What's it all about, Democrats?

AlfieAs state by heartland state turned red on the night of 11/2, a few brave Democratic strategists began hinting that something would have to be done to move their party closer to the center of American life and, in particular, to lessen its hostility to traditional religious believers who once were part of the FDR-Truman coalition.

Ever since, GetReligion has been watching for signs of compromise on the lifestyle left, especially on the big issues — abortion and the redefinition of marriage. Clearly the debates have begun behind the scenes and they are seeping into public view. Richard Cohen’s op-ed this week in the Washington Post — "Democrats, Abortion and ‘Alfie’ " — is one sign of this, but there are others.

We’ll get to his take on the "Alfie" movies in a minute. His key political statement is that the Democratic Party simply has to make room for people who — for intellectual, moral, scientific and even theological reasons — are convinced that abortion is a complex life-and-death issue that is hard to reduce to a bullet-proof slogan. He writes:

Yet the party insists otherwise. It entertains no doubts and counters reasonable questions and qualms with slogans — a woman’s right to choose, for instance. The party is downright inhospitable to abortion opponents. Therefore, it was good Sunday to hear Howard Dean — both a physician and pro-choice — say on "Meet the Press" that "I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats."

Dean may make a run for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and so what he says could matter. As it is now, being pro-choice is a litmus test for all Democrats, especially their presidential candidates. It is almost inconceivable that a Democratic candidate could voice qualms about abortion. It’s almost inconceivable, though, that the candidates don’t have them.

In this entertainment-drenched culture, Cohen has structured his column as a clash between the classic ’60s movie "Alfie" and the current remake. The former, he notes, included a strong reference to abortion. The latter does not. He sees this as a sign — with a nod to those values voters — that times have changed and that abortion opponents have changed some minds.

What he seems to have missed is that the abortion in the older film is treated as a soul-searing tragedy, not as a triumph for individualism. The new film veers around a possible abortion, yet strongly hints that life would have been better if a problem pregnancy had been ended. (Tip of the hat to views expressed in a personal email from Frederica Mathewes-Green of Beliefnet.)

So Cohen may have the movies backward, but that does not negate his political point. (By the way, the Weekly Standard has a fine essay that notes that Bill Naughton’s 1966 novel "Alfie" was even more complex and — gasp — rooted in a Catholic worldview.) You could make a case that the new "Alfie" tried to soft-sell its moral worldview, rather than face up to it. This may not have worked with blue consumers or with all of those alleged red-culture consumers.

Meanwhile, back to the main point. Apparently, Howard Dean is not the only Democrat who is thinking it may make sense to let a few more pro-life congress-persons in the side door of the once big tent. According to Newsweek, Sen. John Kerry has asked the same question. Here’s the lead from Debra Rosenberg’s report:

The week after Thanksgiving, dozens of Democratic Party loyalists gathered at AFL-CIO headquarters for a closed-door confab on the election. John Kerry dropped by to thank members of the liberal 527 coalition America Votes. When Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice political network EMILY’s List, asked about the future direction of the party, Kerry tackled one of the Democrats’ core tenets: abortion rights. He told the group they needed new ways to make people understand they didn’t like abortion. Democrats also needed to welcome more pro-life candidates into the party, he said. "There was a gasp in the room," says Nancy Keenan, the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The freak out will not end soon. However, there was an interesting news peg in the body of the story. It seems that a small group of red-zone Democrats — Newsweek names Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh — have joined a "a new progressive advocacy group" called Third Way that wants to discuss compromises on the hot cultural issues.

How will we know that this is serious? Reporters can start by watching for signs of a Democrats For Life link on mainstream party websites — ending the existing ban. We can also listen for louder screams in party publications such as the New York Times.

UPDATE: Friend of the blog Peggy Noonan has suggested another possible battle front in this war of the symbols in the Democratic Party. Want to send a signal to pew-gap Americans? Why not come out in favor of Christmas?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Richard

    I just read Peggy Noonan’s piece in the WSJ and she makes a lot of sense. Is anyone in the leadership of the Democratic Party listening?

