Sunday, November 4, 2012

Friedman: Why I Am Pro-Life

photo by Josh Harper, NY Times

From the profound mind of Thomas Friedman comes these thought-provoking words, via his recent NY Times column:


"...[T]o name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue. And we must stop letting Republicans name themselves “pro-life” and Democrats as “pro-choice.” It is a huge distortion."

I am biased Friedman fan-boy, so it may be no great surprise that I was moved by this article. I thought the timing was remarkable, since (a) abortion is such a hot-button issue and (b) we are soon voting for President.

Friedman goes on to say,
"In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and
  • be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. 
  • want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. 
  • oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children." 

I am interested in the closest approximation to truth and harmony that human policy-making can produce. Like many Americans, I am frustrated with our bi-polar and dysfunctional two-party system.

It doesn't help matters that a few vocal "right-wing nut jobs" have sullied the pro-life (or shall we say, anti-abortion?) movement with horrendously insensitive comments about rape. Also unfortunate is America's short attention span, and our tendency to think in terms of soundbites and bumper stickers.

To wit:
  • Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin in Missouri
  • Joe "opposes abortion even to save the life of the mother" Walsh in Illinois
  • Paul "forcible rape as a method of conception" Ryan on the Romney ticket
  • Richard "rape is something God intended to happen" Mourdock in Indiana
Alas, it looks like Mr. Colbert will have to set his "Days Republican Candidates Have Not Said Something Insensitive about Rape" counter back to zero. Because now, added to the parade of infamy above, we must add:
  • John "the rape thing" Koster in Washington state


Friedman is writing about the broader sanctity of life issue, but of course, American politics being what it is, sanctity of life has boiled down to the distorted Democrat-Pro-Choice vs. Republican-Pro-Life debate.

The abortion issue has caused many Catholics to switch parties to Republican from Democrat. But are their reasons sound and defensible? Why was JFK a Dem but Sarah Palin (born Catholic) is a Tea Party Republican? I see in one a sweeping pro-life campaign, and in the other, a single pro-life issue.

Freidman declares he "will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as 'pro-life.'" Instead, he proposes a more accurate label. "You can call yourself," he says, "a 'pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.'”

What does it mean to be truly Pro-life? In Friedman's words:
“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” 
Well said, sir. Let's talk about how to demonstrate that respect for the sanctity of life, and to do so from conception to the end of the natural cycle. To my way of thinking, politics and public administration ought to be about how to allocate common resources to do for individuals what they cannot do for themselves--with the sanctity of life a given, over-arching precept.