Michael Medved: Abortion's shades of gray

The battle for the Republican presidential nomination might serve to clear away prevailing confusion and contradictions about public opinion on abortion. Rudy Giuliani seeks the White House by reaching out to that majority of Americans who say they are pro-choice ”” and anti-abortion.

To most pro-lifers, this position represents an absurd contradiction. Along with their militant counterparts on the opposite side of the abortion issue, they’ve reduced the controversy to a simple, black-and-white choice: You’re either “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” with no room for compromise. On that basis, many religious conservatives denounce Giuliani as “pro-abortion” and threaten to withhold support if he heads the GOP ticket.

Unfortunately, anger toward the former mayor distorts his actual position on abortion. Like most Americans, Giuliani takes a mixed, nuanced approach that defies easy categorizations.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Life Ethics, US Presidential Election 2008

29 comments on “Michael Medved: Abortion's shades of gray

  1. Dale Rye says:

    When I was in law school, we had a discussion led by Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who won [i]Roe v. Wade[/i], after oral argument but before the decision. The class split along much the same lines that Mr. Medved describes 35 years later, with the proportion of those in the middle like Mr. Giuliani about the same as among conservative Republicans today.

  2. Mike Bertaut says:

    I am so thrilled that Kendall pulled this article in to our discussions here, as I read it in USAToday and thought, “Now this is the perfect illustration of a point that has to be made.”

    That point is, the difference between a BELIEF and a POSITION. When you pick an intrinsically black and white issue such as A) It’s ok to kill babies before they are born or B) It’s not ok to kill babies before they are born you are espousing a belief. Belief’s have to be embraced and integrated into your personal psyche and as such are non-negotiable. Positions flow from belief’s, but are Belief-Lite, i.e. give you the ability to interpret your belief differently based on a particular set of situations. One can see how valuable the Position is to the Politician who is trying to unite a diverse coalition of believers around a particular issue. A Position gives you the ability to modify the appearance of your Belief to suit groups that might not normally agree with each other, and this article gives a PERFECT example of that technique.

    Now, here’s the hard part. Christ was very hard on Positions and demanded Belief. Recall what happens to those who are lukewarm, (cast out of His mouth) because Positions are intrinsically lukewarm (compromised). Belief is an absolute, a stand, that is immutable.

    “No one comes to the Father except through me.” qualifies as a Belief.

    So, what shall we speak with: Belief? or Position?


  3. Philip Snyder says:

    “Wherever there are two or three gather together, there is politics.” (P. Snyder, but probably not original with me)
    There is a difference between what our goal is and what we can acheive in the political realm. We could probably get 75%+ of Americans to agree to end all second and third trimester abortions that do not endanger the life of the mother. We probably could not get a bill passed in Congress that would outlaw all abortions unless the life of the mother is at stake. So, now comes the political conundrum. If we get Roe overturned (and that is a possibility) and abortion becomes an issue for the states (where it belongs anyway), then should religious people support a bill that outlaws 2nd and 3rd trimester abortion, but allows 1st trimester abortions (and thus stop great evil in reducing 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions)? Or, should we push for a bill that outlaws most abortions, but realize that the bill has little or no chance of passing and thus allows 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions as well.

    What would you do in that situation?

    Phil Snyder

  4. Franz says:

    Mr. Medved overlooks another aspect of Guliani’s position, which is (or should be) important in a democracy — in addition to having a position on abortion, one should also figure out who decides, the courts, or a legislative body.
    One can, with perfect consistency, be both pro-choice as a policy matter, and against Roe v. Wade, as a matter of constitutional law. The constitutional argument in Roe is tenuous at best, and should be viewed as a decision by the members of the Court to reach a policy decision which the Constitution actually leaves to the individual states. If Roe were reversed tomorrow, some states place few restrictions on abortions. Others would place more. The decision would be made by the elected representatives of the people, not a tiny number of judges.
    Imagine the reaction if the “conservative” wing of the S.Ct., seeking to reverse Roe, were to articulate a constitutional prohibition of abortion, perhaps on the grounds that a fetus is entitled to equal protection under the law.

  5. Mike Bertaut says:

    I think Rome has been clear through the publications of the Pope’s in the 20th Century to confirm the “when faced with evil choices, least evil should be chosen.” I’m in agreement with that. But I don’t have to compromise belief to make progress via position, do I?

    It’s a great question, though.


  6. Sarah1 says:

    I am sorry but — despite Republican moderates’ hopes — I do not believe that if Guiliani is the Republican nominee, he will be elected.

    I will be one of those conservatives who will not vote for Guiliani. I will — for the first time ever — vote for a third-party conservative for President.

    I am an Episcopalian — and I can count many many Episcopalians in my parish alone who will NOT vote for him.

    Good luck, Republican Party!!!!

