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About post-Roe politics and Biden’s evolving doctrines on choosing to ‘abort a child’…

About post-Roe politics and Biden’s evolving doctrines on choosing to ‘abort a child’…
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BIDEN: &quot;The idea that we're gonna make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child based on a decision by the Supreme Court I think goes way overboard.&quot;

&mdash; RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 3, 2022

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Once upon a time, Sen. Joe Biden was almost a pro-life Catholic Democrat.

This may be the reason — as journalists frequently note — that he seems uncomfortable saying “abortion” in public remarks. Then again, he may also have private polling numbers on the muddled state of public opinion in which millions of Americans, including lots of Democrats, (a) oppose the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, yet (b) are also in favor of European-style restrictions on abortion that have been blocked by U.S. courts because of legal logic built on Roe.

As is so often the case, Americans want it both ways and it’s rare for the mainstream press to note the tensions in that stance, since that would require balanced coverage of debates about Roe.

Back to Biden and a must-read Washington Post political feature that served as the hook for this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (CLICK HERE to tune that in). After spending much of his career somewhere in the middle on abortion, Biden now leads a Democratic Party that has veered so far to the cultural left that it champions third-trimester abortion (and even efforts to save the life of a baby born during a botched abortion).

That stance is hard to square with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as lots of opinion polls, especially in states that will — if what appears to be a 5-3-1 SCOTUS verdict against Roe survives a blitz of elite media scorn — face debates about centrist laws to restrict, but not ban, abortion on demand.

Here is the top of the Post report, and readers are urged to spot a major abortion-talk stumble from Biden:

Joe Biden became a senator in 1973, just 17 days before the Supreme Court decided the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade. Soon after, the young senator, a practicing Catholic, told an interviewer that he disagreed with the decision and that he had views on such matters that made him “about as liberal as your grandmother.”

“I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far,” he concluded in 1974. “I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”

Nearly a half-century later, with Biden evolving along with his party on the issue of abortion rights, he again declared the court was moving too far — this time, he argued, in the opposite direction.

“The idea that we’re going to make a judgment that is going to say that no one can make the judgment to choose to abort a child, based on a decision by the Supreme Court, I think, goes way overboard,” Biden said on Tuesday in reaction to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion proposing to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Note that the Post editors, as opposed to some other elite media sources, used that quote in which Biden spoke words — “abort a child,” as opposed to a “fetus” — long banned in public-relations efforts for a pro-abortion-rights stance. I took that as a sign to keep reading.

While this political-desk story could have used some input from the religion-beat team, it contains way more information than usual about Biden’s journey into the “personally opposed” but otherwise pro-abortion on demand world.

The story even offered this step into the minefield of Catholic debates about what one of the church’s most famous saint-philosophers did or didn’t say about abortion.

Biden … nodded toward some of his own views, with a reference to St. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century theologian.

Roe says what all basic mainstream religions have historically concluded, that the existence of a human life and being is a question,” Biden said. “Is it at the moment of conception? Is it six months? Is it six weeks? Is it quickening, like Aquinas argued?”

Now, I am certainly no scholar of Aquinas (in part because, as an Orthodox scribe once put it, reading Aquinas is often like “trying to drive nails into a board with your forehead”). I certainly do not blame Post editors for failing to ask a political-beat pro to insert a short summary of the saint’s writings after that statement of Biden opinion.

However, even a glance at some discussions of what Aquinas wrote (often in different places), will conclude that he argued that (a) philosophers cannot judge the state of unborn life until “quickening (the first sensation of movement in the womb)” but (b) because of that uncertainty he would continue to defend the early church’s opposition to abortion — period.

After all, the Didache — a first-century collection of Christian moral teachings — stated: “Thou shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.”

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In his verbal comments in response to the SCOTUS leak, President Biden makes reference to a person\u2019s choice to \u201Cabort a child\u201D. He said it. It\u2019s a child. So, Mr. President, please remind us again how your support for abortion is consistent with your Catholic Faith?

