Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Faith, Abortion, and Mike Huckabee

Sunday, on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee presented himself as the "paradoxical Republican" candidate for the 2008 Presidential nomination. (Watch the video here.) He enjoys music (even plays in a rock band) and believes in taxes to support social services (such as building roads). Yet he is also pro-life and otherwise a social conservative. He comes across very well -- sounds moderate, reasonable and pleasant, but -- for those of us who believe in a secular system of government -- he is dangerous. He said two things that, alone and together, might be cause for alarm.
The first comment was about Mitt Romney, a rival Republican presidential candidate and a Mormon. Stephanopoulos pointed out that as a Baptist minister, Huckabee might view a Mormon as belonging to a "cult." Huckabee did not dispute this suggestion but responded that he is far less disturbed by a candidate of a different faith (i.e., not a Baptist) than by a candidate who claims that his faith will not influence the decisions he makes as a public official. Why does this disturb him? Because it would mean that the candidate's faith is not very important to him. Better, in other words, to be strongly committed to a false magical belief in a deity who demands unquestioning obedience than to be only weakly committed to such a false belief (or, heaven help us, to be an agnostic or an atheist). Being pro-life, explained Huckabee later, is not a political position but one that properly arises from his faith.
The second interesting comment was Huckabee's assertion that his pro-life perspective is more consistent with American values than Rudolph Giuliani's expressed pro-choice approach. How so? It is Islamic fascists, said Huckabee, who celebrate the deaths of their children when the latter strap explosives onto themselves to carry out suicide bombings against the infidels. Americans, by contrast, value their children and believe that their lives are sacred and should not be sacrificed. Though quite subtle, the implication is that people (including Giuliani, so far) who believe that women should not be compelled by the criminal law to remain pregnant against their will are very much like the parents of suicide bombers who believe that their children should volunteer themselves as ammunition against civilian targets of the wrong faith. If you believe either that a zygote is morally distinct from a baby or that women should not regularly be conscripted into a physiologically intimate altruism, then it follows that you don't care about children. Though this suggestion should need little in the way of rebuttal, I would point out in passing that the Islamic fascists who celebrate their children's deaths as martyrs -- the group to whom he compares pro-choice Americans -- nicely fit the bill for Huckabee's more trustworthy candidate for office here in the United States: they openly acknowledge that their religious faith plays an important role in their decision-making process.

16 comments:

egarber said...

He said the same things on MTP a while back.

And my wife made a great point as we were watching:

"Odd that in calling for destruction of a woman's reproductive rights, he's acting a good bit like muslim extremists who deny liberty to women. But he's trying to say the opposite..."

David C. said...

I'm not one to make easy jokes about the South, but I have to wonder: Has he been in Arkansas so long that he thinks the pro-choice = suicide bombers reasoning will appeal to pro-lifers across the country? I think part of the lesson from South Dakota was that even pro-lifers can recoil at legislative overreaching in efforts to criminalize abortion. And what about Republicans who don't vote on abortion issues? Will pro-choice Republicans, or even Republicans who have no strong preference on the abortion issue, appreciate the suicide bomber analogy? Or will they also find it bizarre and offensive?

If I'm right---if Governor Huckabee's analogy would even make some pro-lifers or non-abortion-issue-voting Republicans uneasy---then I assume his miscalculation comes from the unique resonance his views enjoy in Arkansas. But shouldn't there be some national consultants telling him to tone it down? It just seems odd to me that he would go on air with these views.

Adam S. said...

I want to challenge the "Yitzhak Pearlman" point made here and elsewhere by Professor Colb. More specifically, I want to understand why the point--its implication-- is obviously cabinable to circumstances of physiological altruism.
Perhaps allowing a great violinist to strap himself up and plug himself to my renal system would be supererogatory. Perhaps not: would a nine month sacrifice be too much to demand in order to save the life of another, especially the life of another that has a profound positive effect on society (utilitarians and perfectionists might say).
Let's assume that such a setup would not make one duty bound to accede. Next, we wonder about the causal relationship of the zygote production---the disanalogy to the violinist that is so easily ignored. Moving past even that distinction we have this:
Does the example prove too much? If we should be free (morally speaking) to unhook ourselves from dependents, even dependents whose dependency we created, why can we not expose our infants (in arid fields on rocks or else more modernly speaking, at fire stations) or simply put them in bathroom waste bins at the age of 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year etc...
While I am "pro-choice," I suppose that position is justified by a lack of metaphysical committment to the notion of a soul and the conviction that an early fetus (a zygote at least) is not a consciousness or any other morally relevant unit. Perhaps the only thing stopping application of this principle to the 1 week infant is that the callousness and insensitivity that would cause and be effected by the abandonment of LIVING babies would tend to have "bad" effects on society in the way that I might think the death penalty does.
But I simply don't see how the violinist argument really gets anybody anywhere, or at least anywhere that stops before the abyss--maybe this is my "situated" view as a man?

