Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

A Brief Note on Abortion Discussions

I am tired of every subject on this blog being compared to abortion.  Seamless Garment folks believe that all life issues should be judged the same.  I respect this view and once held it, but have already noted why I think that the differences between abortion, war, the death penalty, euthanasia, etc. are at least as important as the similarities.  My core conviction is not “life” but human personhood.  You may disagree with that.

But I am tired of every subject, from war to torture, etc. being used by some commenters to try to turn things back to a discussion of abortion.  Quit it. If it keeps up, I will start banning those engaging in this tactic. 

I may be wrong in my reluctantly and narrowly pro-choice position.  But you will not convince me by trying to bring it up at every opportunity.  Instead, all you will do is make me unwilling to engage you on ANY subject.  That’s what “one-note-charlie” folks don’t seem to understand.  You lose more people than you gain by such tactics. 

Even when I considered myself a seamless garment person, I did not consider abortion to be THE issue that overrides all others.  I did not and do not agree with picking judges and SCOTUS justices based on the likelihood that they will or will not overturn <i>Roe v. Wade</i> because of my experience that most judges who oppose <i>Roe</i> also have far right views on numerous other legal matters–and they are rightwing judicial activists who attempt to turn back the legal clock on numerous matters.  So, when I did oppose <i>Roe</i>, I believed that it should be overturned not by stacking the SCOTUS with far-right ideologues like the late Chief Justice Renquist (a racist who believed that <i>Brown v. Board of Education</i> had been wrongly decided), and justices Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Chief Justice Roberts (who clearly lied in his senate testimony), but by amending the Constitution.  That would ban abortion while not radically disturbing 50+ years of legal precedent.

I also am increasingly of the opinion that the Republican ESTABLISHMENT (as opposed to the GOP grassroots) is not really interested in banning abortion.  They just want to raise money on the issue and use the issue as a wedge in campaigns.  From 2001 to 2006, the GOP controlled all 3 branches of the U.S. government, but made ZERO efforts to overturn <i>Roe v. Wade</i>.

Just as Democrats knew that  any justice nominated by Pres. Bush would be conservative and pro-life and could only work to try to get the best nominee possible  within such a framework, so Republicans HAD to know that Obama would appoint a pro-choice justice for SCOTUS.  It was a foregone conclusion.   It also does not change the dynamics of the court on this issue.  You still  have four (4) strong justices against abortion (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito) and four (4) strong  justices for upholding <i>Roe v. Wade</i> (Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens, and Sotomayor) and one swing vote (Kennedy) who is more conservative than liberal.  With a good case, anti-abortion choice folks could now, just as for the last 9 years, overturn <i>Roe v. Wade</i> on a 5-4 ruling.  So, why aren’t they trying?  Sotomayor’s nomination changes nothing in this regard.  (Nor is any Obama nomination in this 4 year term likely to do so since the other justices who might retire this term, Stevens & Ginsburg, are already on the liberal side.  Only if one of the conservative justices retire–and they are relatively young and most in good health–is any Obama pick going to make ANY difference on <i>Roe v. Wade</i>.  That would NOT have been the case if John McCain had won last November, however.   My guess is that no conservative justice will retire until 2012 at the earliest and then it is likely to be either Kennedy, the eldest of the conservatives, or Thomas, who simply does not look in good health and who does not seem to like the work anymore.  )

P.S.  Regarding Judge Sotomayor, it is probably pro-choicers who should ask more questions at her hearing.  She has ruled on only 1 case regarding abortion (Center for Reproductive Policy v. Bush 2002)  and, in it, she UPHELD the Bush-era “Mexico City Rule” that refused government funding to international relief and aid groups that funded abortions.  Judge Sotomayor ruled that this policy did not violate the constitution’s equal protection clause because “the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position and can do so with public funds.”  This is hardly a ruling that would thrill members of the National Abortion Rights Action League or the ACLU’s section on reproductive choice.  One ruling does not show an overall attitude toward abortion, but it shows that anti-abortion groups have more reason to be cautiously optimistic about this nominee than do pro-choice groups.

May 26, 2009 - Posted by | abortion


  1. I think you are on the money with the Republican establishment and abortion. If they keep abortion as an issue, they can easily whip up the party faithful into a money heaving frenzy. As long as they have abortion, gun rights, and gay marriage, the real issues matter little.

    Comment by Ralph | May 26, 2009

  2. I feel your pain. I’m getting annoyed just thinking about it!

    Comment by Jeremy | May 27, 2009

  3. I would say that abortion is a real issue ! And it will not go away. As for gay marriage let them marry. The gun lobby will fight to the bitter end and it is a constitutional right by the way. (No I do not own a gun just so you know). And what are the “real issues?” Please elucidate !

    Comment by Paul | May 27, 2009

  4. I never said abortion was not a “real issue,” Paul. I simply do not think it to be the only issue–certainly not something to be brought up in every post no matter the topic under discussion. It’s worked this way to date: Michael has blogged on torture, so let’s use that to comment on abortion. Michael has blogged on war and nonviolence, so let’s turn the discussion to abortion. Michael advocates nonmilitary solutions to terror prevention, so let’s talk about abortion. Michael writes about detective fiction or Star Trek or his family, so let’s talk about abortion. Sheesh!

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 27, 2009

  5. Let’s talk instead about how Obama is killing innocent women and children in Pakistan with Predators. In fact, he has increased the number of attacks since Bush. Let’s talk about how that, with his views on abortion is a “seamless garment position” or a “consistent ethic of death.”

    Comment by Jerry | May 27, 2009

  6. Michael please do a post on “non military solutions to terror prevention” !

    Comment by Paul | May 27, 2009

  7. Paul, use my search engine to look up posts on “just peacemaking.”

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 27, 2009

  8. I am no defender of war. I do NOT defend Obama’s actions in Pakistan or elsewhere.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 27, 2009

  9. I’m thinking abortion will not be a huge line of questioning for Sotomayor.

    There should be questioning on executive power, international law and treaties, contract law (including ex post facto), the current state of nondiscrimination law, religious liberty, and government participation in private enterprise (ref. Chrysler, Fannie Mae, AIG, faith-based initiatives and other variants). Questions seldom elicit judicial leanings but the nominee can demonstrate depth of legal knowledge — which the Founders emphasized — and promise impartiality and open-mindedness about a hundred times.

    I truly hope everyone is respectful. It is a mystery to me why any Senator would ever spend his/her camera time attempting — counterproductively — to verbally beat up future Supreme Court justices.

    Comment by K Gray | May 28, 2009

  10. Michael please do a post on “non military solutions to terror prevention” !

    HA, HA, HA!!!!! Why don’t you ask him to define a “square circle.”

    Comment by Jerry | May 28, 2009

  11. I just wanted to comment on abortion since abortion is the topic of this post, but can never be mentioned again in comment arguments on any of Michael’s posts which aren’t specifically about abortion, because this frustrates and angers Michael.

    I’m against abortion and want it stopped, whether constitutionally or in the courts. We could never protect a GLBT’s or Guantanamo terrorist’s rights or human personhood if he/she had been aborted.

    Comment by Chuck | May 28, 2009

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