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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Barack Obama and the Pro-Abortion Myth

Christianity Today has posted an interview with Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. In the interview, Obama addresses the subject of abortion. Check out the exchange below:

For many evangelicals, abortion is a key, if not the key factor in their vote. You voted against banning partial birth abortion and voted against notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. What role do you think the President should play in creating national abortion policies?

I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion. I think it's very important to start with that premise. I think people recognize what a wrenching, difficult issue it is. I do think that those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren't expressing the full reality of it. But what I believe is that women do not make these decisions casually, and that they struggle with it fervently with their pastors, with their spouses, with their doctors.

Our goal should be to make abortion less common, that we should be discouraging unwanted pregnancies, that we should encourage adoption wherever possible. There is a range of ways that we can educate our young people about the sacredness of sex and we should not be promoting the sort of casual activities that end up resulting in so many unwanted pregnancies.

Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues. With significant constraints. For example, I think we can legitimately say — the state can legitimately say — that we are prohibiting late-term abortions as long as there's an exception for the mother's health. Those provisions that I voted against typically didn't have those exceptions, which raises profound questions where you might have a mother at great risk. Those are issues that I don't think the government can unilaterally make a decision about. I think they need to be made in consultation with doctors, they have to be prayed upon, or people have to be consulting their conscience on it. I think we have to keep that decision-making with the person themselves.

Obama is right. I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion either. The dichotomy that has been constructed that says one is either "Pro-Life" or "Pro-Abortion" is a false one. The pro-abortion label is a slur used by many conservative evangelicals to smear their fellow Christians who vote for candidates not from the Republican Party.

Have those Christians who employ such rhetoric read the former Catholic Governor Mario Cuamo on abortion and public morality? In light of Huckabee's constitutional amendment plans, Mario Cuamo is more relevant than ever. If only they could understand and absorb what the American Catholic philosopher Michael Novak once wrote: "Religious judgment and political judgment are both needed, but they are not identical."

Meanwhile, many of these same conservative evangelicals are shifting their support from Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson to John McCain who isn't your average Mr. Pro-Lifer. At a debate last year at the Ronald Reagan library, John McCain loudly voiced his support for expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Though McCain did not support the repeal of Roe v. Wade back in 1999, now he believes that Roe v. Wade was a terrible decision and promises to only nominate judges to the Supreme Court that will not "legislate from the bench." However, McCain has not declared that he will nominate judges willing to overturn 35 years of settled law. There is a big difference between simply being a judge who is pro-life and being a pro-life judge with the cojones to be party to such a revolutionary decision. If you'll remember, John McCain was one of the leaders of the Gang of 14. Further, McCain has always declared that if Roe were overturned, exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother should be made by the individual states.

Folks, John McCain's pro-life positions aren't so simplistic. While clearly many pro-life evangelicals including some Southern Baptists have expressed their willingness to accept McCain's more complex pro-life position - they turn around, dumb things down, get simplistic and label Barack Obama and his supporters as being pro-abortion! I don't get it.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Chuck said...

BDW,

Did Obama explain his "no" vote on parental notification?

Seems like a minor child's parent would be a good person to include in the decision-making for this severe medical procedure, in addition to the the "person themselves," the pastors, and the doctors.

This is why "pro-abortion" seems to apply to those with Obama's 100% pro-choice views.

Finally, don't be so naive as to think that there exists an abortion industry that is very much pro-abortion. And they lobby politicians like all the evil defense and energy corporate monsters we hear Democrats whine about.

10:01 AM

 
Anonymous Chuck said...

Need to correct my bad typing.

Last paragraph:

Finally, don't be so naive as to NOT think that there exists an abortion industry that is very much pro-abortion. And they lobby politicians like all the evil defense and energy corporate monsters we hear Democrats whine about.

10:04 AM

 
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

Amen, Chuck!

(About those evil defense and energy lobbyists - gotta watch out for that sort of negative, corrosive influence on our national values.)

11:13 AM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

BDW,

What I don't get is how you can call this post "Barack Obama and the Pro-Abortion Myth" and yet not define what "pro-abortion" means, nor deal with Obama's very problematic voting record when it comes to abortion.

Also, I am not sure how some evangelicals supporting McCain (whose position is at the least functionally pro-life) makes Obama not "pro-abortion." It seems you are just looking for another way to label Evangelicals as hypocrites. Otherwise, I don't get the connection.

Regarding the term "pro-abortion", you said, "I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion either." Let me suggest you google "I am pro abortion" and meet a few folks. What's interesting is that many of those who call them such celebrate Obama's voting record. Second, I will proudly say that I am anti-abortion. The distinction that I see is that I believe that abortions is morally reprehensible and those who are pro-abortion believe it to be morally acceptable. Third, in bringing up Cuomo's speech you pidgeon-hole the Pro-life movement as strictly religious, when very often (especially recently as science has advanced to show the child in womb) many object for scientific reasons - thus it's not merely a religious argument, but as moral a one as the laws against murder.

