Monday, October 29, 2012

Can pro-life voters reasonably support pro-choice candidates?

Not all voters who hold a pro-life position plan to vote for pro-life candidates for public office in the Nov. 6 election. As in 2008, some pro-life Catholic and evangelical protestant Christians are undecided or expect to vote for "pro-choice" (pro-legalized abortion) candidates in contests between pro-life and pro-choice options, such as in the presidential race between Mitt Romney, who supports protection for human beings in the womb, and Barack Obama, who supports unlimited abortion.

Some of these voters simply don't know (yet!) where the candidates stand. But some do know and plan to vote for pro-choice candidates anyway. Public examples include evangelical figures like Jim Wallis and David Gushee and Catholics like Doug Kmiec, Charles Reid and Stephen Schneck. Does this make sense? Here are a number of (often-overlapping) explanations, some of which I have heard from ordinary pro-lifers and some of which are offered by academics and commentators. I respond to each. I also respond to pro-lifers who plan to either sit out the election or vote for third-party candidates.

(1) Abortion isn't the only issue. There are many important issues, and I'm not a single-issue voter.

As Scott Klusendorf notes, abortion isn't the only issue today any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860. But if the pro-life position on the ethics of abortion is true—as those I am addressing here believe—then abortion is a uniquely important issue, as slavery was a uniquely important issue in 1860. First, abortion is a question of basic justice unlike any other issue or concern in American society today. In no other area is a class of innocent human beings placed outside the protection of the law and allowed to be killed for any or no reason. At stake is the principle of the equal fundamental dignity and right to life of every member of the human family, irrespective not only of race, gender, religion and social status, but also of age, size, ability, stage of development and condition of dependency. Human equality is on the ballot. Second, abortion is the leading cause of human death (at 1.2 million unborn children killed annually in the United States), and the candidates we elect will affect our laws and policies in ways that will influence the incidence of abortion. Lives really are on the line. Even if a pro-life voter agrees completely with a pro-choice candidate on every other issue, it is difficult (if not impossible) to see how voting for that candidate can be reasonable given the moral gravity and scale of what is at stake regarding abortion.

None of this is to deny that there are many important political issues. It is just to say that some issues are more important, and more foundational, than others.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Christian Bale honors Chen Guangcheng for exposing forced abortions

Chen Guangcheng is the blind Chinese human rights activist -- and self-taught lawyer -- who spoke out on behalf of Chinese women and families who were victimized by brutal campaigns of forced abortions and sterilizations. For his efforts he was unjustly imprisoned and tortured for years, and later transferred to house arrest, where he and his family were still beaten. This spring he dramatically escaped to the U.S. embassy. He is now living in the United States.

Actor Christian Bale sought to visit Chen in December of 2011 but was literally roughed up by thugs guarding the house in which Chen was imprisoned. "What I really wanted to do was shake the man's hand and say 'thank you,' and tell him what an inspiration he is," Bale explained at the time.

Yesterday Bale presented Chen with an award at a human rights gala. He said:
He [Chen] had exposed a program of forced abortion and sterilization in Shandong. A program of forced abortion means that women are being dragged from their homes against their will. They are being forced to have abortions, sometimes late-term -- imagine that -- with some women reportedly dying in the process. Now this is true horror. And in this insane world, this man, Chen, who was helping these women -- who was living by some of the most simple, brave and universally admired values -- values that we teach our children every day, and helping our fellow man -- for this, this man was imprisoned and beaten for over four years.
The pro-life group Women's Rights Without Frontiers covers the event here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Obama’s record: Expanding, subsidizing abortion on demand

"I'm not going to give any ground" on the issue of abortion, Barack Obama said earlier this year. And he hasn't.

Obama says abortion is a "fundamental constitutional right." He has never wavered or compromised in his commitment to the unfettered killing of unborn children for any reason at any stage of pregnancy. In many cases he wants such killing to be subsidized by taxpayers—as if abortion were a public good.

Below are some of the highlights (or, rather, lowlights) of his record since becoming president less than four years ago.

