Politics and Pro-Life Pragmatism
The American Catholic had a post a few weeks back about pro-life pragmatism which touched on a lot of themes that come up when talking about abortion to people on campus.
In recent days I have had a few arguments with fellow pro-lifers about the Stupak amendment in particular, and political strategy in general. While I see the victory of the Stupak amendment as a victory for the pro-life movement, they see it as an unacceptable compromise with the Culture of Death. Stupak makes exceptions, after all, for rape, incest and ‘life of the mother’, and does not address issues such as the use of embryos, euthanasia, etc.
Naturally I am not in favor of processes which require destroying embryos or euthanasia, nor do I accept that an unborn child loses its right to life because it is a product of rape or incest. When the life of the mother is at stake, as pro-life physicians point out, abortion is not necessary, even if the child will die as a result of the treatment needed to save the mother’s life. In a perfect would we would be able to enact the whole pro-life agenda across the board, and no one would be happier with that than me.
Unfortunately we live in a fallen world and a fallen society. Anyone who wants to wade through the mire of abortion politics as a pro-lifer must understand two political facts: 1) that the majority of Americans support more restrictions but not an outright ban on abortion, and 2) the majority of Americans, whether they are pro-life or pro-choice, do not place abortion anywhere near the top of the list of their political priorities.
The question that we all face, therefore, is whether it is better to compromise on the issue of abortion in order to win partial victories, or to reject compromise on the basis of pro-life principles. Some of the folks with whom I argued have crafted elaborate theological arguments (from Catholic and Protestant perspectives) against political compromise. Since I studied politics and not theology, I approach the issue from a political angle.
Go read the whole post if you find that sort of thing interesting.
Personally, I think I agree with him. There’s a big difference between making a political compromise and a moral compromise. If a political compromise moves things in the right direction, I think it can be a legitimate moral option, so long as you don’t compromise your moral principles. In politics, you need to build on consensus and agreement, and sometimes baby steps are needed politically in order to bring the law in line with broader moral principles. Politics is the art of the possible.
Moral compromises are a problem though — that makes the pro-life position seem incoherent, inconsistent, or makes a person seem hypocritical. But where legal abortion is the status quo, sometimes political compromise is necessary to move forward.
What do you think?