Ending the False Dichotomy: The Hope for Collaboration Between Pro-Life Democrats and Republicans

It's all in the title, is it not? While I toe the Republican Party line on most issues, I sympathize with many of the concerns of many Democrats. Likewise, some Democrats take decidedly "conservative" stances on certain issues of utmost importance to a majority of Republicans. I, for instance, recognize the myth of the Invisible Hand. No-holds-barred capitalism is no doubt superior to socialism on some fronts, but equally inferior on others. Ideally, the bipartisan form of government creates a balanced environment in which the pros of both are maximized and the cons minimized. I have been humbled during this election season amidst accusations of far-Left socialism and far-Right selfishness. We should be afraid of both extremes, as well as of people whose intentions, however tempered by the bipartisan system, are to institute one or the other extreme.

Insofar as the Democratic Party's stance to redistribute wealth is dogmatic, civilization is at stake. Insofar as Republicans allow corporations to run completely free of regulation and accountability, we are imperiled. There must be a healthy collaboration between socialism and capitalism, and not just toleration and compromise. We can no longer afford to demonize and work against one another. But that would mean blurring the distinctions between the parties. As things currently sit, each party asserts an ideology contrary to the other. The only hope, in this setting, is compromise. On one side of the compromise coin, both parties win. But on the other, both parties lose. And the very nature of compromise emphasizes the losses. Compromise is the result of a breakdown in decision-making consensus. It is not a symbol of unity or health, but is at best a necessary evil. Is this the best we can do? I don't think so. It's time for a new bipartisanship—one in which both parties approach issues from both perspectives. But would this render moot the existence of two parties?

So far, I have only insinuated a partnership of economics. This is vitally important, but there is at least one issue more important, in my view: the issue of basic human rights, and in particular, the right to life. In my previous post, I argued for a biological rather than psycho-socio developmental definition of personhood, i.e. a live human organism = a human person with basic inalienable rights, the foremost of which is the right to continue his or her existence. I will not reopen that debate here, but my present agenda presupposes a basic consensus of parties on that issue. That is, those I am seeking to reconcile across party lines are those who have in common a fundamental conviction that pre-born humans are persons whose lives we have a moral mandate to defend.

I know that Democratic pro-life factions exist, but to my knowledge, they have a different vision of how to reduce the prevalence of abortion. Their claims are quite bold, and even argued from Scriptural principles. If I understand them right, they argue either that (a) criminalizing abortion or (b) neglecting the socio-economic welfare of the impoverished (the charge against Republican capitalism) increases abortion rates, or at least maintains them. Contention (a) is less popular, but is based on the biblical notion that people "cast off restraint" when they are unduly burdened, i.e. they respond better to freedom and grace than to threats. Such a claim, however, is exceedingly difficult to validate. Contention (b) is the big one. "Pro-life extends beyond the womb!" it is said, the implication being that Republican capitalism leads to the neglect of born persons. But is this true?

Proponents assert that abortion rates decrease during Democratic/ socialist-leaning administrations and Congresses. But this is at best an overstatement (i.e. inconsistently true, if true at all). According to a longitudinal study published by the Guttmacher Institute, abortions have decreased steadily from 1996 to the present, with significant reductions between 2000 and 2005 (the first five years of the Bush administration): 1996- 1.36 million; 1999- 1.32 million; 2002- 1.29 million; 2005- 1.21 million. But this is miniscule compared to the increases in the years following Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, abortions have risen from 775,000 to 1.6 million annually. In other words, legalizing abortions has doubled their incidence. "Surely this is only a difference in reporting, for who kept track of them while they were illegal," critics rebut. They will have to evaluate the study on its own. Yet one thing is for sure: they cannot demonstrate that legalizing abortions leads to a reduction in abortion.

Consequentialist argumentation aside, sound ethics requires that we base ethical decisions on moral absolutes; otherwise the ends always justify means, and that is clearly at odds with the predominant principles on which free and just society is built (there are inherent reasons for rejecting a consequentialist ethical system, but this is not the place for a full-blown refutation). As regards the debate about the nature and sanctity of human life, we must make policy decisions consistent with the moral rules that legally enshrine what is morally right, even if it does not appear to be practically judicious. This follows from a basic conviction that (a) if an act is actually moral, whether by nature of divine command or natural law (or both, for the former entails the latter), then (b) that act will, in the end, result in the most beneficial overall outcome (i.e. most in harmony with the natural order).

If we can agree, and move forward together, then let us consider a political option that has been long overlooked, to the great peril of humanity. Let those of us who are pro-life work together to advance every possible, ethical means of abortion reduction, including both legal and economic strategies. That is, let us work together to outlaw abortion in all instances except for those in which (a) carrying on the pregnancy is certain to cause the death of the mother, and (b) it is impossible for the child to survive (e.g. ectopic pregnancy), as well as to minimize the conditions under which mothers are most pressured to abort their children. We have no excuse for insisting that children be brought into the world and yet refusing to care for them and their caretakers once they arrive. That said, the latter is easier said than done. There is no one-to-one correlation between a particular socio-economic policy and actual socio-economic impact. The factors involved are myriad, and change is incremental. Nevertheless, we must work toward it.

Now a word to the Church. We have no right to go to the polls and fight for pro-life legislation while resting comfortably in our nice homes and safe neighborhoods, and turning a blind eye to those in need. It's time to step up to the plate, and be consistent in our love for humanity. For Christ told us that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matt 25:40).

There need be no false dichotomy. In fact, there must not be. Pro-life Democrats and Republicans working hand-in-hand to outlaw abortion and provide economic relief is the only hope for fixing the abortion problem and guarding against the grave perils of the ethical principles on which Roe v. Wade was established.  Otherwise, we are quite literally working against one another.  God forbid this atrocity to continue.  Here I stand with open arms to you, my brothers and sisters "on the other side". We can do no other.

Popular Posts