Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Douglas W. Kmiec

8/11/2008 (6 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

"Having drafted their platform, the Democrats should reopen doors that never should have been shut toward pro-life Democrats." says Doug Kmiec.

Highlights

By Douglas W. Kmiec

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/11/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy


MALIBU, Ca. (Catholic Online) - The drafting of a party platform is always a contentious business and that is especially true when the topic is abortion.

Abortion has been dividing the culture, including political parties for over 30 years now. In its last several iterations with the Clintons, Al Gore, and John Kerry, the Democratic party platform has been rather decidedly one-sided.Roe v. Wade is to be affirmed and defended. End of story. Oh yes, there was the language of "safe, legal and rare," but the emphasis was always on 'safe and legal,' with 'rare' little more than an afterthought.

Barack Obama is a different type of candidate. As he sees it, Roe is not an endorsement of abortion, so much as an affirmation that abortion is a moral question for which only the potential mother can give answer. To impose either safe or legal or rare is, to him, to have the government displace the woman's freedom.

From a Catholic perspective, of course, this is a false freedom since, as John Paul II taught so ably, freedom must never be separated from the truth of the human person.

For this reason, the Catholic position is "never" not "rare." The Democrats are still well short of that, but the impact of Senator Obama's search for common ground is evident. Obama's theory of government is to put the human person at the center -- to not have the government impose from top-down, but to encourage greater for life by making sure that a woman's life circumstance is not so cruel that ignorance or economics coerces a choice the mother would otherwise not make.

The new Democratic Party Platform is obviously something many people of different points of view had a hand in. Some of us argued that Roe be reversed; others that it be reaffirmed. Those polar positions are not where either Democratic or Republican parties are at -- nor realistically the American people.

The Republicans are dug in on seeking the elusive 5th vote to overturn Roe, but even with all the past Republican appointments to the Court, that is unlikely. And in any event, overturning Roe does nothing directly to save a life; it merely tosses the issue to the states which may or may not affirm life.

Catholic teaching tells us when we reach an impasse for life, we need to seek out another way - to make at least some progress in building up the culture of life. Interestingly, that's where Obama's effort has guided the Democratic platform.

Yes, there is the reaffirmation of Roe, but it is now matched with a full-throated call for efforts to address the irresponsibility of kids having kids, through appropriate educational efforts emphasizing the maturity and responsibility that must accompany sexual intimacy.

The most important Obama-inspired addition to the platform is the explicit call for greater respect for prenatal assistance, paid maternity leave, and if a woman is unable to raise her child, a sensitively structured and caring adoption system. To have the Democrats in the "strongly support" column for these measures in favor of life should not go unnoticed.

That still leaves the Democratic Party Platform well short of where honoring all life needs to be from a Catholic perspective, but it moves the ball considerably toward the side that favors life from the moment of conception.

Party platform language is seldom inspiring; indeed, the language proposed for the Democratic platform lacks the rhetorical depth of Senator Obama's own statements discouraging abortion and recognizing its moral dilemmas, and it certainly lacks the Senator's law teacher's grasp of how the mental health exception has left the law unthinkingly with abortion on demand.

But the purpose of party platforms are to cobble together lists of tangible steps to launch campaign rhetoric toward legislative achievement. In this, the Democratic platform language on abortion takes several notable steps toward specific, constructive ways to honor human life.

Catholics will be the first to say -- more is needed. It is. But Catholics ought also be the first to observe that insofar as Obama leaves the present law giving the potential mother the ultimate choice, he has successfully persuaded his party to commit to conditions that will make it more, not less, likely that the choice will be in favor of life.

As the Democrats head toward their convention, the Democratic Party needs to rectify one thing more.

From the outside looking in, my sense is there are many Democratic Parties, the party of working men and women looking for a modicum of economic fairness; the party of environmentalists looking for ways to preserve the planet; the party of the new immigrant looking to be accepted; and most importantly, the party where civil rights has always
been front and center. Does that make the Democrats a "big tent" like the Republicans always claim to be?

Maybe. Democrats are usually too spontaneous to fit all that diversity into a single tent, for among other reasons, who among them would remember to bring the tent? And that's probably a good thing; life is a messy business of many views and ideas and it is better if they are not set up like a highly staged pageant.

But it was decidely wrong for the Democrats to have excluded Governor Bob Casey Sr. for his pro-life views in 1992. Excluding Governor Casey was a bad idea because it cut deeply against the ethic of the Democratic Party - everybody is entitled to have their say so long as what is said is respectful of the dignity of another. Gov. Casey's exclusion was particularly hurtful since it alienated the natural affinity Catholics have for the Democratic Party.

The new language in the Democratic platform suggests that some important lessons have been learned on all sides. Democrats have learned that they are not really proponents of choice if there is inadequate funding for pre-natal care, maternity leave, and adoption services. Once that is acknowledged, the Democrats can do what they do best - employ progressive thinking to poke the fa├žade of corporate America that pretends to be family-friendly, but then does very little to accommodate women who choose to contribute their talents both at work and at home.

