When abortion falls

Some things are clear. The number of abortions is related to the law, but it is also related to underlying socio-economic conditions – poverty,  economic opportunity, social cohesion, the adequacy of healthcare. While abortion rates in the United States have been trending downwards since the 1970s, the steepest rate of decrease took place during the Clinton administration.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that legal restrictions on abortion will also reduce abortion rates.

With this in mind, I thought I would share the results of two interesting new studies.

The first shows that abortion rates in Massachusetts dropped by 17 percent after the introduction of Romney’s healthcare reform. Given that the Affordable Care Act is almost identical to the Romney plan, and has some explicit pro-life measures and protections that the Romney plan did not have, we might expect the same outcome at the national level in the years ahead.

The second study tries to estimate the impact on abortion rates from overturning Roe v. Wade. It finds that the most likely outcome is that 31 states ban abortion, and that the overall abortion rate falls by 15 percent. If only 17 states banned abortion, the rate would only fall by 6 percent. In the most optimistic scenario – all but four states banned abortion – the rate would still only fall by 29 percent. That’s basically the best we can hope for.

So if you focus solely on the simple reduction in abortion rates, it might well be the case that eliminating the healthcare scandal could have a bigger impact than overturning Roe v. Wade. And that’s before we even consider the other policies that would reduce poverty and socio-economic discrepancies.

I think the Declaration on Procured Abortion says it best:

“One can never approve of abortion; but it is above all necessary to combat its causes. This includes political action, which will be in particular the task of the law. But it is necessary at the same time to influence morality and to do everything possible to help families, mothers and children.”

For Catholics, this again points to the “both/and” nature of our public witness. Yes, we must seek to protect all life, including unborn life, through the force of law. The teaching on that is quite clear. But we are also called upon to build the kind of just society that does not push women and families into considering these awful choices. So by all means, fight for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. But do not put all of your eggs in one basket. And in particular, do not fight for the kinds of policies that would increase abortion – policies such as repealing the Affordable Care Act or the Ryan plan of gutting Medicaid (causing about 30 million people to lose coverage) and basic social safety nets.

At the end of the day, being “pro-life” should actually mean something. Clearly, you cannot really call yourself pro-life if you defend a legal “right” to abortion, no matter how good your policies are in other areas. But likewise, you cannot call yourself “pro-life” if your focus begins and ends with Roe v. Wade, and you actually support policies that make poverty or the health care crisis worse.

  • Kurt

    MM, this is one of the most sincere, thoughtful, unassailable reflections I’ve seen. Let me spoil it by making a snide comment.

    Clearly, you cannot really call yourself pro-life if you defend a legal “right” to abortion, no matter how good your policies are in other areas.

    Maybe you can’t but others can. The Right-to-Life Movement is calling Senator Scott Brown “the pro-life candidate” even though he strongly defends the legal right to abortion. They have endorsed him because he opposes campaign finance reform and health care for all.

  • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg


    And in particular, do not fight for the kinds of policies that would increase abortion – … or the Ryan plan of gutting Medicare (causing about 30 million people to lose coverage)

    One might question how gutting a program that benefits senior citizens would increase abortion.

    Likely a simple mistake, but illustrative of why common ground isn’t achieved. I get the sense that you would favor most of these policies regardless, and are using the abortion issue to shame right-leaning Republican opponents to support them too, or soothing your conscience that they’re no more pro-life than you are.

    I don’t get the sense that you are starting from an honest consideration of the best way to confront the evil of abortion, and reaching the conclusion of these policies, but rather starting with these policies for other (likely very good!) reasons, and then bolting on a pro-life justification for them after the fact.

    I mean, let’s face it, if the MA health care law had brought about no change in the abortion rate, or even an increase, would it change your support for it?

    Working together is going to require honesty. People truly horrified by abortion will tend to respond my making it illegal, rather than working against secondary causes of it. The same has been true for historical injustices throughout history. Did people respond to the horror of slavery by trying to enact policies to help southern plantation owners so they wouldn’t be dependent on slave labor?