  7. Saint Dumb Ox says:

    I get a black and white vote. Yes or no. More than that, I get only one yes and a whole host of no’s on who I think should be president. As a result I can not parse belief or position. There is no debate, no “issue” to hash out. The killing of a baby is wrong. My one vote will not be wasted on subtlty, half measures or “progress.”

    Abortion is not a platform for debate.

  8. Br. Michael says:

    I too will not vote for Guiliani.

  9. anglicanlutenist says:

    Why is it always when ever I hear language like ‘mixed, nuanced approach” I get the distinct feeling that I’m about to be sold something?

  10. anglicanlutenist says:

    ….that is: something I’m not willing to buy.

  11. Old Soldier says:

    While I understand your position, do you understand that Christians by following your example could elect Hillery?
    Just asking?

  12. jamesw says:

    The problem with the “pro vs. anti choice” rhetoric is that it simply isn’t honest. Are the Democratic candidates “pro-choice” about religious schools, gun ownership, medical coverage, wife beating, child molestation, etc., etc. The simple fact is that nobody is either entirely “pro-choice” or “anti-choice”. The key question is what you think an individual should have “choice” over.

    In the case of abortion, the issue is “whose choice is it to end the life of another human being who is too vulnerable to protect itself and who depends on another human for continued living.” The “pro-choice” on abortion side argues that individuals should get to make this choice of continued life or death. The “anti-choice” on abortion side argues that individuals should not have the power of life or death over other human beings.

    The “anti abortion” but “pro choice” argument is essentially the “whatever” argument. Sort of like the following: I am against people lacking health insurance, but I am unwilling to have government take any action; or I am against gun violence, but oppose restrictions of gun ownership; or I am against the molestation of children, but I am against laws prohibiting this.

    Either abortion is the taking of human life or it isn’t. If it isn’t, there is no reason to oppose it. If it is, then, unless you are willing to grant individuals the right to kill another human being, you can’t be “pro choice”. Society might not like that, but that’s the truth.

  13. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “. . . do you understand that Christians by following your example could elect Hillery?”

    Not at all. Should Hillary be elected with Guiliani as her opponent, it will be the Republican Party that has elected Hillary Clinton by their very foolish and self-serving and low-integrity choice of a nominee. They’ve been warned numerous times about this, and if they decide to “call the voters’ bluff” and “see what happens” — Good Luck again, I say!

    At that point many conservatives will recognize that the Republican party has not only violated its platform but that it is no longer an option for conservative votes, and the long hard work towards a viable third-party will then begin, a matter of some scores of years, I should think.

    The other option will be that the Republican Party learns a very hard hard lesson — yet again — and changes its tune four years hence.

    Either outcome would be a good thing that God could make from a very bad decision by the Republicans.

    America will suffer for the Republican Party’s choices in that event and the Republican Party will only have itself to blame.

  14. Old Soldier says:

    I agree with all you wrote, but if it is the Mayor against Hillery
    which person would be best to lead the country?

  15. Bill Matz says:

    OK, this is a question that has always puzzled me, as the automatic conservative response seems to be contrary to Scripture. The OT is clear that a fetus is not human life. E.g. the punishment (confirmed by rabbinical analysis) for accidentally causing a miscarriage is vastly lower than than for manslaughter; in addition, some translations use death and miscarriage in the disjunctive. In addition there is the issue of the infusion of the soul, which I understand has been widely considered to occur only at birth. So equating death of a fetus with death of a human being seems unsupported by – and even contrary to – Scripture.

    Even so, I believe there is plenty of reason to restrict or prohibit it from a Judeo-Christian perspective, especially abortion that is used as lazy birth control. But there is no question that the equation of abortion with murder has served to polarize (and generally prevent) rational discussion of the subject.

    Finally, as the age of viability goes lower due to medical advances, one can argue that Biblical basis of analysis may need to be revisited.

  16. William Tighe says:

    Re: #6 and #13,

    I am in the pleasant, if rather infrequent, position of agreeing wholly with Sarah, both as to her conclusion and its rationale. I would add, that if the Republicans show such manifest disdain for socially conservative voters by putting up such a moral midget and serial adulterer as Giuliani, they deserve to lose bigtime.

    As to President Hillary, to have four years of such an ignorant ideologue would be a wonderful growth hormone for conservatives of all stripes. She would make dreadful Supreme Court appointments, though.

  17. Old Soldier says:

    Dr Tighe
    That is a growth harmone that we can ill afford to partake. These are dangerous times. Do we really want to take these kind of chances? Please understand, I am not a booster of His Honor the Mayor, but Hillory?

  18. ElaineF. says:

    With all due respect, if it comes down to Rudy vs. Hillary, I would have a very difficult time voting for a third party candidate “just to show ’em.” I believe the price is too high for the meager satisfaction to be gained at attempting to dispense discipline to the Repubs in this manner. There is way too much at stake in terms of long term Supreme Court appointments. In addition, there is no guarantee that a supposed third party would be any more desirable.

