A Seat at the Table?

Abortions, our liberal friends insist, ought to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Safety is, at best, a comparative term. As for legality, that is firmly established in this country, much to our shame. But rare? Alas, we have one of the highest abortion rates in the world. I bring this up in light of an initiative by the Obama Transition Team to solicit public comment on issues for the new administration. The transition team has set up a website, Change.gov, which allows the public to view policy documents which are being submitted by outside groups and to comment on them.

One of these documents has been submitted by a coalition of left-wing of feminist groups which calls for, among other things, increased access to—and public funding off—abortion and contraceptives. The proposal even goes beyond the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).” All of the usual suspects are have signed the document, Planned Parenthood, Catholics for Free Choice, The Guttmacher Institute, The National Abortion Rights Action League, etc. The proposal goes beyond just calling for federal funds for abortion, but will force private institutions that receive government support, such as colleges and hospitals, to provide abortions even in violation of their own consciences.

I believe that we should all protest this document, and let the Obama administration know the depth of the opposition to such radical pro-abortion policies, policies that would not only commit tax dollars to immoral policies, but which would force private citizens to subsidize abortions from their own funds. It is inconsistent for the left to treat this as a matter of conscience and then outlaw any dissent, which is what this document calls for.

But what should be our response? Obviously, what we would like is that all abortions be banned and all children be cared for. However, this is possible even with a Republican administration. According to a Fox News Poll, only 9% of Republicans consider abortion as an important issue. Indeed, according to a poll done for the Knights of Columbus, 50% of nominal Catholics consider themselves to be pro-abortion. And it is simply unreasonable to think that a Democratic administration would even consider outlawing abortion. Indeed, mild limitations on abortion failed in the last election in the Red State of South Dakota. So even among Republicans in Republican states, there is little chance of getting abortion outlawed.

However the President-elect has promised to be “the president of all the people” and pledged to listen to those who disagree with him even more closely than those who do agree. And while all politicians make similar claims, we should at least take him at his word on this and register both our objections and present alternative policies. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for a considered response to this proposal.

  • While most people support limited rights to abortion, almost 84% want some restrictions. This proposal is undemocratic in that it ignores the will of the people by making abortion an unrestricted right.

  • This proposal forces the government to fund all abortions, which is bad, but also forces institutions which oppose abortions to violate their own consciences; this is, self-evidently, unconscionable, and a misuse use—a tyrannical misuse—of government power.

  • Abortion, whether one supports it or not, should always be considered a tragedy; and as with any tragedy, we should do our best to limit it. Instead, we have one of the highest abortion rates in the world.

  • The problem is not a limit in access to contraceptives, as the document claims, since they are freely available, and carry no social stigma.

  • If these policy recommendations are put in place, the rate of abortions, already one of the highest rates in the world, will increase. This is contrary to the President-elect's stated policy of reducing abortions.

  • The culture of death implied by such a high rate of abortions cheapens life and cheapens the unique role of women; indeed, it is not merely anti-life, it is anti-women. If abortion really is a women's choice, something she can freely refuse, then it is difficult not to put the blame on women entirely if they choose to carry a baby to term. This creates social pressures on women to have abortions were the father does not wish to contribute to support of the children.

  • The proper response to a culture of death is a culture of life. At a minimum, this means:

    • All children are welcome in the world

    • Women who find themselves “in a family way” should be supported. Currently, a poor women has a choice between inadequate pre-natal care, expenses that run between $30,000 and $50,000 dollars for carrying a child and delivering it, or a $1,000 operation that relieves them of all of these burdens. Economics alone favor abortion. This should not be.

    • There should be welcoming institutions for children, such as orphanages and adoption agencies. It is a strange phenomenon that we adopt so many children out of China while we abort so many children at home.

This is just my initial reaction. I am sure that the readers of this review can come up with more objections, objections that will be meaningful even to the new administration, and some more positive policy suggestions. What I suggest is that readers go the the “A Seat at the Table” section of Change.gov, review this terrible document, and post their suggestions here so that we can come up with responses that we can all share in drafting our own. I would hope that the transition team gets at least 100,000 responses from pro-life supporters. This would let them know how serious we are about working on this issue, and how much we intend to hold the President-elect to his pledges.

There are those on the left who do oppose abortion, however, they are a distinct minority. Nevertheless, we do agree with the nominal goal of the left that abortions ought to be rare. While this goal may be no more than a publicity stunt, we should hold them to account. While the public does not yet agree with us on outlawing abortion, they do agree with us on restricting abortions, and this we must re-iterate over and over again. Let us take our “seat at the table,” and even do a little table-pounding.


Richard Aleman Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 3:46:00 PM CST  

You are entirely right John, we should take that seat at the table. I'm going to take a look at the government site.

Viking Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 5:11:00 PM CST  

I agree as well, John, we should take the seat, even if we have to "crash" the party. I was curious, though, has President-elect Obama ever said that abortions should be rare? I know former President Clinton said that, in his first acceptance speech, I believe, but am unaware of Barack Obama's doing so.

Now, for something completely different. (Yep, I'm a "Monty Python" fan.) What happened to Tom Laney's letter from a friend and his response? Just curious.


Charles P. Monday, December 8, 2008 at 8:07:00 AM CST  

The Democratic Party has changed its stance to that abortions should be safe and legal, not necessarily rare.


I think this is a great idea!

Jim R. Monday, December 8, 2008 at 3:08:00 PM CST  

This address will take you to a petition that the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute plans to present to the U.N. It calls for the international recognition of the right to life.


Anonymous,  Friday, December 12, 2008 at 9:28:00 AM CST  

I take it you meant "this is NOT possible even with a Republican government"?

Anonymous,  Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 12:51:00 PM CST  

"There are those on the left who do oppose abortion, however, they are a distinct minority."

I think you need to be more careful in your thinking here. I've been on the "left" for a long time and I have yet to meet a person who thinks abortion is a good thing. You said, earlier in the post, that an abortion costs $1,000 while it costs $30,000 to $50,000 to bring a baby to term. And that this should not be so.

Instead of pointing fingers at the "left", whatever that is, it would be vastly more productive to find common ground and work to solve the problems that lead to the demand for abortion, not to demand restrictions on it. Demand for abortion will never be eliminated - there are too many reasons women decide to terminate their pregnancies. But the number of abortions can be reduced to the level that exists in Europe. Finding answers to the questions that prevent that level from being achieved is what is important.

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