In today’s Wall Street Journal, David Gibson has a piece defending Catholic Democrats for supposedly having a “more effective strategy” than Republicans for countering abortion. That Democratic strategy is said to consist of social and economic support for needy women facing unexpected pregnancies, rather than opposition to Roe. But why not both?
Gibson attributes to law professor Doug Kmiec the argument that (in Gibson’s paraphrase) “Roe v. Wade is effectively settled law.” But, now more than ever, that is a highly dubious proposition, at least if the next Supreme Court appointments are made by a President McCain. Gibson says that Kmiec “notes” that “Republicans have dominated the White House and Congress [sic*] for nearly 30 years, and appointed most of the Supreme Court justices.” To be sure, Republican presidents have made some bad appointments in the past, in at least one case (Ford’s pick of Stevens) probably by design and twice more (Kennedy and Souter) in the face of hostile Senate Democratic majorities populated by pro-Roe Catholics. Sensible and faithful Catholics have ample reason to hope and believe that a President McCain will have learned from these mistakes, and they ought to be pressuring pro-Roe Catholic Democrats, not pandering to them.
Even more dubious is Gibson’s notion that overturning Roe, and restoring abortion policy to the democratic processes, wouldn’t help lay the groundwork for a significant reduction in the number of abortions. Surely, the Court’s invention of a constitutional right to abortion, its assertion that that right is central to the “ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation,” and its legitimation of the notion that people have “organized intimate relationships and made choices … in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail” have done much to promote the practice of abortion. Why, pray tell, wouldn’t the abandonment of Roe and the adoption of more protective abortion laws help to discourage it?
Gibson also complains that “a double-standard seems to be emerging as Catholics like Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden are grilled about their faith and their voting records while Mr. McCain’s and Mrs. Palin’s assertions go unexamined.” But there is no double standard. Church leaders have special rights and responsibilities with respect to Catholics. Pelosi and Biden are Catholic. McCain and Palin aren’t.
Further, Gibson distorts McCain’s and Palin’s records to try to concoct some sort of moral equivalency between their positions and Pelosi’s and Biden’s. It is not true, as Gibson asserts, that McCain “backed embryonic stem-cell research, which would create the human life he says he wants to protect for the express purpose of destroying it.” McCain has clearly opposed the creation of human embryos for research purposes (even as he has supported the objectionable practice of extracting stem cells from so-called IVF spares). On abortion issues, his record is solidly pro-life.
Gibson also criticizes Palin for saying in her gubernatorial campaign that “she would not pursue antiabortion policies if elected.” I don’t know which campaign statement Gibson is purporting to summarize, but the New York Times reports that Palin in fact supported bills to outlaw late-term abortions and to require parental consent. Surely Palin recognized that the continuing existence of Roe posed an insuperable obstacle to the enactment of more protective abortion laws. It is hardly fair for Gibson to fault Palin for recognizing the legal reality that Gibson is content to leave in place.
* In fact, the House has been in Democratic hands for 18 of the past 30 years, and the Senate has been in Democratic hands for nearly half that period. That’s some Republican domination.