Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

‘No one’ supports abortion up until birth? In a twisted sense, true

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 25, 2023

“No one supports abortion up until birth,” tweeted Jen Psaki, the former Biden press secretary, after this week’s GOP presidential debate. She was wrong—quite obviously, demonstrably wrong. But in several twisted senses she was right.

If you take things literally—that is, if you use words to convey truth rather than propaganda—then Psaki was dead wrong. (And isn’t it interesting that the self-appointed “fact-checkers” weren’t immediately out in force to correct her?) Her former boss, our “devout Catholic” president, opposes any and all legal restrictions on abortion. Last year nearly every Democrat in the US Congress voted for a proposed federal law to ban any restrictions on the practice. (One Democrat in the Senate, and one in the House, opposed the bill.)

So why do I say that in some ways Psaki was right?

First, because no one says that they support abortion until birth. Supporters of unrestricted legal abortion refuse to discuss specific cases, deflecting all inquiries by chanting their mantra: “a woman’s right to choose.” When she fielded questions from the White House press corps, Jen Psaki herself proved adept at bobbing and weaving, avoiding any questions about possible limitations on the practice. But when cornered, she and her political allies would oppose any and all restrictions.

In dodging questions about legal limitations, the supporters of legal abortion follow the example of another “devout Catholic,” the late Governor Mario Cuomo, who first popularized the claim to be “personally opposed,” but unwilling to endorse laws against abortion. Flimsy though it is—if you oppose laws against robbing banks, aren’t you supporting bank robbery?—that argument has given politicians (and even prelates) just enough protective cover to ward off questions.

But wait: How does such a transparent ploy work? This brings us to the second sense in which Psaki was right:

No one says that they support abortion until birth, because the mainstream media never ask the question. Jen Psaki has never seen a Democratic candidate trapped by a persistent reporter and forced to answer tough questions: “Do you support a woman’s right to abort her pregnancy because it conflicts with her vacation plans? Do you think it should be legal to abort a child a day before childbirth? Do you think the taxpayers should subsidize a woman who uses abortion as her preferred form of birth control?” Respectable journalists don’t ask such questions. So when a few Republican presidential candidates, breaking from the usual rules of political engagement, actually spoke about legal abortion up until birth, Psaki was understandably shocked.

In fact I would not rule out the possibility that Psaki actually believes what she said in the Twitter comment, because:

“No one” supports abortion up until birth, in the same sense that “no one” believes the earth is flat and “no one” supports slavery. These are, of course, exaggerations. There are, regrettably, some deluded people who still refuse the evidence that demonstrates the earth is not flat, and some dangerous people who defend slavery. Those people form tiny minorities, however, occupying the extreme fringes of society. On the abortion issue, sadly, the extremists control a major political party.

Poll after poll, year after year, shows that the American people are deeply ambivalent about abortion. A large majority, accepting the “pro-choice” rhetoric, claim to support the Roe decision and oppose legal restrictions. Yet when questioned about specific circumstances, even larger majorities disapprove of “convenience” abortions, late-term abortions, abortions performed after the fetus is viable. Overwhelming majorities support “conscience clause” protection for doctors, nurses, and medical institutions opposed to abortion. In short the American public strongly supports restrictions on abortion—the restrictions that Psaki and her Democratic colleagues adamantly oppose.

If “no one supports abortion up until birth,” why was the practice legal in all fifty states before the Dobbs decision? Why is it still legal in “blue” states today? Why are Democratic lawmakers fighting to keep it legal? And why aren’t the mainstream media asking those questions?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: whdempsey2904 - Aug. 26, 2023 2:35 PM ET USA

    Jen Psaki’s “No one supports abortion up to birth” is risible, but it is also incorrect to say that last year's Democrat bill "ban[ed[ any restrictions" and that “[Psaki] and her political allies would oppose any and all restrictions.” Section 4 of the House bill, HR 8286, prohibited any state prohibition of abortion prior to viability but permitted prohibition after viability unless there was "risk to the pregnant patient's life or health." That's not much, but it's not nothing at all.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Aug. 26, 2023 4:01 AM ET USA

    Masterful expose of the glib lies of the pro-abortion advocates. Too bad the Vatican is giving them a pass. Inaction by senior prelates is being interpreted as acquiescence.

  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 25, 2023 10:57 PM ET USA

    All we say and do has consequences - especially when one is politician or prelate. It is "the butterfly effect." For example, it has been estimated that after the State of Texas passed the Heartbeat Act in May of 2021, almost 10 thousand more babies were born there between April and December of 2022. One can wonder how many more babies were butchered as a result of pope Francis, and other prelates, green-lighting Holy Communion for Biden or Pelosi in the midst of the post-Dobbs abortion debates?

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Aug. 25, 2023 6:10 PM ET USA

    Absolutely correct again, Phil. I have nothing to add to any of your recent articles. I'd only like to express agreement with your points, thankfulness for your writing, and encouragement to keep writing in the face of the insanity that our culture embraces.