  • http://www.njjewishnews.com Silow-Carroll

    My question for Noonan: Just where is this “war” being waged, and by whom? The Alliance Defense Fund, a sort of Christian ACLU, has launched a “Christmas Project” in order to “provide legal support in expected disputes over Christmas celebrations”; it says that “600 school districts nationwide have already been contacted to clarify the role of schools in laws concerning religious expression.” But it doesn’t say how many schools are actually banning Christmas, or whether there have been more challenges in recent years. (Pundits are going to keep bringing up the Maplewood-South Orange (www.njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/120904/njmaplewood.html), but what else?.

    Absent any stats on challenges to Christmas displays or celebrations, this is classic straw-man politics: Create a phony enemy, and then demand that your rival stand up to him.

    One other question for Noonan: What in the world is “the fact of transcendent faith”? Did she mean “the fact that many people have transcendent faith,” or “that in which people have transcendent faith is a fact”?

  • Brad

    Hello everyone!

    I am an evangelical Christian, along the lines of the Sojourner’s group, in that I think abortion and gay marriage are important moral issues, but I voted Democrat anyway, on the strength of my concerns over war, poverty, homelessness, lack of access to healthcare, etc. Basically, I’m an old-style populist Democrat, not the type that seems to be nominated now.

    I have a request that ties into this post.

    I currently live in Minnesota but am planning to move to Ohio when I get the chance. I read an article soon after the election that quoted the head of the Ohio AFL-CIO talking about wanting to make a concerted effort to reach religious voters and not knowing where to start. I sent him an e-mail, telling him I thought I could help, and he’s been very responsive since then.

    My question is, what are your thoughts? I’d like to hear from anyone, but especially those that are sympathetic to Democratic causes but can’t get over the hump due to abortion, gay marriage, concerns about secularism, etc.

    I think, while some of the issue is the issues, some of it is also a lack of understanding between the 2 groups.

    Let me know your thoughts either on this or by e-mail, I’m at bmrobert64@yahoo.com.



  • JoJo

    What, nothing whatsoever about whether the GOP should likewise open its tent to Pro-Choicers? No criticism of politicians who cynically use abortion as a red-meat campaign issue but otherwise show little interest in meaningful legislation?

    The complex issue of abortion is not well addressed by simple and superficial absolutists on either side of the debate. It’s certainly a mistake to omit one set of folks from mention. The recent grilling of Senator Arlen Specter by GOP hardliners is indicative of how close-minded that party is.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    You are joking, right? Yes, there is a loud anti-abortion wing in the GOP. But anyone who turned on a television during the GOP convention knows that its old, country-club, mainline guard is solidly pro-abortion rights. There were, what, two POSSIBLY pro-life speakers in prime time (and that’s counting Bush, and he has not been tested yet).

    No, the GOP is the yin-yang party on the issue. The Democrats have had an absolute truth that they absolutely defended. The issue is whether Democrats get more complex.

  • Chris Jones


    I’m with Terry: you’ve got to be kidding.

    Last time I checked, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Mitt Romney, Arlen Specter, Chris Shays, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, Christy Todd Whitman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger had not been expelled from the Republican Party for being pro-choice. It’s true that their view is a minority within the GOP, and that the party as a whole is officially pro-life; but the fact that these politicians dissent from that position does not mean that they are not Republicans in good standing. That’s what the “big tent” means.

    What Democratic politicians of national stature are pro-life? And how many Democrats (like Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Dennis Kucinich) had to switch from pro-life to pro-choice as the price for moving from regional to national prominence?

    Finally, the grief that conservatives gave Arlen Specter was not simply because he is pro-choice, but because he threatened to use his position to impose his pro-choice views on the judicial nomination process. Moving the federal judiciary away from judicial activism and bringing the determination of policy back to the political branches where it belongs is a major strategic objective of the conservative movement and of the Republican party. Whatever you may think, “strict construction” is not just a code word for overturning Roe v. Wade. It’s an objective that goes way beyond the abortion issue. If the Republicans succeed in appointing judges who interpret the law rather than make the law, they will have achieved this strategic objective, even if (because of stare decisis) Roe v. Wade is never overturned.

    It’s because of the threat he posed to that strategic objective that conservatives opposed Specter’s accession to the Judiciary chairmanship, not because he’s not welcome in the Republican party because of being pro-choice.

