Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Limits of the Pro-Life Movement



Morning's Minion of the Catholic group blog Vox Nova is a devout Catholic and is anti-abortion. Nonetheless, he offers a cogent analysis of how the pro-life movement has become coopted by the Republican Party and is failing to deliver on its mission: the end of abortion:

The political trends of the past quarter century have brought us to a place where pro-life Catholics have aligned themselves with the Republican party. Some hold their noses while doing so. Others inhale the fragrance with glee. And the institutional pro-life movement is boxed into the narrowest of strategies, one that places a premium on rhetoric, while not burdening politicians with the need to actually do anything. It begs the question: is the Republican party really serious about reducing abortion or is it a ploy for votes? The fact that Rudy Giuliani is currently that party's presidential forerunner speaks volumes.

How easy it is to be pro-life! All you need do is talk about picking the kinds of judges that would (maybe) overturn Roe v. Wade and voting against (or vetoing) some marginal legislation with minimal impact on abortion rates. In the meantime, none of the core economic beliefs of that party are challenged. On the contrary, those very judges who are supposed to be pro-life are also the ones who vote solidly on pro-business lines (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), and also (for pro-lifers) have a curious attachment to the death penalty. And the unborn keep dying.

Can we do better? Yes, we can. We can develop a strategy that could even attain bi-partisan support. We need to encourage people not to have abortions. We start by saying that the ideal abortion rate is a zero rate. We must also acknowledge that economics matters. I showed in an earlier post that there is a statistical association between poverty and abortion rates and ratios. The abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty level is more than four times that of women above 300% of the poverty level. And when asked to give reasons for abortion, three-quarters of women say that cannot afford a child. At the same time, black women are almost four times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are two and a half life times as likely.

The pro-life movement needs to address these issues. It needs to push for a reduction in poverty. We need universal health insurance and adequate maternal primary health care. We need mandated maternity leave. We need subsidized childcare for families where both parents need to work. So far, so standard. Perhaps we need something far more radical. Maybe the government can offer a cash sum to all pregnant mothers who agree to bring their unborn child to term (this sum could be proportionately greater for women below the poverty level, or for those victims of rape and incest). The government could also give significant subsidies (through the tax code or directly) to families willing to adopt. And, as a last resort, the government must stand ready to fund orphanages willing to raise unwanted children with dignity and care, providing for all their basic needs. And the government need not do this directly: it could provide funds to churches to do it. This is real "compassionate conservatism", not the con game peddled by Bush back in 2000.

Here's the problem: everything I have mentioned costs money, a lot of money. It would call for hikes in taxes, perhaps substantially. And this is precisely why the current Republican party would never in a million years go near these proposals. For them, free market individualism and monetary gain trumps the gospel of life. But should that be true for Catholics too? We are all too painfully aware of the limitations of the Democrats on this matter, but this does not mean we should conned by sweet talk of the other side either. We need to think outside the box.


Read it all here.

As I have written before, I think that Morning's Minion makes a great deal of sense.

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