Douglas Kmiec has penned a frustrating LA Times op-ed on abortion and Obama:
So can Catholics vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is yes, but as I found when I publicly endorsed Obama, you’ve then got “some ‘splain’n’ to do.” It’s a matter of conscience, but had Obama proclaimed himself to be pro-choice and said nothing more, it would have been problematic. But there are those additional words about appropriate education as well as adoption and assistance for mothers who choose to keep their baby.
This is not just debate posturing. It is consistent with Obama’s successful effort to add language to the Democratic platform affirming the choice of a mother to keep her child by pledging pre- and post-natal care, funded maternity leave and income support for poor women who, studies show, are four times more likely to pursue an abortion absent some tangible assistance.
Some might ask, isn’t John McCain, the self-proclaimed “pro-lifer,” still a morally superior choice for Catholics? Not necessarily. McCain’s commitment, as he stressed in the debate, is to try to reverse Roe vs. Wade. But Republicans have been after this for decades, and the effort has not saved a single child. Even if Roe were reversed — unlikely, in my judgment — it merely transfers the question to the states, most of which are not expected to ban abortion. A Catholic serious about preserving life could reasonably find Obama’s educational and material assistance to mothers the practical, stronger alternative.
What I find most interesting about the article is that Kmiec implicitly accepts Professor George’s formulation: for whatever reason, abortion as a political issue is considered separately from the economy, war, civil liberties, and social welfare. Not only does this put Kmiec at an argumentative disadvantage – he’s left attempting to convince us (himself?) that an Obama Administration will do more than McCain ever would to reduce abortions – it’s also surprisingly blinkered. Clearly, a more considered approach to war and peace says something about the value we assign human life. Why shouldn’t other moral issues weigh against the number of abortions each candidate is likely to condone?
It’s entirely possible that McCain, by virtue of his realist inclinations and high-profile opposition to torture, is a better across-the-board candidate for protecting the sanctity of human life. But I’m left wondering why Kmiec doesn’t endorse a more holistic assessment of the candidates. If nothing else, it would make his arguments a lot more persuasive.