I recently read Archbishop Naumann’s on theleaven.org. In it, he criticizes Tim Kaine for holding a personal opposition to abortion even as he legislates as a pro-choice candidate and senator. I think the abortion debate in this country is generally pretty ugly and dominated by religious reasoning. I am pro-choice for a few reasons, one of which is that even if abortion was criminalized, abortions would still happen. However, they would be much more dangerous, hidden, and committed without any regard for the life of the mother. I also take issue with some of the typical arguments used by pro-life advocates, namely that every human life is sacred and must be protected at all costs. And, no, this does not make me “pro-abortion”, a terrible slander that is used to portray pro-choice advocates as heartless murderers. Believing abortion should be legal, and hoping that abortion would never be needed are not contradictory.
If you are religious and you are pro-life because you believe that is what God wants, then you may as well stop reading. How can human reason compare with God’s? I don’t have an argument against religious reasons for opposition to abortion, because nothing can be said to overcome a sincerely held religious belief. I do not have religious reasons for being pro-choice, and so I am fully committed to weighing arguments on both sides and deciding what I think best. Thus far, I have decided that the pro-choice argument makes more sense to me, but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise.
Anyway, to Archbishop Naumann. He states that Senator Kaine stated all the usual “made-for-modern-media sound bites” and then listed two sentences that are perfectly reasonable and another one that has only come up because Donald Trump made an ill-advised comment.
- “It is not proper to impose his religious beliefs upon all Americans.”
- Since when is this a sound-bite? This has been a fundamental principle since our founding.
- “He trusts women to make good reproductive choices.”
- Should we not trust people to make their own reproductive choices? Again, if you are a strict Catholic (or other strict Christian), then you believe that there is no option other than procreative sex and nothing else, but that is a choice that each individual makes. When, how, and with whom to have sex are personal questions that each person has to answer. This statement again, does not seem unreasonable.
- “Do we really want to criminalize and fill our jails with post-abortive women?”
- Donald Trump said that there should be some type of punishment for women who seek an abortion. He later walked it back and I think that he simply thought it was in keeping with what pro-life people wanted to hear, but the vast majority of pro-life people have never wanted to jail women who seek an abortion, so this is being used as a scare tactic by Democrats to whip up votes.
The Archbishop then proceeds to talk about how Senator Kaine has no problem imposing his religious beliefs with regard to “the church’s opposition to racism or our preferential treatment for the poor.” While it is true that the Church has recently embraced these things, it has not always been the case. The Church has embraced racism at various times (slavery, anti-Semitism, to name two instances) and their treatment of the poor has been uneven. Should the Church not do as Jesus commanded and sell all they have and give it to the poor? I imagine St. Peter’s Basilica could house, clothe and feed a lot of poor people. Or is the Archbishop advocating to remove the tax-free treatment that churches receive, so that those tax dollars can be used to better fund anti-poverty measures?
“He appears not to be conflicted with our public policies mirroring the Ten Commandments with regard to stealing, perjury or forms of murder, other than abortion.” You do not have to be religious to understand that stealing, perjury, and murder are harmful to society. Does Archbishop Naumann really believe that people were constantly murdering, stealing, and lying before the Ten Commandments were revealed? Of course not, Adam and Even never would have made it out of Eden if this were so.
“Our founders actually believed that the right to life is given to us by our Creator, not the Supreme Court.” The founders also believed that you could be deprived of life, liberty, and property under our laws. So, the right to life is not an absolute right. Additionally, the founders also believed in slavery and that women were inferior, so perhaps we shouldn’t assume that just because the founders thought it, it must be right.
“[A]t the moment of fertilization a new human life has begun with his or her own distinct DNA.” While the biology of this is technically correct, why the emphasis on human life? What makes a fertilized human egg a life worth protecting? This gets into a fundamental philosophical question about what life is worth saving. Most people would agree that all human life is worth saving, until we get into the details. If we try to look at particular cases of horrible people, then we may not agree that all human life is worth saving, such as rapists, murderers, enemy combatants in war, etc. Now, you could try to make an innocence argument, that the humans in the womb are necessarily innocent. Depending on what Christian doctrine you subscribe to, you may believe that all humans are stained with sin from conception, tainted and therefore not innocent. Looked at in this way, babies in a womb are no more innocent than the rapist. I personally think this is ridiculous and would be a sign of a horribly unjust God.
“Does anyone really have the choice to end another human being’s life? Our choices end where another individual’s more fundamental rights begin.” This is a climax of the argument and meant to be a final blow to anyone who could disagree with the author. However, we can follow this down to its logical conclusion and end up in a pretty terrifying place. First, the state and the military clearly have the choice to end another human being’s life. Both of those groups do it all the time. Before we quibble about how those are organizations and not ‘people’, let’s be clear that people have to perform the action. An executioner has to perform the execution. The state did not kill someone, a person did. The military as an organization did not kill an opposing army’s soldier, our soldier did it with a gun (or drone).
If we follow the choices argument, then we need to think much more carefully about our choices. Do you have a smartphone? Then you took away someone’s fundamental rights as the enslavement and horrific working conditions of people manufacturing these smartphones has been well documented. Did you spend money eating out, when you could have donated that money to the poor and potentially prevented someone from starving to death? Did you invite a homeless person into your home to stay warm on a freezing winter night? If not, then you may very well have made a choice that killed someone. Nobody would ever hold you personally responsible for these deaths, but we cannot simply say that we cannot make a choice that ever infringes on someone else’s rights. We would be left unable to take any action.
“[G]uilt and unresolved grief that inevitably resolves from abortion.” I take issue with the qualifier “inevitably”. This is saying that every abortion results in grief and guilt and I am sure that is not the case. You can easily find stories of women who chose to have an abortion and do not regret it or feel grief.
There is a long paragraph about how Senator Kaine has imposed his beliefs on others by forcing religious institutions to provide contraception, which is false, put florists out of business if they don’t support gay marriage, which is partially true, and force every American to fund abortions. To all of these I say, you live in a society and part of the social contract is that you have to abide by certain rules. Religious institutions can simply say they don’t want to provide contraception and they don’t have to. Florists and other businesses cannot discriminate. If you want to discriminate, don’t start a business. Our tax dollars go to support a lot of things that you or I don’t agree with. But, this doesn’t mean that you get to stop paying taxes. Taxes are the price you pay for living in a society.
Lastly, the author gives an endorsement for Donald Trump without mentioning him by name. I can understand how Christian conservatives cannot vote for or support Hilary Clinton. I get it. But to endorse Donald Trump cedes any moral high ground that you may have had. I’ve been considering leaving the presidential ticket blank and simply voting for all of the down-ballot races. This seems perfectly legitimate. Trump and Clinton are both flawed, but Trump is much more flawed and dangerous than Clinton.
This was a long post and I’m sure some people will be angry and others may agree with me. Again, I want us to think rationally about abortion. It’s an issue worth talking about and I am willing to admit I may be wrong. However, if you want to say, “God says x, y and z”, then I don’t really have anything to say. God may indeed say all those things and maybe after we die, we’ll find out what the truth is.