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Bishops and Abortion

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Bishops and Abortion"

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Scott Lemieux wrote yesterday:

I actually think Digby is being a little too charitable when she says that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is “willing to deep six the rest of their social justice agenda for political reasons.” I don’t see any real evidence that the Bishops (an interest group that should, as Digby says, not be conflated with Roman Catholics per se) have a meaningful social justice agenda at all. As far as I can tell, their actual policy agenda is 1)making it as hard as possible for poor women to obtain safe abortions and 2)there is no #2.

In fairness, the Bishops seem to me to put quite a lot of political emphasis on institutionalized discrimination against gays and lesbians.

On the abortion point, the “life begins at conception and ends at birth” approach to health care seems absurd to me, but with my philosopher’s hat on it is worth defending it as coherent. Catholic doctrine states that fetuses have full human moral standing, and also leans very heavily on the doing/allowing distinction in a wide varieties of contexts. Under the circumstances, putting absolute priority on minimizing the deliberate killing of fetuses over measures that merely prevent harm (including death) through the delivery of health care services seems like the correct outcome.

Now my view is of course that a fetus should not have the same moral standing as a person. And it’s also my view that extreme reliance on the doing/allowing distinction, though culturally conventional in many ways and certainly deeply entrenched in Christian theology in a way that makes it “intuitive” to many people, is basically an error. The perversity of holding up a major expansion of health insurance coverage over a desire to slightly increase the severity of already-severe restrictions on abortion funding simply highlights the mistaken nature of the premises.

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