Caitlin Borgmann said...

While Huckabee is certainly not correct, according to public opinion polls, in asserting that his "pro-life perspective is more consistent with American values than Rudolph Giuliani's expressed pro-choice approach," it is more internally consistent than Giuliani's appears to be. (See my recent post on Mike Huckabee: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/reproductive_rights/2007/01/prolifeafterbir.html) Although it's hard to know exactly what Giuliani is saying given his conflicting statements on abortion, if he truly believes a fetus is a person, he cannot consistently leave it to state legislatures to decide. Persons are entitled to constitutional protection. If he leaves it to state legislatures to decide, he is either conceding that some persons must be murdered in order to serve political ends, or -- at the end of the day -- he doesn't really believe fetuses are persons. That latter view would be more consistent with the American public's view of abortion, which seems to view abortion as a moral concern, but not as murder. See http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

Sobek said...

"If I'm right---if Governor Huckabee's analogy would even make some pro-lifers or non-abortion-issue-voting Republicans uneasy..."

Speaking as a pro-life Republican, I'll just confirm that you're right. Huckabee's analogy sounds completely ridiculous to me.

Sobek said...

"...if he truly believes a fetus is a person, he cannot consistently leave it to state legislatures to decide."

Much as I hate abortion in general and Roe in particular, I will admit that the Court got one point right: the word "person" as used in the Constitution cannot be reasonably read as referring to fetuses. It's not in the text, the architext, or the legislative history.

But that's only half of the inquiry. The next half is whether the federal government has power to overturn the popularly-passed criminal statutes, and that's where the Court goes badly awry. After all, if the Court is willing to ignore the text of the Constitution and cobble together a woman's "right" to privacy based on an amalgamation of texts which clearly have nothing to do with abortion -- in other words, if the Court is willing to expand the text in favor of a pregnant woman -- why is it not willing to expand the text in favor of a fetus?

That's why living constitutionalism is such a poor substitute for popular government. If a judge can invent a woman's right to choose, of his own initiative, why can't that same judge invent a fetus' right to not have its arms torn out and its skull collapsed?

The only reasonable approach, then, is to leave the matter to the states or to amend the Constitution.

egarber said...

Sobek said: If a judge can invent a woman's right to choose, of his own initiative, why can't that same judge invent a fetus' right to not have its arms torn out and its skull collapsed?

Whether one agrees with it or not, a proper reading of Roe precludes a future finding of rights for the fetus, because the court decided to stay away from the question of when "life" begins.

Instead, the majority decided (as you point out) that a fetus isn't a person under the constitution, while the mother's privacy liberty is implicated by abortion laws.

So the answer is to err on the side of her liberty pre viability. It's really not arbitrary at all, if you believe there are broad pre-existing rights for the individual.

If a future court was to find rights for a fetus, it would be a different animal than Roe. It would come from a court that takes on for itself the task of answering a question the Roe majority didn't want to touch: when does life start?

Jaide said...

What do you expect? I live in Oklahoma, near the Arkansas border. This is a part of the country where I get admonished at work for saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. This is a part of the country where I failed choir because I didn't want to participate in Christian programs when my requests to include my own faith were denied. This is a part of the country where every synagogue is graffitied with swastikas and no one gives a damn. This is a part of the country where anti-abortion activists caused the death of two teenagers when they ran around at a dangerous intersection waving signs. This is a part of the country where a school administrator, a counselor and two teachers, when asked whether a child would better off being raised by gay parents or in an abusive home, chose the abusive home.

LaurenM said...

I think the dangerous person here is the author of the article. Truth is not an important part of his/her reporting.

The author is putting words in Huckabee's mouth. Words like "implication" do not mean "fact". And what the author is "implying" is his own opinion of what Huckabee said about abortion (and suicide bombers) - now there's a stretch and shame on anyone who doesn't see it!

After reading this article, and finding the author believes in "a secular system of government" I am all for a strong Christian leader who will stand up for American Values.

And lets not forget the author's comment on faith. "Better, in other words" to be strongly committed to a false magical belief in a deity who demands unquestioning obedience, etc.

If the author chooses not to believe in God that is his choice. I find it rather immature that he feels the need to display such a distaste for someone of faith.


P.S. It would be interesting to know how many people who are pro-abortion have actually had one.

There are issues associated with abortion that go far beyond the act itself. Studies have shown that years after the abortion women suffer from extreme depression along with other severe issues.

Perhaps those who are pro-abortion are aware of this. However, I would bet there are many who are not. It is wise to dig deeper then the initial issue and see if there may be more than one reason behind a Pro-Life belief. Pro-Life may be as much for the woman as for the baby.

Abortion is a destroyer. Don't take my word for it - look at the studies and check out the facts.

That is not to say that if the woman suffered incest or rape she should have the baby. However, all of the consequences of the abortion should be explained to her.

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