Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Many of us very much want to be reasonable and realistic when it comes to difficult and divisive questions regarding the use of law to promote and protect moral goods. The perfect should not, this side of Heaven, be seen as the enemy of the good, compromise in politics and policy should not be regarded as unprincipled selling-out, etc. And, particularly for those of us in the academy, the appeal of "dialogue" and "debate" is undeniable.
In this (I think) clear-eyed and provocative essay at Public Discourse, Patrick Lee writes:
In his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, President Obama suggested that he valued debate about the issue of abortion. He congratulated Notre Dame’s president, Father Jenkins, for his “courageous commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue,” and spoke approvingly of “citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy” engaging in “vigorous debate.”
However, for "vigorous debate" to actually happen, Lee notes, "[the President's] own position must be clarified. The picture that emerges is not a flattering one."
Obama has chosen to fund abortion overseas, clearly favors funding abortions here, and has reversed the limitations on funding of embryo-destructive stem cell research Given these facts, it is fair to ask: what is his position on the beginning of human life and when human life has or acquires inherent dignity? What position on the beginning of human life could he possibly hold?
After considering six alternatives, Lee concludes:
So, which is it? Does Obama just not care whether what is killed in abortion and embryo-destructive research is a human person or not? If he does care, what does he think occurs in abortion or embryo-destructive research? Each of the positions that might justify his actions has insuperable logical and/or philosophical difficulties. It is time to have some of that vigorous debate Obama claims to favor.
Read the whole thing. And recall how often it has been charged, in recent years, that pro-lifers don't really believe what they say they believe about unborn children (because if they did, they would be engaging in armed revolution, killing abortionists, etc.). It seems fair to ask of the President, "given what he has actually done, and believes should be done, with respect to abortion, what must he actually believe about human dignity, equal justice, and so on?"