My friends on the Republican side always talk up the free market, and there is much to be said about its efficiency; but the market often treats families as a "free good" when it neglects to structure itself in a way that accommodates work and family. Remember the abortion right was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court upon the premise that the social and economic participation of women in the economy depends upon access to abortion. That in itself is a repulsive thought. Isn't it the business that should make the accommodation, not the woman in the termination of a pregnancy.

Having drafted their platform, the Democrats should reopen doors that never should have been shut toward pro-life Democrats. Closing these doors not only diminished Democratic ranks, it channeled those who stayed into a darkened corridor where specific, tangible steps honoring life were ignored in previous platforms.

If Senator Casey is welcomed home and given an appropriate speaking role, and I hope he is, it will be news, but an old story: politics really is a game of addition, and adding those in support of life has the potential of adding in multiples . . . and that really would be positive achievement!

Douglas Kmiec is Chair & Professor of Law, Pepperdine University; and the former Dean of the The Catholic University Law School

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

SCOTUS PROTECTS - Religious institutions in Pennsylvania protected from HHS mandate Watch

Image of The Pennsylvania-based religious groups are among hundreds of plaintiffs challenging the federal HHS mandate, which requires employers to offer coverage of sterilization, contraception, and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

By Matt Hadro, CNA/EWTN News

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued an order protecting a group of Pennsylvania religious institutions from being required by the federal contraception mandate to violate their faith. Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Doesn't our government have something better to do ... continue reading


DUMP TRUMP? NO WAY. Some brave Hispanic leaders call billionaire 'terrific' and 'brash' Watch

Image of Other presidential contenders have disregarded Trump's comments. It's seen as a setback for many Republicans, who wish to court the widely growing Hispanic population.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Multi-billionaire, Republican candidate for President has always been known for his outspokenness. In a speech to announce that he was throwing his hat into the ring, Trump said Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. ... continue reading


Obama declared 'amateur' and 'Marxist' by Center for Disease Control (CDC) official Watch

Image of Countless Central Americans, piling through the U.S. southern Border States along the border with Mexico has brought an influx of unvaccinated people with diseases that have since been eradicated in the U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

United States President Barack Obama's unchecked influx of unvaccinated child immigrants across the U.S. - Mexico border has an official with the centers for Disease Control denouncing him as a "Marxist" and "amateur." An email from the official called him the ... continue reading


Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks out on Obama's gay pride light show and the legalization of gay marriage Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In celebration of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, President Obama lit up the White House with rainbow colors, which garnered a response from Republican, former Arkansas governor and now presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was noted as saying that ... continue reading


Supreme Court 'unwrote laws of nature' GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declares Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saying that the Supreme Court tried to "unwrite the laws of nature and the laws of nature's God" when it legalized gay marriage across the nation last week, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also pointed out the fact that President Barack Obama himself ... continue reading


'They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is': Donald Trump fired from NBC for controversial immigrant statements Watch

Image of Donald Trump retired from The Apprentice after announcing his presidential bid.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

NBC has made the decision to cut ties with Donald Trump, over his political view and controversial statements regarding immigration made during his presidential announcement. Donald Trump and NBC have had a relationship, including Trump's produced Miss USA and Miss ... continue reading


When is the best time to take out Social Security? Watch

Image of 100-year-old woman.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Financial advisers usually advice their clients to take Social Security benefits at the age of 70 for maximum growth. However, it is found that most people don't take that advice, as they are likely to withdraw what they have saved up as soon as they hit retirement. A ... continue reading


IT'S NOT OVER: Freedom of Religion may trump same-sex marriage victories Watch

Image of

By Matt Hadro and Adelaide Mena, CNA/ETWN News

Friday's Supreme Court ruling against the traditional understanding of marriage may pose huge obstacles to the free exercise of religion and conscience across the U.S., the nation's bishops have said in response to the decision. Washington D.C.(CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading


Decisions on same-sex marriage, power-plant emissions now in the hands of Supreme Court Watch

Image of Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court. Decisions regarding same-sex marriages, power plant emissions and execution methods will all be rendered by either Friday or early next week. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett's family has strong communist roots, files prove Watch

Image of Valerie Jarrett's father, pathologist and geneticist Dr. James Bowman, has been found to have had extensive ties to Communist associations and individuals.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Does the apple truly fall far from the tree? Recently uncovered files show that Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama and trusted confidant has family ties with those with communist leanings. These uncovered files prove that Jarrett's ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29
1 When Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were so weak ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 135:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! Praise the name of Yahweh, you who serve ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 9:14-17
14 Then John's disciples came to him and said, 'Why ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 4th, 2015 Image

St. Elizabeth of Portugal
July 4: Elizabeth was a Spanish princess who was given in marriage to ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter