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An article published by the Catholic News Service on Oct. 16 reports
that Al Gore “sees a burgeoning grass-roots movement seeking common
ground on abortion.” But in reading the report of the interview, all I
could see was a burgeoning movement by Al Gore to manipulate American
Catholics into thinking he is something other than a pro-abortion zealot.
Similarly, Gore’s comments on abortion in reply to the National
Conference of Catholic Bishop’s survey of presidential candidates were
clearly crafted to imply that he is eager to find a “moderate” solution
to the abortion problem. Much of his answer is devoted to expressing
his theoretical support for restrictions on partial birth abortion.
Here too, however, it is perfectly clear that Gore is, in fact, a
pro-abortion extremist — his answer begins: “Al Gore strongly supports a
woman’s right to choose.”

Gore’s predate position is clear enough to those who wish to see it.
So what is Gore trying to accomplish in addressing abortion before such
audiences — and what should be the proper response of Catholic
reporters, Catholic bishops and American citizens? Gore seems to hope
that in speaking to the Catholic News Service and even to the bishops
themselves, he can diminish the political damage of his position if he
oozes enough double-talk. Discussion of the precise conditions of a
hypothetical restriction on partial birth infanticide, or an emerging
“common ground” on abortion, encourages those who are inclined to give
him the benefit of the doubt on abortion. CNN notes that Gore
specifically suggested that his position on partial birth abortion
should be considered “by people who agree with him on most other issues
but hesitate to vote for him because of his record of support for legal
abortion.”

So what’s the substance? Let’s look at Gore’s comments to CNN and
ask what kind of “common ground” on abortion they suggest.

He says he will sign a ban on partial birth abortions, if it allows
exceptions for the health and life of the mother. CNN adds that,
“reminded that wording about protecting the health of the mother is an
obstacle because the term ‘health’ has been broadly interpreted, Gore
said he’s confident such a law can be phrased to satisfy most people.”
Meanwhile, in his answer to the bishops, Gore said that “Laws
prohibiting partial birth abortions should not, however, be a
‘back-door’ means of restricting or denying a woman’s right to choose.”
The laws must be, he said, “narrowly tailored, and should include
protections for the life and health of the mother.”

So, Gore thinks he can ban partial birth abortion without restricting
“a woman’s right to choose,” and that a “narrowly tailored” law would
satisfy most people. But most opponents of partial birth abortion
oppose it because it is abortion and most supporters of partial birth
abortion support it because it is abortion. Meanwhile, the responsible
medical community has made it perfectly clear that there are no
instances in which preserving the health of a mother would truly require
this practice. So even if profilers were to depart from principle to
accept a genuine “health of the mother” exception, they would certainly
not accept one in a ban on partial birth abortion. Could it be that
Gore knows what all honest people know: that real progress on the issue
of partial birth abortion is impossible without real progress on the
issue of abortion generally. This is, of course, to say that it is an
issue of principle.

Gore’s words to the Catholic community on partial birth abortion are,
hence, a carefully contrived farce. He has no intention of signing a
bill banning partial birth abortion and he has no interest in “carefully
tailoring” one that would unite profilers and pro aborts in carefully
nuance verbiage that a doctor would have to sign in order to legally
commit partial birth infanticide. Frankly, I doubt if he has given ten
minutes of thought to the specifics of an acceptable law, secure in the
knowledge that any “health” exception which would be acceptable to the
pro-abortion side would so obviously defeat the whole purpose of the ban as
to make it unacceptable even to profilers willing to pursue a strategy
of incremental progress.

Remaining perfectly clear that he is committed to abortion-on-demand,
Gore is doing what he can to distract pro-life voters from that fact.
Gore winks toward the possibility of nuance restrictions on partial
birth abortion and nods at morally uplifting notions, such as “common
ground” and “a common desire for healing,” because he needs to soften
the resistance of the pro-life community if he is to squeak by George
Bush on Nov. 7. He wants us to think that his presidency won’t be so
bad because of all the good work we can do to cope better with our
fundamental moral dysfunction. Apparently, the mandate sought by the
would-be-president is to defend and entrench the moral confusion of the
Clinton years and to make us feel better about it.

The specter of Al Gore in the White House administering moral coping
therapy to a nation grown accustomed to fundamental moral evil would be,
if possible, even more gruesome than the specters that have haunted the
Oval Office these past 8 years. Now, as always, the key to exorcising
such ghosts is the truth. Perhaps even the Catholic bishops need to be
encouraged to reply more vigorously to Gore with the whole truth about
abortion, which begins with the true common ground on which we stand as
Americans.

If the Declaration of Independence states our creed, there can be no
right to abortion, since it means denying the most fundamental right of
all to human offspring in the womb. The Declaration states plainly that
we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with our basic human
rights. But if human beings can decide who is human and who is not, the
doctrine of God-given rights is utterly corrupted. Abortion is the
unjust taking of a human life and a breach of the fundamental principles
of our public moral creed.

Abortion advocates strive constantly to raise a cloud of exceptions,
passions, circumstances and “viability” standards to obscure this simple
fact. But none of these distractions coherently imply that only
some human offspring have rights that we must respect while
others do not. Might does not make right. And the mere fact that the
person in the womb is wholly in its mother’s physical power — and
completely dependent on her for its sustenance — gives her no right
whatsoever with respect to its life since the mere possession of
physical power can never confer such a right.

This argument is, in fact, the common ground on which America can
reach agreement on the abortion issue. But it must be presented clearly
and strongly to the American people — who must be reminded that all the
rights we cherish are in principle forfeited once we agree that they are
subject to human will. Americans believe that all human beings must be
treated, as Gore himself says, “as human beings, with respect, with
dignity, with fairness, with due process.” This remark, however was
about illegal immigrants, not the unborn. Our job — in the face of the
relentless, mendacious, and shamelessly dishonest distraction from Al
Gore and his friends — is to keep reminding everyone whose conscience
is not yet entirely corrupted that we will not long respect the rights
of anybody if we give ourselves permission to disrespect the rights of
the unborn.

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