Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.
When Obama softened his rhetoric on abortion at last week’s press conference, pro-lifers braced for the age-old challenge:
Why are pro-lifers so extremist and uncompromising? Why won’t you give even an inch?
To answer, try this experiment. Substitute “child abuse” for the word “abortion” in Obama’s words:
“You know, my view on [child abuse] I think has been very consistent. I think [child abuse] is a moral issue and an ethical issue. I think that those who are[pro-choice of discipline severity]make a mistake when they — if they suggest — and I don’t want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women’s freedom [to abuse their children]and that there’s no other considerations. I think, look, [abusing their children] is an issue that people have to wrestle with, and families and individual women have to wrestle with.
“The reason I’m [pro-choice of discipline severity] is because I don’t think women take that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions [whether or not to abuse their children]each and every day, and I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a President of the United States — in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy. So that’s been my consistent position.
“The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to [abuse their children] or at least considering [abusing their children] , particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again. And so I’ve got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the [pro-choice of discipline severity]camp and in the [pro-uninjured children] camp to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.
“Now, the freedom of choice [of discipline severity] act[, FODSA, ] is not my highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose [to abuse their children], but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that’s where I’m going to focus. “
With one difference—that killing is far worse than abuse—that is precisely what we pro-lifers heard when Obama said what he said.
Which isn’t to say Obama’s words aren’t a step in the right direction.
After all, the experiment above isn’t all that far-fetched. There are some people who are “pro-choice of discipline severity.” And when those people start to say there are “other considerations” involved, they can at least approach the road to recovery.
One other consideration is “the child’s emotional health.” Once you see that, you might moderate your abuse in an attempt to keep it on the right side of the line between “emotionally neutral” and “emotionally damaging.”
But when you’re talking about killing, and not just abusing, the child, then what? If some consideration besides the woman’s freedom is at issue, what could it be? It must be the child’s life.
Once you admit that the child’s life should be considered, what can you do? The only consideration you can give the child’s life is to allow the child to live; to not abort. The right to life is paramount.
And that is why we pro-lifers are such annoying extremists.
It’s also why we’re winning.