The National Catholic Review

In an exclusive interview with America released at the beginning of this week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. affirmed that pro-life people "absolutely, positively" are welcome in the Democratic party and that he believes, as a Catholic, that "abortion is always wrong." His comments, very different from most contributions to the political conversation about abortion, are blurring some long-established lines in the culture wars and generating significant interest in the media and among commentators.

National Review, Talking Points Memo and the Daily Caller have all run pieces reporting on these remarks. Additionally Life News, The Washington Free Beacon and The National Catholic Register have also chimed in.

Mr. Biden spoke at length about how he understands the tension between the demands of his faith and his position on abortion. When Fr. Matt Malone, S.J., America's editor in chief, asked Mr. Biden if it was difficult taking positions on issues that put him at odds with U.S. Bishops, as in the case of abortion, he responded:

"It has been hard...I’m prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there’s human life and being, but I’m not prepared to say that to other God­-fearing [and] non­-God­-fearing people that have a different view,” Biden said. He continued, "Abortion is always wrong...But I’m not prepared to impose doctrine that I’m prepared to accept on the rest of [the country].” (See the exchange, which begins at the 13:30 mark, in the full interview embedded at the bottom of this post.)

Fr. Malone also asked Mr. Biden if there was room for people who are pro-life in the Democratic party. The Vice President responded resolutely: "Absolutely. Absolutely, positively. And that's been my position for as long as I've been engaged."

The organization Democrats for Life, which would obviously fall under the category the Vice President is welcoming, has been calling on current Democratic presidential candidates to answer the same question:

 

 

Despite the intensified rhetoric coming from certain special interest groups, American views on abortion don't fall neatly into the expected partisan binaries. As Charlie Camosy has said before in this space63 percent of Republicans, for instance, want abortion to be legal. 21 million Democrats identify as pro-life. 73 percent of Americans overall want abortion banned after 12 weeks.

Later this week, the Senate will vote on whether or not to defund Planned Parenthood. Yesterday, a Senate vote for cloture failed to advance the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to the floor for a vote. The House has already passed both versions of those bills. The ongoing legislative drama is likely to be filled with grandstanding and filibustering from both sides of the aisle, reinforcing the tired myth that abortion views are a pure orthodoxy within political parties.

Both the polling data Mr. Camosy points to and the Vice President's remarks suggest that these pitched battles and the political stalemate around abortion fall short of the actual complexity of the debate. Cardinal Dolan also said in his blog this week: "None of these bills are perfect, and people of good will can have significant reservations about each of them.  People can also differ about the wisdom of the political and legislative strategies involved."

In other words, we need to find room to breath—and talk—between #DefundPP and #IStandWithPlannedParenthood.

 

Comments

Crystal Watson | 9/25/2015 - 2:02pm

How could anyone vote for a Democrat?

It is the Democratic party that has tried to protect the environment, protect the rights of women, LGBT people, racial minorities, the Democrats who are on the side of the poor as opposed to the rich, it's Democrats who have worked for universal health care, Democrats have tried to help immigrants, tried to control gun use, tried to get rid of the death penalty, etc.

J Cosgrove | 9/25/2015 - 4:48pm

Nearly everything you list is nonsense or trivial. The most egregious are

protect the environment

Richard Nixon started the EPA. He would probably roll over in his grave if he knew what it has become. We have essentially had a clean environment since the late 1980's. And it is getting cleaner and cleaner especially with the fracking revolution. That does not mean that there should not be efforts to continue this process as long as it does not interfere with job creation.

It is environmentalists that oppose nuclear energy and support the Democratic party. Nuclear energy is the most environmental friendly way to produce energy.

rights of women

This is nonsense. It assumes that women vote again their own interest. But in the last elections 49% of the woman voted for Republicans. So are women voting for Republicans because they are somehow brainwashed and voted against their rights. So called women's rights is a non issue used by Democrats to scare people.

racial minorities

More harm has come to black Americans since Democratic programs have been implemented beginning with the War on Poverty. These programs have had a devastating effect on Blacks and other minorities and continue to do so. A large percentage of the poor have been made helpless by these programs and have little chance of escaping their circumstances. Thank you, Democrats.

are on the side of the poor as opposed to the rich

You have to be kidding. Most of the rich give to Democrats and Democratic programs have held back the poor for the last 50 years. Democrats depend on keeping people poor so they will vote for their handouts.

See the following to see who the rich give to:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenhayward/2014/01/08/how-did-the-democra...

