John Kerry's approach to religious issues was criticized in Slate recently; snide commentators noted that Slate got results, since the NY Times responded with a reassuring piece on Kerry's values message. Now, however, Kerry seems to have driven his Values Tour into a ditch with his assertion that he believes life begins at conception.
So how, if he believes that, does he explain his long time support for abortion rights?
"I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist," he continued in the interview. "We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."
Please. In addition to separation of church and state, we have the right to free speech, and the mechanism to change the laws of this country. I'll accept that a person can separate their personal views from the legislative process - for example, a politician might believe that alcohol consumption was a terrible thing, yet not advocate a return to Prohibition. However, in that scenario, it would be inconsistent for the politician to advocate legislation promoting beer sales.
Similarly with abortion - John Kerry may sincerely believe that life begins at conception, and he may suspect that abortion is murder, but still respect the right of other to make a different choice. I find that particular level of moral vagueness shocking - people who are agnostic on the question of when life begins, or are convinced it begins at a later stage of the pregnancy are not tolerating abortion as murder, as Kerry seems to be. Nor does Kerry's position sound-bite well - "I'll fight for what I believe, unless I believe it for religious reasons, in which case, I don't have a prayer".
However, the minimum requirement for someone in Kerry's position who holds Kerry's professed beliefs would be to work to reduce the incidence of abortion (and that certainly may not mean by outlawing it, as Mario Cuomo explained and Barry excerpted). And the Kerry camp nods in this direction, with Kerry spokesperson Stephanie Cutter assuring us that Kerry supports Bill Clinton's "safe, legal, and rare" formulation.
John Kerry believes that women have the right to control their own bodies, their own lives, and their own destinies. He believes that the Constitution protects their right to choose and to make their own decisions in consultation with their doctor, their conscience, and their God. He will defend this right as President. He recently announced he will support only pro-choice judges to the Supreme Court. Kerry also believes that we should promote family planning and health plans should assure women contraceptive coverage.
Kerry's speech to NARAL in January 2003 does not exactly feature "safe, legal, and rare" either. For a flavor of his intro:
...that’s what this fight is all about. It’s about power. It’s about who decides. And it is beyond my comprehension how, on an issue so personal to women, that a bunch of men in the White House or Congress dare to claim rectitude and make this decision and interfere with the freedom and rights of millions of women.
Hmm, it's not about protecting the life that began at conception? Not at all? This speech is not John Kerry saying "You have the right to an abortion, and I have an obligation to protect that right, and I am determined to do so, but I also have an obligation to tell you that I think abortion is wrong". This speech is, "You go, girl!".
The speeches, the website, and the many votes against the partial birth abortion ban do not square with a fellow who is opposed to abortion but defending a woman's right to have one. And the Kerry confusion - both his spokesperson saying that the "life begins at conception" position is new to her and the Supreme Court litmus test shuffle a while ago spring to mind - leave one wondering just how talented a politician the Dems have nominated.
UPDATE: Captain Ed delivers the broadside, cleverly titled "Kerry Flip-Flops On Life". I'm green.