George Orwell is alive and well. Abortion is a matter of “reproductive health.”
The Center for American Progress is perhaps the most serious outfit on the left. Headed by John Podesta, onetime Clinton chief of staff, the Center mixes policy analysis and political activism. Its email “The Progress Report” recently warned: “Across the nation, states are cracking down on women’s reproductive rights by banning abortion.”
Most people would think that reproduction involves having, rather than, aborting, children. But no matter. The Center worries about South Dakota’s ban on abortion, as well as a proposal before the Michigan state legislature prohibiting any attempt “to coerce or intimidate a woman into seeking an abortion.” (Who, one wonders, could be against the latter?)
The Center goes on to fuss about the central political role of abortion: “by focusing the reproductive debate solely on abortion, women’s health care options are being limited.” Uh, who’s responsible for that? It is the Democratic Party that has consciously marginalized anyone with moral qualms about turning abortion into another form of birth control.
The rise of so-called values voters has caused some in the Democratic Party to advocate greater openness to pro-lifers. For instance, the national Democratic Party has enthusiastically backed the pro-life Bob Casey, Jr., son of the late pro-life Democratic governor, in his race against Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Even Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has talked about respecting the pro-life position.
Of course, she remains resolutely pro-abortion where it counts, voting. And that’s the problem with Democratic attempts at “inclusiveness.” So far it is only rhetoric.
THIS IS WHY THE CENTER’S new report, “More Than a Choice: A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health & Rights,” also fails in its objective to deemphasize abortion. Although the Center talks about “reproductive rights,” which suggests individual responsibility, it wants the government to do most everything — guarantee health care, prohibit discrimination against those who are pregnant, provide condoms, require pharmacists and doctors to offer services that violate their moral beliefs, and more. Indeed, “reproductive rights” are but a piece of the liberal whole: “Reproductive rights are naturally tied to other core progressive struggles such as environmental, labor, and immigrant rights.” Well, of course. What could be more obvious? Pregnant women and trees, unionized autoworkers, and illegal aliens, together fighting the forces of oppression (or something like that).
While the report talks about many issues, abortion remains at the center. Of course it should be legal. Moreover, just like a decision to have a child, “a woman’s decision to have an abortion should be respected rather than castigated. There is no need for the government to second-guess the process by which women come to conclusions about childbearing.”
But abortion is not about childbearing. It’s about childkilling, yes, ending the life of another human being. The question whether Washington should provide, say, subsidized pre-natal care is not trivial. It is secondary to the question whether the child will be allowed to live, however.
Yet after giving no quarter to the position that fetal life might be of value worthy of at least some protection, the Center complains: “The myopic focus on abortion has led to polarized and stagnant fights that depict progressive values in a highly distorted light and cause most Americans to disengage from the debate.”
And who do we blame for that? Imagine a pro-life Democrat running for President. Well, it’s not easy.
Every Democrat with even a modestly pro-life voting record flip-flopped when they sought the Big Enchilada –Bill Clinton, Richard Gephardt, Al Gore. It’s one thing to tolerate State Treasurer Casey running for Senate against an even stronger pro-life Republican. It’s quite another to back a pro-lifer with the power to do something.
ABORTION IS THE CENTRAL reproductive issue. Our society either respects life or it doesn’t. Pre-natal care means nothing for a child that is aborted.
And as pro-life advocates have long noted, the logic of abortion starts, rather than ends, with a dead fetus. The inimitable Peter Singer, a misnamed “ethicist” at Princeton University, recently opined that he would kill a disabled baby (not fetus) “if that was in the best interest of the baby and of the family as whole.” Exactly how killing a disabled child would be in the child’s interest isn’t clear.
However, Singer went on to make a critical point. “Many people find this shocking, yet they support a woman’s right to have an abortion.” Why does the right to life depend on the morally insignificant moment of birth? As Singer put it to the British newspaper the Independent: “One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the fetus and the newborn baby.”
There often are difficult decisions to make at both the beginning and the end (as well as in the middle — think Terri Schiavo) of the spectrum of life. Yet surely the bias, the very strong bias, must be for life. And we must be particularly careful allowing some, however well-intentioned, to make life and death decisions for others. Life is not just one interest to be balanced against others. It is the essential precondition for balancing any interests.
The Center for American Progress would like to expand the discussion of reproductive health beyond abortion. Fine and good. If the government requires a reluctant mother to carry her baby to term, we can fairly discuss the moral obligations of the rest of us to aid those who are ill-equipped to care for a child.
But the starting point must be that life, once created, is cherished and protected. If not, there won’t be much “reproductive health” to talk about.
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