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The mad logic of political calculation and ideological fanaticism

The craziness that the abortion issue evokes in some people is illustrated not only in the defeat of the Born Alive Protection Act but in a new proposal for adding more justices to the Supreme Court.

March for Life participants and counter-protesters hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, in 2018. (CNS photo/Peter Lockley)

Let us agree that the 44 Democratic senators whose votes last month blocked the Born Alive Protection Act aren’t monsters. But, that agreed, let us also agree that what they did had the monstrous result of providing legal cover for the moral equivalent of infanticide.

How did we get here? It’s no mystery. The mad logic of political calculation and ideological fanaticism working together has taken us to this point.

Note that the bill actually received 53 votes in the all-important cloture vote in the Senate. But because arcane and dysfunctional Senate rules require 60 votes to halt a filibuster, the 44 nays had it.

Note too that six of the senators who voted to block the legislation—which would have required giving medical care to infants born alive via late-term abortions—seek the Democratic party’s presidential nomination. They are Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

As that suggests, what this Senate vote tells us about the 2020 election is deeply disturbing. Barring some drastic, unforeseen development, we are likely next year to witness a replay of 2016, which saw an ardent advocate of legalized abortion, Hillary Clinton, pitted against Donald Trump, who as president has delivered on the life issues while also becoming an intensely polarizing figure.

For some, this means the choice in 2020 will likely be as painful as in 2016, when they resolved the dilemma for themselves by not voting or backing marginal candidates or write-ins.

The election aside, the next two years are shaping up as crucial for the prolife cause in other ways. That isn’t because of any new legislation likely to pass in the stalemated Congress but, as has happened often before, because of developments in the Supreme Court.

As this is written, the justices have not yet said whether they will consider either or conceivably both of two cases raising the abortion issue and the reign of Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the court’s two major—and intensely controversial—abortion decisions so far.

One of the new cases, from Indiana, involves a state law barring eugenic abortions performed because of fetal disability or sex, while requiring that the remains of aborted fetuses be buried or cremated rather than disposed of as medical waste. The other, from Louisiana, involves a law requiring that abortion clinic abortions be performed by doctors with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

If the Supreme Court accepts either or both of these cases for argument next fall and a decision early in 2020, the stage will be set for a fresh national debate on abortion in the superheated atmosphere of a presidential election year.

The craziness that the abortion issue evokes in some people is illustrated not only in the defeat of the Born Alive Protection Act but in a proposal currently being pushed by what the Washington Post describes as “some liberal groups” to empower the next Democratic president to add four more justices to the Supreme Court, thereby bringing the total to 13.

The newspaper quotes several prominent Democrats, including former Attorney General Eric Holder and presidential contenders Gillibrand and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, on behalf of the idea as representing, in Buttigieg’s words, a desirable “level of intellectual and policy ambition” for the party.

But if a harebrained court-packing scheme advocated with the aim of advancing ideological interests, whether ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative, ever in fact becomes the “level of intellectual and policy ambition” of either major party, God save the United States.


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About Russell Shaw 178 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide and the highly acclaimed American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America.

9 Comments

  1. “As that suggests, what this Senate vote tells us about the 2020 election is deeply disturbing. Barring some drastic, unforeseen development, we are likely next year to witness a replay of 2016, which saw an ardent advocate of legalized abortion, Hillary Clinton, pitted against Donald Trump, who as president has delivered on the life issues while also becoming an intensely polarizing figure.

    For some, this means the choice in 2020 will likely be as painful as in 2016, when they resolved the dilemma for themselves by not voting or backing marginal candidates or write-ins.”

    Polarized thanks to the MSM, which is in the hands of the “leftists.” Why? Because Donald Trump is too “moderate,” too “America first” for them, not because he is the “right-wing” monster they make him out to be.

    “But if a harebrained court-packing scheme advocated with the aim of advancing ideological interests, whether ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative, ever in fact becomes the “level of intellectual and policy ambition” of either major party, God save the United States.”

    The United States is already in trouble. Abortion is just one issue pitting the left against what remains of the historic American nations. Catholics will have to pick a side, and to advocate some form of civic nationalism, even if it is a religious version of it, is increasingly to side with the leftists.

    • If infanticide is not monstrous, what on earth could be? To relegate it to political maneuvering makes it even more heinous. Mr. Shaw is part of the problem and until we are willing to call murder out for what it truly is we will go down in the history books as one of the most self gratifying nations of all time.

    • A good question. And the last paragraph equates the very real Leftist court-packing endorsed by prominent public figures and aspirants to the Democratic presidential nomination with a purported “ultra-conservative” court-packing that has not been advocated by the Trump administration or anyone prominent in Congress, and is otherwise non-existent. This is spurious even-handedness.

    • The only fanaticism is in the left’s desire to kill children before they are born. Science has proven that an unborn baby is a separate life & unique being, separate from the mother, not “her body”. Let’s not forget that the woman expressly invited the possibility of a new & separate life to grow by her willingness to have unprotected relations. So that new life is not some chimera that spontaneously appeared, but was expressly invited to begin. The case is further proven by the left’s absolute blocking of the protection of the baby once it is born, resulting in actual infanticide. THAT is fanaticism, not the wishes of those with properly grounded morals who know, without a doubt, that, firstly, even an unborn human being is just that – a human being; & secondly, that once a baby is actually BORN, it can still be murdered if it survived the abortion (murder) attempt. These abortion fanatics even admit that the unborn is a human life, & yet still wish to murder it both before it is born, & then after it is born. This puts the left in the same camp as Hitler’s Germany, except we’ve already murdered 10X more babies than Hitler did to the Jewish people. THAT’S fanaticism.

  2. Your lead sentence: “Let us agree that the 44 Democratic senators whose votes last month blocked the Born Alive Protection Act aren’t monsters.” No. They ARE monsters. The problem is, over the last 40 years, we’ve allowed “being monsters” to be okay. And because we have, the monsters have gotten worse. This is a watershed moment, a turning point. Just like the sex abuse crisis in the clergy. If we don’t accept what is really going on, then we will never be able to combat it.

  3. I am not sure about them not being monsters. They are certainly beyond being bad christians. Pagans were for infant sacrifice, so I have no problem thinking of them as pagans. In order to solve a problem we must accurately identify the problem. A Catholic News Service article appearing in my diocesan newspaper managed, in a lengthy article on the subject, not to mention that all 44 votes were from democrats, and that 10 of them were Catholic. I admire Mr. Shaw and have read some of his books. But I, for One, will not find it at all painful in 2020 to vote for a very, very pro life president as opposed to a very, very pro death challenger.

  4. Since he has dropped out as a potential presidential candidate for 2020, is Holder now looking for a new job on the U.S. Supreme Court?

  5. Those who vote for infanticide are monsters. Trump is the most pro-life President we have had. Action not words count. Instead of constant harping on global warming and immigration, our Bishops should be speaking of the mortal sin of voting for those who support child murder.

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