Monday, August 9, 2010

a "truce" on abortion?

From Joseph Bottum in First Things...

...abortion remains what it has been for more than thirty years: the signpost at the intersection of religion and American public life.

Of course, there are those who think this shouldn’t be so. Personally, I cannot see how abortion could not rank first. We eliminate 1.3 million unborn children in this country every year, a number that dwarfs, by far, the impact of every other activity with which the moral teachings of the churches might be concerned. For that matter, the story of abortion is a tale of blood and sex and power and law—I do not know what more anyone could need for public significance. The people who say they are uninterested in the issue of abortion have always seemed, to me, to be trying to suppress the imagination that most makes us human....

One person who wishes things were different is Mitch Daniels, Republican governor of Indiana and candidate for president. He has made some news for himself, among conservatives, with the successful governorship that managed to keep Indiana out of the oceans of debt that, once the recession came, swamped many other states. The coming 2012 presidential election, he says, is the most important of his lifetime—for it primarily concerns “survival issues.”

And so, he told Washington Post columnist (and former Bush speechwriter) Michael Gerson, “If there were a WMD attack, death would come to straights and gays, pro-life and pro-choice. If the country goes broke, it would ruin the American dream for everyone. We are in this together. Whatever our honest disagreements on other questions, might we set them aside long enough to do some very difficult things without which we will be a different, lesser country?”...

And blunder it was to use that word truce—for several reasons, beginning with the guilelessness of Daniels’ statement. Even if you thought it were true, why would you say it?...

It’s a pretty easy guess that calling for a truce will buy a Republican not a single vote from among that abortion-supporting...

No, we cannot halt. We cannot falter. We cannot pause. We cannot agree to wait. No truce—not now, not ever.

There is much to say here-- some of it, semantics; some of it, not.

First, although not most important, contra Bottum, this would probably be a useful political strategy-- at least in a general election, and in this economic context. Such a position will not gain-- or lose-- votes from avid pro-choice or pro-life voters. But it could be compelling to "independent" voters, especially when the economy is in such bad shape.

Second, and far more important, given the question of abortion's immorality and injustice, there is still the question of government as a means to legitimate ends. Although one can easily make a case for Christian involvement in govt here as ethical, its efficacy is more debatable. What seems beyond debate-- but often ignored-- is that abortion is more cultural/social than political.

Thus, one reason for a "truce"-- or putting it farther down the list of political issues-- is that we won't solve abortion, politically, in the coming years. What have we gotten from pro-life presidents-- aside from a little bit of the bully pulpit and court appointees? The latter would be the same under Daniels and how much difference does the former make?


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