Finally, while you have distracted your readers from Obama's record in order to focus on McCain's (which is in no way comparible), allow me to point to two links which cause me to take issue with both you and Obama about regarding the reality of his "pro-abortion" status.

Jonathan Link's essay: "Abortion and Obama"
and
Terence Jeffrey's article: Obama is the Most Pro-Abortion Candidate Ever.

Here's a snippet of the second article:

[Barack Obama] is so pro-abortion he refused as an Illinois state senator to support legislation to protect babies who survived late-term abortions because he did not want to concede -- as he explained in a cold-blooded speech on the Illinois Senate floor -- that these babies, fully outside their mothers' wombs, with their hearts beating and lungs heaving, were in fact "persons."

5:58 PM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

You can point me to a google search. But that doesn't change the fact that I personally do not know of anyone who is pro-abortion. And if someone is dubbed as being pro-abortion, I interpret that to mean that the person is not personally opposed to abortion and in fact favors abortion. And support for the decision, Roe v. Wade, does not mean that one finds abortion to be morally acceptable. I definitely don't.

The point of this post was not to debate Obama's record. But to point out that one is not EITHER Pro-Life OR Pro-Abortion. The issue of abortion is not that simplistic. It's quite complex. Mario Cuamo demonstrates that in his lecture. But, as I have experienced, some evangelicals who usually approach abortion with this EITHER/OR mentality are now willing to ignore the complexities of John McCain's position. You obviously are willing to admit those complexities by labeling McCain as "functionally pro-life."

8:05 PM

 
Anonymous Chuck said...

I'm saying that Obama, based on his voting record, may very well be a politician who is pro-abortion due to the lobbying of that industry.

If he thinks it's morally wrong, and still adopts that severe stance, then he is a sell-out and shouldn't be expected to stand for anything against financial interests.

That's reprehensible.

9:20 AM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

BDW,

You sidestepped my comment in your response. Let me clarify what I meant to communicate.

First, while you may not know anyone who is pro-abortion, you cannot deny that such people exist and self-identify themselves as such. Thus, it is an appropriate label for some and as such, it is not true that there is always a false dichotomy created.

Second, if there is indeed such a thing as being pro-abortion, then in order to claim that either yourself or Obama is not pro-abortion, you must accurately define the term and exclude yourself based on that definition, which you didn't do in your post.

Now, you did do it in your comment, so let's deal with that aspect. You said: "And if someone is dubbed as being pro-abortion, I interpret that to mean that the person is not personally opposed to abortion and in fact favors abortion." Yours is an incomplete definition for you don't explain what it means for one to "not personally [oppose] abortion" or what it means to "favor abortion." Now you do go on to say that "support for...Roe v. Wade, does not mean that one finds abortion to be morally acceptable" and delare, "I definitely don't."

So if you find abortion morally unacceptable, then on what basis can you support Roe v. Wade and yet also uphold all laws against murder. If something is immoral, then it is universally immoral and thus it would be legitimate and right to attempt to criminalize such an act, especially one that leads to the death of an innocent child.

So I ask you BDW, if you are not pro-abortion, why aren't you anti-abortion? Why aren't you fighting to end the legality of abortion?

And finally why do you defend Obama, who in opposition to the Infants Born Alive Act stated the following:

"Number one, whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a 9-month old -- child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it -- it would essentially bar abortions, because the Equal Protection Clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute.

?

That to me is morally unacceptable and reprehensible.

5:52 PM

 
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

So I ask you BDW, if you are not pro-abortion, why aren't you anti-abortion? Why aren't you fighting to end the legality of abortion?

While I'm not BDW, I'll offer my answer for consideration.

1. One can think something is a sin and not want to legislate against it. I think war is sinful, but I don't want to legislate against it. More than half the folk in the US disagree with me. I don't want to legislate my morality against the wishes of the majority of my fellow citizens.

2. One can think that an action is SOMETIMES a sin and sometimes not and prefer to leave those sorts of decisions to individuals, not the gov't. I believe you, DR, think that dropping bombs during wartime in an area where we know there are innocent individuals is acceptable.

Unless I'm mistaken, you think that war-like actions are generally wrong BUT you think circumstances can change that and make those same actions acceptable, even Good.

Similarly, some folk think that abortion is generally wrong but think that family circumstances and a variety of factors may make an abortion the less wrong action to take.

