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'Do we want to know?'

Mary Hasson

Several liberal Catholic journalists – notably Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post and Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter – are openly wrestling with the arbitrary rationale and “Orwellian” language  (“it’s not a baby unless and until we say it’s a baby”) surrounding late-term abortion. They also, quite rightly, question President Obama’s sincerity on the issue.

Their soul-searching seems prompted by the confluence of three events:

• The grisly murder trial of Philly abortionist Kermit Gosnell.
• President Obama’s bridge-burning speech at Planned Parenthood’s National Conference.
• Newly-released undercover videos which expose the willingness of even "reputable" late-term abortion providers to refuse medical help for babies born alive after an abortion.

Though they’re late to the “culture war,” and rather reluctant combatants, the fact that Henneberger and Winters are engaging these issues is a welcome development; they will provoke discussion. For example, the headline of Henneberger’s article asks: “Are there more abortion doctors like Kermit Gosnell? And do we want to know?” 

The LiveAction undercover videos answer the first question – yes. 

Interpreted more broadly, the question “Do we want to know?” should challenge ‘Obama Catholics’ (and others of similar bent) to grapple with some very disturbing facts.

Do we want to know the truth about abortion?

Undercover glimpses into the world of late-term abortionists and the graphic images from the Gosnell trial ought to move thoughtful people to confront the reality of abortion.

Who could look at the death-slice in Baby B’s neck and not believe he was deliberately murdered? Who could watch D.C. abortionist Cesare Santangelo
describe his technique (“I sever the umbilical cord first and wait for it to stop pulsing and wait for the fetus to expire”) and not envision the life bleeding out of a little body? Who could fail to be repulsed by the abortion clinic staffer who tells a young mother to “flush” her baby down the toilet if it’s born alive before the abortion is completed?

Abortion kills.

That’s not a news flash for abortionists and clinic owners. Their schedule each day is, effectively, a kill list.

The National Abortion Federation, which insists that Gosnell is an “extreme outlier” among abortion providers, boldly claimed that “the problem with Gosnell” was not only that he failed to meet “established standards of care,” but also that he “wasn’t ensuring fetal demise.”  (Emphasis added.)

Got that? Gosnell’s “problem” was not that he killed babies but that he did not make sure he killed them before delivering them. (Fetuses, you know, magically turn into babies only if delivered alive.)

LiveAction’s undercover reporter received plenty of assurances from Santangelo that her baby wouldn’t get out alive either. “You’re just worried about if this procedure fails…that’s not going to happen… What you’re worried about, I’m not worried about.”

How could he be so sure? Because, he tells her, if the baby were born alive, “we would not help it…we would not intubate…[or] do any extra procedures to help the person survive.” She wants a dead baby?  “Basically, we’ll take care of it.” 

Abortionists know that abortion kills. Pro-lifers know it too.

And so do Planned Parenthood and President Obama – but they won’t say so. That’s part of what troubles Henneberger and Winters. The abortion rights crowd labors mightily to control the language around abortion, using abstract euphemisms to obscure the truth. President Obama defends abortion, funds it, and clinks glasses with those who make money off it; he’s fully complicit in hiding the truth about abortion.

Do we want to know the truth about Obama, champion for abortion rights?

Nearly fifty-two months into the Obama Presidency, the significance of Obama’s “loving embrace” of Planned Parenthood – whose business model depends on robust growth in abortion revenue – can’t be ignored. It’s the low point in a consistent record of actions that have furthered the abortion rights agenda. The evidence – for those who had eyes to see – was in plain sight back in 2008. (See George Weigel’s compelling commentary,  “Pro-Life Catholics for Obama,” here.)

It’s even more obvious now.

Consider last weekend. Amidst the sophisticated elegance of one of Washington, D.C.’s finest hotels, President Obama rocked the audience at Planned Parenthood’s National Conference. He applauded the “outstanding” leadership of Planned Parenthood’s ice-maiden, Cecile Richards, and thanked the “extraordinary” clinic staffers, who keep America’s biggest abortion provider open for business.

