Morality Ploys by James Hitchcock

Morality Ploys

Big Bailouts & Culture War Maneuvers You Can Expect

If 2008 is remembered as the year of the “bailout,” when the federal government spent billions to rescue the nation’s financial system, it should also be recalled for another kind of bailout—Christians with impeccably pro-life records who suddenly abandoned what they declared to be a sinking ship.

Abortion seemed to be one of the few issues on which Senator Barack Obama had an unambiguous and unchangeable position during the campaign, as he promised that “the first thing I’d do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” something that would nullify all existing laws restricting abortion.

The most notable of those pro-lifers who turned their backs on the movement in 2008 was Douglas W. Kmiec, an official in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, former dean of the law school at Catholic University of America, and now a professor at Pepperdine University, who announced the extraordinary phenomenon of “Reaganites for Obama.”

Kmiec’s explanation for his conversion revealed that he no longer considered abortion a moral issue. Repeating what had become a standard liberal line, he denied that the drive to restrict abortion by law had saved even one life, even though pro-abortionists themselves protest that, the more difficult it is to get an abortion, the fewer there will be.

Kmiec ignored the obvious point that the drive to restrict abortion by law is primarily for the moral imperative of placing the lives of the unborn under constitutional protection. A just society cannot allow a whole category of persons to be denied that protection, but in Obama’s kind of society, the killing of the unborn must be enshrined as a constitutional right.

Although Kmiec claimed that Obama is committed to reducing the number of abortions, nowhere did Obama himself make such a commitment, and the 2008 Democratic platform abandoned its previously stated goal of keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare.” Its “solution” turned out to be merely more of the same—“access to affordable family planning and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education,” policies that will make abortions even easier to obtain, since abortion is an integral part of “family planning” and minors are given access to it even without the knowledge of their parents.

Pro-Lifers Denigrated

Kmiec’s espousal of Obama inevitably forced him to denigrate his former allies in the pro-life movement, by accusing them of thinking that they have done their duty merely by voting for certain political candidates, who (unlike Obama) are insincere in their professions of principle.

Kmiec did not acknowledge that, besides voting, many pro-lifers picket abortion clinics and attempt to persuade women not to undergo the operation and that various pro-life counseling agencies exist for the same purpose. Most obviously, many in the pro-life movement operate and support programs for unwed mothers.

But pro-abortionists have repeatedly tried to suppress even those activities by law, and there is every reason to suppose that an Obama Justice Department, and judges appointed by Obama, will facilitate such suppression.


James Hitchcock is Professor emeritus of History at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He and his late wife Helen have four daughters. His most recent book is the two-volume work, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2004). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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