With Hillary Clinton picking Tim Kaine for vice presidential candidate, abortion and how Kaine reconciles his faith with the law and enforcing it is back as a front burner issue. I think his balancing act highlights the real moral dilemmas at play and why both sides of the issue are intellectually dishonest to the degree they claim sole hold on the moral high road.
But first, I categorically dismiss the charges that Kaine is “pro-abortion.” Not only is the charge partisan and worldly, it is a lie. You don’t have to support a law to enforce it. And for an elected official or civil servant, it’s your job. Civil disobedience is for protestors, i.e. private citizens. If you can’t do your job, the honorable thing to do is resign.
Basically, Kaine’s position is similar to mine. We agree that making abortion illegal is wrong. If my reading of his support of the Hyde Amendment is correct, then he feels the government should be neutral about abortion. It neither supports it through funding nor does it act against it by criminalizing the practice. It makes neither side of the abortion debate happy (but I don’t think they deserve to be).
I feel the same way with one proviso. I can accept the premise of saving lives by banning abortion if we apply that brand of justice equally. But be warned there is no free lunch. It would require a serious degradation of personal liberty to make an abortion ban fair and just. In short, if the government can commandeer a woman’s body to save the life of her unborn child, it can do likewise to mine toward equivalent ends. For example, I have two health kidneys, I can live with one and there is no shortage of people dying of kidney failure. Extreme I know but that’s what it would take to ban abortion and actually be pro-life rather than merely pro-unborn. That’s why I object to abortion bans. Casual and unequal justice is no justice at all. Ends do not justify means.
So like Kaine, I’m “pro-life-choice.” Yes, women should be (and are) free to choose. But it is a fiction that that choice is without moral valence no matter what rationalizations of privacy we make or claims that the decision itself is deeply personal. Of course it is a private and personal decision. It changes nothing. Abortion at bottom is ending a life, and short of saving another life, I can think of no reason that would make such an act just. Having said that just because my faith teaches that an act is immoral, it doesn’t automatically follow that it should be illegal. My Catholic faith teaches marital infidelity is a grave sin. We could make infidelity illegal for all sorts of laudable goals but I doubt anyone agrees that it should be done.
So save the charges of being pro-abortion or the need to be “educated” into thinking one’s moral convictions are false. What’s required is wrestling with the moral dilemma as anyone of good conscience should.