Abortion promotion overseas

On his third day in office, in January 2009, Obama issued an executive order to fund organizations that perform and promote abortion overseas. His Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, later told Congress that the administration would advocate "reproductive health" worldwide and that "reproductive health includes access to abortion." Obama also restored and increased U.S. funding to the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has aided the enforcement of China's one-child policy that has included barbaric campaigns of forced abortions and sterilizations.

In March 2009 Obama issued an executive order to provide federal funding for research that requires the killing of embryonic human beings (research that, unlike adult stem cell research, has yet to yield any therapeutic benefits). He also, inexplicably, reversed a prior (George W. Bush-issued) order that encouraged ethical and non-controversial forms of stem cell research.

Obamacare, taxpayer funding of abortion

In March 2010, after months of debate, Obama very narrowly won enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a far-reaching health care overhaul. "Obamacare," beginning in 2014, will provide federal subsidies for millions of health care plans that will pay for abortion on demand; it also includes a number of other mechanisms and funding pipelines that can be used to subsidize and expand access to abortion. Obama helped defeat an amendment that would have removed these abortion-expanding elements. Obamacare also contains provisions that will lead to government-imposed rationing of lifesaving medical care.

In 2011 the Obama administration issued formal veto threats against the Protect Life Act, a bill to repeal the abortion-expanding provisions of Obamacare, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a bill to permanently stop any federal program from funding elective abortions. Obama also succeeded, for 16 months (2010-2011), in removing a ban on taxpayer-funded elective abortion in the District of Columbia.

In February 2011 the Obama administration rescinded a George W. Bush-issued regulation that protected health care providers from being penalized for refusing to participate in providing abortions.

Planned Parenthood, sex-selection abortion

During a 2011 budget showdown, Obama indicated he would veto the entire federal spending bill—forcing a government shutdown—rather than accept a provision cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading performer and promoter of abortion. He preserved hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually for the abortion business. His administration has also blocked efforts by several states to deny government funds to Planned Parenthood.

In 2012 Obama came out against legislation in Congress to prohibit performing or coercing sex-selection abortions, in which abortion is chosen solely because the gender of the child (almost always female) is not desired. Obama is firmly committed, as a matter of "women's rights" and "privacy," to the legality of killing unborn girls simply because they are girls.

Court-imposed abortion on demand

In 2009 and 2010, Obama appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court two justices who (almost certainly) believe that Roe v. Wade and its mandate of nationwide abortion on demand should be preserved. In both cases an opportunity to install the decisive fifth vote to overturn Roe was lost—because Obama had been elected president. Obama fiercely believes that the Court should not allow the American people, through their elected representatives, to determine their own abortion policies. He has even argued that legal protection for newborn babies who survive abortion and bans on partial-birth abortion cannot be permitted under the Constitution. (These facts, though shocking, are a matter of public record.)

Barack Obama will not let us, the people, have a say on abortion, the premier injustice in American society today. But we will have a say on Nov. 6.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pro-abortion Gov. Mark Dayton to be honored by Planned Parenthood

The following news release was issued today, Oct. 23.

ST. PAUL — Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota will honor one of its strongest allies in the business of destroying unborn babies. Gov. Mark Dayton will receive the abortion organization's Courage Award tonight at its "Celebrate!" gala in downtown Minneapolis.

"Abortion and abortion advocacy have become a cause of celebration for Planned Parenthood and its political partners," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization. "Dayton has given them many reasons to praise him, having vetoed no less than seven pro-life measures passed by the Legislature in his first two years as governor."

In 2011, Dayton vetoed five major pro-life provisions: the Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act, a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion, bans on human cloning and taxpayer funding of human cloning, and protections to keep tax dollars away from family planning organizations (including Planned Parenthood) that are involved in abortion.

Dayton vetoed two more bills in 2012 that would have protected women's health and safety. One would have brought the state's six abortion facilities in line with the state's other outpatient surgical centers by requiring them to be licensed, and would have authorized the Minnesota Department of Health to perform inspections of abortion facilities. The other bill would have stopped dangerous "webcam" abortions by requiring that a physician be physically present when administering the drugs for a chemical abortion.