  • http://turtleislander.blogspot.com/ Turtle

    I’m sure you mean “soul-searing”.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    Bingo. Typo. Fixed it. Thank you!

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Left on. Recently a columnist in the New York Press about his convention experiences at the Republican Pro-Choice Majority party noted how afterwards he “flashed” a “protester” with his RPCM badge, and told her that “the Republican party is allowing more diversity than the Democrats these days.” Ask Governor Casey.

  • JoJo

    No, no joking, tmatt. But thanks for the sarcasm anyway.

    Would you agree that there’s a difference between campaign talk and political action? You’re talking about the former, while I refer to the latter. Yes, the Rove team did trot out a few Pro-Choice speakers at convention time to “prove” itself to moderate America. But with the election over, these few got shuffled back into the closet. Frankly, it’s silly to imply that some campaign talk means much of anything when the action is different.

    Because of his Pro-Choice beliefs, Senator Spector’s bid for chair of the Judiciary Committee was nearly torpedoed by the radical right, even though he had demonstrated time and again that he would support the Bush Administration. (Chris, your intepretation of Spector’s warning as a threat “to use his position to impose his pro-choice views on the judicial nomination process” is just plain wrong and is not supported by Spector’s statements or his record.)

    Contrast Spector’s experience with that of Senator Reid of Nevada, Pro-Life Mormon, who was selected by the Democrats as the new minority leader. And you even mention some prominent Democrats who are not just Pro-Life in their personal positions but who are pressing a Pro-Life agenda. On the other hand, the national Republicans that you mention are either outside of sphere of party influence or out of the administration altogether. Now then, who has the litmus test?

    But let’s get back to the real issue. As I said:

    “The complex issue of abortion is not well addressed by simple and superficial absolutists on either side of the debate. It’s certainly a mistake to omit one set of folks from mention.”

    I hope that you can agree with the first statement. And the facts indicate that your original essay suffers from the flaw mentioned in the second.

    No argument about whether the Democratic Party in recent years has been too dogmatically one-sided on the abortion issue. It has. But you really should recognize that the Republican Party has a quite similar problem with political correctness. Such practices serve the nation poorly because we NEED some sober, mature, honest discussion. As Christians, we shouldn’t fear the truth.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    I will stick to my point — speaking as a pro-life Democrat. The GOP has all kinds of people in power who hold all kinds of positions on abortion. The Democrats do have a few embattled people who have attempted some kind of middle post on abortion and they are now striving for more tolerance in the party.

    The first real test on this issue for the Bush camp is coming, with open Supreme Court seats. This will test people in both parties — big time.

    Here is a question that I often ask Republicans, and it is relevant to your main concern.

    Can you name any American politican who SPENT POLITICAL CAPITAL post Roe v. Wade in order to prevent abortions? In other words, a elected official who hurt his or her career — rather than helped it — in order to lessen the number of abortions?

    An nominations? I can only think of one at the national level.

  • Chris Jones


    I disagree with you that the upcoming open seats on the Supreme Court constitute a “big test” for the Bush administration on the abortion issue. It is not (or should not be) the role of the Supreme Court to decide policy on abortion *one way or the other*. (And that goes for any other policy issue.)

    If the Court were to overturn Roe, that would not make abortion illegal. It would empower the states to make it illegal if they so choose. Therefore, the real test of a putatively pro-life politician comes after a reversal of Roe, not before. The question is, if we were free to restrict or outlaw abortion in a post-Roe America, how hard would “pro-life” politicians work in the state legislatures to protect unborn life?

    As long as Roe stands, “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are safe, base-pleasing positions for conservative and liberal politicians alike. You can claim to be pro-life, and no one can ever call you to account on it, because Roe prevents you from actually doing anything about it. Because Roe is such piss-poor constitutional law, I believe that eventually it will be reversed; but I don’t think it will have much practical effect. When Roe falls, the pro-life movement as a practical political movement will fade away, because “pro-life” will no longer be a safe and theoretical position. “Pro-life” politicians will have to deliver. And soon enough, they will find ways to weasel out of any serious pro-life commitment.

    Being pro-life myself, I wish it weren’t so. But I believe that it is so.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Chris Jones:

    ON THIS PLANET, the press and all of the people living inside the Beltway will see an open Supreme Court seat — especially one currently held by a pro-Roe vote — as a story rooted in abortion politics.

