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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
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On Abortion: "Personally Opposed, But ..."

Comment

Of all the arguments in support of legalized abortion made by elected legislators, the one that bothers me the most is, "While I'm personally opposed to abortion, I cannot vote to impose my views on others ..."

This represents the ultimate privatization of beliefs. Thank Goodness 19th-century abolitionists did not use this logic to explain their unwillingness to vote to outlaw slavery.

Every day, liberals, in whose ranks I count myself, urge legislators to vote to impose our views and beliefs on others when it involves enacting a progressive tax system, guaranteeing gay rights, protecting the environment, or through the federal government, providing health care to millions of Americans who do not presently have it.

Some now argue that government can involve itself in social morality — such as ending racial segregation — but butt out when it comes to personal moral decisions. This leads to the kind of convoluted liberalism that, as Father Thomas J. Reese, the Jesuit author, has observed, holds that "government should no longer ban topless dancing, but should ensure that the dancer works in a smoke-free environment."

The separation of church and state has never meant the total divorce of religion from American public life. Generations of timid politicians ducked and dodged the abject immorality of ratifying this nation's policy of legally sanctioned segregation and discrimination until forced to do so by the organized religious community. The heroic witness of clergy and laity — Protestant, Jewish and Catholic — led to racial justice being eventually "imposed on" a lot of "others."

In casting their public causes in moral terms, people of faith are simply honoring a great American tradition. The American leader who used the language of the Gospel of Saint Mark to tell us that "a house divided against itself cannot stand" was Republican Abraham Lincoln. It was Democrat Franklin Roosevelt who announced proudly that "the money-changers have fled from the their high seats in the temple of our civilization."

As Washington Democrats scramble around-the-clock to patch together a fragile majority on Capitol Hill to pass President Obama's health care reform, abortion remains — as it has been for nearly four decades — the most enduringly divisive national issue.

What Democratic leaders do not seem to understand are the major changes over the last generation in voters' attitudes on abortion.

When asked in 1995 by the Gallup Poll, "Would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life on abortion?" 56 percent of Americans self-identified as "pro-choice" and just 33 percent called themselves "pro-life." By 2009, those numbers had flipped: 51 percent said they were "pro-life," while 42 percent answered "pro-choice" — a swing in 14 years of 32 percent!

"Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances or illegal in all circumstances?" Fifteen years ago when Gallup asked that question, while a majority (52 percent) answered "legal only under certain circumstances," the most pro-choice position — "legal under any circumstances" — got nearly three times as much support (33 percent) as did the "illegal in all circumstances" (13 percent). In the most recent Gallup, the unfettered abortion-rights position had slipped to 21 percent support, just ahead of the outlawing abortion position at 18 percent.

So Democrats in general and liberals in particular ought to reflect upon the new political reality that only a small minority of Americans support what has become the party's absolute orthodoxy on the issue: abortion on demand. That is, termination of pregnancy at any stage for whatever reason. At the same time, polls continue to find strong, majority support for a waiting period and parental consent before an abortion.

The argument is not whether all abortions should be illegal. There is no possibility of that happening in the foreseeable future. But there is a serious public debate to be held on whether abortions, as is now the rule, ought always to be lawful.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

COPYRIGHT 2010 MARK SHIELDS



Comments

10 Comments | Post Comment
This is what I think Rick Perry is up to. http://politicsdmz.ning.com/forum/topics/is-rick-perry-testing-the


www.politicsdmz.ning.com
Comment: #1
Posted by: Rich Rubino
Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:54 PM
You're getting old, Mark. And you're getting way too comfy and chummy there in pundit never-never land. It ain't your life getting risked when a woman is forced to bring a child to term. The "convoluted" rationale is: you keep your hands off my body and my personal matters, and I'll keep my hands off yours. It's that simple.

And in case you are late to the game, working in a smoke-filled bar all your life will dramatically increase your chances of dying of lung cancer. Working in a topless bar won't, unless you add the smoke. I don't care about the customers--it's their choice. But the bar tenders and other workers have a right to breathe air that isn't full of stuff that turns their lung tissue black. The point is, they don't have a choice if they want the job, and those of us who would like to live in an environment that isn't full of crap shouldn't have to put up with our atmosphere, drinking water, and soil being treated like one big garbage heap.

People need to mind their own business and clean up their own mess. This country, and especially the money-driven right wing, which continues to buy its way and dominate the airwaves further and further into self-righteous fantasy about how OTHER people should view abortion and personal matters that are none of its business, ought to return to the concept of getting your own house in order before peeking into your neighbor's windows.