    Different things hit us in different ways, and I’m not prepared to say it’s “right” or “wrong” if one is more affected by poverty than by abortion. But let’s be honest about it, and not pretend that concern for the poor is really just another aspect of concern for the unborn, because it that is not consistent with my experience of folks paying lip service to the unborn and the moving on to other things.

    Maybe we just need to accept that different people will be called to work on different issue, and let them do that rather than tell them that my issue should be paramount.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova Morning’s Minion

      Sorry, I meant Medicaid – fixed in text.

    • Kurt

      People truly horrified by abortion will tend to respond my making it illegal, rather than working against secondary causes of it.

      You can make a case for that. Yet we have the leading pro-life organizations spending their time fighting campaign finance reform, DC Home Rule, contraception, national health care, and gay rights.

    • Julia Smucker

      Sometimes there is indeed hypocritical lip service, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend that concern for the poor and concern for the unborn are not related. For someone who thinks on a systemic level, what you see as “secondary causes” are really root causes, and legislation, while undoubtedly part of the problem, is closer to the surface of it. I would of course be glad if the overturning of Roe v. Wade actually happened, but that by itself would not solve the whole problem by a long shot. We need to also work beyond that toward prevention and alternatives. There is no good reason for legislation and prevention to be an either/or.

    • Paul DuBois

      Indeed the fight against slavery, racism, pollution, segregation, poverty and many social ills did start with the appeal to those guilty of continuing them. In all cases the first attempts were to get people to willingly give up these evils without any law requiring them to. This should always be the first effort, many times it does not work and laws are required.

      Poverty and abortion are not just tied together statistically, they are also part of the seamless tapestry that is Catholic social teaching. One of the greatest difficulties for one issue point of views or for different people working of different issues is that the beauty of this seamless tapestry is absent. It is hard to convey the truth behind Catholic teaching on abortion or contraception with out also stating the truth on Catholic teaching on poverty and sexuality. To fully understand the teaching on gay marriage, one must also understand the teaching on marriage, love and non-discrimination. All of these issues are inter-related and inseparable.

      I may not have the fire or gift to be in the forefront on abortion, my gift may be on poverty or healthcare or on teaching scripture. But that does not mean that I can separate what I do from the rest, without the whole any part will be indefensible.

    • pierrecorneille

      Johnmeg:

      I’m hesitant to accuse Morning’s Minion of intellectual dishonesty, but I do see your point. As someone who considers himself pro-choice,* I find it tempting to use the “well, if they really were pro-life they would support the ACA” trope. But on second thought, I realize that’s not really a viable opinion, at least not by itself. I’m even forced to acknowledge that while poverty is one of the inducements for people to choose abortion, it’s not the only one.

      I do think one can say the possible (probable?) effect that ACA might have in reducing abortions might be one reason to support the ACA in addition to other reasons, or it might be one reason to support it despite opposing it for other reasons. I also think that a lot of politicians who identify as “pro-life” lack the political courage to put that vision into practice, say, by compromising with opponents to strengthen and broaden health care coverage.

      Still, I must admit that even if a lower abortion rate were not attendant with Romneycare (and absent further evidence, it’s hard to know what caused that rate to fall) and even if it plausibly would fall once Obamacare be fully implemented, I would still support both.

      *Like many pro-choicers, I am uncomfortable about abortion and find it morally problematic and therefore would like to see fewer rather than more. I realize that my position will seem morally bankrupt to many here, especially if one grants some of their premises about when personhood begins. I have a lot of respect for their position, but I simply don’t share it wholly.

      • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

        Thank you.

        To balance my thinking, I understand, and hopefully model that a true pro-life conviction ought to manifest itself in other ways beyond favoring restrictions on abortion. This includes advocacy on other life issues like war and capital punishment, as well as concern for the poor.

        I also understand that many politicians on the right have taken advantage of many people’s passion on the abortion issue to co-opt their support for other causes.

        I think we’re dealing with matters of the heart, rather than the head.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Good post MM !

