Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is the pro-life position a threat to religious liberty?

Writing in the Pioneer Press, Kiely Todd Roska (executive director of the Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) says that the pro-life Stupak-Pitts amendment to the U.S. House's health care reform bill, which prevents federal funding of elective abortions, "threatens religious freedom."

"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops advocated that their religious views [i.e., the pro-life position] be added to the House bill," she writes. "The bishops' theological viewpoints should not shape the public policy of all Americans."

Roska continues: "[W]e call on all senators to ensure that health care reform is freed of religious ideology ... We support a health care system that is inclusive and respectful of diverse religious beliefs and decisions regarding childbearing. ... In this religiously pluralistic nation, our health care system should be inclusive and respective of diverse religious beliefs and decisions regarding childbearing."

Roska keeps making the same assertion, but it's remarkably unthoughtful -- she goes on to thoroughly contradict herself:

"As religious leaders, we support public policies that are just and compassionate and prioritize the needs of those who are poor and marginalized in our society. ... A health care system that serves all persons with dignity and equality will include comprehensive reproductive health services. ... Our faith traditions are abundantly clear about living in community with others and being responsible for them. Our traditions share the common goal of taking care of the well-being of those most in need. We join with others in urging a return to the core of our faith traditions and realize that providing access to safe and quality health care makes sense morally, ethically, spiritually, and financially." [italics added]

Note what Roska has done. First, she disqualifies the pro-life position, without any arguments or evidence, by branding it "religious ideology." Then she offers for consideration her own views, and defends them by explicitly appealing to religion. In fact, her organization is all about bringing religious influences/motivations to bear on public policy (in this case, in defense of the pro-choice position).

Roska can't have it both ways. She's using a fallacious trick to discard the views of those who disagree with her without having to engage them or argue for her own position.

(By the way, the pro-life position itself is no more "religious" than the claim that murdering toddlers is wrong. Both are moral viewpoints stemming from a conviction that all human beings have dignity, and taking innocent human life is wrong. A religious perspective may or may not undergird or motivate this position, just as religion influences the views of religious people on many uncontroversial issues, and just as secular worldviews influence the views of those who adhere to them.)

Roska talks about being "inclusive and respectful of diverse religious beliefs," but the truth is that both sides in the abortion debate are seeking to impose their own views. Pro-lifers think the unborn is a valuable human person, like you and me, and ought to be respected and protected by law. Roska thinks the unborn human being is so unworthy of respect that we may kill him or her for any reason and have the killing paid for by the government. Either way, a particular viewpoint is enshrined into law.

The question isn't "religion" or "respecting diverse beliefs," but which view will be reflected in our laws -- and, in our system of democratic government, answering that question should require honest debate and deliberation, which Roska avoids by simply dismissing her opponents without argument. Does abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human person? If so, it should not be permitted.