Roundup: Catholics Have a Tough Choice, Can Social Spending Reduce the Abortion Rate?

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Roundup: Catholics Have a Tough Choice, Can Social Spending Reduce the Abortion Rate?

Brady Swenson

Catholics have a tough choice to make in the presidential election; Can social spending reduce the abortion rate?; Tackling that age old question, When does life begin?; Abortion opponent Bob Casey speaks at the Democratic National Convention.

Catholics Have Tough Choice to Make … Washington Post Catholic blogger Anthony Stevens-Arroyo wrote yesterday that Catholics should free themselves from the "knee-jerk right-wing response"
in this presidential election.  Stevens-Arroyo points to Doug Kmeic,
once professor of law at Catholic University, and a former Reagan
Administration lawyer who wrote briefs for the Supreme Court to
overturn Roe v. Wade, endorsing Barack Obama
as evidence that pro-life Catholics have another option in this
election. In a paraphrasing of Kmeic’s endorsement the post explains
why Obama’s policy ideas are more pro-life than McCain’s:

He now suggests that the approach of the Democrats to abortion is better than the Republican one.
By emphasizing pro-life programs like guaranteed health insurance,
programs in pre-natal care and government support to families, says
this pro-life warrior of many years, the Democrats have become the more
effective political force against abortion. In his thinking, Roe v.
Wade is already being "killed by a thousand cuts" with efforts at the
state and local level that impose regulations and simultaneously
improve the quality of social services. The overall result is to reduce
the appeal of abortion.

The monomaniacal focus on overturning Roe vs. Wade and making
aboriotn illegal has not done anything to help the women who have to
make the tough choice.  While pro-life policies like health care for
all, access to contraception and comprehensive sex education help to
lessen the burden on women and families and often impact a woman’s
decision. Stevens-Arroyo concludes:

Now, just in time for the 2008 presidential election, Prof. Kmiec tells
us that the more effective path to opposing abortion can be found with
the Democratic Party, which has just put Catholic Joe Biden into the
Vice-Presidential slot. Since Republican candidate Senator John McCain has simultaneously
expressed his openness to the pro-choice options for the GOP, every
Catholic must reconsider which party will do more to counter abortions.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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Can Social Spending Reduce the Abortion Rate? … On a related note, Stephen Waldman, editor of BeliefNet, reports in the WSJ on a study done by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a progressive and anti-abortion group, aimed at answering the question. The conclusion was that increased spending on welfare and other social programs significantly affects the abortion rate:

States that spent more on welfare — or cut welfare more slowly — had
many fewer abortions. The authors estimate that if every state
increased spending on welfare by $1,350 per person living in poverty,
there would be a 20% reduction of abortion.

The study also found that the strategy from the far-right, passing legislation to restrict abortion access, have had little or no effect on the abortion rate in the United States:

They also found that many of the steps favored by pro-life groups and
Republicans have not been effective at reducing the number of
abortions. For instance, laws requiring parental consent for minors
having abortions had no measurable affect on abortion rates, and laws
against late-term abortion had a statistically insignificant impact.

These findings jive well with the emerging Democratic approach to keep abortion legal but increase social support women and families with welfare programs and universal health care access.  The study did find, however, that the Democratic policy idea of providing Medicaid funding for abortion "probably increased the
abortion rate slightly."  Still, the slight increase could become acceptable if it means more equal access to abortion care for low income women and especially in the light of the significant decreases acheived with the Democrat’s pro-life social programs.

When Does Life Begin? … A variation of the age-old question was posed by Rick Warren
at the Saddleback forum a couple weeks ago.  Kathleen Parker of the Chicago
Tribune writes today that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s answer to the question this Sunday past on Meet the Press was wrong.  Parker goes on to cite a widely used textbook:

Included was American medicine’s most prominent human embryology text,
"The Developing Human," whose authors are not imprecise on the matter
of life: "Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete
or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to
produce a single cell—a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent
cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual."

She uses this quotation to argue that human life begins at conception
but, of course, the answer is not so simple.  To some the matter of
when ‘human development’ begins is entirely seperate from the matter of
when human life begins.  Despite all the scientific knowledge we now
have about the physical development of a human being from conception
through death the matter of when one becomes a human being is still a
spiritual, and religious, question.  This well written article
appearing in a different Biology textbook, Devlopmental Biology, lays
out at least six different equally justifiable frameworks
from which to answer the question of when life begins and all of them
have different conclusions.  The article concludes by conceding that
science cannot ultimately provide the answer to this question, but
rather the answer depends on many social and spiritual opinions and
beliefs held by the individual answering:

However, understanding the basis for societal moral standards appears
to be the key to discerning how to approach the question of when human
life begins. Science has not been able to give a definitive answer to
this question. One opinion is that the acquisition of humanness is a
gradual phenomenon, rather than one that occurs at any particular
moment. If one does not believe in a "soul," then one need not believe
in a moment of ensoulment. The moments of fertilization, gastrulation,
neurulation, and birth, are then milestones in the gradual acquisition
of what it is to be human. While one may have a particular belief in
when the embryo becomes human, it is difficult to justify such a belief
solely by science.

Casey, an Abortion Opponent, Praises Obama … Scott posted on Bob Casey’s speech at the DNC last night in our Real Time Blog and this morning the New York Times published a short piece providing the historical context of Casey’s speech:

Sixteen years after his father was denied a speaking part at a
Democratic convention because his anti-abortion views led him to oppose
Bill Clinton’s candidacy, Senator Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania told the convention Tuesday night that Senator Barack Obama could bring together supporters and opponents of abortion rights.

Many religious leaders, both for abortion rights and against, had urged
Mr. Obama to invite Mr. Casey to speak to redress the 1992 exclusion of
his father, taken as a slight by millions of Catholic and evangelical

Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, a progressive
group that opposes abortion, welcomed Mr. Casey’s appearance and his

“There was a time when the Democratic tent wasn’t big
enough to include pro-life Catholics,” Mr. Korzen said in a statement.
“Senator Casey’s speaking role is a clear signal that those days are
over. We are hopeful that tonight’s address will begin to heal the deep
divisions that exist in our country, and pave the way for common ground
efforts to reduce abortion.”

The Democratic Party seems to already be following Brack Obama’s leadership style of respectful inclusion. While Casey and Obama may disagree about whether or not abortion should be legal they agree on many ways to reduce the need for women to make that choice, including comprehensive sex education and open access to contraception.