Monday, February 23, 2009

Here's an interesting piece from the NYT

One of my congregants alerted me to an essay in the New York Times which I find very thought-provoking and I would appreciate your thoughts on it. It's about the culture wars over the issues which divide us so badly: abortion and same sex marriage.

Here's the link.


ogre said...

Comment? Peculiar.

His book essentially admits a conservative defeat on the issue of abortion, but declares it victory.

The article... continues this pattern.
His presentation of the liberal view on abortion is, simplistically, that contraception just needs to be widely and easily available.

For liberals, that means taking abortion seriously as an argument for contraception.

Say what? I mean really, WHAT?

He then glosses over the conservative position, and again argues for contraception--mostly beating up on Catholicism, ignoring the fact that American Catholics are, in fact, quite divided on the issue (despite the teachings of their church).

The part he ignores is done up front; his presentation is grossly defective (I'll assert that it's duplicitous):

he conservative answer is abstinence. That’s a worthy aspiration. But as a stand-alone national policy for avoiding pregnancies, it’s foolish. Mating is the engine of history. It has overpowered every stricture put in its way.

The liberal answer is birth-control availability.

The (liberal) answer isn't contraception. It's contraception PLUS comprehensive sex education.

The conservative answer? Abstinence and Ignorance.

But in this country, the principal cause of abortions isn’t that we can’t get birth control. It’s that we don’t use it.

The problem isn't lack of availability? Perhaps--but the real problem is lack of education... which is what the right has fought, tooth and nail.

Boiled down? I think he's relabeling what are inescapable things as being middle of the road and/or compromises, and even to adopt them as (moderate) conservatism.

Moving to same sex marriage:

Note that there's no presentation of a "conservative" position and a "liberal" position. Just an assertion;

This issue, like birth control, requires both sides to accept the practical and moral importance of responsible choices

Um, let's see.

Same-sex marriage binds gay couples to the same ethic of mutual support and sacrifice that Mr. Obama has praised in straight marriages. The cultural imprimatur of marriage makes the gravity of the bond stronger than a civil union or domestic partnership.

The choice to commit will also be good for the hundreds of thousands of children being raised by same-sex parents. Let those partners marry. In fact, let’s encourage them to. We shouldn’t just tolerate same-sex marriage. We should promote and favor marriage, regardless of orientation.

Yeah, ok. That's the liberal position, down the line.

I expect that he'll be excoriated by the right.

But the true bottom line? I think this is a mad scramble by someone who's a Republican to find some positions on which to stand that aren't morally reprehensible and practically fatuous (cf abstinence only...). That this means coopting long-standing liberal positions and declaring them conservative and/or compromise positions will make for a tough sell.

I wish him luck; I'll be happy to see the GOP say "me too," on issues they've been fighting for decades, so we can move on to other places where they're also dead wrong and arguing against facts, evidence and reality, like climate change, national health care, and so on. Maybe getting practice saying "me too" will help; we don't have time to let them have a couple decades to pretend themselves into believing that this is really conservative and so it's ok.

Dan said...

I don't see this compelling conservatives to change their views. The NY Times is considered a liberal organ, so it's not likely to reach a vast conserv ativ e audience anyway.

I agree with the author, but the incentives to make these cultural changes should be better argued.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, guys, you both raise good points. Let's see what others say.

Bill Baar said...

Technology drives the bioethics debate and I don't see any slowdown in the future.

Banning abortion was easy when the risks of abortion far outweighed the risks of childbirth.

When childbirth became riskier than abortion, it was far harder to demand a woman carry that risk.

As a child becomes viable outside the womb at earlier stages of life, it becomes more difficult to allow abortion.

So I don't see easly resolutions.

It may get masked with these gee can't we all agree to reduce the abortion rate frames but the core ethical issues remain and will be vigorously debated be folks who care about ethics.

Bill Baar said...

As a footnote.. it's interesting to see pro-life and conservative lumped together in the comments here.

We attended St Cahterine's Church in Oak Park which I think is about the most left wing parish in North America. Liberal pacifists against the death penalty, who saw pro-life stands as perfectly consistent on that continuum, were a dime a dozen.

They'd be awfully offended to see themselves labeled conservative.

Miss Kitty said...

I'm a pro-choicer myself, and know many, many young women from fundamentalist Christian homes who have children that they very obviously do not want...all under the guise of their families and communities being pro-life. It makes me so sad.

Ms. K, your post and the link have inspired me. I've been thinking about a post on these sorts of issues for some time now, and I guess this is a sign for me to finish it. E&P isn't usually a sociopolitical blog, but maybe this is a needed exception.

ms. kitty said...

You go, Miss K! I'll look forward to reading your post.