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The Deacon's Bench

I plan to spend this Labor Day doing as little labor as possible. But I wanted to post this nugget from Saturday’s New York Times. It’s an interview by Peter Steinfels with Douglas Kmiec, the now-notorious Republican lawyer who, despite his opposition to abortion, is supporting Barack Obama.

An excerpt:

Q. What is your position on the morality of abortion, and how is it related to your religious faith?

A. I fully accept the teaching of the church that participating in an abortion is an intrinsic evil. My acceptance of abortion as a grave, categorical wrong is one part respectful deference to authoritative Catholic teaching and one part reasoned deduction from our scientific knowledge of genetics and the beginning of an individual life.

Q. Would you like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

A. Yes, but not on the terms usually suggested by Republicans. Roe is mistaken constitutional law not just because it invalidated state laws on the subject but because it is contrary to what is described as a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence, namely, that we have an unalienable right to life from our creator. It may surprise the general citizenry that not a single sitting justice utilizes the declaration as a source of interpretative guidance.

But even employing the jurisprudential methods applied by the modern court, there is no satisfactory showing that abortion as a matter of custom and tradition was properly found to be an implied aspect of the liberties protected by the 14th Amendment.

Q. Given those views, why do you support Barack Obama?

A. There is a widespread misconception that overturning Roe is the only way to be pro-life. In fact, overturning Roe simply returns the matter to the states, which in their individual legislative determinations could then be entirely pro-abortion. I doubt that many of our non-legally-trained pro-life friends fully grasp the limited effect of overturning Roe.

Secondly, pundits like to toss about the notion that the future of Roe depends on one vote, the mythical fifth vote to overturn the decision. There are serious problems with this assumption: first, Republicans have failed to achieve reversal in the five previous times they asked the court for it; and second, it is far from certain that only one additional vote is needed to reverse the decision in light of the principles of stare decisis by which a decided case ought not to be disturbed. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia have written and joined dissenting opinions suggesting the appropriateness of overturning Roe.

So given those views, the better question is how could a Catholic not support Barack Obama?

Senator Obama’s articulated concerns with the payment of a living wage, access to health care, stabilizing the market for shelter, special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of community are all part of the church’s social justice mission.

Applying this to the issue of abortion, the senator has repeatedly indicated that he is not pro-abortion, that he understands the serious moral question it presents, and, most significantly, that he wants to move us beyond the 35 years of acrimony that have done next to nothing to reduce the unwanted pregnancies that give rise to abortions.

Q. But all the same, isn’t your support at odds with Catholic teaching?

A. Quite the contrary. Senator Obama is articulating policies that permit faithful Catholics to follow the church’s admonition that we continue to explore ways to give greater protection to human life…

Visit the link for the rest, and to read his defense of his position.

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