beyond idiotic and offensive to people who actually have suffered at the hands of communist regimes. The funny thing is, that the posters exhibit the same “I’m so oppressed” mentality that they’re always criticizing blacks and Latinos for. It especially annoys me how such posters harp about how many black children are killed by abortion, but complain about how blacks are dim-witted cryto-socialists who vote Democratic to get welfare, abortion, and contraceptive devices. Of course, I am completely pro-life myself, but the problem with the pro-life movement is that its participants are completely delusional. The “Religious Right” and the pro-life movement is probably less popular than the gay rights lobby and the tobacco lobby. There have been very little attempts to spread the pro-life philosophy to minorities, Jews, secularists, and non-Christians. And yet, there is all this confusion about why nothing ever seems to get done. As you said in an earlier post, it seems like America is just trading one set of sins (slavery) for another (abortion). We should never expect salvation from any governmental authority.

5 11 2008
J.S. Bangs

Awesome, Arturo. Well said.

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