Liberal & Conservative Pro-Life Outlooks: A Dialogue

Liberal & Conservative Pro-Life Outlooks: A Dialogue January 18, 2020

This exchange took place on my Facebook page, on 1-17-20, and then on a second thread on 19-20 January. Words of Nathan Burns will be in blue.


How did you vote in 2016 and whaddya think about this year?

I voted for Hillary in 2016, not because I supported all of her ideas, but because I thought she was better in the areas of environmental protection and economic justice, which are being currently prioritized by Pope Francis. I don’t know what I’m going to do this year yet. I think we need more political parties. I could vote for the American Solidarity Party with no reservations if it had any real chance. I may do it anyway. I didn’t know about it in 2016.

I don’t think Trump has squandered anything. It seems to me he’s kept it running pretty well. I’m not a TDS [Trump Derangment Syndrome] victim, so I’m not one of those people who can see nothing but bad in him and everything he does. I love that he is boldly pro life, and I think he’s doing a great job targeting the policies that have enabled corporations to profit at the expense of Americans and the people of other nations by outsourcing jobs at criminally low wages. There’s a lot of good in his presidency. But I also don’t believe he can do no wrong. He’s not perfect, and any way in which he acts in a way that draws criticism from the USCCB or Pope Francis, I’m going to take their side. I’m Catholic first.

I’m not a one-issue voter. And the abortion problem has many causes, and cannot be solved by mere legalism. Don’t get me wrong, it should be illegal. But the problem is more complicated than that, and the way forward may require multiple indirect steps before the direct one can be successful.

The life being denied those babies, we are all responsible for. And we must consider the causes of abortion, legal or illegal to be just as critical to address for the sake of those babies as the simple law. Many women who seek abortions do so under great pain and anxiety and duress. The causes of those things bear the part of the culpability that is removed from the women who confess the sin of abortion under those conditions. The economic oppression that leaves women feeling that abortion is the way out for them when they don’t think they can provide for children, is a life issue, because it contributes to the decisions that result in the deaths of those children.

The fact of the matter is that if we enacted a Just Wage law that fulfilled the Church’s expectations, we would likely see more people having families, and see the cultural support for abortion dry up, making it easier to pass pro life laws again.

 “easier to pass pro life laws again.”

Are you being serious?

The pro-abort Guttmacher Institute reports the facts of the many restrictions that have been passed, even in an article (from 9-18-19) that expressly denies that they are a prime cause of the decline:

The question of what is behind these trends has important policy implications, and the 2011–2017 period warrants particular attention because it coincided with an unprecedented wave of new abortion restrictions. During that timeframe, 32 states enacted a total of 394 new restrictions, with the vast majority of these measures having taken effect (that is, they were not struck down by a court).

Another Guttmacher article from September 2019 stated:

Despite existing precedents, states have continued to find ways to restrict or ban abortion, enacting more than 227 restrictions between January 2014 and June 2019. More than a dozen cases challenging some of the most extreme restrictions—such as bans on abortions after six weeks’ gestation—currently have the potential to reach the Supreme Court, and the outcomes could pose significant challenges to the legal framework protecting abortion rights.

See my articles:

Abortion Declines Under Trump (Surprise, New Pro-Lifers!) [1-10-20]

Debate: Do Liberal Social Policies Lessen Abortion & Poverty? [4-12-17]

Debate: SCOTUS & GOP in Relation to Abortion Rates [11-15-18]

Do Democratic Presidents Cause Fewer Abortions to Occur? [National Catholic Register, 2-28-18]

I wrote in my most recent paper on this topic:

The pro-aborts know who their champions are: the folks who will promote and further their agenda. Hence, Planned Parenthood gave Hillary Clinton its (first-ever!) “Champion of the Century” award, and NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) gave Killary its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Again, they know who will promote their agenda. They’re immoral and proponents of wicked evil, but they’re not idiots.”

In other words, the pro-aborts (like any informed advocate of any cause) know full well who to vote for; who promotes their cause. And then liberal pro-lifers come along and claim that the same people are the very ones who will bring about a climate of pro-life and loving, which will reduce abortions.