    God Bless

  • http://gravatar.com/jsbuck SB

    I believe you know the difference between a study that could conceivably shed light on causality vs. what you actually cited — a blog post that puts up an Excel chart of two trendlines and that itself admits that no causality has been shown.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    The thing is, the right to life is absolutely non-negotiable and has priority over all others. As the Declaration you cite says, “The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental – the condition of all the others. Hence it must be protected above all others. It does not belong to society, nor does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this right for some and not for others: all discrimination is evil, whether it be founded on race, sex, color or religion. It is not recognition by another that constitutes this right. This right is antecedent to its recognition; it demands recognition and it is strictly unjust to refuse it.”

    I agree that fighting for the right to life is not incompatible with favoring policies which may reduce the actual number of abortions. But between the two, the former clearly has priority. When one party favors the former but not (for the sake of argument) the latter; and the other party favors the latter but not the former; I have to give the nod to the former as a matter of principle.

    I simply can’t vote for a candidate who is openly “pro-choice” when it comes to baby-killing, any more than I could vote for one who was openly pro-choice when it came to Jew-killing; even if the Jew-killer’s policies might coincidentally result in fewer Jew-killings.

    (Can you imagine such a thing? “I know Jew-killing is wrong. But outlawing Jew-killing can’t be our only consideration. We also have to back policies which result in fewer actual Jew-killings, even if those policies are backed by candidates who advocate killing Jews.”)

  • crystal

    Clearly, you cannot really call yourself pro-life if you defend a legal “right” to abortion, no matter how good your policies are in other areas.

    I think one can be pro-choice and pro-life too.

    A study showed that the rate of abortions was higher in countries where it was illegal ….. http://www.uscatholic.org/blog/2012/01/higher-rates-abortion-and-unsafe-abortion-developing-world-how-should-pro-life-movement

    Another srudy shows that abortion rates rise when funding for contraception is cut …. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21372-unsafe-abortions-rise-as-contraceptive-funding-is-cut.html

    • Thales

      [shrug] And it seems that state anti-abortion legislation, like waiting periods, parental involvement, and informed consent reduce abortion rates.
      http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF11C45.pdf

      I don’t think that there is any one magical solution to the problem. I agree with MM that the “both/and” approach is necessary (though what exactly this entails in particular is the really tough question).

    • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

      “Being pro-life” does not equal “desiring a lower abortion rate.”

  • John Henry

    Is this a joke? Sure, “we might expect the same outcome at the national level” if we didn’t really care about whether our expectations had anything to do with reality. But if we did, then basic intellectual honesty would require us to note that there is no reason to expect any such thing.

    In the first place, there’s no evidence that Romneycare was the primary causal mechanism in MA; some other states had similar declines during this period without Romneycare. Others had sharp increases. Could the same factors at work in other states, whatever they are, be at work in MA? What are those factors? Can we even identify them? How would we adjust MA to account for them? How would we possibly expect the same mix of factors to result in the same changes “at the national level” given the wide variability that is observed in individual states without changes in health legislation? Even the author of the linked post was honest enough to concede the causality problem here (after a lot of cheer-leading and a page-view friendly headline).

    If this post was written by an undergraduate with no background in, say, modeling or economics, it would be easy to write it off as an innocent mistake. But that’s not MM. And that’s the problem with this post; it’s dishonest. MM knows there’s no reason apart from wishful thinking to say “we might expect” to see a similar decline from the ACA. And yet here he is, assuring us that legal restrictions on abortion (and their associated moral, cultural, and legal disincentives) would have little effect, but that the ACA is an all-encompassing panacea. If you buy what he’s selling, make sure you get the free set of steak knives.

    • Mark VA

      Incisive critique, John Henry.

      If the author does know a thing or two about modeling and economics, then the poor reasoning about Obamacare has a whiff of propaganda. Even one of the cited sources is upfront about its own limitations:

      “Fung hastens to add, “it’s possible that the decline in the abortion rate had nothing to do with Romneycare”, noting that Massachusetts’ abortion rate has declined steadily since 1991. ”

      In my view, on Obamacare, the article is more like astrology than astronomy, or alchemy rather than chemistry. However, in MM’s defence, he’s not against against overturning Roe v. Wade:

      “So by all means, fight for the repeal of Roe v. Wade.”