"Planned Parenthood is obviously grateful to Dayton for protecting its taxpayer funding and for blocking the state from licensing its new abortion megacenter—the nation's third largest—in St. Paul," Fischbach said. "Dayton has done Planned Parenthood's bidding in every case, at the expense of thousands of human lives. This is hardly anything to celebrate."

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood continues to kill thousands of unborn children in Minnesota, year after year, and wound women physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The state's largest abortionist killed 3,608 unborn babies last year. That's an average of nearly 10 unborn babies killed every single day; less than one percent were in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Where do the MN congressional candidates stand on life?

Minnesota's eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election on Nov. 6. Below are links to candidate comparison fliers available on the MCCL website; you may also order copies by contacting MCCL.
Also available are comparison fliers for the U.S. Senate race between Kurt Bills (pro-life) and Amy Klobuchar (pro-abortion) and the presidential race between Mitt Romney (pro-life) and Barack Obama (pro-abortion). All of these, as well as the MCCL Voter's Guide, are available online or for order.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's time to get taxpayers out of the abortion industry, Mr. President

Last night President Obama repeatedly criticized (five times!) Mitt Romney for wanting to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood, a criticism Obama has made throughout the campaign (often inaccurately, claiming that Romney wants to "get rid" of Planned Parenthood itself rather than its government subsidies). The president's own record is clear. Obama indicated during the 2011 budget showdown that he was willing to force the federal government to shut down rather than cut any of the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that currently go to Planned Parenthood each year. And his administration has blocked the efforts of multiple states to de-fund the abortion provider, even threatening to withhold states' Medicaid money. Planned Parenthood, in turn, has spent millions trying to ensure Obama's reelection and defeat any candidate, like Romney, who dares challenge the organization's hefty take at the public trough.

Obama is very wrong on this issue. Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading practitioner and champion of the greatest injustice in American society today -- and its government funding is fungible and clearly works to support its abortion practice. Planned Parenthood performs hundreds of thousands of elective abortions every year while raking in hundreds of millions of government dollars. As funding has increased the abortion total has increased at a corresponding rate. American taxpayers should not be made a party to this. Obama absolutely, resolutely insists that they be. He has even decided to make this a primary talking point during his campaign. But that can only work if he obscures the facts.

Obama claimed last night that Planned Parenthood's ability to perform mammograms is at stake in this election. Planned Parenthood does not even offer mammograms. It can only refer women to other, better clinics that provide more in the way of actual health care for women in need. There is no "health care" justification for directing valuable funds to a controversial abortion business instead of the many non-abortion health care facilities. Those who oppose taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood don't oppose health care for low-income women, as Obama and his Hollywood supporters falsely claim. But they do think funds can be used more effectively for the genuine benefit of women. Obama is an ideologue who won't even consider such a thing -- because this debate isn't really about health care.

Planned Parenthood is an already-wealthy, hyper-political, scandal-plagued marketing machine that profits immensely from performing abortions on women and from soaking the American taxpayer with the help of political BFFs like Barack Obama. We, the American people, should get out of the abortion industry. The first step is on Nov. 6.

The MCCL Voter's Guide is available

MCCL's 2012 General Election Voter's Guide has already been distributed widely across Minnesota. But you can still order copies for yourself, your family and friends, your church, etc. (this version of the guide does not endorse candidates and is suitable for distribution in churches). Contact MCCL to order copies. It is also available online.

The Voter's Guide includes responses to questions about right-to-life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, health care rationing and human cloning from candidates for the state Legislature, Congress and White House. It also includes information about how to vote, a discussion of the stakes in this election, and more.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The moral confusion of Joe Biden

In yesterday's debate, Vice President Joe Biden said that, as a Catholic, he accepts the position of his church regarding the ethics of abortion, then added:
But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and -- I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman [Paul Ryan].

