Doug Kmiec Reaffirms Endorsing Sen. Barack Obama
"To some of my fellow Catholics, Senator Obama's answers on abortion make him categorically unacceptable. I understand that view, respect it, but find it prudentially the second-best answer in 2008."
To some of my fellow Catholics, Senator Obama's answers on abortion make him categorically unacceptable.I understand that view, respect it, but find it prudentially the second-best answer in 2008.
Not because Senator Obama's position on abortion is mine; it is not. Not because I don't believe Senator Obama could improve the articulation of his position; he could, but because I believe that my faith calls upon me at this time to focus on new efforts and untried paths to reduce abortion practice in America.
Senator Obama’s emphasis on personal responsibility, rather than legal bickering over potential Supreme Court nominations in my judgment, best moves this issue forward.
The Republican Party has had a better claim to be pro-life because of words in its platform supporting the overruling of Roe v. Wade. Roe is bad constitutional law, because it's not based on the Constitution or any tradition or custom implicit within its terms.
Yet overturning the decision does little other than return the issue to the states. Conservative justice and fellow Catholic Antonin Scalia has pointed out that following Roe’s hypothetical demise, if the states want abortion thereafter all they have to do is pass a law in favor of it.
As a matter of constitutional legal theory, I believe Justice Scalia is entirely wrong and that Roe is flawed not just for its displacement of state authority, but more fundamentally, for its disregard of the natural law presuppositions in the Declaration of Independence.
As I see it, the “self-evident truths” of the Declaration have interpretative significance for the meaning of “life” and “person” in the constitutional text -- and that meaning makes life unalienable, which means each life from conception is unique and worthy of constitutional protection.
Were Senator McCain to be of the same mind, he would be pro-life. As it is, he and the GOP are pro-federalism, which is not a bad thing, but frankly, at this late date, insufficient.
Thus, as I see it, it is a choice between two less than sufficient courses:
(a) the continuation of an effort to appoint men and women to the Court who are thought willing to overturn Roe through divisive confirmation proceedings that undermine respect for law and understate the significance of non-abortion issues in a judicial candidate’s evaluation; or
(b) working with a new president who honestly concedes the abortion decision poses serious moral issues which he argues can only be fully and successfully resolved by the mother facing it with the primary obligation of the community seeing to it that she is as well informed as possible in the making of it.
It is a prudential judgment which course is more protective of life. Had three Republican presidents over 20 years in office not tried course (a), it might be a close question. As it is, we know that following course (a) has met with little success, and again, even if fully successful will do little more than bolster the possibility that some number of states will make abortion legally less available
I do not understand Senator Obama to be pro-abortion, though if we had an extended conversation on this topic, I would ask him to more carefully parse the topic. Asked at the recent faith forum at Messiah College whether he believed life began at conception, Obama said he has not "come to a firm resolution" on the question.
That's a mistake that any geneticist could clear up for him. Openly, he posited that he thought it is “very hard to know . . . when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don't presume to know the answer to that question.”
There’s some humility in this answer, but it also mixes science and theology and tangles up life and personhood to boot. In fairness, however, it typifies the larger public confusion. Most importantly, it is an answer free of guile or political calculation. “What I [do] know,” said the Senator, “is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that has a moral weight to it . . . .”
Indeed, it does, and he accompanied his candid observation with a critique of himself and his party. It is a “mistake,” Obama said “to try to tamp down the moral dimension to abortion,” for do to so understates that it is “a wrenching choice for anybody to think about." On Meet the Press some time ago, he stressed the importance of involving the clergy in the counsel of a mother.
Obama briefly mentioned adoption as a means of reducing abortions at the faith forum, and I encourage him to speak more at length about that sound, practical affirmation of life. But where he looks for the greatest agreement and ...
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