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October 26th 2012 print

Alan R.M. Jones

Theology for dummies

Abortion is figuring, as always, in the presidential race. Neither Obama nor Biden appears to have noticed, but they appear to disagree with each other -- and maybe Obama with himself


Desperate and hoping for a turnaround miracle, last week the purported White House incumbent tried to make the election about binders. But judging by the latest Associated Press-GfK poll, Barack Obama will have to try it on with something else:


Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama’s 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

So, this week it’s about whatshisname said:

CINCINNATI—President Barack Obama, seeking to shore up support among women, intensified his pressure Thursday on Mitt Romney to break any ties with a Republican Senate candidate who said that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape it is "something God intended." Romney ignored the emotional social issue, holding to an optimistic campaign tone as he fought for victory in crucial Ohio.

Whatever you think about the circumstances in which the state should be able to restrict abortion, Indiana Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock’s statement is little different in principle to this one, made by Obama at Ted Kennedy’s funeral:

We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.

So Obama believes in Divine Providence, too; that God is the Creator – the giver and taker of life. Mary-Jo Kopechne was unavailable to comment.

Maybe Mourdock mangled the doctrine of Providence, or he was simply saying, as he did later and less awkwardly, that God creates life.  But so what? In any case, Romney doesn’t agree with Mourdock’s position on abortion, a position Romney has made already many times before:

"My position has been clear throughout this campaign. I’m in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother."

Why should Romney make any statement at all about Mourdock’s views on the doctrine of Providence — or on Obama’s position, for that matter? It seems that if, with less than two weeks to go before Election Day, Obama wants to have an epistemological debate with Mourdock, all power to him. Should be fascinating. Meanwhile, Romney will be talking about the economy and jobs.

As Romney has said:

"Recognize this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court," he said. "The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It’s been settled for some time in the courts."

The Democrats’ position on abortion is less clear, especially after Biden’s attack-of-the-giggles debate performance. “Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life,” he said. Then he stated about the regulation of abortion, “It’s a decision between (a woman) and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court.”

So Biden agrees with Romney that it is up to nine lawyers in black robes to decide on how abortion ought to be regulated. This is an explicit statement that abortion is not merely a decision between a woman and her doctor – it is that the state has an interest in that decision and may regulate it. That is, Biden does not accept the notion of “abortion on demand”.

But Biden’s view differs from the Democratic platform, which states: “Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.” And the platform this year also removed the Clinton maxim that “abortions should be safe, legal and rare”.

But of course, the platform also endorses Roe v Wade, which is, after all, a decision of one branch of government—the Supreme Court – and does not say there is no role for government; merely that abortion was a right and therefore any laws regulating it were subject to strict scrutiny by the courts.

Maybe Biden or Obama would like to clear it all up – in their memoirs after the election.

Alan R.M. Jones was an adviser in the Government of John Howard