  19. TheOldHundredth says:

    Re: #6, #13, and #16.

    Amen, amen, amen.

    And as far as the SCOTUS, Mrs. Clinton would likely only be replacing liberals, as they’re the ones who are getting long in the tooth. So she’s not likely to tip the court decisively to the left.

    Let God Arise

  20. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “Please understand, I am not a booster of His Honor the Mayor, but Hillory?”

    Hopefully the Republican Party will recognize how truly horrible it would be for Hillary to be the President and they will nominate a conservative that conservatives can vote for.

    RE: “I would have a very difficult time voting for a third party candidate “just to show ‘em.”

    Not interested in doing anything “just to show ’em” . . . a vote for a third-party candidate, given the Republican Party’s nomination of a non-conservative, pro-abortion candidate, would be a sound investment in America’s long-term future.

    Were the Republican Party to nominate Guiliani, that would be all the evidence needed that they simply do not desire conservative voters, and thus conservatives would need to go ahead and develop a party for conservatives.

    That’s a very long-term proposition — best to go ahead and get started once the Republican Party proves itself incompetent and disdainful of conservatives.

    Hopefully they won’t . . . but I’m ready for them to really screw it up.

    Hope they’re careful!

  21. Jill C. says:

    [blockquote] The OT is clear that a fetus is not human life. [/blockquote]
    Bill Matz, whose Old Testament are you reading? What do you make of Psalm 139?
    If you have the time, there is a good article called “Abortion and the Voice of Scripture” by Wm. Ross Blackburn, that addresses this: http://www.anglicansforlife.org/resources/readarticle.asp?number=213&topic;=&display;=

  22. Laurence K Wells says:

    It was bound to happen sooner or later: Sarah and I are in agreement.
    And a Hillary victory, nauseating as it sounds, might not be all bad. It would probably trigger a conservative recovery of the Congress, even as early as 2008. There is no “nuanced” way to justify murder.

  23. Chris Molter says:

    I see no real difference between Rudy and Hillary. If, God forbid, that man gets the GOP nod, I will not vote for him. I’ll write in Ron Paul. Heck, I’d write in Mickey Mouse before I’d vote for either Rudy or Hillary.

  24. Katherine says:

    I am in the unhappy position of disagreeing with both Sarah and Dr. Tighe. With reference to the presidency, the only effect the President has on the issue is in the appointment of Supreme Court justices. Guiliani has promised explicitly to appoint judges in the mold of Roberts, Alito, and Scalia, and he has mentioned these by name. This would enable me to vote for him even though I disagree with the “personally opposed, but pro-choice” line, which I view as inherently illogical. Politics is practical. A large move of conservatives to an unelectable third-party candidate would elect Hilary, and she will appoint justices who won’t uphold the Constitution.

    As to the other question, yes, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, I would write my state representatives in support of a law which would restrict abortion while not outlawing it, and would at the same time continue to work towards electing legislators who would outlaw it except for life-of-the-mother situations.

  25. Old Soldier says:

    I understand and agree with the concern about who sits on SCOTUS and other federal judges. But, I am as concerned about national security. So, again, who would make the better Commander-in-Chief? Please do remember that those who voted for a third party
    candidate gave us four/eight years of Bill Clinton.

  26. Mike Bertaut says:

    Don’t forget about my old buddy Fred Thompson. He may be the only candidate who can claim two areas of import:

    1. Fiscal Conservative
    2. Workable Immigration Law

    I think there is potential there….


  27. Philip Snyder says:

    I saw this bumper sticker several years ago:
    “Vote for Chuthulu! Why choose the lesser of two evils?”

    While I am staunchly pro-life and do not support abortion in any form, I am also a pratical individual and would rather outlaw some abortions than let all be lawful. Right now, the political opposition is too strong to outlaw all abortions (except in certain cases). That is my goal, but I doubt it is achievable in the near future.

    Phil Snyder

  28. TheOldHundredth says:

    #25: “Please do remember that those who voted for a third party
    candidate gave us four/eight years of Bill Clinton.

    Yes, and those (alas, like me) who voted for the GOP gave us eight years of George W. Bush. It’s those eight years, more than anything else, which have set up this present crisis.

    Let God Arise

  29. Bill Matz says:

    Thanks for the article, Sheepdog. Very interesting. But Blackburn seems to concede my technical distinction, although he then goes on to argue inconsistently. He admits he cannot state when human life begins. So it still seems inappropriate to call abortion murder.

    I agree with Blackburn that abortion disrupts God’s plan and is, therefore, sin. But I don’t see the need to polarize the discussion on the basis of a characterization that even Blackburn agrees cannot be made with any degree of certainty.