It makes no sense whatsoever.

I didn’t say making abortion legal would cause a decline. I said enacting just wage laws would cause a decline, and that increasing poverty in a place where abortions are available causes an increase.

Many who seek abortions do so out of fear that they cannot support children, and much of the cultural support for abortion being legal stems from the common knowledge of that fact. If we correct economic injustice, which we as Catholics should be working on anyway, we get the added benefit of reducing cultural support for abortion, and better chances of winning that war.

Trump is doing exactly what you call for: wages of the poorer classes are up, unemployment down, taxes lower. They know it, and they’re gonna vote Trump in November for this and a thousand other reasons. And abortions are continuing to go down: now at an even greater rate: exactly the opposite of what my new pro-life friends have been predicting.

We don’t create a culture of life and lower government-mandated murder by voting for Herod and Nero. It’s madness.

Those [politicians] who consistently vote for babykilling don’t give a damn about poor kids who were fortunate enough to make it out of the womb alive. Every Democrat candidate left favors abortion for all nine months and even after birth. And you’ll vote for one of them because that will create a culture of life?

I post semi-regularly condemning abortion. How often do you post about economic justice?

You can write about it all the time (I’m glad you do), but if you vote for the ones promoting the wholesale murder, then what is accomplished?
I’ve written quite a bit about economic injustice. See the papers hereAs a sociology major and native of Detroit, distributist, and passionate advocate and defender of Catholic social teaching, these issues have been of great interest and concern to me for over 50 years: going back to the Detroit Riots of 1967.
Of course, my proposed solutions are not the failed liberal ones, but traditional / conservative ones, which many liberals would immediately dismiss. It’s like the farmer with a failed crop scorning his neighbor farmer who wants to try something different, to get a successful crop. Proof’s in the pudding (crop).
The war on abortion is going to take time. And sometimes the best thing to do is concede the ground that was lost temporarily, and take out their support base. In democratic societies, culture changes first, and then laws. Not the other way around. That’s how we got to where we are in the first place. The culture changed, and the culture drove the law change.
I’ve already addressed this many times in my articles on the topic. I’ve interacted with many self-titled new pro-lifers (insofar as they were willing: and it wasn’t very willing).

[a “new pro-lifer” is — broadly –, a liberal / left-wing / Democrat pro-lifer, or advocate of what used to widely be known as the “seamless garment” approach to Catholic social teaching.]

If they wouldn’t talk, I still wrote about it, criticizing their contentions about pro-life strategy (while most of them deny that I am sufficiently pro-life: not being a liberal like them). See, for example, my articles:

Are “Old” Pro-Lifers Racists & “Anti-Woman”? (vs. John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe) [8-30-17]
“New” vs. “Old” Pro-Life Strategies (vs. John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe) [8-31-17]

My position on this stems from my history with the Church. I had to grapple with the dissonance between the way I saw things, and Pope Francis’ emphasis and priorities, and came to this conclusion:

God directs his people through the leadership of His Church. There is a time and a place for everything, and a reason He chooses this pope or that pope in a particular time. I thought about the reasons why God would want us to prioritize the environment and economic justice in our time, rather than the homosexual issue and abortion. We should of course fight for the Church’s stance on all, but we have to admit there is a difference in emphasis in each generation. Perhaps God has a plan to restore things, and since he can see all things from all angles, unlike us, he is directing us on an unexpected path in order to implement HIS strategy, not ours, for tackling these problems. I watched Francis’ address to congress, and it seemed to me that He favored prioritizing economic justice and the environment right now, so I just followed.

