Tim Kaine, Abortion, and Faith

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.

Quick Reply to Some Quick Thoughts

Opinionated Catholic: Quick Thoughts On Forced Organ Donation Hypo and Aborton.

Let me say at the outset that Opinionated Catholic’s thoughts are anything but quick.  You should take the time to read the full post. Good stuff in there. Opinionated Catholic has turned out be one of my good Twitter-friends whose thoughtful (stubborn 🙂 ) and carefully thought out (aggravating 🙂 ) ideas have been a blessing. Keeps me honest!

Opinionated Catholic (O.C.) has been careful to not speak for me on my position on abortion which I characterize as a Catch 22.  The short version is that a total and complete ban on abortion is ugly because it not only is akin to rape, but in extreme cases it is murder, so-called “double effectexceptions notwithstanding. (That would take a whole other post!) On the other hand, abortion on demand is also ugly because it makes life a matter of convenience and by such logic I should not exist. My father was poor and born to a single mother. So there we have my basic position.  I should add that I am not trying to debate the morality of abortion per se or what should be the proper form of legal abortion.  I’m only interested in the morality and integrity of the Catholic position.

Now, in discussion with O.C., I asserted that the pro-life movement, at least that advocated by Catholics, is more pro-baby than pro-life since we will respect a person’s body in some cases where life can be saved by another person donating tissue but not others. I used organ donation as an example to show that we play favorites. We will go to any length in some cases, i.e. abortion, and not others.  I also asserted that this is not true to Christ who’s love knows no bounds since our love does in fact have bounds.

O.C. has made a compelling reply on the basis of voluntary and involuntary moral obligations.  For the sake of brevity, I will paraphrase I hope accurately.  The mother’s obligation to her child is different than merely person to person moral obligations.

  1. The mother has a duty to care for her child.
  2. The uterus unlike other organs exists for the express purpose of carrying her child and serves no other essential function.
  3. Denial of treatment, e.g. refusing kidney donation, is not the same as intentional act, e.g. abortion is killing the unborn child.

To all of this I would say, is a strong legal argument for limiting if not outright banning abortion if somehow the unborn can be given citizenship rights.  Until that happens, legal abortion will remain the law of the land.  A woman has no parental rights obligations whatsoever to a non-person under our law.  And the unborn are not persons under our law.  But what O.C. fails to see, as far as I can tell, is I am not arguing a legal case.  I’m looking at how Christ loves.  To wit, Christ was deeply radical in his love.  It is not a respecter of boundaries, especially as a disciple:

  • Matthew 10:37 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;”
  • Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

This is not worldly love and makes worldly life difficult if one wants to be true to Christ. I am not saying that the abortion issue can’t be resolved. I for one would gladly ban it, under certain conditions. For example, if we had the technology to carry any child from zygote to full term by artificial means, I have no trouble at all banning abortion, taxing the responsible parties for child support (and the general public in cases e.g. rape), and making adoption a real social and governmental priority.

So if I love both mother and child, I have to be true to what it is I am doing. Justice is the sound love makes when it speaks in public. And my justice ultimately comes from Christ.  So if I play favorites with my love and say that the child is more valuable than the mother then I’ve sinned.  It’s why, if it came to it, I would put my body on the line to ban abortion. Justice demands that I be on the same chopping block as any rape victim.  If we can traumatize her to save her child, I can lose a kidney in fairness.


How Far Would You Go to Save a Life?

Abortion is a hot button issue mainly because both sides care a great deal about the things they see themselves protecting: a woman’s control over her own body, her self, her personhood; an unborn child’s right to simply live. I don’t mean to answer that question here in this small space. (What hubris that would be!) I do intend to state where I am in all of this and that is in a state of moral dilemma. I see both sides as protecting things that are worthwhile, even essential.

(Version 1.5)

The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means.
–Georges Bernanos

Abortion is a hot button issue mainly because both sides care a great deal about the things they see themselves protecting: a woman’s control over her own body, her self, her personhood; an unborn child’s right to simply live, its self, its personhood. I don’t mean to answer that question here in this small space. (What hubris that would be!) I do intend to stake out where I am in this debate and that is in a state of moral dilemma. I see both sides of the issue as protecting things that are worthwhile, even essential. (I have something between disdain and contempt for the political “debate” as it stands. I don’t like people demonizing others nor do I like propaganda, i.e. comfortable lies.)

To put it as succinctly as I can, I am a pro-lifer unwilling to save the lives of the unborn by any means. I have always had moral problems with abortion and pro-choice arguments  have only solidified that position. I am not, however, a contraception-is-abortion pro-lifer. I don’t think RU-486 is an “abortion pill.” Preventing conception is simply not abortifacient. I tend to follow those in the medical profession who won’t perform abortions on unborn who clearly can feel and react to what is happening to them. In that, I find it cruel and inhuman.

But supporting its legal ban has always given me pause. The awful truth is that via the state I am usurping power and control over the most intimate parts of a woman’s body. An act very similar to rape. This escalates to full murder when pregnancy kills. And Hallmark cards aside, it does kill. But to put it in more palatable terms, it is violating the physical person of one individual for the sake of another in our society. And that is something that the majority of the Pro-Life movement do not have the moral integrity to acknowledge. We would recoil in horror if the state required people to donate bodily tissue, a kidney for example, in order to save the lives of others. It goes against many of our core democratic principles surrounding human rights.

How would we react if a man on dialysis, i.e. dying a slow death, was so far down the donor list that he virtually had no prospects for a transplant and the government saved him by finding and mandating a compatible person donate their kidney? How would any of us feel about being the donor? Remember, a person’s life is at stake here. Would you approve on that basis? I seriously doubt any of us would approve of such an act even to save a man’s life. So how is the mother of an unborn child worth any less than a kidney donor?

So until the pro-life movement is less pro-baby and fully pro-life and the pro-choice movement is less pro-woman and ceases to treat the unwanted unborn as something akin to the appendix, I remain in my moral Catch-22: support movements with little regard for life itself only that of certain parties.

Now That’s Political Power

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Obama show’s them how a politician is supposed to roll. Coates was right.

How the GOP Does Choice

Skip to Jon’s question on Bristol’s “decision” at 4:05. Outrageous.

msnbc.com video: Biden on religion, abortion

msnbc.com video: Biden on religion, abortion:

(Via MSNBC.com.)

Good answer. I wonder if the bishop would deny leadership to those pro-death penalty Republicans? The Church teaches against that too. I have no love for that hypocrisy.