Of the ten richest zip codes in the U.S. eight gave more money to Democrats than Republicans in the last two presidential cycles. President Obama doesn’t go to union halls to host fundraisers; he goes to posh Wall Street townhomes, the Hollywood hills, or to Tom Steyer’s house in Pacific Heights. Steyer, a billionaire investor and wannabe George Soros, is the perfect model of today’s rich liberal, and shows where the balance of power on the Left rests today. Organized labor wants the Keystone pipeline built; Steyer, who imbibes deeply the green Kool Aid, is adamantly against Keystone. Note who Obama is siding with.

tried to control gun use

If we had a sensible policy for gun carrying, we would reduce most of the gun violence that happens. Democrats prevent that. Nearly all mass gun violence happens in gun free zones where licensed gun owners cannot carry a weapon. If these lunatic gun owners (most are legal under Democrat laws) knew that the person next to them might be carrying a gun, they would be less likely to start a mass shooting and more likely to be stopped once it happens. Concealed carry is the sensible policy. This does mean that extensive checks on those who can carry are implemented so that loonies can not conceal carry.

Democrats have tried to help immigrants

If anything, Democrats have impeded legal immigration in favor of illegal immigration. Who should be allowed to immigrate to the US? There is a well described process that is continually violated. As we let more illegal immigrants into the US, demand for admittance will increase or behavior that gets them admitted will increase as those crossing the borders has surged in the last few years. We can not house the entire planet in the US. There has to be an orderly system. The Democrats are not in favor of one.

David Hopper | 9/26/2015 - 8:19pm

J Cosgrove--you suggest that women voting republican somehow prove that republicans are not the sexist jerks that their policies would otherwise prove them to be, since women surely would not vote against their own self interest. Yet in the same response, you state that the democratic party has devastated the lives of African Americans. Since African Americans vote overwhelmingly for these democrats that you claim are obviously bad for them, why do you believe they, as opposed to women are too ignorant to recognize their own self interest? Do you think African Americans need your guidance to do what is best for them?

J Cosgrove | 9/27/2015 - 11:06am

Yet in the same response, you state that the democratic party has devastated the lives of African Americans.

Yes, that is true. I suggest you read Losing Ground by Charles Murray and The Dream and the Nightmare by Myron Magnet if you disagree.

For a recent article here in America see

http://americamagazine.org/issue/moynihans-message

Here is a comment I made there:


For a couple discussions on Moynihan see:

When Liberals Blew It

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/12/opinion/when-liberals-blew-it.html?_r=0

Fifty years ago this month, Democrats made a historic mistake.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, at the time a federal official, wrote a famous report in March 1965 on family breakdown among African-Americans. He argued presciently and powerfully that the rise of single-parent households would make poverty more intractable.

“The fundamental problem,” Moynihan wrote, is family breakdown. In a follow-up, he explained: “From the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows large numbers of young men to grow up in broken families ... never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos.”

He was ostracized by the liberals for his frankness

http://www.city-journal.org/2015/bc0403fs.html

Today, 50 years after its issuance, some liberals “bravely” acknowledge that 1965’s so-called Moynihan Report, in which the future senator warned about the dire future consequences of the collapse of the black family, was a fire bell in the night. But at the time, and for decades to come, Moynihan was branded as a racist by civil rights leaders, black activists, and run-of-the-mill liberals. “One began to sense,” Moynihan wrote, that “a price was to be paid even for such a mild dissent from conventional liberalism.”

Since African Americans vote overwhelmingly for these democrats that you claim are obviously bad for them, why do you believe they, as opposed to women are too ignorant to recognize their own self interest?

I would look to education, social environment and dependency. If you think not, then make your case.

Crystal Watson | 9/25/2015 - 6:30pm

I think we're inhabiting alternate universes ;)

J Cosgrove | 9/25/2015 - 8:20pm

Yes, I believe we are. ;)

I can back up everything I claim. You should understand that this is what a large part of the country believes and you should understand why. I am not asking you to agree, just to understand that others have a much different view of the world.

Crystal Watson | 9/25/2015 - 8:40pm

I am willing to accept that many people in the US believes as you do - that would explain why the country is so polarized. The opposite is true too - around half or more believe as I do. I think both of us could find believable back-up articles for our differing views. Example: you think of clean energy when you think of nuclear power, but I think of Fukushima. Both of us are right, but we choose which way we want to see it.

J Cosgrove | 9/25/2015 - 11:33am

The hot rumor is that Biden will run for president for one term and have his replacement chosen by Obama. This way he will get Obama's endorsement which will essentially end Hillary's candidacy. The two Obama choices for vice president and future president making the rounds are Elizabeth Warren or Deval Patrick.

The reason is that Obama does not trust the Clintons to maintain his programs and the choice of Biden will eliminate any investigation of his internal policies once he is gone.

