“I’m Personally Opposed, But. . . .”
It seems that social issues are taking a back seat to the economy and sabre rattling from Iran and Israel. Like the Saddleback Forum in 2008 between then candidates Obama and McCain, with Rick Warren moderating, the topic of abortion will once again become a center-stage issue, primarily because of Barack Obama’s “above my pay grade” remark and his statements about keeping abortion on demand legal in America. Adding fuel to the fire of controversy was the choice of Delaware Senator Joe Biden as Obama’s VP pick. Biden is Roman Catholic, and if there is a consistent voice of opinion in the Church it’s that abortion is a grave moral wrong. Biden has taken what he describes as a “middle-of-the-road position“:
I remember vividly the first time, in 1973, I had to go to the floor to vote on abortion. A fellow Senator asked how I would vote. “My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I have a right to impose my few on the rest of society. I’ve thought a lot about it, and my position probably doesn’t please anyone. I think the government should stay out completely. I will not vote to overturn the Court’s decision. I will not vote to curtail a woman’s right to choose abortion. But I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.”
When someone states that he or she is “personally opposed” to something, my first question is, “Why?” What is it about abortion that you oppose? This question is almost never asked of the “I’m personally opposed but” (IPOB) crowd. I can see using this argument for “I’m personally opposed to smoking cigarettes,” or “I’m personally opposed to drinking alcohol” since they do only affect the consumer, but I don’t see how the IPOB argument works for abortion since the issue revolves around what’s being aborted. We do know that there are advertisements that state that cigarette smoking and the consumption of alcohol while pregnant can affect a pre-born baby.
So we’re back to why Biden is personally opposed to abortion? Is it because abortion snuffs out a human life? If this is the reason, then being personally opposed must transfer over to the civil arena. If what is growing inside a woman’s womb is not a human life, then there is no reason even to be personally opposed. The reason a person can be personally opposed to cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption is that the damage done to the body is personal. A preborn baby is not a part of a woman’s body. He or she is a separate biological entity. A preborn baby is not like a diseased appendix or lung. What is born is another human being.
I’m sure there were people who said they were personally opposed to slavery, but they were unwilling to impose their personal morality on slave owners. They might even have had reservations about supporting slave owners legislatively or financially similar to the way Biden has chosen not “to use federal funds to fund abortion.” When asked if he believed in the Roman Catholic Church’s view that life began at conception, Biden declared that he was “prepared to accept my church’s view” (read here). But he doesn’t practice that view.
My guess is that Biden would fall back on the argument that there is a separation between Church and State, therefore, it would be inappropriate for him to mix religion and politics. But the church is also against slavery, rape, murder, and a whole host of other moral wrongs. Does he abstain from imposing these views on the electorate? The next fall-back position would most likely be that abortion is the law of the land. It is, but so was slavery.
Continued research and technological advances have created a dilemma for the medical profession and today’s crop of pro-abortion and IPOB politicians. Now that babies can live outside the womb at 24 weeks, what does this do to the argument that a woman has a “right” to do what she wants with her body through the entire ninth months of pregnancy, and in some cases beyond? In the May 16, 1988 issue of Newsweek, the dilemma is observed with no answers offered:
And — perhaps most troubling of all — if it is possible to save babies at 24 weeks, then how can we justify legal abortions at that point? Has medicine outpaced law? Progress in the nursery is forcing us to confront basic issues. “Science and technology don’t have the power to tell us when life begins,” says Arthur Kaplan of the Center of Biomedical Ethics at the University of Minnesota. “What they do have is the power to give us information and evidence which we must reckon with as we try to draw lines between life and death, fetus and person, mother’s rights and baby’s rights.”1
There is more than enough evidence to show that preborn babies are human beings. What else could they be? It’s interesting that former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appealed to the history of the Roman Catholic Church going back to Augustine (354–430) to support her pro-abortion views (see church’s comments here and here). Don’t you just love these people? We’re told that we have to keep our religious views separate from practical politics, but it’s OK to appeal to the Church when we can find some thread of support. They can’t have it both ways. As the above quotation from Newsweek shows, a lot has changed scientifically in 1600 years. Here’s what Pelosi said when asked about when life begins:
I would say that as an ardent practicing Catholic this is an issue that I have studied for a long time, and what I know is over the centuries the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said three months. We don’t know. The point is it that it shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to chose.
Let’s assume that what Augustine says about when life begins is “three months.” This means that after 12 or 13 weeks there shouldn’t be any abortions. But Pelosi and Biden support abortion throughout the entire nine-months, and Obama supported partial-birth abortion legislation while an Illinois state senator. In reality, Pelosi does not care anything about Augustine or the Church, because it’s all about a “woman’s right to choose.” “Choose what?” is what I would like to ask. What is the woman choosing to abort? That’s the question that never gets asked.
- Barbara Kantrowitz, “Preemies,” Newsweek (May 16, 1988), 64. [↩]