Saturday, September 29, 2012
The always informative Jill Stanek recently posed an interesting question on her blog (here) responding to a column by Jonathan Last in The Weekly Standard (here). Last notes that at their 2004 convention “Democrats kept abortion talk at their convention to a bare minimum” and they later credited this move with keeping the election close.
This year, by contrast, they put abortion front and center. Perhaps this was to draw attention away from the economy, or perhaps because it fit so nicely with the Democratic narrative of a “war on women.” But front and center it was.
Not by name, of course – always draped instead under the innocuous banner of “choice.” Still, abortion was celebrated from a Democratic podium that featured speakers such as NARAL’s Nancy Keenan and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, while other speakers such as Deval Patrick, Martin O’Malley and Julian Castro mentioned it so “confidently and constantly . . . that it became something of a litany” (see here). One might expect Catholics like O’Malley and Castro to be used to reciting litanies, but not of this sort.
No doubt this irony was lost on the Democratic abortion faithful, as was the irony that in a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama centered around motherhood and family, (a speech where she was introduced not by “a political person,” just “a mom” see here), one of the biggest applause lines was reserved for her husband’s commitment to abortion (here at 13:04). So much for motherhood.
Indeed, abortion was such a prominent part of the festivities that even the reliably pro-choice Cokie Roberts (also a Catholic) remarked that the convention was “really over the top in terms of abortion” (here), while the reliably pro-life and Democratic Melinda Henneberger (also a Catholic) said that “speech after speech highlight[ed] how wrong [she had] been to wince every time Barack Obama is referred to as the ‘abortion president’” (here). Although preserving and expanding the abortion license has been an article of faith for the Democratic Party leadership since at least the mid-1970s, the alleluias devoted to abortion at this convention caused some to fittingly describe the event as an “Abortion-Palooza” (see here and here).
All of this may be to Mitt Romney’s advantage. Polling in several swing states indicates that independent voters are less likely to vote for Obama once they learn how extreme the President is on the subject (see here), something that the press all but ignored in the 2008 election (here).
It will be difficult for the Republicans to go on the offensive on the issue when the Press is in bed with the pro-abort gang (here). (Indeed, the press has been so one-sided in its coverage of Obama that The Onion has taken to mocking them -- see here).
Still, Romney had better be prepared to discuss abortion as the issue will almost certainly will come up in the debates.
The question may be phrased in such a way that Romney is meant to defend his flip-flop (i.e. he was solidly pro-choice as Governor of Massachusetts and is now pro-life) and Obama will be invited to spout the same line he normally does (i.e., he supports Roe v. Wade, and will defend a woman's right to choose, blah, blah, blah) without really saying why he believes this is the right position as a matter or morality, public policy or constitutional interpretation.
Nevertheless, here I think Romney has the opportunity to counterpunch.
An obvious counterpunch would be for Romney to bring up Obama’s atrocious votes in the Illinois Senate. But this would give the President a generous opportunity to obfuscate and mislead as those in his campaign have done (see here), and the Press can’t be counted on to fact check with integrity, and most people – if they were still listening days after the debate – would likely throw up their hands in frustration, no knowing the truth and no longer caring. So I would not recommend such an approach.
Instead, the counterpunch could come like this.
Romney could say that “Like the vast majority of Americans, I recognize that the being growing in the womb is a human being. Indeed, that is why considering an abortion is such an anguished decision for most women and why many experience enormous grief afterwards (see here) – they recognize that it isn’t like having a tooth pulled or one’s appendix removed. It isn’t just a clump of cells but a child – their son or daughter! The humanity of the developing child is not a moral or theological position, but the conclusion of science. Why, Mr. President, do you refuse to accept this? Why are you opposed to what science tells us?"
“During the 2008 campaign at the ‘Compassion Forum’ Mr. Obama was asked when does human life begin and he said ‘That is something that I have not . . . come to a firm resolution on.’ ‘Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs?’ you asked, and you concluded that you wouldn't ‘presume to know the answer to that question.’" (See here).
“Really Mr. President? Can you honestly tell the American public that when you and Michelle were expecting and she was pregnant with each of your daughters, and you saw the ultra-sound image flicker across the screen, you withheld your judgment then, not having reached a 'firm resolution' on whether the object of your affection was a human being? Did you say ‘We don’t know if it’s a child yet’ because we wouldn’t ‘presume to know’ whether or not the soul had yet ‘stirred’? Or did you exclaim with joy ‘That’s our baby girl!’? Mr. President, I think we all know that the being growing inside his or her mother’s womb is a human being. The difference is I think that innocent human life should be protected and you don’t.”
Some people might think this is too personal, and intrusive, and would make Obama a victim
Still, there are ways Romney could say the same thing in a less personal way addressed to Obama. He could say “Most women, most men, most Americans, when they see the ultra-sound image – they know it’s not just a clump of cells. It’s a human being. Even in the early weeks of the pregnancy the technician can point out features and say ‘Here is the heart, here is the brain, here is an arm or a leg.’ It’s a child, and we know it, even if it doesn’t appear like a fully formed infant at birth. They know this, and I suspect you and your wife had the same reaction ‘There’s our baby girl! There’s our daughter!’ Well that reaction isn’t a matter of someone’s subjective judgment, or their religious beliefs as you have implied. And it isn’t just an emotional response, though it is a recognition weighted with emotion. No. That judgment, that conclusion is an empirical judgment – a judgment reflected in the leading texts on human embryology used in America’s medical schools – a judgment that is confirmed with our own eyes. And I believe that because it is a human being, because it is a human life, it is entitled to protection under the law.”
Responding to the question of abortion in this fashion would of course give voice to a deep truth that lies at the foundation of Catholic social teaching. To hear this voice in the public square could not help but be a good thing for the American electorate.