When I did talk radio years ago, the hosts could add bumper music as an opening for their programs. Over my 22 years at WGNU, I used several popular music themes. My last one was a song from the film, Rocky III, Gonna Fly Now. Yet I think my favorite will always be the Carly Simon hit, Nobody Does it Better, the theme from the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.
While this song was intended as a double entendre to highlight the lecherous British secret agent, OO7’s love life, I borrowed a leaf from Robert Frost and took the one road less travelled by to express my confidence in my abilities to take my callers’ best shot.
I write this not as a tribute to Ms. Simon, but because I took my inspiration from two of her songs to begin this essay. Since I have every one of her albums, I am quite familiar with many them. As a result, I conflated two songs to express the ideas swimming in my mind, namely The Wives Are in Connecticut and Boys in the Trees.
Recently, I met for lunch with a high school friend and his wife, who live in Connecticut. I do not remember how or why but someway the subject of abortion wormed its way into my discussion with the fellow from Xavier High School and Boston College. His kneejerk response about the Dobbs decision, which cast abortion legislation back to the states where it has always belonged, was that it was a violation of the separation of church and state. This old Jeffersonian bromide has seldom been understood or used correctly.
My standard response to this has always been that morality is at the root of virtually all of our criminal statutes. Though Shalt Not Kill, Steal, Lie, Slander and so on, are moral principles. They are not primarily religious in nature. Most people will agree that they are good rules for civilized living. Ed’s thinking seems to rest on the Positivist approach that morality and eternal principles should not be a part of the American legal structure. That is an issue I have written about more than once in these pages.
Days later, I got into a brief conversation with the majordomo of our condo’s pool in Florida. He also lives in Connecticut. Educated at Catholic University, he and his wife often go to the same church near us. One day at the pool, shortly after my aforementioned classmate lunch, he told me that he was now a Florida resident six months of the year. In passing, I asked him what he thought of Governor Ron DeSantis.
His first response was to call him an obscene epithet. He did not like the Governor’s recent signing of an abortion law that outlawed all abortions after six weeks gestation. He gave me the stereotypical argument that a woman should be in charge of her own body. My quick response was: it is not the woman’s body that gets aborted. Just because you have an unwanted guest, it does not mean you can kill it. He ended the conversation by saying he would still continue to talk to me.
It is apparent to me that these boys from Connecticut were emotionally connected at the hip on the subject of abortion because their reasoning was not rational but the mere repetition of pro-abortion slogans and bullet points. I could easily tell neither had thought out their objections to abortion laws. In effect, I seriously doubt they honestly understood the issue and its relation to their Catholic faith.
In retrospect, I started thinking that there must be something in the air or water of Connecticut that clouds the rational thinking of Catholic people my age. I feel certain both hated the economic and tax policies of the blue Nutmeg State. But their similar attitudes and shallow arguments imply that like far too many Catholics, they believe in or at least do not have any strong objections against the slaughter of millions of unborn in the womb. Personally, I think some American Bishops and even a Cardinal or two do not agree with or are indifferent to the Church’s teachings on abortion.
If I had one guess about the cause of this, I would say it had very much to do with the Democratic Party. I had an Irish Catholic friend many years ago who preached to me that he was a blue dog over any Republican running in any election. Though I agree that even a rabid blue dog would have been preferable to some candidates on either side of the aisle since the Reagan administration, his was a mindless faith in a party that has not existed in generations.
My late wife voted Democratic in 1968, our first presidential election as a married couple. That was the last time she voted for the Democrats. It had little or nothing to do with me, as her entire family switched parties, stating that their Democratic Party had deserted them, not the reverse. In fact, her entire Missouri district went from dark blue to bright red.
I remember one Democratic friend who, some twenty years ago, died of a massive heart attack on the grounds of the Carmelite Monastery near his St. Louis home. To be honest, I do not remember the subject of abortion ever coming up for discussion with him. However, my feeling is that his party faith would have won any inner debate over his religious faith. Unfortunately, far too many Democrats lean toward their party over their faith. Again, I believe this also applies to some priests and bishops as well.
Personally, I trace much of their support of, or indifference to abortion, back to the late Cardinal Benard Bernardin. It was his speech at Fordham University in 1983 whose popularization of the Seamless Garment, trivialized, both abortion and euthanasia. Over the years, I have written many essays and given many speeches on this topic. (A Seamless Contradiction, July 14, 2020.) I firmly believe the Cardinal’s consistent life ethic from conception to natural death was a great setback for the Church’s teachings on abortion. Without the vital word innocent, it virtually repudiates all Just Wars, self-defense and the death penalty. Each one of these, until now, had always been considered a valid exception to the Fifth Commandment.
I do not think it is too cynical for me to believe that the late Cardinal and other Church leaders had deliberately provided Catholic politicians with a perfect cover for their abortion beliefs. Now Democrats could say they were faithful (devout?) Catholics on most of the issues on the list, except maybe abortion and euthanasia. While his stated purpose was to bring Catholics together on all life issues, it left the Church as divided as Europe was in the 19th century. His Garment also marginalized Catholic politicians who support the death penalty and dismiss social justice as an amorphous issue but were firmly on the side of unborn life.
