I welcomed Ramesh Ponneru’s column knocking down Tim Kaine’s evasions on the abortion question in the Vice Presidential debate last night. His most salient point is this one:
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.
This is right in one sense, and wrong in another: I do think you need faith to make arguments against abortion, though not necessarily to be convinced by them. Moral judgments have to come from somewhere, and it’s not a coincidence that resistance to the abortion industrial complex comes primarily from religious believers.
For the religious in more than name, faith discloses reality, especially moral reality. The frustrating thing about “believers” like Kaine is that he talks like it doesn’t. It’s a source of conviction and identity, not knowledge or judgment. Never mind that recent scientific research and advances in ultrasound technology corroborate the Pro-Life position that babies are persons from very early on. If any group is motivated by a religious conviction on the matter, then the issue must be thoroughly subjective.
This is something I’ve brought up before that I like to call The Denial of Religious Wisdom. Typically, when someone or some group gets something right before it’s totally obvious to everyone, we get really interested in their thought process, like all the people in The Big Short who predicted the financial crisis. They saw it coming, so we made a movie celebrating their intellectual achievement and their counter-cultural morals. Religious believers are offered no such respect when we get something right. Instead, we’re treated like broken clocks who are right once a day.
Perhaps most importantly, I think faith is necessary to combat the fears that NARAL and Planned Parenthood spread among ordinary people. Pro-Choice policies are unpopular with people on the merits, but when it comes to actually repealing them, people get cold feet. The Pro-Choice activist spoke correctly when she said that for most people, “abortion is unjustified except in the case of rape and in my case.” Pro-Choice policy trades on the fear that nothing that you did not choose for yourself can be good for you. I can’t think of anything except a personal faith in God that can combat this seductive lie, especially a God who loves you and promises to provide beyond your own powers. Unless you accept the hands leading you where you do not wish to go, the only thing left to favor is your own choice.