July 1, 2007

Giuliani and Abortion: A Lightning Rod Issue, Part 2

Print More

In part one, I criticized Giuliani for permitting abortion even though he personally opposes it. Since Giuliani is a Catholic, this stance has also drawn a lot of fire from the Catholic Church. At the end of part one, I suggested that Giuliani could instead defend an unborn child once it reaches viability, the point at which it can exist outside the womb. At the same time, he could avoid a full frontal assault on Roe v. Wade. In part two, I explain how Giuliani the Catholic can unite with Giuliani the presidential candidate on the issue of abortion.

A large reason why Giuliani draws fire from the Catholic Church derives from the fact that the Bible states that life begins before birth. In the Bible, John the Baptist once leaped for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. Biblical evidence also exists that life begins as far back as conception, but the proof there is not as clear-cut. Specifically, some questions arise on whether being sinful from the moment of conception refers to the state of the child or instead only refers to a theological concept called original sin, sin a person inherits from the parents who inherit it from their parents all the way up to Adam and Eve. Thus, Giuliani could make a safe bet to reestablish his credibility with the religious right by defending the unborn after viability.

In spite of this, Giuliani probably worries about coming off as a religious fanatic, insensitive to others even if he limits his focus from conception to viability. However, he can both cite the Bible and appear compassionate at the same time. The verses he should use, Proverbs 31:8-9, offer a different take on the pro-life side: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Needless to say, unborn children clearly qualify as “those who cannot speak for themselves.” Furthermore, Giuliani can link this to a larger effort of defending the disadvantaged. Even people who do not believe in the Bible would not have a hard time accepting the general premise of Proverbs 31:8-9. In fact, another Republican candidate does an excellent job of displaying this perspective on being pro-life, Mike Huckabee. Hearing his answer on what defending life means does not bring to mind images of bombing abortion clinics.

Huckabee’s take on being pro-life

Beyond the religious side of the argument, though, viability has a specific advantage: the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, specifically cites viability in its decision. When Giuliani moves from religion into the public square, he could actually resolve his personal views with Roe v. Wade, strengthening his argument.

Roe v. Wade also has some respect for the unborn child. In talking about the different stages of pregnancy, the decision states, “For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe [not prescribe, proscribe means to ban], abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” An important distinction comes into play, as the phrase “potentiality of human life” does not enter the Supreme Court’s vocabulary until this stage in life. This makes protecting unborn children past viability a juicy target for Giuliani to go after.

In spite of the last paragraph, though, Roe v. Wade did not recognize the unborn child as human life, and the mother’s health has long been a stumbling block for abortion opponents. However, Roe v. Wade dodged the issue of life for the most part, leaving an opening: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.” That was 34 years ago. I think every discipline has evolved to some extent since then. With brain activity being recorded as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, appealing to changing times and new knowledge could prove very effective, especially since viability occurs so late within a pregnancy. Now in general, believing in a living Constitution that implicitly changes with the times can spurn negative accusations of “judicial activism,” but since Roe v. Wade explicitly says, “at this point in the development of man’s knowledge,” Giuliani could embrace how times have changed since 1973 without confronting the much larger issue of judicial activism as a whole. A great argument exists as to why only the mother’s life and not her health should be considered after viability, and Roe v. Wade’s ambiguity on the status of the unborn makes such an argument possible.

When looking back at one of Giuliani’s quotes about his views on abortion, this new strategy could satisfy everything he said: “I consult my religion, I consult my reading of the Constitution, I consult my views of what I think are important in a pluralistic society.” This new strategy certainly consults religion. By working under the framework of Roe v. Wade to make abortions illegal after viability, Giuliani could still consult his reading of the Constitution, and by even reading a Supreme Court decision that many would rather burn than look at, he also takes account different views, which are important in a pluralistic society. Most importantly, instead of making the church and the state conflict with each other, Giuliani could make them work in harmony to achieve the same goal.