How any Catholic could vote for a Democrat is beyond me. Every member of the Democratic House just voted for infanticide last week.

http://www.billoreilly.com/b/Here-are-the-177-House-Members-Who-Voted-Ag...

If a baby survives an abortion procedure, they would allow it to be killed. Biden is right there with them. No protest in sight by any Catholic Democrat.

Gabriel Marcella | 9/25/2015 - 9:45am

Joe Biden is the quintessence of the logical inconsistency of some Catholics. He's de fide Catholic, believes that human life beings at conception, that abortion is "always wrong," but is unwilling to impose." What is he willing to do to follow the dictates of his conscience? What is he doing to promote a culture of life? Continue to equivocate and have it both ways? In 2004 Bishop Saltarelli (of Wilmington) exposed the hypocrisy: 'No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.' Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: "I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena."

Crystal Watson | 9/24/2015 - 5:54pm

I've not read any atheist arguments against abortion, but it isn't the case that all religious people are against abortion in at least some circumstances. It's true that a pro-life Democrat would probably not be chosen to run for president or even give a speech at the convention, probably because a pro-life stance seems limited to a certain percentage of Christians in a country that has pro-choice Christians, people of other religions, and people of no religion.

Bill Collier | 9/24/2015 - 9:45pm

Crystal--

For an example of a humanist/atheist pro-life group, see: http://www.prolifehumanists.org/

There is a lot on the internet about the Democratic Party's refusal to let Governor Casey speak at the 1992 convention. Some snippets at http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/nvp/casey.html . The refusal was the result of intense pressure by NARAL and other powerful pro-choice supporters of the Clinton/Gore ticket. Conversely, though the Republicans that year again nominated the Bush/Quayle ticket (both Bush and Quayle were pro-life), the Republican organizers of the convention allowed several pro-life Republicans, including then-Governor William Weld of Massachusetts, the opportunity to address the convention.

Crystal Watson | 9/24/2015 - 10:22pm

Bill,

Thanks for the Humanist link. Interesting. I think the point where Humanism and pro-choice would diverge is at the assumption that an embryo or fetus has personhood in the same sense as a child or adult, and thus has the same rights.

Bill Collier | 9/24/2015 - 5:22pm

I wish Fr. Malone had pushed back a little harder in response to VP Biden's comments about his views regarding abortion. Biden, like just about every other Democratic leader on the national stage, has the Cuomo-at-ND mantra about "not imposing my religious views" interiorized to the equivalent of an email auto-reply. I really don't know why most questioners let Democratic politicians off the hook after they deliver their pat answers (and I'm saying this as a Democrat). There are many reasons to be opposed to abortion that have nothing to do with one's religious beliefs. Atheists opposed to abortion (e.g., Nat Hentoff) can articulate compelling arguments about why abortion is wrong without invoking any language or imagery that is religious in nature. I'm waiting (increasingly impatiently) for an interviewer to make the religious/secular distinction when a Democrat hides behind the too convenient Cuomo smokescreen. As for the VP's comment that pro-life Democrats are welcome in the party, that is nothing short of farce. Since McGovern's presidential campaign in the 1970's, pro-life Democrats have been marginalized in the party hierarchy, which is now so firmly controlled by pro-choice Democrats that if a national Democratic politician like VP Biden were to hesitate even slightly in his or her delivery of the rehearsed Cuomo rationale, he or she would quickly suffer the same fate as Pennsylvania's pro-life Governor Casey, i.e., not being allowed to speak at a Democratic national convention.

Bill Mazzella | 9/23/2015 - 10:32pm

I guess America Magazine feels that this is an important topic. What is next agreeing with the limited Chaput that this is a "foundational issue." With the Middle Class being squeezed to the point where many cannot make a adequate living we have people living on the public's charity dime who continue to be obsessed with bedroom issues. With the worst refugee crisis in history and millions of children being subject to daily bombing there is still more space for this fraudulent issue. It is a free ride mostly for those whom it does not affect. It is a clarion call for nonsense while people struggle to attend to the children they have. It is the feast of Evangelicals and Russ Limbaugh Catholics who gloat in their stock index while telling everyone else what to do. First and foremost by the crowd that wants Government off our backs but insists on telling women how to conduct their lives and wants Government to enforce their views. .

Tim O'Leary | 9/24/2015 - 1:24pm

Bill - I know the killing of the unborn has long been seen as a boring distraction for you and other Nancy Pelosi "Catholics". The first responsibility of Government is to protect the lives of those in their jurisdiction. Abortion is an abject failure of that responsibility. The refugee crisis in Europe is a direct result of failure of the Western Powers to halt ISIS or Assad. The leading-from-behind strategy caused the refugee crisis in Libya.