      Yet, how Obamacare can be upheld while pushing for the repeal of Roe v. Wade is a complete mystery to me.

  • Peadar Ban

    The number now averages 3500 a day. 20 percent of that figure brings it down to 2800, a little more than 100 per hour 24/7/365. With all of its other problems (known now and to be discovered when someone somewhere finally reads the whole thing) you suggest that Obamacare (OK the ACA) will fix everything and make the world safe for babies by allowing poor women to have them? There will still be PP and its concentration on minorities. There will still be folks like the lady who had her twin girls removed because, well, she already had some. This isn’t a medical problem, nor an economic one. “This kind can only be cast out by prayer and fasting” I don’t hear any of that here.

    • Rodak

      “This kind can only be cast out by prayer and fasting”

      I’ll go with prayer and fasting. Pray, fast, and leave the laws alone. Every time the nation votes for a “pro-life” Republican for POTUS we get a new war. How “pro-life” is that?

      • Pinky

        Obama – Libya
        Bush II – Afghanistan and Iraq
        Clinton – Baltics
        Bush I – Panama and Kuwait
        Reagan – Grenada
        Carter and Ford – ok, I’ll give you those
        Nixon – Cambodia

        and that takes us back to Roe v. Wade. That’s only the new major military actions of each of them; they generally continued whatever they activities they inherited or ran them out to their anticipated conclusions. If you want to blame pro-life Republicans for war, I guess that’s doable, but a better explanation is that every president except during the post-Vietnam era has initiated a war. Considering that pattern holds for another maybe 50 years before Roe v. Wade, that seems like a better analysis. So “the pro-life Republican = war” meme really doesn’t have much payoff, does it?

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          @ Pinky — Do you really want to equate Libya and the Baltics — both of which truly were “operations,” rather than “wars” — with Gulf Wars I & ll? I will grant you that an inherited war is difficult to extricate the country from.

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          “So “the pro-life Republican = war” meme really doesn’t have much payoff, does it?”

          Except that it would be intuitive to think that during the “pro-life” administrations there would be LESS war. Even according to your inventory above, the MAJOR conflicts since Roe V. Wade have been initiated under
          “pro-life” GOP administrations. If a pro-abortion POTUS goes to war, where is the philosophical inconsistency?

        • Mark VA

          Baltics?

          Or the Balkans?

        • Pinky

          That seems like a weak meme as well, that the scale of a military conflict is determined by the president’s position on abortion. I don’t see Bosnia having become a larger or Kuwait having been a smaller mission based on the president at the time. It looks more like every president is willing to respond with force as he sees it to be necessary. And again, I’d go back to the fact that mulitple generations of presidents got involved in wars pre-Roe. There’s an old saying that politics ends at the water’s edge; it appears to apply in this case as well. Vote for a pro-lifer and get stricter abortion restrictions and war; vote for a pro-choicer and get looser abortion restrictions and war.

        • Pinky

          Rodak – It’s hard to comprehend because it doesn’t correspond to theory or reality.

          “Life issues”, as we commonly use the term, are grounded in the Church’s teachings about sexuality and the value of human life. They’re unrelated to the recognition of the state’s authority to kill in self-defense in certain circumstances. The Western and American Christian tradition/s have always recognized that war can be just, and have generally protected human life from fertilization to natural end. So the theory isn’t there for your assumption of a connection.

          Likewise, the evidence of experience isn’t there either. As we’ve discussed now, I don’t think that one’s pro-life record has anything to do with the degree of force used in the Iraq War or any of our other military efforts. I think the Ford and Carter presidencies reflected a post-Vietnam fatigue more than what you could call a consistent life ethic.

          So my question is, if the ex ante and the ex post don’t support your argument, on what basis are you making it?

      • Peadar Ban

        Huh?

        • http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/ Rodak

          @ Pinky — Nobody is saying that the scale of war corresponds to the position of the POTUS on abortion. What I’m saying is that a “pro-life” POTUS should be an “anti-war” POTUS and that has not been the case. Why is this so hard to comprehend?

        • Pinky

          Rodak – See above.

