Sympathy for the Devil?

I found Todd’s post particularly interesting today, especially as I had just stumbled across a very different take on Stupak’s health-care capitulation over on Ross Douthat’s New York Times blog. While he would agree with Todd that the executive order is “probably meaningless,” and that the new health-care legislation “effectively tilts public policy in a more pro-choice direction,” he still feels sympathy for Stupak in his lonely position as a pro-life Democrat.

Douthat goes further and says that, if the pro-life Democrat has become extinct, “that possibility should be the occasion for some serious soul-searching among conservative pro-lifers, rather than just satisfaction about having been right about the Democratic Party all along”:

After all, there are still pro-life Democrats for a reason: Because many abortion opponents can’t reconcile their views on social justice with the harder-edged, “any redistribution equals socialism” tendencies in the Republican Party. Some of these pro-lifers are older Catholic Democrats like Stupak; some of them are younger Americans who are hostile to abortion but don’t vote on the issue because they can’t imagine themselves being represented by the party of Limbaugh and Beck. A successful pro-life politics desperately needs these constituencies to find representation — and if there’s no place for anti-abortion sentiment among the Democrats, then pro-lifers need the Republican Party to feel hospitable to voters whose impulses on social policy tend in a more communitarian direction.

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This has happened in the past; it didn’t happen in the health care debate. There are conservative and market-oriented proposals on health care reform that are consonant, I think, with Catholic teaching on a just society. But the Republican Party’s leadership wasn’t interested in talking about them, and conservative pro-lifers didn’t seem particularly concerned about this lacuna in the debate.

Of course, it’s a little late to be proposing an alternative plan that could have found support among pro-life Democrats and Republicans — that battle has been lost — but the question of how to frame a viable pro-life health-care platform that could win broad support moving forward is worth considering, if pro-lifers want to win the war.


  • Margaret Cabaniss

    Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

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