    Something makes me think Judge Bork would agree with me on this one. Justice Thomas, too.

  • forestwalker

    The only one I can think of is Bill Clinton. Given who he was, though, the damage was minimal.

    JoJo, tmatt:

    You’re both right, and wrong.

    tmatt, you’re right that the GOP leadership couldn’t care less about overturning Roe v Wade or even about decreasing the number of abortions performed in this country. It’s just a wedge issue the libertarians running the party use to distract us from the jihad they’re waging against the New Deal.

    JoJo, you’re right in calling tmatt on his painting the Democratic leadership in his original post as the only ones to blame and the only ones who need to change in the polarized, winner-take-all debate abortion has become.

    tmatt, you’re very wrong in implying that the GOP’s openness to multiple views on abortion puts them on the moral high ground. It just makes clearer how cynically and dishonestly they use the issue to manipulate us.

    JoJo, you’re also very wrong to think that what recently happened with Specter shows a litmus test in operation among the GOP leadership. It was all a dog-and-pony show. The only folks administering a litmus test are us. They really couldn’t care less.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    “JoJo, you’re right in calling tmatt on his painting the Democratic leadership in his original post as the only ones to blame and the only ones who need to change in the polarized, winner-take-all debate abortion has become.”

    No, that’s just where the news story is at the moment.

    The minute an actual bill OF ANY KIND hits the floor of Congress then all heck will break out on the right as well. I know that. But, let’s face it, so far it has been the right bringing in the bills that are compromises on a pure pro-life position. The left calls this the slippery slope approach. That is also called compromise.

    “tmatt, you’re very wrong in implying that the GOP’s openness to multiple views on abortion puts them on the moral high ground. It just makes clearer how cynically and dishonestly they use the issue to manipulate us.”

    Yo, Forest-man! Moral high ground? You think that it’s a compliment for me to refer to a party’s stance as a “yin-yang position”?

    There are sincere pro-lifers — even CONSISTENT pro-lifers — in the GOP. Yes, there are. There are also total cynics in there who are using the issue in precisely the way you describe.

    You could make a case that the Democrats opening a crack in the door for pro-lifers is a cynical act, in the sense that people can make compromises for a wide variety of reasons.

  • JoJo

    By “prevent abortions” or “lessen the number of abortions” do you mean “restrict abortion rights and availability”? I don’t think they’re the same. One can make a good argument that the most effective policy to reduce abortion is to attack the major cause– unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. Certainly there are many who advocate better sex education, more availability of birth control, and reduced poverty. Which politician were you thinking of?

    I’m curious about Terry’s reason for the original essay on this theologically oriented blog, because it appears to be much more concerned with politics than religion. Furthermore there seems to be the assumption that one can equate “religious” to Pro-Life while Pro-Choice must be them non-religious types. (Speaking as a Pro-Choice Republican Christian, I would want you to justify that assertion.)

    The manifesto for GetReligion speaks of finding the holy ghosts in contemporary news reports. What ghosts do you find here? May I suggest the following:

    - The theological dimensions of legal restrictions on reproductive rights

    - The tension between prophetic witness of our faith on one hand versus tolerance and respect for diverse views on the other

    - Our call for truth and integrity (regarding the use of abortion rights as a campaign issue by both sides)

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    JoJo writes:

    By “prevent abortions” or “lessen the number of abortions” do you mean “restrict abortion rights and availability”? I don’t think they’re the same. One can make a good argument that the most effective policy to reduce abortion is to attack the major cause — unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.

    tmatt writes back:

    Consistent pro-lifers tend to be interested in both-and. In the political arena, the fireworks surround any attempt to restrict availability in any way whatsoever, meaning any limitation of abortion on demand.

    I am well aware that there are religious and secular people on both sides of the abortion debates and both sides deserve fair and accurate coverage.

    Anyone who studies the data on religion/media bias from the post-Roe decades will quickly discover that abortion coverage is a flash point. That’s simply the reality of the situation.

  • Chris Jones


    Of course the press et al will see it as “rooted in abortion politics”. But seeing it that way doesn’t make it so.

    For those who see it that way, if Bush nominates anyone but a committed pro-lifer, he will be “seen as” wimping out on a major policy matter. But again, seeing it that way does not make it so.

