The Corner

Kaine Defends ‘Reproductive Choices’

Kaine made three arguments for keeping abortion legal, while sidestepping Hillary Clinton’s support for subsidizing it.

Argument 1: It’s not “the role of the public servant” to require non-believers to follow the dictates of one’s faith. Forbidding people from killing unborn children, then, is equivalent to making them go to Mass each week. Books could be written (and have been) about what’s wrong with this argument. Briefly: It’s not faith that establishes that unborn children are living members of the human species. Nor do we need faith to ask whether anything distinguishes these members of the species from other members that justifies denying them the right to life that we ourselves take for granted, and to answer no.

Argument 2: Without Roe v. Wade, states could punish women for procuring abortions. Here Kaine seized on Trump’s brief advocacy of such punishment, advocacy that illustrated Trump’s lack of familiarity with pro-life arguments. As Robert P. George and I wrote at the time of Trump’s remarks, pro-lifers have not advocated, and logically need not advocate, any such punishment. States did not punish women for receiving abortions before Roe: The last documented cases of such prosecutions happened in 1911 and 1922.

Argument 3: “Why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves?” Because they’re not just making it for themselves; they’re making it for an innocent third party. We don’t “trust women” to make this choice for the same reason we don’t trust parents with the power to to kill their newborns, or their teenagers: because those children have a fundamental right to life. (Why doesn’t Kaine trust women to decide about infanticide?) Kaine is perfectly capable of understanding why pro-lifers don’t trust anyone with the power to kill unborn children. But he doesn’t want to engage their argument. He doesn’t want to explicitly deny that unborn children have legitimate claims to our protection: That would be too callous, and too obviously at odds with Catholic teaching. Instead he hides behind a useful but empty bit of rhetoric, even though it slanders millions of his fellow citizens and the Church to which he belongs.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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