Even if one believes there is such a thing as post-partisanship, there are some areas where President Obama is unlikely to find common ground with those on the other side of an issue. Abortion policy is one of them. Nonetheless, the President insists he is going to try to move beyond the decades-old debate:
President Obama kept a low profile on Friday as he fulfilled a campaign promise by reversing President Bush’s policy barring U.S. aid to international organizations which provide abortions or advise women on how to get them. However, the new president also extended an olive branch to anti-abortion groups and expressed a desire to end what he called a “stale and fruitless debate.” “It is time that we end the politicization of this issue,” Obama said in a written statement which accompanied an official presidential memorandum canceling Bush’s abortion-related restrictions on American aid money, referred to by critics as the “global gag rule.” The new president promised “a fresh conversation on family planning” and said his aides would “reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies.” However, there were also indications Obama and his advisers sought to minimize press attention to the polarizing issue and may have tried to avoid antagonizing anti-abortion activists. The administration skipped the chance to issue the directive on Thursday, the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, as thousands of abortion opponents gathered in Washington for an annual rally [emph added].
President Obama’s “stale and fruitless debate” is unlikely to end any time soon. To many on the life side of things, abortion is not simply a policy issue about privacy or family planning; it is a moral one. How does a person who believes that abortion is morally wrong find common ground with the policies and funding that permit or enable abortions? Obama will likely reach consensus with his foes on education policy, and certain aspects of the stimulus, and perhaps even foreign policy as well from time to time, but it would be foolish to think that members of the pro-life movement will ever find common ground with the President on this particular issue.
The Vatican certainly does not seem in a conciliatory mood over the President’s decision to provide U.S. funding to developing world abortion clinics:
It is “the arrogance of someone who believes they are right, in signing a decree which will open the door to abortion and thus to the destruction of human life,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily. Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, one of a number of so-called pontifical academies which are formed by or under the direction of the Holy See. “What is important is to know how to listen… without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death,” he added. A senior Vatican official on Saturday attacked US President Barack Obama for “arrogance” for overturning a ban on state funding for family-planning groups that carry out or facilitate abortions overseas [emph added].
While the new President’s belief that ” the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply” may be welcome by some Americans on some issues, abortion policy is certainly not one of them. So work with Republicans and conservatives on the stimulus package and the way forward in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is common ground to be found there. But forget about abortion; pretending to search for some sort of compromise on this issue seems like nothing more than an empty gesture, one that calls the substance of so-called post-partisanship itself into suspicion. Americans are not going to come to some political consensus on abortion any time soon, and will likely be divided on this issue even when our grandchildren are old enough to attend a Roe v Wade anniversary on one side or the other.
Post Script: This is the video that inspired the post above. Catholic Vote has some chutzpah, no? And you cannot argue that this 30 second spot gets its message across, regardless of which side of the fence you sit on (if any).