    So far as I know, Bush has never promised to nominate judges who will promise to overturn Roe. What he has said is that he will appoint judges (like Scalia and Thomas) who will apply the law, not make the law. If he does that, even if the judges aren’t visibly “pro-life”, then he’s no wimp.

  • Harris

    Looking for signs of the emerging Democratic debate? Check Amy Sullivan’s post at Washington Monthly (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_12/005330.php. Atrios at Eschaton also reacts to it, but his crowd is more knee-jerky lefty.

    There’s a whole lot of thinking going on this. The big issue is whether being pro-life commits one to the proscription of abortion (e.g. overturning Roe v. Wade) or whether it can be understood as decreasing the incidence of abortion.

    While a significant portion (est 15% on each side) represents the absolutists of Always and Never, most in the US favor abortion in some measure of restricted access: a mushy middle. This data suggests that pro-life is better understood in the latter sense of the above graf.

  • Molly

    What about the issue of abortion as birth control? I have asked before and will ask again, if the left can (as is being demanded of them) let go of the absolute of abortion on demand, can the right let go of prohibitions against birth control? The right cannot have it both ways; no birth control and no abortion equals unplanned pregnancies and the dilemma presented in the original movie.

  • wooderson

    Molly writes:

    What about the issue of abortion as birth control? I have asked before and will ask again, if the left can (as is being demanded of them) let go of the absolute of abortion on demand, can the right let go of prohibitions against birth control? The right cannot have it both ways; no birth control and no abortion equals unplanned pregnancies and the dilemma presented in the original movie.

    Molly, can you provide examples of where the right intends to prohibit birth control? I’ve been on the right for some time, and I don’t recall anything to this effect. Indeed, those dastardly right wing evangelicals published a ringing defense of contraception in their pre-eminent organ, “Christianity Today”, about five years ago.

    But wait, there’s more! The pro-life movement argues that abortion should be prohibited because abortion represents an objective wrong: innocent human beings are being killed. Period. Full stop. I would recommend to you Frances Kissling’s recent opus, in which she appears to be revisiting the “goodness” of abortion – moving to the middle, apparently, for entirely pragmatic reasons – while continuing to skirt the issue of what actually happens during an abortion: a baby is killed. Period. Full stop. The story was originally here (linked from the National Review “Corner” blog): http://www.lifeissues.org/breakingnewsfulltext.htm, but I don’t see it now (if you can find the statement pay attention especially to the comments about the Japanese practices and see if you can spot the “yes, they die, but it’s a *good* death” irony).

    Tmatt, perhaps it’s time to re-display that picture of an irrelevant glob of tissue/a baby sucking it’s thumb to remind everyone what’s a stake here. Or, if you can find one, perhaps a picture of a reproductive right sucking it’s thumb. That would be really cute!

    JoJo continues an attempt to parse the issue within an inch of its life. He suggests, as newsworthy:

    - The theological dimensions of legal restrictions on reproductive rights

    JoJo, I agree that this is an important issue, though I would phrase the question this way: what are the theological dimensions of legal restrictions on killing unborn children. Now that – that! – would be an interesting article.

    - The tension between prophetic witness of our faith on one hand versus tolerance and respect for diverse views on the other

    JoJo, if you think this gets short shrift in our public discourse I suggest you run through the, oh, St. Blogs blogrolls. Maybe read some Neuhaus and Hauerwaus for good measure, and take a look at the coverage regarding the Pledge of Allegiance rulings in the Supreme Court. Or, alternatively, type “sodomy” and “santorum” into Google and see what you get – or, um, maybe that’s not such a good idea.

    - Our call for truth and integrity (regarding the use of abortion rights as a campaign issue by both sides)

    On our local campus pro-life activists attempted to display images of a (legal) late-term abortion. They were both banned from any further protests and sued for their troubles. All they were doing was showing people *what actually occurred.* Is this the “truth and integrity” to which you’re referring? Can we discuss “abortion” or “reproductive rights” with “truth and integrity” without addressing what actually occurs?

  • JoJo


    Surely you’re aware that some common forms of birth control are considered abortion by hardliners. Most forms of oral contraception, I believe, as well as IUDs. Anything that happens after fertilization but prior to implantation. That creates an unusual situation since the woman is never actually pregnant.