The abortion debate would have been very different had not the Berger Court created a dubious right to an abortion for women in this country. How many realize that Roe was the most undemocratic decision in the history of the United States Supreme Court? Before Roe, abortion was perfectly though regrettably legal in a number of states while outlawed in several others. Dr. Bernard Nathanson* performed 75,000 abortion in New York City alone before Roe was decided in 1973. The recent Dobbs decision, 50 years after later, just returned the issue to the state.
Little would change in states like New York and California. The real problem is that incalculable damage occurred during the interregnum of nearly 50 years. Americans, especially two generations of young adults, had been conditioned to regard abortion as a necessary safety valve for their rampant promiscuity. Many of their parents and grandparents also tacitly agreed with a woman’s abortion rights because they did not want to lose their family’s affections or raise any unwanted children. I also think it is natural for some to rationalize, if something is legal then it must be moral.
While many Republicans, including President Trump, rightfully congratulated themselves on their successful overturn of abortion, I am not certain on how many were prepared for the backlash from its reversal. It has energized the Left to fight back with every means available. Many conservative newspapers abound with headlines, such as GOP’s Abortion Fear (NY Post) or DeSantis’ Gamble on Abortion. (WSJ) Prior to Dobbs, many Republicans had only paid lip service to their prolife constituents. Many are now running scared because they are being forced to defend something that is usually not found in their quiver of arrows.
Just consider that the Catholic Governors of Kansas and Arizonia, both Democrats, have recently vetoed very strict anti-abortion laws. In Wisconsin, a pivotal election of a Circuit Court Judge, gave the majority vote to the progressives. The Business Insider masthead reported that a huge win in Wisconsin shows how fiercely defending abortion rights can kneecap the GOP in 2024. The Progressive majority in Wisconsin overturned an anti-abortion law that had been on its books since 1849. Michigan did the same with a law that dated back to 1931.
As for Governor Ron DeSantis, the issue is far more complicated. Still the captain to President Trump’s admiral, DeSantis has taken some fierce shots across his bow. Since a complete abolition seems out of the question, a six-week or heart beat law seems as far as any politician can dare to go. DeSantis and others have been deemed too extreme by some conservatives, saying he should find a more common ground with voters. Yet, both DeSantis and fellow Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who also signed a six-week bill after Dobbs, won resoundingly easy re-election victories in 2022.
There are still many in the Prolife Movement who tend toward a complete abolition of abortion. Judge Samuel Alito opined in Dobbs that abortion is not mentioned at all in the Constitution. This is true, despite the late Justice Harry Blackmun’s mysterious penumbra. Thus, it would take a Constitutional amendment to abolish legal abortion laws. This was tried to no avail during the Reagan administration. Congress could try to outlaw abortion, but it could also try to legally codify abortion rights as it unsuccessfully did years ago. Due to the volatility of elections, anything passed would seldom be permanent. Since politics, abortion included, is the art of the possible, I do not think that is foreseeable in the not-too-distant future. Understandably, many conservatives find it hard to compromise on a moral issue like abortion or slavery. The root and branch wing for the abolition of slavery was hated and vilified by most Americans. Many blamed them for the Civil War and its bloody carnage. The best advice now is to take what they can and work incrementally for additional restrictions. Governor DeSantis’ bill is a very good beginning.
Today, Donald Trump seems more like a wild card on abortion. Always a pure and practical politician, his advisers are said to be quietly telling reporters that he thinks abortion to be a losing issue and that DeSantis’ bill makes him less electable. As an aside, Trump has foolishly sided with the DisneyWoke Kingdom over their raging dispute with the Florida Governor. This gives pause for thought as to what the former president truly believes.The Wall Street Journal says Trump believes that since he appointed the Justices that did finally overturn Roe, he can run to the Left of DeSantis. I would not be as charitable to Mr. Trump. He supports whatever works for his personal advancement.
When all of the above is considered, it paints a dark picture for, not just the Republican Party, but also the country. The smart money I think is on President Biden. Many think Trump cannot win another election while if DeSantis** is the candidate Trump would more than likely undermine his candidacy.
But can this country really afford another four years of China Joe and his fiscal irresponsibility as well as his undying support for an ESG nation, which caters to the Green, the Woke and the Capitalist Autocratic? If I had to pick another Carly Simon song to describes our future in November of next year, Americans may be singing either, The Right Thing to Do or I Haven’t Got Time for the Pain. The Anticipation is killing me!
*A former atheist, Nathanson, not only saw the light and condemned what he had done, but before his death in 2011, he became an ardent Catholic and a leader in the Prolife movement.
** If this happens and Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee, it will create a first for the history books because it would pit two Catholics from a traditional Party against each other.