Granted, he emphasizes those things, and that’s fine. But he holds positions on homosexuality and abortion identical to his predecessors and historic Catholic teaching. I know, because I’ve defended him over 160 times now.
Me too Dave. He’s Catholic through and through.
Frank L. Jerry So you’re saying that we should have waited for the culture to change before we outlawed slavery?
That would be an interesting analogy:
We have to create an anti-slavery, freedom-loving culture in the South (these things take time), so clearly we can’t vote for Lincoln, because they hate him down there, and this will make slavery worse!
Doesn’t work all that well, does it?
And I would say we were able to outlaw slavery because enough of the culture changed to make it happen. The abolitionist movement started a long time before abolition.
John Flynn Pope Francis says that life is the #1 [“most fundamental”] right. [link to source]
I don’t argue against it. I am for making it illegal. but we have to make progress where we can, when we can. And I think we have some cultural momentum in the social and environmental justice arenas that we just don’t have on abortion right now.
The key to winning those debates is to focus on proving the fact that abortion is murder and compare being pro choice for the sake of allowing “freedom” to legalizing murder for the same reason.

When I talk to those people, my only goal is to separate in their mind “their” body, and the body of the child, which is a unique and distinct body from theirs.

I agree. Good strategy.
The people who usually bash Christianity “because science”, usually squirm pretty bad when their position on abortion proves to be rather unscientific.
Tina Gulka when you “talk to those people” do any of them ask you how you yourself can justify voting for a rabid pro-abort while at the same time defending the humanity and right to life of the unborn?
No. Does anyone ask you how you can vote the way you do when your party allows the rape of the earth for profit and the oppression of the poor and marginalized? Which you are eerily silent about? Take your mouth foaming ideological rant somewhere else.
We vote as we do because stopping abortion is the #1 priority in our time: a thing that Pope Francis agrees with. It is a valid point that you have to grapple with: how you can support rabid pro-aborts (which they are), in the name of environmentalism and supposed “oppression” of the poor by the Republican Party.
If you guys actually criticized the Republican Party for its transgressions of the Gospel, as I do of the Democrats, I’d have no issue, but your comfort with the complete party platform indicates to me that you are Republicans first and Catholics second.

You can’t grapple with the difficulties in your own position by simply pointing out alleged hypocrisy in ours (the “your dad’s uglier than mine” approach).

We haven’t even dealt with the issue of the nature of the entire Republican platform (that’s a whole ‘nother discussion); we’re simply pointing out that it makes no sense to vote for childkilling advocates. Your repeating of broad-brushed Democrat talking points does nothing to alleviate this difficulty.

If someone upheld and voted for the Nazi platform in the 30s and 40s, and justified it by saying that they occasionally uttered criticisms of Nazi genocidal policy against the Jews and others, we wouldn’t accept that reasoning for a second today. We would say that it was empty words (talk is cheap), and that the key immorality was continuing to vote for the murderers.

The same reasoning could be applied to votes for the Jim Crow Democrats in the South, for a hundred years after the Civil War. No one buys that today, but that’s looking back. When we come up to the present, blind spots overcome this straightforward moral reasoning.

Don’t even try to make out that I am calling you a Nazi or a segregationalist. That’s not how the reasoning works. It is a reductio ad absurdum: meant to convey the difficulties in a position, by uncomfortable analogies.

My point is that no Catholic can comfortably vote for either party. I’m by no means a loyal democrat or republican. I may vote for Trump in 2020, I don’t know. But too many Catholics are uncritical of the political parties they vote for, because there are serious problems in both. One problem being bigger than another doesn’t grant a pass.

Politics is as it always has been: we have to decide which party is relatively more in line with Catholic teaching. It’s clear and undeniable, in my opinion, that in the present situation, the Republican Party is far closer to the complete Catholic social and moral teaching than the Democrat Party, which continues to uphold and champion the abortion genocide, and oppose any restriction whatsoever on it.

You live in Washington [state], so your vote is virtually meaningless, anyway. It won’t change anything. It’s gonna go Democrat. That being the case, you may as well be more self-consistent as a pro-lifer, and vote for a pro-life 3rd party, rather than the bloodthirsty, ruthless Democrats again.


See also: “Why the issue of abortion is still the preeminent priority” (Monica Migliorino Miller, The Catholic World Report, 11-23-19)
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Photo credit:  Elvert Barnes: Pro-Life Sarasota FL . 33rd March For Life . Supreme Court . First Street between Maryland Avenue and East Capitol Street, NE . WDC . Sunday afternoon, 22 January 2006 [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]

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