Every social problem we face today — from racial discrimination to abortion — is tied to other underlying root causes. It makes sense, then, for society not to neglect long-term proposals when trying to check these matters. But such strategies are never a ready substitute for fighting social problems in the near term. And that’s because root causes are so intractable that they can never be wholly eliminated.
As a result, the sensible way to handle social problems is to pursue a two-track policy simultaneously: Use law enforcement to yield immediate gains, and use creative social policies to reduce their incidence in the future. (The only exceptions are those social problems that might best be addressed through regulation, such as gambling.) That’s what we have done about racial discrimination: Not only have we made it illegal, we have used the schools to educate young people about this issue. But when it comes to abortion, many Catholics, especially Democrats, opt only to use long-term approaches.
The Democratic Party platform, which will be voted on shortly, lists all kinds of issues, but nowhere in its table of contents is abortion mentioned. But the subject is addressed; to find it, one must repair to the section labeled “Choice.” The reluctance — nervousness would be more accurate — on the part of the Party’s hierarchy to even use the word “abortion” is itself a telling commentary on the way they think about the issue.
So what do they want to do about abortion? “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” In other words, they flatly refuse to use the law as a short-term strategy. What they favor are long-term approaches.
The platform on “Choice” lists things like
affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empowers people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
Democrats would at least be consistent if they said that the only way to treat social problems is to take the long-term approach — but they don’t. For example, here is what the Democratic platform says about human trafficking:
We address human trafficking — both labor and sex trafficking — through strong legislation and enforcement to ensure that trafficking victims are protected and traffickers are brought to justice. We will also address the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty, discrimination, and gender inequality, as well as the demand for prostitution.
Now, if the Democrats used the same logic about abortion, the platform would read something like this:
We address abortion through strong legislation and enforcement to ensure abortion victims are protected and abortionists are brought to justice. We will also address the root causes of abortion, including poverty, discrimination, and gender inequality, as well as the demand for sexual promiscuity.
The fact of the matter is that neither abortion nor human trafficking will ever be eradicated altogether, but both can be substantially reduced by doing what the Democrats recommend for the latter issue: focus on a two-pronged approach that uses the law as a short-term weapon and social policy as a long-term solution. The shame of it is that the Democrats have absolutely nothing to offer regarding short-term answers to abortion.
Dealing exclusively with vague and untested policy prescriptions for alleviating poverty is not a way to combat abortion. It’s ironic, too, that the one proven vehicle of upward social mobility for inner-city youths — Catholic education — is made all the more elusive given the Democrats steadfast opposition to school choice. Moreover, poverty has nothing to do with abortions obtained by the affluent.
When and if the day comes that the Democratic platform treats abortion the way it treats human trafficking, that will be the day the Democrats win back Catholics. That day, however, is not on the horizon. It’s not even close.