Who’s left who’s pro-life?

Who’s left who’s pro-life? January 20, 2008

A question that inevitably will be raised, debated and, quite possibly, dismissed is: Who’s left in the presidential race who’s really pro-life? And by “pro-life,” I mean the minimalist view advocated by many self-styled “conservative” Catholics and not the fuller, more consistent “pro-life” of the Catholic tradition. The minimalist version of “pro-life” is that of the so-called “non-negotiables,” which posits abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research as the life issues. On this view, a candidate must be personally and politically against the enhancement, promotion and protection of these sins by the state.

I think the only candidates who really fit the “pro-life” profile of the “non-negotiable” crowd are:

  • Mike Huckabee
  • Fred Thompson

These two have gone on record stating their opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research, with Thompson going so far to say that “no legislation will pass my desk that funds or supports this procedure without my veto” with regard to abortion. It seems to me that the “non-negotiable” crowd cannot legitimately vote for any other Republican candidate during these primary elections without contradicting the very terms (i.e., “non-negotiables”) by which they stand. To do otherwise during the primaries would be to render abortion and embryonic stem cell research “negotiable.”

Ron Paul opposes federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, but is remiss on state funding. He does not object to the actual research itself.

Mitt Romney has attempted to convince us that he is “firmly pro-life,” but he has not clarified whether or not his support for life is merely a personal and private issue, as it is in Rudy Giuliani’s case. Romney’s past record on “pro-life” issues is sketchy, so one cannot help but be a bit incredulous or, at least, hesitant.

John McCain’s support for embryonic stem cell research is documented and chronicled (voted in favor of its enhancement as a senator in 2006 and 2007), and he has not made any public statements or gone on record with a change of heart, despite whatever he may be saying behind closed doors.

Now, some Catholics from the “non-negotiable” crowd may claim that they can legitimately support Romney or McCain on account of their “electability.” I love that excuse because, obviously, general election polls in January no doubt give us a reliable gauge of electability in November. Right. Let’s relax our “pro-life” demands if we don’t think the real “pro-life” candidates can beat the Democrats. Sounds real Catholic.

What do I think of the Catholic who exclaims that abortion and embryonic stem cell research are “non-negotiable,” but then endorses/votes for a candidate during the primaries who supports one or both of these sins despite that fact that there are other candidates still in the race who are “pro-life”? Well, I think that Catholic is not only disingenuous and hypocritical, but guilty of elevating the purely speculative and inexact calculation known as “electability” to a level of non-negotiable status surpassing that of the certain and definitive evils of abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Simply put, either put the “non-negotiable” business to rest or own up to the standards you construct for other Catholics. Prove to me that the “non-negotiable” talk was genuine and not really a covert support of the Republican party by means of an exploitation of the Catholic faith. Because the sad truth is, the Republican party ain’t your “pro-life” party with either McCain or Giuliani at the helm.


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  • to me its about the court appointments. I *know* without a doubt what kind of justices will be nominated by Hillary or Obama. I, at least have a reason to hope with McCain or even Romney. I wouldn’t trust Guiliani a minute.

  • Policraticus

    Tizzidale,

    Though the president does have a more direct role in the pro-life realm: vetoing legislation that expands/enhances abortion practices and embryonic stem cell research. To me, that’s more important than the indirect influence on how an appointed judge may decide to vote.

  • Daniel H. Conway

    ESCR is but a distraction from the load of embronic destruction involved in IVF. This has occurred for decades and is not discussed with the same drama as ESCR-because it will alienate the evangelicals from Catholicism. That is a real concern, going on presently, not ESCR.

    Any thought that embryos frozen bak more than five years good viability is ridiculous. And that most couples have their excess embryos destroyed anyway.

    A little attention to the present problem, not a future problem, please.

  • the ‘legality’ of abortion was decided in the courts, and it may be reversed in the courts. It’s a hope I’m willing to have. Only one group of candidates have promised to appoint the type of judges needed. If anyone thinks Obama or Clinton will veto legislation which is anti-life, they have their head in the sand. I hate the fact that we only have one viable option in American politics – but it is what it is.

  • Jonathan

    You’ve raised an important issue – when may a president veto legislation? When he personally feels that it is morally wrong? When he feels that it does not reflect the people’s intent, and is simply a power grab by Congress? When he feels that it is unconstitutional?

    If you believe that a President may veto whenever he feels that the legislation is morally wrong, are we not seeking to elect, in your eyes, an executive AND legislator?

  • A President’s veto power is plenary. He can veto for whatever reason or no reason at all. That doesn’t make his a “legislator”. That makes him a President exercising a power granted to him by the Constitution.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    “Though the president does have a more direct role in the pro-life realm: vetoing legislation that expands/enhances abortion practices and embryonic stem cell research. To me, that’s more important than the indirect influence on how an appointed judge may decide to vote.”

    I disagree with you Policraticus. Granted, one never really knows how a justice will decide a particular case, but you can make basic assumptions on their history, and the reality is it is the Courts who hold the power. The ability for someone to place Federal Justices who NEVER have to leave is a HUGE part of the Executive power. I do take that into account when I vote.