  • http://notaplicable Joan Cooney

    Did the statistics showing a decrease in abortions resulting from
    repeal of laws protecting abortion include any estimates or discussion of “underground” abortions or abortions obtained by people going to other countries where it is legal? I recall that during the years when
    when the constitutional amendment prohibiting “the manufacture, sale transportation … or importation of intoxicating liquors” (Amendment XVIII US Constitution) was in effect, there was an increase in the illegal production and sale of alcohol which had serious negative side effects on society.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      Am I alone here in being old enough to remember when abortion was illegal everywhere and always? If not, then neither am I alone in having known women and girls who got illegal abortions for the same kinds of reasons that women and girls now get legal ones. What needs to be eliminated are the motives driving the accidentally pregnant toward the solution of abortion.

      • dominic1955

        So, now folks do not have free will? Motives “driving” them towards the “solution” of abortion?

        • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

          There is not necessarily anything subconscious about a motive. Most motives are freely chosen. E.g., one motive for having an abortion would be so that your already born children would continue to have enough to eat and decent clothing–an economic, budget-based motive.

  • Pinky

    Wait a sec. This article’s argument is that overturning Roe v. Wade is (at minimum) going to be as effective as Obamacare in reducing abortions? That’s supposed to be an argument for supporting Obama? (I’m calling a spade a spade here. This article clearly is intended to support Obama. It’s coy about it, but this article wouldn’t be written now, about this subject, for any other reason.)

    There are other grounds to criticize this article. I think the opening statement about what’s “clear” makes some odd assumptions and ommissions. But the heart of the article is that we can choose between 17% and a gamble of between 6-29% with a likely 15% outcome, and that’s supposed to be a persuasive argument for the 17% solution.

    • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

      It’s the flip side of the “body count” error made several years ago.

      This is how it’s gone in the last few years.

      A: Catholics must oppose abortion!
      B: What about the death penalty? And war? And health care? Those are “life issues” too!
      A: But the scale of abortion is much higher!
      B: Well, if it’s the scale that’s the problem, then these set of policies will reduce the scale of abortion. We should be good then. In fact, your failure to get behind these policies shows how non pro-life you are!

      There was also the detour in 2004 around intrinsic evils, which has messed things up to this day.

      But yeah, the part that is most annoying is that MM seems to think that those horrified by abortion should simply choose from the menu of policies the one that will result in the lowest number of abortions, and not be concerned if one choice still leaves a class of people outside the protection of the law.

      The other part is that if reducing the number of abortions is all we cared about, we should probably stop all the policy-making on all sides and head out to disrupt some abortion clinics. I bet if everyone who claims to be pro-life went out tomorrow and blocked access to abortion clinics, we could cut it to zero.

      But we don’t do that, in part because it’s in conflict with our other principles.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova Morning’s Minion

        I’m calling you out on this, as the whole point of this post is to support a “both/ and” strategy. Come up with some legal restrictions – I will support them. It’s your friends on the right who actively oppose, and frequently sabotage, all attempts to improve the lot of the poor in society.

        • Pinky

          Is that the point of this post? If so, it’s a post that could have been made during the 2012 Elvis Impersonators Convention. The timing of this post suggests to me that the point of it is something different. If I’m wrong, I’m sorry, but there wasn’t much in the post to make me think otherwise.

          I’ve rarely met people who oppose attempts to help the poor. Many on the right may oppose the policies you recommend, but that’s different.

          One other point needs to be made, and I probably shouldn’t include this in a reply, but here goes. One of the other things that can affect the abortion rate is moral clarity on the subject. I’d bet that if those who oppose abortion spoke clearly and voted consistently, not only would the abortion rate drop as the different states made it illegal, but also due to the societal reinforcement that comes from public acknowledgement of the wrongness of abortion.

        • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

          Can you please point me to a post in the history of Vox Nova where you have unequivocally done so?

          If this effort fails, is it really the case that there have been no abortion restrictions proposed in the past ten years?

          Again, I’m trying to get to a better place here. I really don’t think that abortion hits you the same way it hits me (and I don’t think it hits me as much as it hits some other people).

