Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Body: A Few Thoughts on Abortion for Voting Catholics Like Me.

I'm going to write about this at length, but not today.
This is truly an issue where I believe both major party lines are seriously flawed, although Democrats have made more headway recently then Republicans.

The Democrats often decry the practice of abortion while refusing to legislate on the subject. Since these declarations are often offered without a solution proposed, they amount to platitudes, though there are signs of improvement. Some Democrats (the Presidential ticket among them) are encouraging reductions in the number of abortions through social levers. Some may say that this is an ineffective compromise; from the standpoint that life is sacred prebirth, it is certainly a compromise. However it is not ineffective; the nations with the lowest abortion rates have, in fact, legalized abortion in the context of a health care system that provides medical and financial assistance to new mothers.

The Republican Party takes a stand on the legality of the subject, but it is a sanctimonious, self-righteous stand that offers nothing, not even crumbs, to those they would bar from abortion. This is borne out, as the role of poverty is often the decisive factor in whether or not to have an abortion, while Republicans tend to slash welfare programs that respond to these problems, regardless of the program's effectiveness, and even while other spending proliferates under their watch. This is worse than a platitude; it is a sort of open-book hypocrisy. If conservatives really value the lives of the unborn, they'll be willing to make real sacrifices in other policy positions to advance this issue: universal health care, provisions for the poor and disenfranchised, and comprehensive sex education to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

From the point of view of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, abortion is a non-negotiable issue. That is fine, and is in agreement with the Catechism:

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.
This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.
Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law... (2771)

What can and must remain negotiable is the way in which this issue is addressed. Solutions which pass the buck, which demand compliance on the part of others without asking us to scrutinize our own lives and obligations are the easy way out, and have more to do with keeping our own conscience clean according to some minimum standard than leading a true life of faith. But solutions which spread out the sacrifice, where we "do unto others" and take on a portion of the burden as a sign of our commitment are not only more effective; they speak for themselves as a more genuine living out of God's vision. For "if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing," (1 Corinthians 13:3).

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