One difference between war-supporters and abortion-supporters (ie, those who don't want to criminalize war actions or the medical procedure called abortion) is that war-supporters want to take tax dollars and drag the whole country into what some would consider a sin. Abortion-criminalization opponents are only wanting people to have the freedom to make that call for themselves, not impose it upon the population as a whole.

9:58 AM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

Dan,

This argument of comparing war to abortion is very similar to the Reductio ad absurdum you used in our discussion of the ENDA at Michael's blog (however, this is more of a fallacy of conflation). What you have done here is reduce my argument (essentially ignoring the complexities) and apply it to another issue, which is completely unlike the one discussed here.

Here you conflate abortion w/ war. So let me explain why those two issues are inherently incomparable.

1) Abortion relates to individual decisions affecting two individuals, neither of whom inherently threatens the other’s life. War involves two entities which threaten mass destruction on the other. Thus war is not simply an individual decision, nor is it as simplistic as making the decision to kill a child for one's own preference. I could go deeper here in relating how war could actually save lives, while abortion does nothing of the sort, but is actually often done for convenience (a particularly cruel aspect that Christians of all stripes should be morally sickened by). But I will deal with this later on.

2) More importantly the intended results of war are NOT to kill innocent life and Just War Theory asserts that "Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target". Yet, the very intention of abortion is to kill innocent life. The child isn't merely collateral damage; he or she is the target of the war waged on the womb. And that says nothing of the viciousness of the attack.

3) The reason Just war is waged to protect the freedom of others from tyranny or terrorism, while abortion is the tyranny of the one inflicting terrorism on another innocent life. Thus they are polar opposites.

4) Finally, it is certainly true that war should be avoided when the two entities can both prosper otherwise, even if both must compromise to do so. Unfortunately, there is a compromise in abortion (giving the child up for adoption) that is neglected when abortion is chosen.

Now, let me make a few closing thoughts and reactions to your post.

1) We legislate morality all the time - the smoking ban in Louisville, our laws against murder, the criminality of pedophilia; how about the laws against killing pets or even the 13th Amendment? (What about the ENDA?) Congress, our elected officials, and our local gov'ts do it all the time. So what constitutes public and private morality? What makes abortion privately moral and yet makes dog fighting publicly immoral, so much that we jail the latter offender and celebrate the former?

2) You said, "I believe you, DR, think that dropping bombs during wartime in an area where we know there are innocent individuals is acceptable." Sorry, Dan but your use of the term "acceptable" here is far too vague. But again, the intention in your scenario is not to kill the innocent life, yet in abortion it clearly is.

3) You said, "Similarly, some folk think that abortion is generally wrong but think that family circumstances and a variety of factors may make an abortion the less wrong action to take." Dan, I would love to hear what circumstances would be worse than killing a child (especially considering that 99% of abortions are due to voluntary actions by the mother). In your example of war I could name several worse situations than war - mass genocide, nuclear holocaust, and unconscionable torture. So what's the worst that could come from not having an abortion, Dan? Is it comparable to those three?

4) Finally, your last paragraph is incorrect. Those who favor abortion often attempt to pass legislation to use tax dollars to fund abortions - including some of your favorite politicians.

6:30 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Abortion relates to individual decisions affecting two individuals, neither of whom inherently threatens the other’s life."

You really believe that no abortions are performed because the fetus is threatening the mother's life?

"Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. ... Yet, the very intention of abortion is to kill innocent life."

What a duplicitous comment. War ALWAYS leads to the death of large numbers of civilians, children and adults alike, and to the deaths of soldiers as well. Maybe you don't think the lives of soldiers are important.

No true Christian would support war. You do lip service to a "tradition of Christianity" without following any of the actual principles that Christ taught. "Blessed are the peacemakers." "If someone strikes you, give them a good shot at your other cheek." "If someone robs you of your wallet, give them your coat, too." "Put your sword away, for those who live by the sword will die by the sword." "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." "My kingdom is not of this Earth, or I would call down legions of angels to protect me." How many times does he have to say it? Please show me the verse in which Jesus describes "Just War Theory". What a ridiculous notion.

Of course abortion is an end to life. When you eat a burger you're "intending to kill an innocent life" as well. That doesn't mean it's an end to a HUMAN CHILD'S life. You know perfectly well that this is the ultimate issue that people disagree on, yet you disingenuously state that it's "killing a child", as if it's an indisputable fact and that people are intentionally engaging in acts of murder.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that a soul is infused into a newly fertilized egg. The Bible says "I knew you BEFORE you were formed in your mother's womb", not "at the moment the sperm enters the egg, not before, not after". If God knows that a pregnancy will result in miscarriage a few weeks later, does he give the fertilized egg a soul anyway? Should we hold a funeral for an egg that doesn't implant?

9:32 PM

 

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