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U.S. Catholic Editor Chides My 'Clumsy Argument'

12-31-09 Posted by admin in Blog, Featured Articles, Gallery, Recent Articles 0 Comments

By Deal Hudson

Bryan Cones, the managing editor at U.S. Catholic, is upset that I used the word “fake” to describe Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Two weeks ago, I criticized those organizations for supporting the Senate health-care bill containing abortion funding.

At the Huffington Post, Cones calls me out:

Hudson appoints himself the arbiter of what is Catholic, and if you support health care reform that in any way might lead to an abortion paid for with public funds, you are not one.

Cones stresses his disagreement with me in a lively style: “If he wants to have a debate about whether I’m a Catholic, I say: Bring it, Deal.” You have to love that spirit, but Cones misses the point. I’m not interested in arguing over whether he is a Catholic, but whether it is “Catholic” to support health-care reform containing federal funding for abortion.

I argue that if the health-care bill contains federal funding for abortion — no matter what’s contained in the rest of the bill — Catholics in the Congress must oppose it. To support such a bill constitutes directcooperation with this serious moral evil (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2270; Evangelium Vitae 74).

Why? Because there is no doubt that federal funding would lead to an increase of 200,000 or more abortions each year. According to a 2007 Guttmacher study, “18-35 percent of women who would have had an abortion continued their pregnancies after Medicaid funding was cut off.” This is taken from studies published over the past 20 years.

But Cones finds a way around these hard facts, arguing:

Catholics are free to hold different positions on how the right to life should be pursued in the public sphere. Our common goal is no abortions; our paths can differ.

True enough: The paths may differ. But at some point they must merge — that point being the certainty that more children will die as a result of a specific piece of legislation, i.e., the Senate health-care bill.

Cones’s view of the facts on the ground about abortion is tenuous. He claims, without citing any sources, “There is plenty of evidence that making abortion illegal actually does little to prevent it.” I wonder, then, how he explains the explosion in the abortion rate since Roe v. Wade, if legalization was not a factor.

Cones simply ignores the impact of abortion funding: “Catholics who argue that access to affordable health care and other progressive social policies will reduce abortion are on solid moral ground.” Whatever truth that may contain will surely be offset by the findings of the Guttmacher study — namely, a significant number of women will not give birth to their children if the government pays for abortions.

Cones, not surprisingly, cites the agreement of the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious with his position: “I’m not the only Catholic who is willing to do the difficult moral math and judge health care reform worth the difficulty surrounding abortion funding.”

Cones mistakenly thinks the “moral math” of the health-care bill is “difficult,” which it is not. Perhaps his insistence on inserting complexity into the argument is the reason he hasn’t come to the right conclusion. But there is a deeper problem with the way Cones thinks about the issue. He considers my position on abortion — that it is a “make-or-break issue” — the “clumsiest of moral arguments.” By clumsy, I assume Cones means my position is one-sided, out of balance with his perspective. This is due to the fact that Cones, evidently, does not recognize a hierarchy of values, nor the weight of non-negotiable issues. It’s not a question of balance but of priorities.

Cones makes the same mistake when he pits the human “right” of “access to health care” against the right to life. “Catholic teaching has long recognized access to health care as a human (not merely civil) right.” These “rights” are in no way comparable, especially in a health-care bill that treats abortion as “preventative care.” Indeed, the Senate health-care bill doesn’t recognize the right to life at all — doesn’t that bother Bryan Cones?

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