Tag Archives: Abortion


Samantha Bee had a segment on her show “Full Frontal” the other week about the origins of the Evangelical pro-life movement.  Long story short: abortion, or politics for that matter, didn’t matter to the Evangelical Christians until a group of cynical Republicans decided to make it so. Now, of course, next to who goes to what bathroom, the pro-life movement and Evangelical Christianity are one in essence.

Nowadays, we’re talking about a completely different movement and broadly different arguments. To allege that this history lesson undermines the case Evangelicals make for whatever it is they make a case for is an almost perfect example of the genetic fallacy (i.e., your view is false on account of its origins). In this case, the insincere origin of the Evangelical Christian version pro-life movement was insincere, so the current movement is.

I’m not alleging that Bee is guilty of this (it’s a comedy show after all, but I don’t think she’s drawing the inference). But it is worth considering what possible use this history lesson (stipulating on its accuracy) contributes to the discussion.

One lesson might be that sometimes people make arguments for almost entirely strategic reasons. For them the argument doesn’t actually matter (and so the violate the sincerity condition). But it does matter to someone.  Or it will eventually matter to someone.

On its own merits, well, the argument might have something. But you might not believe those merits. Nor does anyone else. So, in a sense, you’re distorting your own view on the argument’s strength. This is devious, because when time is limited, we tend really only to care about things other people care about.

Well, now they care about it. So there’s that.

Holy War


Cardinal Francis George

Recently the current Pontiff made some startling remarks about the Catholic Church Leadership’s intense focus on abortion, homosexuality, and contraception.  Here is what he said (in context):

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

This struck many as a breath of fresh air.  Others, not so much.  Chicago’s Cardinal Archbishop, Francis George, objected:

But George, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, warned that some had gone too far in seeing Pope Francis’ interview as a move away from long-held church teachings on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

“Everybody is welcome,” George said, “but not everything we do can be acceptable. Not everything I do, and not everything anybody else does.”

Pope Francis said in the interview that the church “cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

When asked Sunday whether Catholics had become obsessed with the moral issues the pope named, George said the church was addressing society’s concerns.

“If the society is obsessed with those issues,” George said, “then the church will respond. If the society doesn’t bring them up, the church won’t respond.”

To be clear, the Pope actually didn’t say that “everything we do is acceptable.”  He said rather that not all of the Church’s moral positions deserve equal emphasis.  According to the Pope, abortion, gay marriage, and contraception don’t merit the kind of “obsessive” focus people such as George devote to it.

The Pope’s point is a fairly reasonable one, I think.  Time and space limit our ability to address every moral issue.  We have to make some choices.  We can choose well or choose badly.  The Church, in the PM’s* view, has chosen poorly, and Cardinal George’s response explains why: he’s not obsessed with gay marriage, you are.  Why do you keep bringing up gay marriage?

*Pontifex Maximus (how come we don’t have an acronym for the Pope like we do for the FLOTUS?)

No, not a red herring

Whatever else you might call it, abortion is a form of birth control.  Not however, according to Americans United for Life President Charmain Yoest.  Here she is (via Think Progress):

HOST: Is your organization in favor of helping women have more access to birth control and helping women have their birth control paid for by insurance?

YOEST: That’s actually not an issue that we address. We on life issues, on biotheics, on abortion, on end of life, on rights of conscience, but we do not address that issue because there are differences of opinion on that. […]

HOST: But I’m just curios, why not approach birth control as an issue if the goal is to reduce abortions, to make abortion unnecessary, birth control does that. Wouldn’t that be an interesting addition to your legal pallet?

YOEST: Well, as I said, there is an awful lot of issues that can be addressed and we stay really focused to this question of abortion itself. It’s really a red herring that the abortion lobby likes to bring up, conflating abortion and birth control and that’s why we try to stay very clear on differentiating between the two. Because frankly that would be carrying water on the other side.

It's hard to know how to respond to this, other than to say this person has little interest in reality and ought therefore to be laughed at.  Abortion, for the people who support its availability, is, in the most objectionable cases (for Yoest), a form of birth control.  There are other, less murderous (in her mind) forms of birth control, so it would seem that supporting them, rather than not supporting them, would not be unreasonable.

This would not be unreasonable, unless of course your real interest lies in objecting to all forms of birth control–which seems the only reasonable way to interpret her.  At least that way she' s not inconsistent, or dumb.  It's really after all a question of charity.

Fight for your right to party

Here's a fun assignment.  Think of all of things you can do with yourself, then ask, do I have a constitutional right to do this? If it's not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution in unambiguous language, like the second amendment's unequivocal guarantee of your individual and unrestricted right to pack heat, then no, you don't have a right to it.  The second part was kind of a joke.  The first part not–you'll find that you have no explicit constitutional right to do most of the things you do.  So the fact that something you do or can do is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution does not ipso facto mean it's not a guaranteed right.  Or so I would think.  Not so much George Will.

In Roe, the court said that the 14th Amendment guarantee of "due process" implies a general right of privacy, within which lurks a hitherto unnoticed abortion right that, although it is "fundamental," the Framers never mentioned. And this right somehow contains the trimester scheme of abortion regulations.

Since 1973 the court has been entangled in the legislative function of adumbrating an abortion code the details of which are, Wilkinson says, "not even remotely suggested by the text or history of the 14th Amendment." Parental consent? Spousal consent? Spousal notification? Parental notification? Waiting periods? Lack of funding for nontherapeutic abortions? Partial-birth abortion procedures? Zoning ordinances that exclude abortion facilities? The court has tried to tickle answers for these and other policy questions from the Constitution.

Last thing first.  According to the Constitution, it's the judiciary's job to interpret the law.  The Supreme Court interprets all laws in virtue of their consistency with the U.S. Constitution.  That's its job.  Second,  did you think of any of the things  you do which aren't explicitly mentioned as rights?