&mdash; Archbishop Sample (@ArchbishpSample) May 4, 2022

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Moving on. I would certainly argue that Post editors should have requested at least a short discussion — perhaps a sidebar — on the clearly stated teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Scan the following and look for a short quote or two:

2272 — Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society. 

2273 — The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”

“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. … As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”

Long ago, Biden was somewhere in the middle. He opposed state funding of abortion, as the Post piece discusses. He favored some restrictions on abortion. Thus, there were debates about the crucial question: Were his actions/votes, as a practicing Catholic, aiding in the creation of laws that helped citizens “procure” an abortion? By doing so, was he “cooperating” with the abortion regime?

Reporters may be tired of the old debates about the status of Biden’s participation in the sacraments of the Catholic church. It is also impossible — I say “Amen” — to attempt to report about what is or is hot happening if and when the president goes to Confession.

But every step Biden takes to defend public funding for all forms of abortion up to — maybe beyond — the moment of birth is going to pull that debate back into the headlines, no matter what Pope Francis may or may not have said about the issue in private (see this Clemente Lisi post).

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In a post-Roe landscape where most red states had heartbeat laws and most blue-states no restrictions, the red states would be slightly closer to national opinion; a landscape with total bans in red states and third-trimester restrictions in blue states, the reverse.

&mdash; Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) May 4, 2022

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In conclusion, let me note an irony or two in some of the “What happens if?” political coverage of the potential fall of Roe. Consider this CNN piece: “Biden says the ‘right to choose is fundamental,’ but is ‘not prepared’ to call for change to filibuster to protect abortion rights.”

Yes, this piece does refer to Biden as a “devout Catholic,” thus waving off this recent Associated Press Stylebook advice:

devout (new)

Use sparingly if at all; better to be specific about a person’s religious practice, i.e. He attends Mass daily.

But the key is that Biden is poised to become the point person for legislation to, in effect, codify the doctrines of Roe. But note this chunk of the CNN report:

… (The) President said in a written statement that if the court does overturn Roe, it will fall on lawmakers to protect access to reproductive health care and said he would work to pass legislation codifying the right to abortion. He also urged voters to elect supporters of abortion rights in the November midterm elections.

“At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law,” the President said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters later on Tuesday, “The President’s position is that we need to codify Roe, and that is what he has long called on Congress to act on.”

Of course, efforts to pass that legislation in the U.S. Senate will lead straight to a clash with (wait for it) a sort-of abortion opponent Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a somewhere in the middle Catholic — like the old Biden. And what about efforts to crush the filibuster tradition to pass that law? Same thing.

Thus, keep reading the CNN piece:

Psaki continued, “What is also true is that there has been a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would do exactly that, and there were not even enough votes, even if there was no filibuster, to get that done.”

The legislation, which would protect abortion access, passed the House in September but failed to advance in the Senate.

Here is another interesting irony. If Roe falls, and these debates head into state legislatures, it’s highly likely that pro-life Democrats would play a major role in negotiating compromises on restricting abortions, as opposed to banning almost all abortions (as some red states will do) or legalizing all abortions (as some blue states will do).

For years now, Democrats at the national level have stopped just short of pushing pro-life Democrats out of the party. See this 2017 “On Religion” column: “Is there still room for pro-life Democrats in their own political party?

Here is a chunk of that column that is, I believe, highly relevant to discussions of post-Roe politics at the state level:

… (It) stunned some Democrats, especially in heartland and Bible Belt states, when Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez drew another bright line defining who participates in the work of his party.

“Every Democrat, like every American,” he said, “should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. This is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.” In fact, he added, “every candidate who runs as a Democrat” should affirm abortion rights.

Needless to say, these were fighting words for Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America. …

“Tom Perez needs to know that what he is saying isn’t what lots of Democrats are thinking. It’s not what Democrats are thinking in places like Nebraska — places between the coasts where Democrats are trying to find candidates who are the right fit for their congressional districts or people to run for governor who fit their states.”

At some point, in other words, the Democratic Party may need more people in the middle. Maybe even Catholic politicians like the original Joe Biden.

That would be highly ironic. Journalists may want to talk to some of those Democrats.

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