April 30, 2009

Abortion: The Debate's Transition to the Private Realm

During last night's 100 day press conference, President Obama declared--almost word for word to previous statements--his position on abortion. Even though he isn't a great speaker, he likely is a wordsmith on paper and has framed this language in such a way that it sounds logical, caring, respectful of religion, and dare I say, even centrist.
You know, my view on abortion I think has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue. I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they — if they suggest — and I don’t want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women’s freedom and that there’s no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with, and families and individual women have to wrestle with.
There is some serious strategy going on here. I believe what Obama is trying to do is de-politicize abortion for the sake of the pro-abortion position. By referring to it as a moral issue that "families and women have to wrestle with" he is eliminating the notion of objective morality and linking abortion instead the realm of private values. But if the debate remains tied most dominately to the extreme feminist, reproductive rights movement, abortion remains open to public debate amongst ideological foes, each with the assumption that there is an objectively correct answer. And if that debate continues to rage, Obama can't appear as if he is taking no side. But there is more.
The reason I’m pro-choice is because I don’t think women take that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day, and I think they are in a better position to make these decision ultimately than members of Congress or a President of the United States — in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy. So that’s been my consistent position.
There is a ton to address in this portion of his statement, but what I want to focus your attention to the "private" relationships he mentions, between a woman and her family, doctor, clergy. His administration's work to mute the public abortion debates leaves it in the realm of these private relationships...and take note that religion is removed from the public realm (no surprise) into the private life of the woman. This is the only place where religion has a voice in the matter.

This statement he makes is clearly driven toward a removal of religious voices from the public square, and the fact that he consistently makes his position known suggests his words need to be closely examined. If the Obama administration succeeds in muting the debate, even if only on the side of the pro-aborts, religious voices will be even further marginalized and secularism will be the default worldview, even among those who identify themselves as Christian. And we see a lot of that occuring already.

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