    Re: “…the theological dimensions of legal restrictions on killing unborn children…” No thanks, that’s far too narrow a focus. Any concern for sanctity of human life should begin well before conception and continue long after birth, even beyond physical death. It never seemed right to me that so many people can use the label “Pro-Life” when they really mean “anti-abortion rights”. There’s so much more to life than nine months in the womb…

    I don’t know where you’re going with the business about court rulings on the Pledge of Allegiance. Like the school prayer cases, you’ll often find that the plaintiffs are people of faith who merely want freedom from government imposition of the religious practices of the majority. (West Virginia vs. Barnette [1943], Santa Fe ISD vs. Doe [2000]) Perhaps you agree that toleration of a minority faith is a good thing? Great!

    My comment about truth and integrity came from my observation of those who abuse this serious issue for political gain. Any reasonable person will see this happening on both sides of the debate. But you’re right in that we need to discuss it openly and honestly. Again, extremists on BOTH sides often fail this test. So much terminology is purposefully chosen for emotional impact rather than truthful meaning. Regarding the censorship of fetus photos, one suspects that there’s a lot more to the story than what you report.

  • Wooderson


    “Hardliners” object to abortion. Whether the life aborted is killed by chemicals or is killed by incisors matters not to the fundamental issue, which is: are you killing an innocent human being? Calling those who oppose abortion “hardliners” is not evidence that they seek to prohibit birth control (see Molly’s original post). I’ll ignore the labelling and wait patiently for the evidence that “the right” seeks to prohibit birth control. That is, when abortion is not used as birth control – which, of course, never happens.

    That “there’s so much more to life than nine months in the womb…” is, well, the point. But I think those nine months are pretty important to the whole enterprise, no? Read Frances Kissling’s article – if you can find it, I’ve tried – and then tell me that this isn’t a question of choosing life over death (even the dignified, elegant death that Kisseling so admires). Remember: that “right” you laud is the “right” to kill an innocent child. This is something to cheer?

    As for the pledge of allegiance, etc., your original challenge to this blog was to “find the ghosts” in contemporary news reports, one of which you identified as “the tension between prophetic witness of our faith on one hand versus tolerance and respect for diverse views on the other.” My point – missed entirely – was that this “tension” is the most oft-sighted ghost since Casper: it has been a dominant theme both on this blog and across the American religious blogosphere for some time now. This ghost has made regular appearances in election campaigns, news and editorial analysis, within the academy and, as noted, the third branch of government. It remains unresolved to your satisfaction, apparently – it’s still in “tension” – but it is manifestly not a ghost.

    “So much terminology is purposefully chosen for emotional impact rather than truthful meaning.” You mean, like “extremists” and “hardliners”? Does my belief that abortion kills a human being make me either of those? Again I ask: is it possible to have a discussion about abortion without actually stating what is occurring? Shall we talk about, oh, the Iraq war say, in the abstract without discussing what is actually occurring there? When that glob of tissue called a fetus/unborn baby is removed, shall we shy away from the “emotional impact” of what actually occurred there? Is that possible? Conversely, if a woman is denied her “right” to abort her glob of tissues called a fetus/unborn child, shall we shy away from the “emotional impact” of that decison?

    Surely, if we are take women’s rights seriously, they should clearly understand what is occurring when they abort, no?

  • Molly

    Here you go! And this is just Catholicism! All the following came from the first page of a google for Catholic/birth control. Pretty easy, really.

    Now, how about it? If the left is being demanded to relenquish an ideal of abortion on demand, can the right let go of the ideal of no artificial birth control?

