In the vice presidential debate last Thursday night, Joe Biden’s comments on how he justifies his enthusiastic support for “abortion rights” and still call himself a faithful Catholic were, as usual, morally and philosophically incoherent. But he could care less: Biden has answered the question a million times, in countless interviews, and now has his whole act down pat. It’s part of the Catholic Democrat politician briefing book.
“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that, women, that they can’t control their body,” Biden told moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News, almost wiping a tear from his cheek. “It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court. I’m not going to interfere with that.”
In the mid-1960s, a gaggle of Democratic pols met at the Hyannisport compound of the Kennedy family to discuss how they were going to handle the politically inconvenient fact that they all wanted to pretend to be Catholics while still supporting legalized abortion.
The late Georgetown University law professor and former member of Congress, Fr. Robert Drinan, SJ, who became infamous for his public support even of partial birth abortion, met with the politicians and help to craft the “personally opposed but” dodge that Democrat pols have used for a generation.
“In some cases, church leaders actually started providing ‘cover’ for Catholic pro-choice politicians who wanted to vote in favor of abortion rights,” writes Anne Hendershott, author of The Politics of Abortion. “At a meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on a hot summer day in 1964, the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies were coached by leading theologians and Catholic college professors on how to accept and promote abortion with a ‘clear conscience.’”
“The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting in his book The Birth of Bioethics (Oxford, 2003). He writes about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School; and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran, to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion.”
The arguments were refined throughout the 1970s until, in his famous speech at the University of Notre Dame in 1984, New York Governor Mario Cuomo said he was “personally opposed” to abortion but couldn’t “impose his morality” on the general public. Without mentioning the role of their confreres in developing the arguments, the Jesuits at America Magazine cheered (and continue to cheer!) Cuomo’s brave and prophetic statement.
Of course, the actual arguments Cuomo and Biden used are hardly new. Democrats used the identical arguments to justify their enthusiastic support for slavery. In the 1850s and ‘60s, Democrats then, just like Democrats now, said that abolitionists had no right to “impose their morality” on people who do not share their beliefs. After all, some allegedly good Christians owned slaves. If you don’t like slavery, the Democrats said, then don’t own slaves. Today Democrats say that if you don’t like abortion, then don’t have one – just keep your “laws off my ovaries.”
It’s no coincidence, therefore, that in both cases – slavery and abortion – it took the U.S. Supreme Court to accomplish through force what the Democrats couldn’t achieve through democratic means. In the Dred Scot decision, the Supreme Court ruled that blacks were not “persons” with rights as understood by the Constitution. In the Roe v. Wade decision, the court did the same thing with regard to the unborn, declaring that unborn children in the womb have no constitutional rights until the moment of birth.
The irony of Joe Biden’s “personally opposed but” excuse is that, as a professional politician, imposing his morality on the general public is pretty much all Joe’s done his entire life. He has no problem forcing his moral views on the majority of the population opposed to Obamacare, for example.
The same thing was said about Mario Cuomo: Even if you concede that abortion laws are “unenforceable” and cause more harm than good, as he claimed – a debatable proposition for the 30 million children killed over the past 40 years – surely the minimum required of someone who claims to accept Church teaching on the sanctity of life is that he or she deplores publicly the tragedy of abortion?
Yet observers point out that Cuomo, Biden and other “pro-choice” Catholics do no such thing: Rather, they campaign aggressively for it… make speeches about how wonderful Roe v. Wade is… and demonize prolife activists who wish to pass parental consent laws and other reasonable restrictions found even in Europe.
Biden did that on Thursday night: Vote for me, he said, because otherwise Roe V. Wade might be threatened… and wouldn’t that be horrible?
In short: It’s all an act. Biden is no more “personally opposed” to abortion than Caroline Kennedy or the head of NARAL-Prochoice America is.
If he was opposed, he wouldn’t act like Roe V. Wade is the greatest piece of jurisprudence to come down the pike since Brown v. Board of Education.