          The assumption has been that this must be a moral failing on your part, but I’m not sure that’s true, or that seeing things that way is all that helpful. Perhaps you have a particular charism to work for the poor, others have one to work for the unborn.

          These things need not be in tension!!! You can advocate for the poor without calling pro-lifer hypocrites. I can advocate for the unborn without lecturing others. And we can help each other out when we can.

      • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

        …And in part because you don’t want to go to jail over it.

  • Paul DuBois

    I think what is being said here is that it is wrong to support abortion, it is wrong to be “pro-choice.” However, that should include more than the overturning of Roe v Wade and the passing of state laws banning abortion because that has been shown to not work (ie not be sufficient). We also need to attack the reason people get abortions. Many are financial and many of those financial reasons are associated with healthcare. The frustration is that within the pro-life community the only goal is to outlaw abortion, there is no effort to address the causes. In fact the current pro-life groups tend to fight implementing any social programs that may help reduce the number of abortions.

    The Christian is always called to love and offer assistance. This is not addressed by a stance that only says “no you can’t.” The Church has a very full and rich teaching, unfortunately we do not have a political party that addresses this teaching fully (or very much at all). But if we as Catholics would quit just throwing support to a party that meets some small group of our teaching and then accepting whatever else they throw at us. I am not belittling the effort to end abortion through the use of the law, I am saying that is not sufficient to end abortion, nor is it sufficient as a Catholic to accept other actions (such as war torture and the death penalty) to achieve that end. What this approach has gotten us is war, torture the death penalty and abortion! The republicans have actually done little to stop abortion (5 of the 7 justices ruling in favor of Roe v Wade were Republican appointed. since Roe v Wade the Republican appointed justices have always held a majority on the court at one time as high as 8-1). The Democrats have done little to end the other aspects of the culture of death. We have more war now than when President Obama took office and Pres. Clinton increased the use of the death penalty. Both parties have a dismal record in actually helping the poor through providing opportunity.

    Yet we waste our time arguing over whose half approach is more effective.

    • dominic1955

      Aside from the political party approach, neither of which do totally right by us, I think the reason this gets argued about so much is principle. Regardless of who did what, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court and various organs of the U.S. Federal and State government have issued edicts saying that killing an innocent human being is legal is such a totalizing and disgusting black mark on the face of this country. That supposedly “civilized” people could try to write such an abomination into the law code of a State is utterly shameful. If we really believe what we do about the human person, every Planned Parenthood clinic and others like it are like having a Buchenwald or Dachau in your neighborhood.

      If pro-life groups fight implementing any social programs that *might* help reduce the number of abortions, do you think there might be something more to that. If someone advocated a social program on the basis that it would provide people who are thinking about getting an abortion carry the child to term, I don’t think any pro-life group would be against it. If the social program in question does this, that, or the other thing and then you tack on it *might* reduce abortion, what is one to do? All objections must be dropped, this new money pit social program that they are attempting to foist on us *might* reduce the number of abortions! That is ridiculous. Its just a use of loaded language.

      Regardless of how well it “works”, Roe vs. Wade needs to be overturned and every law “legalizing” abortion needs to be disavowed as a matter of simple principle. Also on principle, we should be striving to end systemic conditions that contribute to (but obviously cannot justify) the choice to seek out abortion but we never should have had to labor under a system which tries to act as if it could legalize such a thing.

      • Paul DuBois

        The whole point is that no one here is arguing that abortion is wrong. All I was stating is that while we are so busy trying to support the party we think is going to do the best on various issues of our beliefs, they are laughing at us, doing nothing about the issues of life and selling the poor down the river.

        Your characterization of the ACA as a “new money pit social program” shows where your interest really lie. How exactly a law that requires everyone to be responsible for their own medical care and attempts to help those who do not have the resources can be characterized that way is amazing. This law was proposed (and passed the house) with the most restrictive abortion law proposed at the federal level since Roe v Wade (the Stupack amendment). If one Republican senator had agreed to vote for it, that would be the law today, but abortion was not important enough to any of them. During 6 years of controlling all 3 branches of government the only anti abortion law passed (or proposed) was the partial birth abortion ban which did little to reduce the number of abortions. Just as the Democrats made a lot of noise about the wars and torture and Guantanamo in 2008, when they got into office they did not change the policy every election year the Republicans say they are going to end abortion, but what do they do?

