Saturday, October 27, 2012

  1. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?
  2. Vote Your Vice reaches full, brazen flower.
  3. ACLU abandons Constitution for Opinion Polling.


There have been a lot of cheap shots and faux outrage at Richard Mourdock over his abortion comments in debate earlier this week. I already vented about that. I suppose there may even be a little real outrage from folks whose faith is presently opaque to me.

Noah Millman at the American Conservative blog takes a costly shot – i.e., one that actually took a few minutes of thought and isn’t just some class-clown smart-assery – which I think fails because it’s tone-deaf and overly analytical. But it includes what I have long thought is the best argument for a rape exception to a general rule against abortion:

[T]hose women , women capable of feeling love toward the product of violence upon their person, have achieved a kind of saintliness. And saintliness is, I think, to much to expect of ordinary mortals, and certainly too much for the legislature to demand …

I don’t know the best way to defend the absolutist pro-life position, but I think it has to start with an acknowledgment that hating the baby that is the product of violence, and hating the burden of carrying that baby, is an entirely normal and human reaction. That the burden of carrying this hated life is, from a human perspective, a cosmic injustice that compounds the original injustice of the rape. That burden may still be unavoidable, ethically – may be your “cross to bear” from a Christian perspective, or the “passion” that you have to transcend to see the right from a Stoical perspective, or whatever. But at least starting there means acknowledging and trying to identify with the rape victim’s perspective on the situation, rather than, as is usually the case, identifying exclusively with the baby, and consequently obliterating the woman from view ….

I dislike the cold-blooded locution “product of violence upon their person,” by the way, but substitute “baby conceived in rape” and I still find the argument powerful. I would also find the rape a powerful mitigator if the victim tracked down the rapist and dispatched him. “It’s not the child that needs killing,” after all.

But I’m not sure killing anyone is the best solution for such a tragic situation. Nothing makes a raped woman un-raped.

As I was writing this, Michael Brendan Dougherty, also of the American Conservative, weighed in, engaging both Millman and David Frum, who support rape exceptions, but coming out in opposition.

Frum is right that pro-lifers sound “goofy” if, when posed a question about a pregnancy that results from rape, they resort to a series of disembodied Enlightenment concepts. I agree. It does sound weirdly dogmatic and obtusely ideological to tell a rape victim that an unborn child has unalienable rights, and in this case those are going to impinge on her, in the months following the most traumatic moment of her life.

And yet, I still believe abortion in this case is wrong. And so does Richard Mourdock.

So he did something rather natural for a human being and for a politician: he resorted to an (awkward) theological point.

As a politician it allows him to escape the bind of responding to that hard question by resorting to pro-life arguments about when life begins, or the facts of biology. It is a way of saying, “I know this is difficult but I’d like to move on.”

Mourdock stated things poorly, and did in fact make it sound like a baby is a “silver lining” to rape. And Millman is right to deplore that. Yes, pregnancy makes a rape worse for the victim. I think he meant to say that the life lived by a person conceived in rape has great intrinsic value.

But precisely because the normal rhetoric of the pro-life movement is ideological (even emancipatory), because it is a series of Enlightenment principles that can seem disconnected from real life, I think Mourdock’s instinct to abandon it and then invoke, through his tears, a God who can bring great goodness out of unbelievable tragedy is a deeply human response.

Dougherty’s lead-up to that is well worth reading.

Of course, all this kind of talk – ideological, Englightenment liberal, reactionary or deeply human, including questions I wish choicers were asked – is hypothetical as long as five of nine justices pretend that abortion essentially on demand is a constitutional mandate. “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could constitutionally chuck wood ?”


For good reason did the late Joseph Sobran excoriate the Democrats as the party of “vote your vice.” I don’t know if this video could be imbedded, but I wouldn’t if I could. It’s astonishingly tasteless and crass. And it’s from, which I think is the President’s official campaign website.

Before I got this posted, a decent parody was already up.


It’s difficult to design a poll that cannot be challenged on some design basis. A recent Belden Russonello poll obviously was designed to please its patrons (ACLU and Catholics for Choice) and presented the results colorfully to please them.

The results? Americans would not ratify the free exercise clause if it were presented today. That’s my cynical executive summary.

At the more granular level, using the Belden Russonello captions:

  • Americans reject the concept of denying services for religious reasons
  • Majorities object to refusing to provide birth control on religious grounds.
  • Abortion‐related examples meet with objections, especially refusing to provide information about the health of the fetus.
  • Opposition to religious exemptions crosses political and religious lines
  • Americans – including Catholics – are not persuaded that Catholic voters or politicians should vote according to the Catholic bishops’ views.

I’m an amateur, to be sure, but the first specific question the report quotes, which seems like the question used to introduce the poll , was dubious: “”In your view, should the law allow companies or other institutions to use religious beliefs to decide whether to offer a service to some people and not others?” (Emphasis added)

Doesn’t this question taint the others? The other questions focus on products or services that a provider might decline to provide, not on the identity of the persons to whom they are declined. In other words, the other questions didn’t ask about things like pharmacists who declined to provide birth control to people with dark skin, or provided it to them but not to people with light skins who instead were admonished to make more babies to reverse caucasian demographic decline.

In any event, the poll, taken at face value (however difficult that may be), makes me grateful for a Constitution that protects rights that are not currently in vogue – which, come to think of it, is also supposed to be what the ACLU does – while confirming that we’re on a trajectory to a new dark age dominated by totalitarian ideologies that cannot abide conscientious dissent.

Then, my descendants, God willing, together with the descendants of Africans and other Third Worlders who are embracing more-or-less traditional Christianity as America flees it, which pick up the shards and rebuild.

* * * * *

Today’s “edition” (I’m not really committed to daily blogging) is “late” (I’m not really committed to 5 am scheduled postings) because the Friday funeral of an acquaintance, who lost a long battle with breast cancer, left me lacking in enthusiasm for most of the tidbits I encountered in my surfing.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.