Obama defended a woman’s “right to choose” roughly once a minute during his short speech, but never spoke the word “abortion.” (A “cowardly” omission, grumbled some fans.) He took crowd-pleasing jabs at pro-lifers, demonizing them as folks who “want to turn back the clock… to the 1950s” and “roll back basic rights” for women. And he promised that in the “fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care and…to protect a woman's right to make her own choices about her own health,” Planned Parenthood could count on him “to be right there with you fighting every step of the way.”

The crowd’s adulation spilled over into frenzied applause and a standing ovation. Obama soaked it up, responding to an admiring shout of “I love you” with his own, “I love you back.”

Obama has made his choice.

This ‘new’ Obama, however, doesn’t sit well with Henneberger and Winters. Henneberger remembers Obama’s promise “to respect diverse views on the abortion issue;” she complains that his Planned Parenthood remarks display “no such sensitivity.” Winters recalls, wistfully now, the President’s campaign commitment to seek “common ground around the goal of reducing the incidence of abortion” and to “find compromise.” Obama’s demagoguery now makes Winters wonder, “how long I can remain a Democrat in good conscience.”

While I applaud Henneberger and Winters for speaking up – and I hope they press forward in seeking the truth – I wonder, where are the rest of their fellow Catholic-progressives?

In 2008, three Catholic law professors, Nicholas Cafardi (Duquesne) Doug Kmiec (Pepperdine), and Cathleen Kaveny (Notre Dame), vouched for Obama’s integrity on the abortion issue, saying he viewed abortion as a “tragic moral choice.” Kmiec praised Obama in 2008 for demonstrating “an alternative way to be pro-life,” and insisted, in 2012, that Obama “promotes social justice as if he were a Catholic.” (Isn’t abortion a social justice issue?) Cafardi, who co-chaired “Catholics for Obama” in 2012, argued then that Romney, “not Obama,” was the “‘pro-abortion’ candidate.” Other Catholic professors agreed: Obama is pro-life.

Today the Catholics for Obama website is a digital ghost town, frozen in time, still exclaiming over Obama’s supposed pro-life credentials. “Is Barack Obama Really Pro-Life? In 2012, even more than in 2008, the answer is ‘YES!’” The virtual shout echoes on empty streets. No one is there. Pro-life Catholics who supported Obama in 2008 and 2012 seem to be hiding behind the tumbleweeds, silently waiting. (But for what?)

These professorial Obama fans seem uncharacteristically tongue-tied of late, at least regarding abortion – and Obama. Not one condemned Gosnell’s barbaric abortion practice. Not one commented on the President’s glaring failure to condemn late-term abortions – legal or illegal. Not one criticized Obama’s Planned Parenthood speech. And I highly doubt they’ll compliment Live Action’s investigative journalism any time soon.

Henneberger observed that, when it comes to abortion, particularly late-term abortion, many Americans have “tried not to do a lot of thinking” about it because “doing so would prove uncomfortable.” Are these progressives “uncomfortable” with the bloody reality of abortion?

Or do they fear that speaking the truth about Obama’s abortion agenda will derail Catholic support for the rest of his agenda, in the same way that a few journalists recently admitted that their silence on the Gosnell case rose from the concern “that it’ll compromise abortion rights.” That’s indefensible. 

It’s time for liberal Catholics to speak the truth about abortion – and Obama – even if it’s uncomfortable. Abortion’s don’t ‘improve’ with more regulation or better oversight. A clean, sanitary abortion still produces a dead baby, just as surely as Gosnell’s butchery did. And a President who smirks at pro-lifers, while toasting the murderous work of Planned Parenthood, offers no credible “alternative way to be pro-life.”

The question remains: Do progressive Catholics really “want to know?”

Topics: Abortion , Church teaching , Current Events , Pro-Life , Women's Health

Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. She blogs at wordsfromcana.

View all articles by Mary Hasson

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