Deal W. Hudson
May 12, 2008
When Obama’s Catholic supporters attacked Catholic League president Bill Donohue for his criticism of their candidate, they did not mention Obama’s support for infanticide.
The question will inevitably arise for the distinguished group of Catholics supporting Obama as to how they can defend his preference for infanticide in cases where a child survives a botched abortion. The fury Obama’s Catholics vented toward Donohue will only force them to face that question sooner than they may have expected.
It’s clear to me how it will be answered: It won’t. Obama’s Catholics are already attempting to reframe the abortion issue in their favor. They will do everything they can to divert attention from the fact that their candidate is actually the most extreme pro-abortion advocate ever to be nominated by a political party for president of the United States.
The letter to Donohue reveals the arguments Obama’s Catholics will use to evade the question of infanticide:
► Vocal anti-abortion Catholics are partisan and divisive. Their letter states that the abortion issue is “one that is too often hijacked by partisan operatives who seek only to divide voters.” This is perhaps the strongest argument, coming as it does from Catholics who have publicly endorsed a Democratic candidate for president. They are attempting to win voters for Obama, to convince Catholics to vote for a Democrat. That’s a partisan act, dividing voters into those who vote for Obama and those who don’t.
So why would they accuse pro-life Catholics of dividing voters? The only logical reason is that they assume Catholic voters should think as they do. Obama’s Catholics see their camp as the true home for Catholic voters, and any Catholic who votes Republican is like the prodigal son who has strayed into a foreign land.
► Republicans have done nothing to lower the number of abortions. The letter goes on to ask, “But what have nearly three decades of Republican promises to end abortion accomplished?” Last January the Guttmacher Institute reported that between 2000 and 2005 the number of abortions dropped 9 percent to their lowest level since 1975.
The downward trend in U.S. abortions has provided fodder for the fundraising letters of NARAL and Emily’s List. Meanwhile, Obama’s Catholics pretend Republicans have had nothing to do with this trend.
► Obama’s overall strengths outweigh his support for abortion and infanticide. The letter lists issues from the U.S. bishops’ conference document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” These issues include health care, unjust war, racism, discrimination, torture, hunger, and immigration. The letter from Obama’s Catholics states, “Across these issues, Sen. Obama offers much to the well-formed Catholic conscience.” This line contains the essence of what has come to be known as cafeteria Catholicism.
It’s as if the Obama Catholics are hoping to serve large enough helpings of health care, immigration, and opposition to the Iraq War to fill the stomachs of Catholic voters so they won’t notice that Senator Obama supports the “intrinsic evils” of infanticide and abortion.
► Obama’s policies on health care, poverty, and sex education will reduce abortion. “Senator Obama has reached out to Americans on both sides of this issue and embraces practical proposals designed to reduce the number of abortions in this country.” I wonder how many pro-lifers feel that Obama has reached out to them. Aside from that, why didn’t the Obama Catholics make any note of Obama’s 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood, promising that the first thing he would do as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act?
How can Obama’s Catholics expect us to take their arguments seriously when their candidate goes out of his way to make a promise like that? They say that Obama “recognizes abortion represents a profound moral challenge,” but the only challenge he appears to recognize is doing away with any federal or state restrictions on a woman’s “freedom of choice.”
What’s going on here is obvious: Obama’s policy agenda was set without any concern for lowering the number of abortions. His priorities were made clear when he spoke to NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
► Moral equivalence exists between Republicans and Democrats on Catholic social teaching. Of all the arguments posed by Obama’s Catholics, this is the most insidious. They write,
Like many other Americans, we have watched as many candidates brought to office on a so-called pro-life platform insisted on policies that have left the lives of millions more of our brothers and sisters at risk from war, uncontrolled pollution, deeper poverty, and growing economic equality.
There are two claims embedded in this rhetoric: First, Republican pro-life candidates are not truly pro-life across the board. Somehow, a member of Congress who, for example, promised to sign pro-life legislation – and did – is not really pro-life if he supported the Iraq War. We will be hearing much more of this in the months ahead.
In an attempt to create the impression of moral equivalence between the parties, a second claim is made that a huge imbalance exists between the single concern of a pro-life Republican and the multitude of concerns of a pro-abortion Democrat. Obama’s Catholics talk as if a Republican never had a thought about healthcare, immigration, poverty, taxation, and so on.
There will be a moment in the 2008 campaign when Senator Obama will be asked about infanticide in front of a national television audience, but there is no answer he can give that will satisfy Catholic voters with a well-formed conscience. Obama’s Catholics will not be able to respond either, because there is no answer – and they know it.