Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Uh-Oh! Reviewing Sarah Palin's "Pro-life" Position in Light of Couric Interview

I'm a bit ashamed of myself that I didn't catch this in the now-infamous Katie Couric interviews with Sarah Palin. We all heard the gaffs and soundbites... but what about some of the more substantial answers Gov. Palin did come up with?

Beliefnet's Steve Waldman suggests something startling: "Amidst Her Dodging, Sarah Palin Contradicts the Republican Platform on Abortion."

Waldman notes, in a number of cases during the fairly lengthy exchange on abortion between Couric and Palin, that the Governor seemed to actually hold a pro-choice position!

For instance, Couric asks: "If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion. Why?" Gov. Palin does not answer the "why" but she does offer this as her punchline: "I would counsel to choose life." The unavoidable conclusion one would reach there is that Palin supports choice, but counsels that choice be for life.

But there's more. Gov. Palin continues:

"I would like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to see taking it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life, and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country. But I want, then, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported for adoptions to be made easier. For more support given to foster parents and adoptive families. That is my personal opinion on this."

I would note this sounds stunningly similar to Barack Obama! There is not one mention of legislating abortion out of existence, of overturning Roe v Wade, and in fact her language -- "I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country" -- sounds almost word for word like Barack Obama (except with less finesse). Consider these comments by Obama, made April 13, 2008 at Messiah College. He is responding to a question on finding any common ground between pro-choice and pro-life polarities:

"I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. It requires us to acknowledge that..

1. There is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.

2. People of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what's right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ.

And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion." [italics added]

Back to Couric's interview with Sarah Palin:

Couric: So you want more support so women have more options, or girls have more options. But you also think it should be illegal, that there should be no punishment if a woman does break the law...

Palin: I would like to see more women given more support so that those of us who say, "You know, a culture of life is what we believe." Is best ... for human kind, you know, to respect the sanctity of every human life. And to understand ... that we live in a pretty messed up world sometimes.

When you consider what's going on in this world. The most promising and good ingredients in this world ... is a child. The hope that a child brings. And just understanding that. Being near and dear to my heart. I want to do all that I can to reduce the number abortions.

And to usher in that culture of life. And in my respect for the other side of this issue, I have not spoken with one woman who do, may disagree with me on, when abortions could or should be allowed, not one woman has disagreed, as we sit down and rationally talk about ... the common goal we have, and that is to see fewer and fewer abortions. And to provide more and more women support in this world.

Palin again seems to echo a Democratic understanding of the abortion issue rather than supporting the Republican Platform here. Gov. Palin keeps referencing a "culture of life," but remains within a paradigm of choice. That is, a culture where all involved seek to have more support for women and fewer and fewer abortions. Again, this sounds quite similar to Barack Obama.

Couric isn't done yet:

Couric: But, ideally, you think it should be illegal ...

Palin: If you ...

Couric: ...for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in."

Waldman once again notes that again Palin is reiterating a pro-choice position here. I would suggest, for further clarification, that very few pro-choicers think abortion is a "good" choice -- rather, most would readily call it a "bad" choice, a last resort which (to them) might be necessary but is not frivolous nor painless (physically or psychologically) to the mother making such a choice. There is nothing in Palin's responses to Couric to contradict that sort of pro-choice reasoning.

The interview continues:

And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an ... abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

Did Palin mean just the mothers who abort, or also the doctors? In light of her apparent inability to communicate clearly on many topics, she may have meant the former. But one is left with what at best is an ambiguous response. I'm left wondering if these responses are yet further evidence of a disingenuousness on the part of the Republican candidates. In short, I think the blurring of pro-life vs. pro-choice positions is being done intentionally by Gov. Palin here, for reasons entirely having to do with polling numbers and the McCain campaign's desire to draw in more women voters... many of whom are pro-choice.

But here, in an exchange over the "morning after" pill, is where Gov. Palin does in fact overtly contradict the Republican Party platform on abortion. It takes Couric three tries to get an answer to her very simple question, but she does finally get it:

Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill as for decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning after pill?

Palin: Well ...I'm all for contraception. And I'm all for any preventative measures that are legal and safe and should be taken. But, Katie, again and we can go round and round about the abortion issue, but I am one to seek a culture of life. I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see ...

Couric: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill.

Palin: I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And, again, I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.

Couric: I'm sorry. I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning after pill?

Palin: Personally, and this is isn't McCain-Palin policy ...

Couric: That's OK. I'm just asking you.

Palin: But, personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception. It ...

Couric: Do you think it should be illegal?

Palin: I don't think that it should necessarily be illegal.

So, for all my fellow pro-lifers out there that feel so compelled to vote McCain/Palin due to the pro-life issue, I hope this is one more reason to reconsider that concept. And again, I thank Mr. Waldman for drawing my attention to this interview.


matthew said...

Thank you for posting this. I read it with great interest.

Resilient Hawk said...

"The unavoidable conclusion one would reach there is that Palin supports choice, but counsels that choice be for life."

Quite avoidable, actually, as conclusions go.

I'd say the same thing, recognizing that the law does allow the murder of an unborn child. It would not mean I think the law should allow abortion, but I would need to realize, as apparently Palin does, the law exists.

Could be worse. I mean, if Palin were supported by NARAL, I might believe she was prochoice. The NARAL approval goes completely to Barack Obama.

Looks to me like Palin is addressing something deeper than the cookie-cutter politics Bush, Clinton and Obama are offering/have offered on the issue.

I think Waldman is misreading, or presuming Palin's position.

Unrelated - loved C-stone Magazine back in the day. It helped me see that what I believed (antiabortion, anticapital punishment, jail ministry involvement) in matters regarding the ‘least of these’ was consistent with evangelical Christianity. All I heard was from more liberal churches that it was not. Part of this was getting involved in the Christian Action Counsel with Denny Cadieux. Just ran into his brother at a homeschooling speech tourney, told him the story of Denny sending me what is now a treasured chess set.

@bdul muHib said...

But Tony, I hear you, and yet, the rhetoric quoted here from Palin really seems very close to the rhetoric I often hear from Obama- abortion is bad, we should try to reduce it, but not through laws and punishments.