A law has been proposed in Congress that no woman be forced to have an abortion. Yet, Catholic bishops like Charles Chaput of Denver and lay organizations like the Catholic League have condemned this piece of legislation. Would it be logical, therefore, to conclude that because they oppose this legislation, they are promoting government-ordered abortions? After all, if you are against a law that protects a woman’s right NOT to have an abortion, are you not advocating that it be visited upon her?
This logic is skewed, of course. The legislation that clearly states a woman’s right NOT to have an abortion is the often-proposed, never passed, Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA= S. 1173 of the 110th Congress), which includes this line: “Every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child.” However, the legislation
goes on to state: Section 4:a reads: “It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman”
When you read the full text, the reason for the opposition from Archbishop Chaput and the Catholic League becomes clear. Despite wording favorable to child bearing, the legislation is intended to advance the right to have an abortion. Archbishop Chaput and the Catholic League champion a cause incumbent on all conscientious Catholics. Note as well that President Barack Obama has distanced himself from FOCA.
I bring this up to point to another problem: Washington suffers from bitter cultural and ideological wars that depend upon distortion, hatred, and downright lies to energize a radical base, whether extreme right or left. It is now fashionable to entitle bills as “The Patriot Act” or “The No Child Left Behind Act” or “Freedom of Choice Act” implying that anyone opposing such legislation is unpatriotic or in favor of children being left behind or against freedom.
It is absolutely factual that the FOCA wording begins by insuring the right of women to bear children without government interference. But it is a distortion to suggest – based on one sentence taken out of context – that Catholics favor abortions because they oppose the rest of the bill. The logic does not hold. Yet, as suggested above, this is the same sort of dastardly political tactic that can twist the position of even bishops and Catholic organizations.
Given the treachery in political waters, it is amazing to me that both Archbishop Chaput and the Catholic League indulge in the same sort of distortions in order to wrap with Catholic doctrine their rejection of the health-care reforms promoted by President Obama, the Democratic Party and a majority of Catholic America.
The outspoken Archbishop of Denver recently denounced The London Tablet, a famous Catholic publication, accusing European Catholics of “unhelpful and badly informed opinions” about U.S. health-care reform. After demeaning the intelligence of the Tablet, the Archbishop concluded:
“No system that allows or helps fund — no matter how subtly or indirectly — the killing of unborn children, or discrimination against the elderly and persons with special needs, can bill itself as ‘common ground.’ Doing so is a lie.”
What’s lacking in this platitude is the logic of application: the health-care reform that is being considered in Congress has no provision for the “killing of unborn children” or “discrimination against the elderly…” One hears the echo of Sarah Palin’s “death panels” in the archbishop’s spurious description of current health care legislation.
The Catholic League delivers the epithet of “liar” to President Obama – a popular, if rude one. The denunciation is based on the logic that to reject an amendment by a bitter Republican foe of health-care reform is to favor government-funded abortions. Supposedly, Democrats treat abortion and appendectomies exactly the same. Even the clear and continued repudiation of abortion provisions by President Obama, Congress or even the left-leaning NARAL are dismissed as lies. Not exactly the basis for serious thinking.
I know that these strong dissenting opinions are important parts of a diverse Catholic America, but defending Catholic teaching with half-truths, spinning, and claims that everyone else is lying becomes unconvincing logic. Beware the boomerang on the conservative cause.