        We Catholics need to stop allowing ourselves and our teachings to be divided. We need to insist that all of the teachings we hold are supported. Although the tragedy that is the slaughter of the unborn must be stopped, so must the slaughter that is poverty and the lack of healthcare. The slaughter that is global warming, the devastation of third world countries for the exploitation of their natural resources, the endless wars, the culture of death that so pervades our country that when yet another massacre happens the internet blows up with an insistence that we need more people carrying guns willing to shoot people not that we need to show more love and compassion for each other.

        But instead of insisting on love of neighbor and all Catholic social teaching let us spend our time arguing which is more important and divide it up into little chunks so that it can be easily defeated and we can just continue to argue.

        • http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/ Rodak

          @ Paul DuBois — Bravo!

        • dominic1955

          I didn’t say anything about the ACA, I merely referenced a sort of generic “social program A”. Then, I said that one cannot be goaded into supporting something merely because its proponents slap on a “will reduce abortions” claim, which may or may not be true or relevant. Methinks the way you flagrantly misread what I wrote says volumes of where your interests lie.

          I am completely on board with saying that all teachings the Church holds need to be upheld in the public sector. Truth is truth, its not just one truth for Catholics which is aplicable only to us. Obviously.

          However, here’s where we all end up diverging. For instance, you call abortion a “slaughter”. I completely agree. Then you call poverty and lack of health care a slaughter. Nope, it all falls apart right there and not because I want people to be poor or not have health care but because we do not equate the two as equally morally wrong, nor do we equate the level of response to be a grave. The rest of it sounds too bleedin’-heart for me, again not because I think exploiting 3rd World countries is a bang-up idea but because there is so much tied up in that statement that needs to be teased out that no reasonable person is going to put their stamp on such a thing. Same with the gun issue. I don’t want blood running in the streets (which isn’t going to happen anyway) but traditional moral theology holds that its perfectly reasonable to meet force with a comparable amount of force to protect life, limb and property so I’m not going to stupidly sign on for more “love and compassion”, whatever that means, without fleshing it all out.

          Even that which is right but done for the wrong reason looses any merit it may have been worthy of. We have to do the right things, in the right way, for the right reason. Thus, it is well worth our time to flesh this stuff out. Those who do not have an inclination to intellection would best serve the cause by their prayers and satisfactions, as Dom Chautard (Soul of the Apostolate) would say, prayer and the spiritual life is the only real way to get anything rightly accomplished.

  • Kurt

    Isn’t the bottom line that social advancement by legislation and other means, is a complicated matter and the evaluation of various policy proposals requires private judgment, considerations of cause and effect, competing virtues, strange alliances and coalitions, and taking advantages of opportunities and laying low when those opportunities are not present.

    From a Catholic standpoint, we would be blessed with Catholic witnesses in all political groupings. What is destructive and wrong, is saying that people have separated themselves from the community of faith and should be denied the sacraments and ministration of the Church they love. Can we all agree on this?

    • dominic1955

      We would be blessed with Catholic witnesses in all (legitimate) political groupings. If one has truly separated themselves from the Church, then no matter their carpings to the contrary, they obviously do not really love the Church. However, excommunication is up to the Bishops.

  • Trellis Smith

    I found this post quite excellent in its practical approach to reducing abortion. Few prochoice Catholics disagree with church teachings regarding abortion however they do regard the political solutions pursued by the bishops and the prolife lobby unconstructive to either the preservation of life or to addressing the pluralistic makeup of a democracy based on individual liberty. Many of the positions of the prolife lobby may in fact constitute a threat to the health of the republic and individual liberty.
    The Vatican position of idealistic law is a view of the state antittheical to the American understanding grounded in common case law and the position renders the hierarchy somewhat ineffectual in addressing the issue of abortion other then through state coercion.
    It acts similiarly in regards to same sex unions. If in fact the Church proved successful in its purist pursuit along these fronts it would be a totalitarian vision I for one would find disconcerting to say the least.