I -- I do not believe that -- that we have a right to tell other people that women, they -- they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court -- I'm not going to interfere with that.
This is the cop-out of all cop-outs. If abortion is what Biden says he accepts it to be -- namely, the unjust killing of an innocent human being, as pro-lifers argue using the facts of embryology and sound moral reasoning, and as the Catholic Church unambiguously teaches -- then abortion is precisely the kind of act that only an anarchist would deny should be prohibited by law as a matter of basic justice. Because surely the proper role of government includes securing fundamental rights and protecting people from lethal violence. It is not difficult to connect the dots.

Biden would have no trouble "imposing" his view that suicide bombing is wrong, or that rape is wrong, or that child abuse is wrong. It would be understood as shocking moral confusion, or cowardice, or insanity for him to speak only of the imposition on the perpetrator in arguing that the act, though wrong, must be legal, ignoring completely the actual victim on whom brutal violence is truly "imposed." Yet that is what he does with the issue of abortion.

Biden once strongly opposed the use of taxpayer funds for abortion, and he voted to ban partial-birth abortion and for other modest pro-life legislation. Now he defends an administration that has encouraged the taxpayer funding of abortion at every turn -- here in America and around the world -- and accepts no limits whatsoever on the practice of abortion on demand, even opposing a bill this year to stop the killing of unborn baby girls simply because they are girls. Biden used to hold positions that Barack Obama (in his breathtaking abortion radicalism) considers not just wrong but unconstitutional (e.g., support for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act).

Paul Ryan served as a refreshing contrast. He said in the debate that he holds his pro-life position "not simply because of my Catholic faith" but also "because of reason and science." He continued:
You know, I think about 10 and a half years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born for our seven-week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. Our little baby was in the shape of a bean, and to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child, Liza, "Bean."

Now, I believe that life begins at conception. ... I understand this is a difficult issue. And I respect people who don't agree with me on this. But the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

What troubles me more is how this [Obama] administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic Charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals. Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties.

And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they want it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding, taxpayer funding in Obamacare, taxpayer funding with foreign aid. The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized or wouldn't second-guess their one-child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That, to me, is pretty extreme.
After a follow-up question, Biden argued:
The court -- the next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That's how close Roe v. Wade is.

Just ask yourself: With Robert Bork being the chief adviser on the court for -- for Mr. Romney, who do you think he's likely to appoint? Do you think he's likely to appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court, far right, that would outlaw Planned -- excuse me -- outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen.
Biden is correct that the fate of Roe v. Wade might be at stake in this election, and that the Obama administration will do everything it can to preserve that decision (it has already effectively saved Roe with its two Supreme Court appointments thus far). But he is wrong when he implies that overturning Roe would outlaw abortion. And Justice Antonin Scalia himself is clear that he doesn't think the Court has the constitutional authority to prohibit abortion. What overturning Roe would do -- and what Scalia would do, and what Mitt Romney and Ryan want to do -- is allow the people, through their elected representatives, to once again determine their own abortion policies. Obama and Biden are instead dedicated to ensuring that the Court, with no constitutional warrant, imposes a nationwide policy of abortion on demand whether the people like it or not.

As Ryan put it last night: "We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; the people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination."

Joe Biden would rather impose unlimited abortion on the states. And impose abortion funding on pro-life taxpayers. And impose death on the most vulnerable members of the human family. For them -- those he says he acknowledges to be living human beings -- he will do nothing but sit back and help facilitate their destruction on a massive scale. And then he will boast about his moral superiority.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Obamacare, IPAB, and rationing

During the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney criticized Obamacare for creating an unelected Independent Payment Advisory Board that will effectively ration medical care. Barack Obama denied the rationing charge. Burke Balch of the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics explains the facts of the matter:
"A rose by any other name," Shakespeare wrote, "would smell just as sweet." Unfortunately, the same is true when the fragrance is less pleasant.

When the role of Obamacare's Independent Payment Advisory Board in rationing life-saving medical treatments is alleged, the law's apologists indignantly point out that the law specifically precludes the board from "rationing." They seem convinced this demonstrates that the charges of "rationing" are unarguably false. But are they right?

Let's review the facts. The law directs the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to report proposals, every two years from 2015 on, "to slow the growth in national health expenditures" to significantly below the rate of medical inflation. (From 2019 on a different, but similarly constraining, target is required.)

