Earlier this month, I wrote about Rudy Giuliani’s comments on public funding for abortion, which I described as a blunder. Since making those comments, Giuliani has continued to rankle pro-lifers, not just because he is pro-choice, but also because of the way he has been expressing his views. It’s worth discussing criticisms of his position, because they raise interesting broader points.
This is pretty representative of how Giuliani has been characterizing his views on abortion during the campaign:
On top of the fact that he is pro-choice, his statement bothers pro-lifers on two levels: 1) It’s a caricature of the pro-life position to suggest abortion opponents favor putting pregnant women in jail. 2) If he believes abortion is wrong, how can he favor allowing the practice?
To start, let me say that I agree that Giuliani should stop mischaracterizing the pro-life view by talking about jail. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily contradictory to be personally opposed to abortion but still think that ultimately it should be left up to the woman. One of the reasons abortion is such a contentious issue is that it isn’t totally cut and dry and decent people of good conscience can come to different conclusions. Even pro-lifers acknowledge in their policy prescriptions an underlying gray area– they recognize that terminating a pregnancy isn’t quite the same as, say, shooting somebody. If the moral implications of destroying a fetus were cut and dry, why wouldn’t pro-lifers favor putting a woman who had an abortion in jail? Why would they favor exceptions for rape and incest? Given that there are shades of gray in this debate, I don’t think it’s necessarily contradictory to personally find abortion morally repugnant, but still believe that a person of good conscience could disagree with you, and thus be uncomfortable with the idea of legally denying a woman the option.
This isn’t intended as a blanket defense of Giuliani’s position on abortion, and I can certainly understand why many pro-lifers have problems with him, but I thought that this specific criticism was worth addressing.