The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, June 04, 2004

Kerry, abortion and the Catholic thing

Jim VandeHei in WaPo yesterday is trying to breathe life into the controversy - or so it seems, under the hed Events Forcing Abortion Issue on Kerry.

Just like the homo-marriage question, Kerry is sensibly staying as far away from abortion-related topics as he can. (His sally on the question of nominating anti-abortion judges turned into a rout, as you'll recall - my May 23 piece. He won't be doing that again in a hurry.)

VandeHei says that
recent events, including Tuesday's court ruling that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act is unconstitutional, are forcing Kerry to deal with an issue that some Democrats fear could complicate his efforts to win over independents and disgruntled Republicans

Really? Congress has already shot its bolt on partial birth abortion - Kerry voted against, but, it seems, would have voted for a bill with a maternal health exception.

Pro-abortion groups would be mad to embarrass Kerry by pressing him to be more outspoken - they want those efforts to bear as much fruit as possible. According to an AP piece yesterday, though, Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, is doing exactly that [1]. With friends like Ms Feldt, Kerry might find January 20 freeing up.

And, VandeHei points out, Kerry is personally anti-abortion - quoting a statement to the Lowell Sun made during his failed 1972 US Senate run:
On abortion, I myself, by belief and upbringing, am opposed to abortion but as a legislator, as one who is called on to pass a law, I would find it very difficult to legislate on something God himself has not seen fit to make clear to all the people on this earth. . . . And I think, therefore, with a sense of justice in mind that one has to leave the question of abortion between a woman and her conscience and her doctor.

That fudge has worked for him in three successful Senate campaigns, and I don't see Bush seeking to make a Federal case of it.

More generally on the Catholic question, again the fudge is the way to go - for all concerned. There's an element of desperation in VandeHei's
Kerry has become a central focus of this debate among Catholics. USA Today, for instance, published an opinion article yesterday by James P. Gannon, former editor of the Des Moines Register, in which he says he is "embarrassed" by Kerry's willingness to toss "overboard those parts of Catholic doctrine that are politically inconvenient."

If a former editor of the Des Moines Register is as good as VandeHei can get, I suspect Kerry need not panic yet.

It's pretty clear that the Catholic Church, laity and hierarchy alike, are divided on all sorts of political issues, including the question how far Catholic politicians should enact their faith [2]. As we learnt with the LA Times and Cardinal Roger Mahony [3], the hierarchy wields considerable influence, on the QT, despite its abject failure on the 'pedophile priest' issue. One damned good way of pissing away that influence would be to try to administer some Truman-style loyalty oath to John Kerry. I see no sign of that coming - though that is scarcely saying much, of course!

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has rallied round his candidate with a grading of Catholic senators' voting records according to religious regularity. Guess who's the #1 Regular Guy?

It's of interest, but surely not of political significance. There's the First Amendment aspect; and, after the unequal struggle of impugning Kerry's patriotism, I can't see BC04 putting their guy into the ring in a piety contest.

This blog is, as I've pointed out before, first and foremost an exercise in self-education; and quite possibly I've missed the Kerry weak spot that everyone else spotted a mile off.

But, as I read it, Kerry is in good shape on these issues; and only bellyaching from his own people - energising the base in just the wrong way - could do him much damage.

  1. Cockiness following PP's victory in the California challenge to the PBA law?

  2. Articles from yesterday under heds Catholics try to reconcile faith and political choices (Cincy Enquirer) and Voting 'Catholic' creates a new schism (Newsday) and Polls indicate Roman Catholic vote is split between Bush, Kerry (Knight Ridder) are suggestive.

  3. Piece of February 27.

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