To be clear, these recommendations are to apply to what you and I choose to spend on our health care – nongovernmental spending. They are to include recommendations that the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) "can implement administratively."

What are those "administrative" means that the federal bureaucrats at HHS can use to prevent us from keeping up with medical inflation in trying to protect our loved ones stricken by illness or injury? HHS is empowered to impose so-called "quality" standards on doctors, standards they must follow under pain of losing the ability to contract with the health insurance plans that the individual mandate will require Americans to have.

To prevent "too much" private money being spent on health care, those standards could establish just which diagnostic tests and medical treatments are permitted under what circumstances – and which are not. Thus, the government could prevent people from getting particular life-saving medical treatments – even when paid for entirely by their own money. (For details and documentation, go here.)

The Obamacare law doesn't define what it means by the "rationing" it says IPAB can't use. Its apologists will claim that the "quality" standards limiting treatment are simply "cost-effective" means of assuring patients get "appropriate" care. Consequently, the "rationing" prohibition will not be an enforceable restraint courts could use to protect Americans from denial of medical care. It's not so much a shield against treatment denial as it is a rhetorical sword to ward off the law's critics.

The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia describes rationing as "Government allocation of scarce resources and consumer goods, usually adopted during wars, famines, or other national emergencies." Health care does not need be "scarce" (see here). But, when government bureaucrats tell you what treatments, paid for with your own money, you can and can't have – that is certainly "government allocation" of health care.

The Obamacare law authorizes federal bureaucrats to impose limits on what life-saving medical treatments Americans are allowed to get. It may not call this "rationing." But that doesn't mean it won't be.
Go here for more about Obamacare and rationing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The most important question in our politics

I discussed an essay by Notre Dame professor O. Carter Snead, "Protect the Weak and Vulnerable: The Primacy of the Life Issue," at the time it was published last year, but it is worth reviewing now as voters consider the issues and candidates only a month before the Nov. 6 election.

Here is Professor Snead's introduction:
Why should it matter whether the 2012 candidates for president are pro-life, especially given the vast array of other pressing issues facing the United States, including (though certainly not limited to) crushing national debt, widespread unemployment, existential fiscal strains on the social safety net, multiple wars, and the continuing menace of terrorism? Aren't the American people tired of the intractable bickering of a handful of extremist combatants in what seems to be an endless culture war? Unless you're a radical leftist or a right-wing Christian, why should any serious person in the public square waste time on these issues when there are so many real matters at stake at this moment in our nation's history?

These questions reflect an attitude that seems to be widely shared in certain circles of our polity. But I would respectfully submit that such questions reflect a badly misguided and inadequate understanding of the moral, cultural, legal, and political dispute of which the pro-life movement is a part.

At bottom, the "life issues"—including especially the conflicts over abortion and embryo-destructive research—involve the deepest and most fundamental public questions for a nation committed to liberty, equality, and justice. That is, the basic question in this context is who counts as a member of the human community entitled to moral concern and the basic protection of the law? Who counts as "one of us"? Equally important is the related question of who decides, and according to what sort of criteria? These are not narrow concerns commanding only the attention of a small number of highly motivated activists at the fringes of our society. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a public matter that is more important than this "question of membership."

The stakes could not be higher. "Persons" have human rights and are owed the moral respect and forbearance of others. "Nonpersons" live at the mercy of others, and are routinely instrumentalized, manipulated, or even destroyed in the name of the individual or collective interests of those who are indisputably persons. We, as a nation, must get this question of membership right. And it is imperative for the president of the United States to do so.

The pro-life movement offers the only answer to the question of "who counts" that is consistent with America's grounding norms of equality and justice. Accordingly, it is of paramount importance that the president of the United States be pro-life. My aim here is to show why this is so by giving a compressed account of the pro-life position (including the moral anthropology and foundational grounding goods in which it is nested), unpacking some of its key concrete entailments for law and politics, and explaining how the office of the U.S. presidency is uniquely situated to promote justice (or its opposite) in this profound context.
Be sure to read the entire piece.