  • Policraticus

    I disagree with you Policraticus. Granted, one never really knows how a justice will decide a particular case, but you can make basic assumptions on their history, and the reality is it is the Courts who hold the power. The ability for someone to place Federal Justices who NEVER have to leave is a HUGE part of the Executive power. I do take that into account when I vote.

    I’m not sure what’s to disagree with. The president’s appointment of judges (nomination, really) is a direct executive prerogative, but the future voting of the judge is, at best, an indirect act for the president. Just think Ronald Reagan. Whereas, veto power is a direct presidential prerogative. What is more directly under the power of the president ought to shape our vote. If a president claims he/she will appoint pro-life judges, but is supportive of ESCR, then he/she will likely choose not to veto ESCR enhancement bills (as Bush has done). And once ESCR enhancement is federally approved, the battle over Roe v. Wade becomes all the more difficult for pro-life citizens. He/She can appoint all the “constructivist” judges he/she wants. Once the federal government enhances and approves the destruction of millions of embryos in science labs, do you really think it will nonetheless attempt to stop the destruction of embryos in the womb?

  • Rick Garnett

    Policratus — this is some pretty tough talk. But, is it warranted? I don’t think so. Me, I support Thompson. But, in my view, the suggestion that a pro-lifer who supports John McCain (not simply because he is “electable”, but also because, on the merits, he has a good — though not perfect — record on “life issues” and judges) is “disingenuous” and “hypocritical” is way off-the-mark. Gerard Bradley is a “disingenuous[]” “hypocrit[e]”? C’mon. McCain, his errors notwithstanding, is no (where near being) a Romney or Giuliani when it comes to the babies. Nor is it clear to me why a serious, 100% pro-life Catholic should prefer Huckabee — you know, immigrant-bashing, execution-celebrating, teacher-union-loving Huckabee — to McCain.

  • jonathanjones02

    Sam Brownback is another pro-life hero who supports McCain. It will be worth watching his public statements over the next month or so.

  • Policraticus

    But, in my view, the suggestion that a pro-lifer who supports John McCain (not simply because he is “electable”, but also because, on the merits, he has a good — though not perfect — record on “life issues” and judges) is “disingenuous” and “hypocritical” is way off-the-mark.

    First, I must say that characterizing John McCain’s record on life issues as “good” is not merely off the mark, it is WAY off the mark. Please explain how back to back votes in favor of embryonic stem cell research enhancement is a “good” pro-life record. C’mon.

    Second, I called “disingenuous” and “hypocritical” those Catholics who beat other Catholics over the head with the “non-negotiable” talk, but end up supporting a candidate who violates these “non-negotiables.” This means that I did not call all Catholics “disingenuous” and “hypocritical” who endorse and vote for a candidate who supports abortion or ESCR, as you seem to have thought.

  • I thought mass murder with heavy weaponry was the big “pro-life” issue

  • Daniel H. Conway

    ESCR is still just “R” research that is. It is not therapy and there are not mills of human/macaque chimera churning out pieces of human organs, etc.

    However, there are freezers of embryos, thousands of them, that routinely die of frost…

    And where is the noise?

    Where are the legislative letters? IVF is the greater industry and the embryos used in this industry are so frequently wasted, most so poorly viable as to have no hope in becoming the mythical “snowflake” children.

    Why the silence on this and the loss of bowel and bladder control over ESCR when embryonic destruction and waste on large scales is so phenomenal with IVF?

    My claim is this is because of the acceptance of this practice by Midwestern evangelicals like the McCaughey’s of the world and the disruption that Catholic claims to this practice will have in the harshly unified umbrella of religious support that characterizes pro-life support.

    ESCR- a minor embryonic threat. IVF-major losses of embryos.

  • Daniel,

    You are right about IVF. It’s been the cause of numerous moral quandries (one can look to the question British Catholics raised: should women adopt the embryos now to give them life before they are killed?). IVF is a monstrosity because of how much human life is created — and destroyed — per individual born from it. If many pro-lifers have no problem with it, it shows again how pro-life is about abortion for them, not all of life’s issues.

    It’s not only evangelicals, though; many Catholics think it is their right to practice it while being against abortion.

  • sad but true

  • Policraticus

    Daniel,

    I believe you are right, and I thank you for pointing that out.

  • Jay

    You are mostly right and I can’t say that I disagree with your overall point. But the President does not have as much to say on the abortion issues as opposed to the Federal judges they nominate. And McCain did AN OUTSTANDING JOB helping get Roberts and Alito on the High Court. That my friend, is what I am hanging my hat on, and we really have NO CLUE what Huckabee will do in that regard (other than a politician’s promise).

  • jawats

    A president’s veto power is plenary. He can veto for whatever reason or no reason at all. That doesn’t make his a “legislator”. That makes him a President exercising a power granted to him by the Constitution.

    Yes, legally-speaking. However, I have no doubt that the President may be engaged in legislative activity (and hence, a legislator) when he seeks to veto laws supported by a majority for whatever reason. The reason may be good or bad – what I am seeking here is what criteria apply when a President is faced with a decision of whether to veto or not, and whether the reason(s), constitutional though the use of the power may be, are an abuse of that power and why so…

    Or, will you contend, Jay, that no use of a constitutional power can be abused in this manner?

  • Rick Garnett

    Policratus — No, to call McCain’s record on life “good” is not off the mark. You are mistaken.