Friday, September 7, 2012

The Most Powerful Abortifacient in America Is Poverty

The most powerful abortifacient in America is poverty:

So Stephen Schneck told a panel of Democrats for Life in Charlotte this week.  I've put the words in boldface, italics, and bright red because, as Flannery O'Connor famously observed, "[T]o the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."  And in the editions of the bible on which I was weaned as a boy, the important words were always in red letters.

Important words.  Spoken to people hard of hearing and almost blind.  Who do not want to hear and do not want to see.  To be specific: as Vincent Miller notes in the America "In All Things" posting to which the first link points, Schneck's words are "lighting up the right-wing Catholic blogosphere."  And as he notes this, Miller links to a posting by Thomas Peters at that, in a brief statement, finds Schneck's statement "odious."

Six times.  Did I say odious?  Peters identifies Schneck's words as odious six times: in his title, after which he goes on to inform the reader that Schneck has made "an odious claim," and following which he then proceeds to tell us how odious Schneck's observation is.  Four more times.

The observation that the most powerful abortifacient in America is poverty, you understand.

That's the odious claim, according to Catholic political activist Thomas Peters.  

The very same Thomas Peters who, as I noted two days ago, continues to push the entirely false claim that the Obama administration's HHS guidelines are requiring taxpayers to pay for abortions, presumably on the entirely false ground that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient.

The shocking, counterintuitive conclusion one appears ineluctably compelled to draw about Peters' arguments and his characterization of Schneck's observation as odious seems to me to be the following:

Real Catholics, real pro-life ones, should base their voting decisions on the false claims that the current administration is requiring us to pay for abortions and that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient rather than on the true claim that poverty is an abortifacient, since as Schneck notes, 

The abortion rate is 300% higher below the poverty line. More than 3 out of 4 women who choose abortions cite economic reasons for their decision.

As Vincent Miller wisely notes in the conclusion to his posting about this controversy,

Schneck’s argument is dangerous to those who want to use abortion as a moral shibboleth.  If abortion is a real policy issue about women and children, the calculus becomes much more difficult.  Moving from checking the right box (in time for one’s candidacy) to arguing about outcomes can only be a win for the Prolife movement.  

In other words, if one's real aim is to diminish abortions and not to score points for a political party to which one is blindly devoted, one has no choice except to deal with the economic and social conditions that make abortion appear to be an attractive choice to economically stressed people.  If it's diminishing abortion and serving the values of life that one cares about, that is: if it's diminishing abortion and serving the values of life that guide your moral thinking, and not making a golden calf out of one particular political party whose economic and social agenda in no way promises to relieve economic and social distress, then you'll find Steve Schneck's argument anything but odious.

On the other hand, if the real name of your game is to make an idol out of one particular party and demonize the other by attaching the name of God solely to one party and pretending God has nothing at all to do with the nasty other party, the big-tent party of the nasty feminists and nasty gays and nasty secularists, you might well find Schneck's argument "odious."  And you might well fume, fret, and fulminate about how real Catholics vote for God's party and no other.

And how Catholics who don't toe your party line are "odious."  Unwelcome in your church.  To be hounded out.  To be told that they're defectively Catholic, an embarrassment to the real faithful.  Don't let the door hit you on the rear as you walk out.

It's all rather easy when your "thinking" about moral issues is reduced to the level of simplistic shibboleths designed to separate the pure from the impure--and which also, it goes without saying, situate you and your kind within the boundary lines of the pure and those you detest outside those boundary lines.

Even if they happen to be fellow Catholics.

But that kind of simplistic moral-shibboleth thinking is precisely what Flannery O'Connor (who was also Catholic, I seem to recall) meant to needle and overturn when she said, "[T]o the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."

Isn't it?  Because, as her fiction stresses over and over again, no one is capable of doing more damage to the world than the good and righteous, the people who think they see but are utterly incapable of seeing, the people who think they hear but find it impossible to listen.  

And who imagine oh so smoothly and oh so self-servingly that God is on their side.  And who are willing to vote for anyone who shouts the word "God" more loudly, more frequently, and more unctuously than anyone else.  Even when everything the shouting man does, thinks, and says belies the most central values of the major religious traditions of the world.

Which are all about making love, justice, and mercy flourish in the world so that people may have life in abundance.  And certainly not about increasing the wealth of the already rich so that a tiny proportion of the world has access to comfort and security while the vast majority of us are consigned to misery.

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