    “In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Latin, “Human Life”), which reemphasized the Church’s constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.” ~www.Catholic.com/library/Birth_Control.asp

    “The response of the laity (in the Western world, at least) has been mixed. The Natural Family Planning movement is stronger than ever, with salaried teachers in many dioceses. Nevertheless, over 80% of Catholic couples within the child-bearing years use some form of artificial contraception at some time to regulate the births of their children. These couples are often regular church-goers who do not seem especially concerned about living in mortal sin. What is interesting is that even though they have turned a deaf ear to the Church’s teachings on birth control, a majority of these same people love Pope John Paul II and value his leadership (Associated Press Poll, 6/5/96). This split between Catholics’ love of the Pope and their blatant disregard for his teachings on human sexuality is one of the most significant (and baffling) signs of the times within the Church.” ~www.members.aol.com/revising/front.html

    “While women have considered the Pill an essential part of their “liberation,” perhaps natural methods would really be to their advantage. First of all, we must admit that men tend to “wander” while women generally prefer stable relationships. Certainly natural methods promote stability. We men are notoriously irresponsible as far as caring for children, as Lionel Tiger points out in the essay mentioned at the beginning. Natural methods require commitment and responsibility. In general it appears that while women will somewhat readily accept an older man, the opposite is true among men. When she becomes a little fat, wrinkled, and irritable, he often gets an “itch” for a younger woman. But those who have practiced natural methods more easily appreciate where true beauty comes from.

    Natural methods clearly strengthen marriages and families. While the divorce rate among users of the Pill and other forms of anti-conception is high, among users of NFP it is virtually zero. The inherent communication and discipline are a part of the explanation. However, there is something more profound. I saw this in my experience in Peru.” ~www.geocities.com/Heartland/2964/birthcontrol.html

    “Birth control is the practice of preventing or reducing the probability of pregnancy without abstaining from sexual intercourse; the term is also sometimes used to include abortion, the ending of an unwanted pregnancy, or abstinence. The term family planning is sometimes used as well, especially for thoughtful and premeditated selection of a birth control technique or set of techniques. Employing techniques to avoid pregnancy resulting from intercourse is called contraception (literally, against conception).

    Birth control is a controversial political and ethical issue in many countries and religions. Opponents promote abstinence from sexual intercourse as an alternative, but supporters consider this an inadequate replacement for the full array of birth control techniques.”


    “The Catholic Church is against unnatural means of birth control. A married couple needs to be open to having children. Artificial birth control takes God out of the factor. The birth control pill can cause women to abort without even knowing it. Sex is a beautiful act, and when artificial birth control is used, sex is cheapened.” ~catholicism.about.com/cs/nfp/a/nfp91002.htm

    for the sake of space:



    “Morality is also intrinsically connected with politics. Some people believe, wrongly, that politics and religion do not go together. How deceived they are! As Catholics, we have the obligation to be politically active and let our convictions be manifest in the political decisions we make (obviously, this concerns most especially people who have been elected to public office, but also us voters). Real Catholics cannot be political liberals, for instance, nor can they ever, under the pain of mortal sin, vote for a pro-abortion candidate, if there is a pro-Life candidate to choose from.

    As things are today, there are many deceptive evils in the world. Not all evil is easily apparent. For instance, the Girl Scouts, the United Nations, UNICEF, the March of Dimes, and Disney–these are all inconspicuous organizations that work iniquity in one way or another.”


  • JoJo

    We’ve strayed from Terry’s original post, and I’d like to return there. Terry reported that the Democratic Party is moving away from an absolutist pro-abortion rights platform, making room for party members who are rather vocal about their Pro-Life beliefs.

    I think we can all agree with those facts. Furthermore we can probably agree that the trend is welcome and long overdue. But WHY is this good?

    From a classical conservative viewpoint, it’s good because the Democrats are seeing the error of their ways and they are moving (however slightly) back to traditional values.

    But one can also argue that this is good from a liberal position, where different ideas are tolerated and openly debated.

    It’s funny how these two rationales are so different. The first is exchanging one dogmatic position for a new one. But the other is to to reject dogmatism altogether.

    Terry’s essay was rightfully critical of the Democratic Party because its unbudging stand on abortion rights is faulty either way. But omitting any criticism of the Republican Party is, well, just wrong. The RNC has pretty firm positions on the subject of abortion and reproductive rights. The proposed ban on the so-called partial birth abortion, with no provisions for the woman’s health, seems designed to be struck down by court action. That makes it highly valuable as a campaign issue but irrelevant for saving lives. And as for birth control, I think the only approved method is abstinence, regardless of the effectiveness. Why shouldn’t we talk about the Republican Party at the same time? To criticize the Democrats while studiously avoiding any controvery on the other side of the aisle is both misleading and unfair.