First, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi demonstrated that she wasn’t paying attention during theology classes when she matriculated at Trinity College. Now, Sen. Joe Biden has managed to wade into the treacherous waters of making pronouncements on what the Church does, and does not, teach about when human life begins. The Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate, who has a mixed record on pro-life issues, went further than he needed to go on "Meet the Press" yesterday, mentioning Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica as if he were an expert, but quickly demonstrating that he is no theologian.
Note to Democratic candidates: You are not running to become theologian-in-chief. And, in the event, the platform you just adopted has something genuinely new and important to say about abortion, and theological speculation is just going to step on that platform.
The Democrats, for the first time, called for policies that will reduce the number of abortions by preventing crisis pregnancies in the first place and by providing assistance to women facing crisis pregnancies so that they can carry their child to term. The GOP removed similar language from their platform, keeping their traditional but so far unsuccessful call for overturning Roe v. Wade. Seeing as seven of the nine justices on the Supreme Court were appointed by Republicans, pro-life advocates need to ask themselves how effective they think the GOP approach is ever going to be.
In fact, a new study undertaken by the group Catholics in Alliance For the Common Good shows that overturning Roe would have a minimal effect on reducing the number of abortions because the states likely to enact restrictions on abortion are also the states that have the fewest number of abortions. Conversely, providing pre-natal health care to poor women and making adoption less onerous and expensive might actually produce dramatic decreases in the number of abortions.
This is what the Democrats should focus on. The debate over Roe is stale and divisive, but all Americans can agree that reducing the number of abortions is an important societal goal. What will work to achieve that? The Democrats have a plan. The GOP has a 35 year record of unfulfilled promises. And, the next time someone in the media asks when human life begins, tell them to call a theologian.
Michael Sean Winters
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