Douthat v. Kmiec on Abortion (Or: Why Europe Has It Right)

A self-described intemperate broadside by Ross Douthat against Douglas Kmiec re: abortion.

I have some sympathy with what Kmiec is doing.  I was especially appalled by his public rejection of the reception of the Eucharist at Mass, which I find pastorally reprehensible.  You can read Kmiec defend his position (quite lucidly) in this interview.

That being said, I tend to side with Douthat on this one.

Douthat here is spot on:

The trouble with seeking common ground on abortion is that the legal regime enacted by Roe and reaffirmed in Casey permits only the most minimal regulation of the practice, which means that any plausible “compromise” that leaves Roe in place will offer almost nothing to pro-lifers. Even the modest restrictions that prevail in many European countries (and that, not coincidentally, coincide with lower abortion rates) are out of the question under the current legal dispensation. This, in turn, explains why the national debate inevitably revolves around the composition of the Supreme Court and the either/or question of whether a president will appoint justices likely to chip away the RoeCasey regime or justices likely to uphold it.

If you follow the link Douthat provides to the BBC site on abortion in Europe, a majority of the countries have abortion per request in the first 12 weeks and after that only with doctor approval for  legitimate–and there are legitimate cases not scare quotes like John McCain used in the final debate–cases of health of mother.  As well as in some places with genetic screening of abnormalities.

While such a policy wouldn’t go far enough for the more right-wing pro-life movement (particularly on the abortion after birth defect screening issue) I think this is basically the right position.  It’s far from perfect, but I think it’s better than the US (non)debate with either party held by the extremes.

But the European parallel points to government working more in the role of passing legislation for morality/responsibility.  The policy on abortion in European countries is tied much more to the history of paternalism in European governance, which I always hear as the great enemy of true American exceptionalism from some on the right.  iow, Something like FOCA which I (like Kmiec) hope doesn’t pass, it could be argued is more deeply connected to the libertarian right model (no government regulation/influence) then the Euro model.

On the other hand, a point worth considering for Douthat, would be that if Roe were overturned, the legislative backlash that would ensue in many parts would enact pro-choice legislation much more liberal than is currently in place, even with the slanted playing field created by Roe & Casey.  A consistent federalist position on abortion would live with that reality I suppose and fair enough.

In short, it’s a mess and I don’t see anyway it’s going to get better any time soon.

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A comparison of this Andrew Sullivan and this Ross Douthat post re: Palin is an instructive exercise. I find myself more on the Sullivan side–particularly this dangerous emphasis on strength and truthiness (which even Ross finds disquieting), i.e. the Dubya-ization of the Republican Party/our politics.

I think relative to Ross’ point about how the real Anakin Palin is in there (the reformer) whose only been turned Vader-esque by the Emperor McCain (or is it Steve Schmidt?) and can still be saved, I’d half agree.

Namely she strikes me as a careerist pol. She is uber-ambitious and seems to me willing to do whatever/say whatever she needs to do to get power. So IF the kind of party/reformist agenda Douthat advocates (and I generally support–at least on heterodox economic views) were to become electorally viable and the Republican Party after having a lost were open to such a shift in order to re-gain power, then I can absolutely see Palin becoming that kind of politician/voice. But I don’t think it’s because that’s who she really is deep down more just because that is what would be in her political interest to do. And she could pull it off given her life story, it would look legit, so all the better. I tend to think she ran her reformer/anti-Republican corruption campaign in Alaska because she screwed over for her spot in the party machinery–i.e. she should be a Federal Senator right now.

On a broader note, I’ve been getting more new readers of late discussing these topics, (welcome folks!!!) so for the benefit of those (or anyone who doesn’t know) I’ll say that while I have a deep affection for a number of conservative philosophers and thinkers (both historical and current blogger types), I’m in the Andrew SullivanJohn Cole school re: The Republican Party. Namely that it is a poison in the political body and that it should die a horrible death so that it can become resurrected (hopefully) as a party of serious human beings who are not driven by gut-instinct, ideology, put short term political gain over a serious proposal for governance of the country relative to the actual problems of today (as opposed to say the ones of the 1970s). And while I disagree with the Democrats on a number of points, I’ll take them over the alternative at this point. They’ll screw some things up to be sure, but I have no sense they can f–k up as badly as the Republicans have and will in my mind continue to do under a McCain-Palin administration.

Edit I:  While the stuff about Trig was out of bounds imo, I generally agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that last night’s Palin interview validated some of Sullivan’s key points vis a vis Palin and countered the charge of him being (on the whole) hysterical.

Published in: on September 12, 2008 at 1:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Best Self-Promotion Ever?

Courtesy Reihan and Ross discussing their new book Grand New Party on Bloggingheads.

The plug via this dingalink.

Best line:

“No one gets hurt. We are not glorifying violence by any means. This is very child appropriate….It’s like a choose you own adventure book.”

The whole diavlog here.

On a more serious note, they take seriously the idea of income inequality (maybe the first conservatives to do so as they explain), wage stagnation, and class stratification. They see the issue more in terms of inequality in terms of marriage patterns and call for a pro-family economic policy at the same time believing in a great deal of bottom up human transformative power rather than the creation (a la the left) of new bureaucracies and governmental regulation. Looking forward to reading it.

For some more of his Reihan’s stylings, below:

Published in: on June 23, 2008 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I often write positive things about Ross Douthat (along Reihan Salam) and their call for a Sam’s Club Republicanism. But his take here on the Obama-Wright dust up is daft:

More importantly, though, we don’t demand that Catholic politicians answer for every Papal address and encyclical because most people understand that a cradle Catholic’s relationship to the magisterium of the Catholic Church tends to be dramatically different from a convert to Protestant Christianity’s relationship to the pastor of the only church he’s ever attended. A Catholic’s relationship to his local priest is perhaps more comparable, though again the weight that Protestantism – particularly in its evangelical strains – places on individual ministry tends to make a Protestant’s choice of minister far more revealing than a Catholic’s choice of parish. (Traditionally, Catholics weren’t even allowed to parish-shop; where you lived determined where you want to mass.) I would also add that in the course of attending mass at dozens of Catholic parishes over the last decade, I can’t say I’ve heard a single homily remotely like the Wright sermons that are stirring up all the controversy.

The line about cradle Catholic parish vs. Protestant congregation revealing much more about the Protestant (and his/her views) is just a cradle Catholic thinking about Protestantism through a cradle Catholic lens.

It’s a nice theory (on the surface) but it actually doesn’t often hold up to scrutiny. I would generally label it (very mildly) prejudicial Catholic thinking. i.e. It was what I thought to think when I was a Catholic just like Ross was–that is what all us cradle Catholics were taught to believe about Protestants.

Here’s one counterexample–my own. As someone who was both raised a cradle Catholic and as an adult converted to Protestantism and have spent most of my Protestant life at one parish, I can tell you the choice (originally) was because of the location, the music, and the beauty of the church. And because it was a large downtown parish that I thought more people might be attending from different walks of life, something I found that I was wanting then. Later on I’ve become more aligned with the politics of my church (if that is the right term)–which in our case is the inclusion of gays and lesbians–but that was not why I initially went. I stayed and came back in the beginning because the people were kind and I found the liturgy very moving.

It would be very easy for someone to automatically assume (as Ross has done with Obama) that because I went to this otherwise politically controversial church therefore I must have joined that church because of its stance on the gay and lesbian question. Such a person would be wholly incorrect.

Obama could have chosen Trinity United for any number of reasons. Here are some possibilities: (more…)

Published in: on March 17, 2008 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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