In 1984, Mario Cuomo pioneered the argument that one may be “personally opposed” to abortion while supporting abortion rights.
Ever since, this convenient locution has become a staple for countless Democratic politicians, particularly Catholic ones. It is Vice President Joe Biden’s view and was Senator John Kerry’s stance when he ran for president in 2004.
Cuomo’s argument was a mess. For instance, in order to buttress his argument, he touted the (alleged) refusal of American Catholic bishops to forcefully denounce slavery. The bishops “weren’t hypocrites; they were realists,” Cuomo explained. They offered a “measured attempt to balance moral truths against political realities.”
As Ramesh Ponnuru writes in The Party of Death
: “It is a mark of the strength of contemporary liberalism’s commitment to abortion that one of its leading lights should have been willing to support temporizing on slavery in order to defend it.”
I bring this up because according to the logic of Democrats these days, all of these politicians want to ban abortion. It doesn’t matter that they support abortion rights, in word and deed. It doesn’t matter that they’re willing to forgive tolerance for slavery to defend the distinction. They are personally opposed to abortion, usually as a matter of faith, and so they must favor banning it.
That’s the upshot of the shockingly dishonest propaganda being peddled by leading Democrats and media outlets about the Republican push to “ban” contraception.
Part of the problem is simply psychological projection. Since many liberals believe there’s no valid limiting principle on government’s ability to do “good,” they assume that conservatives believe there’s no valid limiting principle to do “bad.”
Rick Santorum, who unproductively helped inject birth control into the GOP primaries, nonetheless explained the flaw in this thinking. “Here’s the difference between me and the Left, and they don’t get this. Just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it. That’s what they do. That’s not what we do.”
But don’t tell that to the Democrats who are desperate to accuse the Republicans of Comstockery.