    I have yet to hear an ecumenical engagemet or even an effective rebuttal to the mainline Protestant views that do not consider abortion murder. My cursory reading of this site hasn’t produced an argumentation beyond the assertion of church teaching but I do appreciate the more nuanced comments regarding the teaching.

    • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg


      Few prochoice Catholics disagree with church teachings regarding abortion

      This is simply not true.

      The excerpt quoted in the original includes the imperative to work for laws to protect the unborn.

      Again, I can understand why some might feel called to work more in other areas, but it is simply false to say that a Catholic who would accept the label of “pro-choice” is not disagreeing with Church teachings regarding abortion.

      • Trellis Smith

        @johnmeg.Thankyou for your response.What laws prochoice Catholics work for to protect the unborn as evidenced even here in Vox Nova are not necessarily the same as the agenda of the prolife lobby all the while accepting the moral antiabortion position of Church teachings. They are not bound to a particular political solution. Even if some prochoice Catholics do not even accept the premises in informed conscience remain within the greater teaching of the Church and cannot in good conscience accede to the demands of the prolife lobby.

    • dominic1955

      Well, the Church should be the State’s conscience, not arbitrary case law nonsense. The Americanist position was condemned by Pope Leo XIII, it shouldn’t be surprising that the ancient Mother Church and the Enlightenment-born revolutionary U.S. are at odds on a number of things.

      • Trellis Smith

        American jurisprudence is not nonsense but an articulated approach encased in epistomeic humiliy to arrive at how a democracy will govern itself. It derives from common law which itself is initially grounded in the natural law and predates the Enlightenment,
        In that it establishes itself through particular “cases” it becomes grounded in the actual lived experience to develop precedent from which the law flows. Nothing seems more arbritrary and at times capricious as Roman idealized law that sets itself a priori as the moral conscience to which all must assent suitable to an imperial temperment of moral, authoritarian absolutism.

        • Trellis Smith

          Oops sent by mistake before fixing the typos- epistomeic should be epistemic

        • dominic1955

          The concept is nice in theory and has worked well in the past, but needs virtuous men to make it actually work. In matters that do not touch on morals, it also just makes practical sense. However, when it is used to try to make legal that which is immoral, it looses all authority and exposes its weakness-it is completely dependent upon who sits on the bench.

          The ideal of Roman law likewise has its weaknesses, but the problem lies in what is upheld as the “moral conscience”. If what is upheld corresponds to truth, then it is just and right.

  • Liam

    What is not being considered is proximate causality: how closely the election or repudiation of Candidate X will proximately cause Y. Reasoning abstractly without accounting for proximate causality is an incomplete moral assessment. A candidate’s position regarding Y has to be connected to how closely his/her position will be translated into actual effect, and how.

    • Trellis Smith

      @dominic1955. I believe the Court underlined its limitations in recognizing that in consulting the many authorities scientific, religious and civic that it could not find a consensus on the personhood of the unborn and that the government itself thus lacked authority and competence to enforce the ban. Therefore through subsidiarity the competence resides within the family unit and not beyond. This position is incomprehensible to Rome and certain aspects of Catholic teaching which sees law as the “moral exemplar” however in another aspect it might well dovetail with church teachings.

      That said I would not insist that the law is devoid of ethical decision making (as an example Anglican church law arises from common law) but that in a pluralistic society with no state church ( incidentally decried by Leo XIII inTestem Benevolentiae Nostrae) there mustneeds; 1) a certain humility in enforcing a moral code
      2) a recognition of the law’s provisionality.

      Far from losing authority. the Court gained by its restraint in not interposing government regulation beyond the 2 trimester. Far from being weak the precedent has stood no matter who has been on the bench or which political administration has been in power.

      So the fundamental conflict remains in the understanding of the purpose of civic law and its application and brings to the fore how ethics and moral codes are expressed within the law.
      The options are limited. The Church must create a consensus to either persuade the Court or accept a permission under law to which no one will avail themselves.