A good editorial, thank you New York Times.
Conor Lamb and Abortion
I’m intrigued by one of the ways that Conor Lamb appealed to cultural conservatives in his Pennsylvania congressional campaign. He said that, as a Catholic, he is personally opposed to abortion but that he does not favor new anti-abortion laws.
This position still makes him pro-choice, of course, even if he rejects the label. It won’t win over committed abortion opponents (like National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis, who criticized Lamb as a hypocrite).
Yet I still find Lamb’s framing to be important. Personal opposition to abortion isn’t just a catchphrase. It has real implications. People who are opposed to abortion — as well as those who have deep qualms about it — are unlikely to have fetuses tested for conditions like Down syndrome, to take one example. They’re more likely to believe that babies with the syndrome have as much right to life as those without it.
That last sentence probably offends some readers — which helps make the point that personal opposition to abortion means something.
Lamb thinks about abortion differently from the way that many other Democrats do. It suggests that he sees the issue as an unavoidable clash of rights — between the right of a woman to control her own body and the right of a fetus to survive. To many Americans, one of those rights overwhelms the other. To many others, the issue is less clear.
This second group tends to believe that a woman’s rights take precedence. That’s why more than 75 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal at least part of the time, according to Gallup, and more than 55 percent say it should be legal at least most of the time, according to Pew.
But a fetus’s rights are not irrelevant. That’s why fewer than 30 percent of Americans say abortion should always be legal, according to both Gallup and Pew. And there is remarkably little gender gap on abortion opinion.
By talking about his own discomfort on the abortion issue, Lamb is able to show respect for people who find the subject vexing — a description that surely applies to many of his newfound constituents. I think it’s entirely rational for them to prefer a representative who shares their struggle with the subject.
For more on moral complexity, see George Will’s column in The Washington Post on Iceland, abortion and Down syndrome. Unlike Will, I don’t know what I think the answer to this issue should be. But like him, I’m deeply disturbed that some countries are moving toward eliminating an entire group of people.
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