You should stick to your earlier themes going to the proposition that those who talk the talk should walk the walk, because those who spend their time pointing the finger at others usually have breathtaking sins to hide, and we've seen plenty of that kind of hypocrisy in politics of late.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:27 AM
You're getting old, Mark. And you're getting way too comfy and chummy there in pundit never-never land. It ain't your life getting risked when a woman is forced to bring a child to term. The "convoluted" rationale is: you keep your hands off my body and my personal matters, and I'll keep my hands off yours. It's that simple.
And in case you are late to the game, working in a smoke-filled bar all your life will dramatically increase your chances of dying of lung cancer. Working in a topless bar won't, unless you add the smoke. I don't care about the customers--it's their choice. But the bar tenders and other workers have a right to breathe air that isn't full of stuff that turns their lung tissue black. The point is, they don't have a choice if they want the job, and those of us who would like to live in an environment that isn't full of crap shouldn't have to put up with our atmosphere, drinking water, and soil being treated like one big garbage heap.
People need to mind their own business and clean up their own mess. This country, and especially the money-driven right wing, which continues to buy its way and dominate the airwaves further and further into self-righteous fantasy about how OTHER people should view abortion and personal matters that are none of its business, ought to return to the concept of getting your own house in order before peeking into your neighbor's windows.
You should stick to your earlier themes going to the proposition that those who talk the talk should walk the walk, because those who spend their time pointing the finger at others usually have breathtaking sins to hide, and we've seen plenty of that kind of hypocrisy in politics of late.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Masako
Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:28 AM
He's not getting old. He's the last good thing they have on the Newshour (when he mentioned Dred Scott on this last Friday and then Jim cut him off sort of -- one couldn't help but think -- for the five billionth time, Mark Shields is the only guy who knows what he's talking about). And so it is odd that he gets this issue kind of wrong. Or it's not really odd given a Catholic background.

But just remember that it's not so simple to say that the majority's changing sense of morality is the only sense of morality that we should be paying attention to. Whether or not Blackmun's constitutional right to privacy will stand up in the long run -- and whether or not that is really the right legal base -- is sort of besides the point.

Healthcare should be passed. And then revised and evolved accordingly. Healthcare in relation to abortions is a very small sliver of the pie. Let's not have that throw things off.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Tom
Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:11 AM
Re: Tom: Yep, he's about the best we got in the mainstream, always a thoroughly worthwhile pleasure to listen to, even on those rare occasions when he seems a bit off.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Masako
Sun Mar 14, 2010 9:35 AM
Re: Tom II: Forgot to mention, I agree it makes sense not to allow abortion to become an issue in healthcare reform, at least on this round, as it seems to be a dealbreaker--it's just sad to see this particular slant. I can come up with a long list of issues liberals need to rethink, and this ain't on it.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Masako
Sun Mar 14, 2010 9:41 AM
This article argues by analogy: since past topics (slavery, segregation) utilized personal morality in forming public policy, it is acceptable to use personal morality to argue for public policy on abortion. Argument by analogy relies on the strength of the analogy for the conclusions in the analogy to transit to the current topic. Better analogies for abortion would be blue-laws and prohibition, both predicated on personal morality and in some cases on religious belief. Unlike slavery and segregation, prohibition did not address a matter of broad societal flaws; it addressed personal and localized flaws, if it addressed any flaws at all. And, given opposing, equally valid views on drinking, imposition of one moral position on all Americans was ultimately deemed inappropriate and prohibition was ended. If Mark had argued abortion as thte analog of prohibition, he couldn't have reached the same conclusion. To me, that says his conclusions are not robust enough to stand without the implicit identification of pro-slavery with abortion rights. It is a weak and flawed argument.
Comment: #7
Posted by: David Elliott Bell
Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:01 AM
Where are all of the Pro-lifers on Health Care Reform?

Why is life sacred in the womb, but subject to the all the flaws and vulnerabilities of the free-market, for-profit system?

Half of the uninsured are too young to hold a job and obtain the health benefits that come with it.
I think it was the IOM (Institutes of Medicine) that declared 180,000 Americans die each year because they lack medical insurance.

Where is the moral outrage from the Pro-Lifers?
Comment: #8
Posted by: Steven
Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:06 PM
I agree with basically what everyone has said here (which is rare on the internet!) Well-said, everyone. And I forgot to mention that I do also agree with Masako's points (just not that Mark is getting old).
Comment: #9
Posted by: Tom
Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:39 PM
My web site http://members.cox.net/medcoms/index.html presents a non controversial way to improve health care. Please use your influence to have the congressional budget office do a cost/benefit analysis of the concept.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Joe Miller
Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:53 PM
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