The following is an excerpt from an October 15 column by George Weigel in National Review Online.
Ryan, for his part, correctly said that settled Catholic teaching on abortion is based on science and reason, and he nicely interjected sonograms — undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons for the growth of pro-life sentiment in the United States, which is now the majority sentiment in the country — into the discussion.
But there was an opportunity here for a game changer, of the kind that has made Congressman Ryan a welcome new voice on budgetary, regulatory, and entitlement issues.
Imagine this replay of the last question of the vice-presidential debate:
RADDATZ: This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.
(Ms. Raddatz’s jaw drops. The vice president is rendered temporarily speechless. The audience gasps. Congressman Ryan lets his surprising answer sink in a moment and continues.)
Let me explain, Martha. When I say “none,” I’m speaking about abortion, as I assume you were, as a public-policy issue. My opposition to the abortion license that Roe v. Wade created is based on science and reason.
Biology and embryology teach us that the product of human conception is a human being — nothing more, but certainly nothing less. No scientifically literate person denies that; it’s a fact, not an opinion. As for reason, well, an elementary sense of justice — of fairness — teaches us that innocent human life is inviolable and merits the protection of the laws. That’s the same sense of justice that tells us not to discriminate against another because she’s not a he, or because her pigmentation is different from mine, or because his parents came to this country from Belarus ten years ago; it’s the same sense of justice that has made America the most racially egalitarian society in human history. Science and reason have made me a pro-life public official. Science and reason are what the Supreme Court ignored in 1973 in Roe v. Wade and in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The so-called pro-choice position is the unscientific position, and it’s the unreasonable position.
But my faith does shape my thinking on these questions, and let me tell you how. What my faith adds to the mix is a deep sense of compassion and an urgent sense of responsibility for women caught in the dilemma of a crisis pregnancy. My faith teaches me that those women in crisis pregnancies should not be left alone, clinging to some spurious “right.” My faith, and the experience of the pastors of many denominations with whom I’ve discussed this, teach me that the termination of a pregnancy by abortion often multiplies the trauma of unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation, not only to that unborn child, but also to his or her mother.
My faith, which instructs me to honor the dignity of every human person, helps me understand the implications of what science and reason teach me. And one “dignitarian” implication of science and reason is that the pro-life position is the pro-feminist position, because abortion on demand has been a great deal for irresponsible and predatory men — and a very bad deal for women.
And I’m not alone in this, Martha. There are thousands of crisis-pregnancy centers across our country, where women who have been abandoned by those irresponsible or predatory men can find the compassion and care they deserve from people who take the unique dignity of women seriously — people who are eager to help a woman in a crisis pregnancy bring a child to term and then put that child up for adoption, or bring a child to term and then raise it with love in a caring community.
In all the arguing about abortion these past 40 years, the tens of thousands of volunteers who staff those crisis-pregnancy centers are almost never mentioned. But they are real American heroes, offering women in crisis something more — something more humane — than a technological quick fix to a terrible problem.
No woman in America has to face a crisis pregnancy alone. That’s something we should all be proud of. And we should thank God for inspiring men and women across America with the faith to go beyond the obvious facts of science and the obvious dictates of reason in offering compassionate care to women in crisis pregnancies.
It would have been instructive to hear Vice President Biden attempt a response to this. By immediately taking the Catholic-weirdness card out of Martha Raddatz’s hand — and the hands of every pro-choice Catholic pol from sea to shining sea — that kind of response might have radically changed the terms of the abortion debate. Biden would have been unable to dance the Cuomo-Kerry shuffle; nor could he try a Pelosi and suggest that the pro-choice Catholics are the real “social-justice Catholics.”
Such a response would have underscored the grievous errors of both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It would have unveiled the true face of the pro-life movement, after decades of cultural and media distortion, and a new and entirely welcome debate — a who’s-the-real-feminist debate — would have ensued.
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