FOCA Watch: AWOL in the Queue

I watched a rare bit of tv (cringe), surfed the web, and heard a lot about the president calling Middle East leaders and having meetings. Nothing on FOCA. Clearly the man has reneged on his Major Campaign Promise to the Minions of the Culture of Death. Convert? Trickster? Preoccupied?

The old thread has rotated into the archives (though feel free to comment there, too). But let’s keep this discussion up in our line here.

It looks as if the president is steering some debates away from old lines. I recall his inaugural address remark about the debate on large versus small government being superceded by an argument for a government that works. Pragmatic, in a way that we haven’t seen from politics since the late 60’s.

I would be concerned about the pro-life movement losing a chance to wedge in on this opportunity. The bishops and the neocon pundits have framed abortion back into scare tactics. By trumpeting a bill that’s been buried for almost two decades, and trying to drum up energy and effort over it, they should have been very, very sure this bill was a real threat.

They’ve forgotten, it seems, basic civics. Congress approves a bill, then the president signs. But first, it has to get out of committee. But first, the president’s new government needs to be approved. And maybe the priorities are digging the nation out of a capitalist-gone-wild adventure … not to mention two wars.

Unfortunately, abortion on demand is the law of the land. An entrenched legal tradition, especially one that evokes so many strong feelings, is not going to be allowed to scuttle the good feelings of a First 100 Days. It’s just not. Politicians may be running Washington, but these people have brains.

I’m still standing on my prediction: this bill sees no light of day in 2009. Napkins for egg, please, to the bishops and pundits who insist this legislation is a danger in a nation that’s already seeing a generation-long decline in abortion rates.

Too bad we can’t vote on the leadership in the pro-life movement. I have a sense they won’t fare too well after a few months have passed. The bishops have continued to marginalize themselves, and this in a realm–public politics–that is the domain of the laity.

I suspect that the new lessons will be hard to learn.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to FOCA Watch: AWOL in the Queue

  1. Liam says:

    The rhetorical focus needs to modulate: from framing the pro-choice orthodox as anti-Christ to framing the pro-life perspective in progressive terms. Namely, that to the extent any human being’s life is conditioned upon being valued or wanted by anyone else, it is an utilitarian, Malthusian calculus that is being permitted. A calculus that has over its many appearances in human history wreaked misery, not only on victims but its promoters in the long run. (For the questioning Christian audience, add: A calculus of man that is quite at odds with God’s calculus.)

    And if there is progressive agreement that such a utilitarian calculus is deeply at odds with progressive princples and goals, then we can clarify that the principled difference is over assumptions and that assumptions are difficult to argue about by their very nature as they are to some extent pre-rational in argumentative terms. And the difference of assumption here would be whether to consider the unborn as human beings. The progressive should add, of course, that the very step of deciding that someone is *not* a human being is, like the utilitarian calculus described earlier, one associated with the darkest episodes in the human record.

    And, therefore, those of us who do not adopt the assumption of pro-choicers are not going away, are not going to be silent, and will ever remind them that need reminding that the pro-choice position is, in the long run, a betrayal of the best of progressive principles.

    Now, Obama himself is not ideologically progressive. He’s not ideological. Which is good, and bad. He’s more of an empiricist/pragmatist/instrumentalist – which tends to defer to utilitarian solutions where principles are not susceptible to consensus. Of course, America’s morality is fundamentally utilitarian anyway, and I cannot think of few exceptions to the rule that American presidents are generally utilitarian anyway (even GWB – how else does one explain the Ptolemaic epicycles of reasoning to permit torture without admitting it to oneself?).

    Thus, with a bit of a progressive wind in the public zeitgeist, this is an argument to appeal to hearts and minds in general – to family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. To open closed ones, and persuade open ones (that’s two separate steps, usually – remember, you may only be invited to be involved in the first half, so don’t egoistically rush to the second half).

    This is hard work. Note, that we haven’t even reached the issue of law and the Constitution. If Roe were reversed tomorrow, we would see abortion restrictions in a few states over a few years, but likely no bans on abortion as such. Why do I surmise that? Because in a relatively pro-life state like SD, even something short of that has failed by a significant measure – twice! And, remember, there is no jurist on the US Supreme Court who is likely to read a right to life for the unborn into the Constitution – the conservatives on the court are legal positivists, not people who view the Constitutional text as governed by natural law principles outside the text. The natural law folks in the courts tradition have tended to be the liberals. Which is a hint that, if natural law on the dignity of unborn human life is going to have a foothold in US jurisprudence, it may well come someday from a counter-intuitive direction – a progressive direction, that is.

  2. Jim McK says:

    I agree that the rhetoric has to change for either side to advance. In addition to Liam’s points, there are a couple of other assumptions ripe for the harvest:

    – Pro-choice v pro-life is not the simple choice versus life. Most in this country are in favor of both life and choice. No one provides a reasonable option for these people, because both sides talk only about their own issue. Pro-choice does not respect the life of the child, pro-life diminishes the choice of the mother. I do not know if there is a good resolution, or even an acceptable one, so maybe this is not ripe yet.

    – The mother and her child should never be portrayed as antagonists. What’s good for the mother is the good for the child and vice versa. I see this as the principal problem with the pro-life movement, that it agrees with pro-choice people that mother and child as pitted against one another. Overcoming that agreement is a key step to supporting women who become pregnant. If they see the child as antagonistic, abortion looks more reasonable.

    AS is usual with me, I have no solutions, just criticisms and hope for greater love in all these relationships.

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