At the National Press Club yesterday, the Catholic University of America hosted a discussion on “The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life: Is there a common ground on life issues? What is the right response by ‘Pro-Life’ Citizens?”
One of President Obama’s most prominent pro-life opponents, Robert P. George, engaged in a debate with one of his most prominent pro-life supporters, Douglas W. Kmiec. Public Discourse published an adapted version of George’s remarks, excerpted below. You can watch a video of the George-Kmiec debate on the C-SPAN Web site here.
Because the President does not believe in the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family; because he does not believe that babies acquire human rights until after birth; because he does not see abortion as tragic because it takes the life of an innocent human being, he is utterly and intransigently unwilling to support even efforts short of prohibiting abortion that would plainly reduce the number of abortions. Moreover, he is adamantly in favor of funding abortions and abortion providers at home and abroad, and has already taken steps in that direction by revoking the Mexico City Policy and proposing a budget that would restore publicly funded abortions in Washington, D.C.—despite the well-documented and universally acknowledged fact that when you provide public funding for abortion, you get more abortions.
Some pro-choice people think that the killing of unborn children where there is no grave threat to the mother, though bad and unjust, should not be made illegal at least in the earliest stages. Potentially we would have significant common ground with these fellow citizens in the form of policies to discourage abortion and reduce the number of killings. For example, we could join together to oppose the funding of abortion at home and abroad; we could work together for bans on second and third trimester abortions, on abortions for sex-selection, and on particularly heinous methods of abortion, such as partial-birth abortions; we could agree on what Professor Hadley Arkes calls “the most modest first step of all,” namely requiring care—at least comfort care—for the child who survives an attempted abortion and is born alive. We could provide desperately needed financial support for pro-life clinics that assist pregnant women in need—need that is not always financial, but is often emotional and spiritual—and encourage and help these women make the choice for life. We could enact waiting periods, informed consent laws, and parental notification laws that have been shown, in research by Michael New and others, to reduce abortions. We could reject the funding of embryo-destructive research, and join together to support promising research and treatments using non-embryonic sources of stem cells.
However, far from meeting us on any of these areas of common ground, President Obama opposes our efforts. Political realities have prevented him from making good on his promise to the abortion industry to sign the pro-abortion nuclear bomb called the Freedom of Choice Act as one of his first acts in office. But he was not lying when he made that promise. His policies, and above all his appointments to key offices in the White House, the Justice Department, Health and Human Services, and elsewhere make clear that his strategy will be to enact the provisions of FOCA step by step, rather than as a package. As anyone occupying the role of David Axelrod or Karl Rove will tell you, this is obviously the politically astute way for the President to prosecute his agenda. The country does not accept President Obama’s extreme position on abortion. A recent poll showed that a majority of Americans now regard themselves as pro-life, and a majority favors significant legal restrictions on abortion. Plainly the President’s actual views are far more favorable to abortion than those of the general public; so if he is to advance his goals, and the goals of those who share his commitment to making abortion more widely available and easily accessible, the last thing it would make sense to do is try to enact FOCA as a package.