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Kissling versus Religious Progressives

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 09, 2005

Arch-pro-abort Frances Kissling has an extraordinarily interesting article posted on her CFFC site (click the "Conscience" link on the top bar, then on Kissling's "A Cautionary Tale"). It deserves a careful reading by pro-lifers, not only because she lays out some unexpected fault lines in the pro-abort camp, but also because she admits to the falsehood of many of the favorite sound-bites propounded by her quondam allies.

Kissling identifies herself with the political Left, distinguished (in her conspectus) from the rest of the Democratic Party by non-negotiable insistence on abortion and gay rights. It's important to grasp this in order to understand what worries her, namely, the rise of the "progressive religious agenda" in the Democratic fold. Quite simply, Kissling thinks the Dems might be selling out to Jim Wallis, who is lamentably weak on abortion. In fact, she's downright catty about him:

He thinks abortion itself is morally wrong, but does not want to see it criminalized. His reason for such generosity is classically patriarchal beneficence: he doesn't want poor women who are victims of poverty and injustice to suffer. There is no acknowledgement that a woman who is not a victim, but a thoughtful moral agent who could continue a pregnancy, might make a good decision to have an abortion.

Get the point? Wallis will uphold Roe v. Wade, etc., but for the wrong reasons. He thinks abortion kills a child. Kissling voices cautious sympathy for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative and the Freedom and Faith Forum (two liberal groups assembled to counter the Christian Coalition), but then says:

I worry about both, although I really worry about the Faith and Progressive Policy initiative. And perhaps unfairly, a lot of my fears are based on its desire to please and position Jim Wallis ... Wallis is one of those religious leaders that set the teeth of feminist religious women, particularly Catholics, on edge. While he identifies himself as a progressive prolife evangelical, his heroes are … the Catholic bishops. His speeches are full of references to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and the so-called consistent ethic of life. He claims to speak for "millions" of progressive Catholics who are eager to support the Democratic Party but balk at its stance on abortion. His assurance regarding what Catholic teaching on abortion is and what Catholics actually believe is firm and unshaken by contradictory facts. (I would not be the least surprised if at some point in time Wallis follows another conservative [sic] leader, Richard John Neuhaus, and becomes a Catholic!) ...

Note, in passing, that Kissling is clearly dismayed by the prospect that Wallis might enlarge her Church by his membership -- a good indication of the sincerity of her own identification as Catholic. Even his attraction to Bernardin's toothless garment makes Wallis, and "the progressive religious agenda," suspect in her eyes. Watch her moves here:

And here is where the progressive religious agenda gets interesting. Is Wallis genuinely interested in presenting evidence-based policy solutions that really can reduce the need for abortions, or is he using abortion as another way to push an antipoverty agenda? Are pregnant women a means to achieving Wallis's agenda? (In case you didn't get it, his is the classic means and ends argument.) There is absolutely no evidence that better economic benefits, jobs, child care or parental leave would lead to a significant decline in abortion. There is however substantial evidence that access to contraception (both regular and emergency contraception) would significantly reduce unintended pregnancy and thus abortion.

Absolutely no evidence that the welfare state entitlements will reduce abortion! Kissling kicks away -- with disgust -- the key argument in the liberal Catholic brief justifying their polling-booth loyalty to Democrats. As to the rift between hard and soft Left concerning motives and tactics, this next bit is equally revealing:

This overwhelming and admirable commitment to ending poverty and promoting policies that would do that has caught not only Wallis, but another newly important figure in progressive evangelical circles, Glenn Stassen. Stassen, who describes himself as prolife, but is publicly in favor of legal abortion, is the author of the study that claimed abortions went down under Clinton and up under Bush and hypothesized that the reason was Bush's cuts in the antipoverty budgets. More recent research has proven that Stassen was wrong on the facts. Abortions went down under Clinton and have continued to go down under Bush (although at a much slower rate). Most importantly, data shows that Stassen's conclusion -- that the abortion rate went down under Clinton because of better support for poor pregnant women -- is demonstrably wrong. Analysis by the Alan Guttmacher Institute of government data show that the reason for the decline during Clinton's presidency was increased use of emergency contraception and better use of traditional contraceptives such as the pill. When I asked Stassen why he continues to make his claims, despite the facts showing otherwise, instead of supporting contraception as a way to reduce abortion, he passionately responded, "Because I want to make an antipoverty argument."

There you have it, folks. Unwittingly, perhaps, Kissling concedes that the pro-lifers were right all along. Abortion has never really been a question of affordability but about attitudes -- toward sex, family, community, and the sacrifices necessary to bear one another's burdens.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Sep. 10, 2005 1:09 AM ET USA

    Diogenes, I get the impression that you would oppose the Democrats even if they wrote and passed a Constitutional amendment making abortion illegal and guaranteeing civil rights to all unborn human beings (à la the 13th and 14th Amendments). I hope that Democrats do so in my lifetime, God willing. And lluding to Cardinal Bernardin's "toothless garment" is a low blow. Shame! By the way, please tell Madame Kissling that I am one of those feminist Catholic women who agrees with Jim Wallis :-)

  • Posted by: visions - Sep. 09, 2005 8:34 PM ET USA

    A Thoughtful Moral Agent. And what may one ask is that? One who is thoughtful therefore is moral? Or one who is moral therefore is thoughtful? Please explain before I get a headache.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Sep. 09, 2005 4:24 PM ET USA

    Perhaps, the women pictured on EWTN who have had an abortion were to picket her pleading why won't she listen to them! Might it have some effect or would this be to no avail?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 09, 2005 12:52 PM ET USA

    Kissling asks: "Where, one might ask, are the constituents that usually are necessary to gain one a seat at the table?" Kissling asks this? Frances Kissling? Where, pray tell, are HER constituents? If they are so necessary, how did this woman gain a seat at ANY table?

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