Bill Mazzella | 9/25/2015 - 8:37pm

Tim,
Iraq!!

Carlos Orozco | 9/24/2015 - 4:30pm

Tim, I agree with you on the abortion issue. Reading previous posts on the unequivocal hostility VP Biden has shown the Pro-Life cause during his political career, leaves no doubt in my mind he is a monumental hypocrite. But, on the other side of the aisle, let us also not forget that the ongoing tragedy in the ME is a direct result of warmongering adventurism that started with the Iraq invasion of 2003, and has continued with "humanitarian" meddling in Libya and Syria. Not foreign policy "mistakes", but true acts of evil.
How can so many Catholics not equally condemn BOTH abortion and imperial warfare? I think that political conditioning has overridden Church teaching in Catholics' lives on matters of the value of human life and of the strict conditions for just warfare.

JOHN WALTON MR | 9/23/2015 - 10:21pm

The follow-up question which wasn't asked: "If you could conjure former Governor Robert Casey from the dead, would you have allowed him to speak at the Democrat convention in 1992."

Tim O'Leary | 9/23/2015 - 7:39pm

The differences between the parties on abortion are much more stark than let on by Sam Sawyer. Sam uses two different questions to try to hide the difference. One has to look at how important the issue is and how extreme their positions are:

Here's some very recent data: A vote just held to spare the life of a 20-week old unborn child, who can feel pain. There are 18,000 abortions of these children each year in the USA. The parties voted as follows:
- 98% Republicans voted to save the children (2/54 Senate & 4/246 House voted NO)
- 97% Democrats voted against saving the children (3/44 Senate & 4/188 House voted YES)
Obama promised a veto (he has voted against even Born-Alive legislation in the past). If a Republican President was in office, 18,000 babies would not be exterminated.

So, it is clear that a vote for a Democrat for President is to vote to keep abortion for any child of any age for any reason. There will be hell to pay on Judgment Day.
See this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhn0DdH8M-0&list=PL0ZAELAPxTfW9mTn2GaKHW...

Crystal Watson | 9/23/2015 - 3:00pm

As a democrat, I hope Biden doesn't decide to run. I believe Hillary will be the better candidate. I know there are individual Democrats who may be pro-life, but the party platform is and should continue to be pro-choice.

Joshua DeCuir | 9/23/2015 - 2:28pm

What, exactly, is supposedly "new" or different about Biden's comments? To my reading, he continues to draw the "personal morality" distinction on the question of life that Catholic Social Teaching clearly rejects (& that Biden does, too, when the political issue lines up in his favor). That certainly isn't "new."

As for his comment about welcoming pro-lifers into the Democratic Party, I would have asked him precisely whether there is room in the party for someone who believes that Roe should be overturned & that the current legal regime governing abortion (if it can be called that) should be more restrictive. That, it seems to me, is part of what it means to be pro-life.

As to his claim that he has "always" welcomed pro-lifers, please let's not forget that as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, VP Biden used that position to attack qualified judicial nominees & people of goodwill for disagreeing with him on, among other things, their views of Roe v. Wade. Perhaps it would be helpful to re-watch his complete teardown of judicial nominees whom he viewed as a threat to "reproductive freedom" (often with the assistance of his other Catholic colleagues on the left like Ted Kennedy). Of course, one should also remember his shameful performance at Justice Alito's hearing (a fellow Catholic, to boot) where he called Alito a racist, forcing Alito's wife to leave the hearing in tears. Is that what the Vice President means by "welcoming" them? Please, in the rush to valorize VP Biden, let's not forget these episodes.

J Cosgrove | 9/23/2015 - 3:38pm

please let's not forget that as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, VP Biden used that position to attack qualified judicial nominees & people of goodwill for disagreeing with him on, among other things, their views of Roe v. Wade.

Some have made the case that the origin of contentious relations between the Democratic and Republican parities has its origin with Joe Biden and his authoring a campaign of vicious attacks on judicial nominees. He set the tone for the last 28 years. Before, that approval of Supreme Court nominations was very cordial. But abortion became such a litmus test for Democrats that no one that may interfere with its legal acceptance would be tolerated.

Joshua DeCuir | 9/23/2015 - 5:08pm

The first break with the codial nomination process was against Nixon's nomination of Clement Haynsworth. He was seen as too pro-segretationist by liberal Republicans who used his hearing to undermine his nomination.

But certainly Biden & Kennedy made the evisceration of nominees a high art with the nominations beginning with Robert Bork. Kennedy's anti-Bork speech on the floor of the Senate in which he basically suggested Bork would return slavery to American law is still generally regarded as one of his lowest moments.