Friday, October 12, 2012

Joe Biden Condones Murder

One of the many execrable things Joe Biden said in the debate last night was when the debate turned to Abortion.  Paul Ryan made the distinction between Principle and Policy, and said that, as a matter of policy, the Romney/Ryan ticket would oppose abortion excepting "rape, incest, and health of the mother."  Now, that's not actually that defensible a statement, but it is bowing one's head to reality.

Joe Biden, however, said this (rough quote- still haven't grabbed the actual transcript): "I submit to the teachings of my church that life begins at conception, but I don't think I should force that view on others."

Now, friend-of-the-blog tsrblke (follow him on twitter: @tsrblke) is a Catholic (I assume devout), and aspiring bio-ethicist.  I asked him what he thought about Biden's comments, and he said this (paraphrasing): Joe Biden is either a coward or lying.  I'll stretch that to say it's not an "either/or" situation.

According to him, that formulation of "I submit..." is a common cop-out method when someone is about to disagree with the Church.  Basically it's saying, "I think they're wrong, but I don't want to get excommunicated, so I won't say that."  Now, either that is what Biden was doing, or he really does accept Church doctrine.  Both of those are bad.

The first is bad because it means he will disregard his faith for political expediency.  If he doesn't really accept that teaching of the Church, he should have had the guts to say so.   That is: he was showing cowardice.  He didn't have the courage of his own convictions to say, "I know what my church teaches, but I disagree.  That disagreement is between me and my church, but as a policy matter I cannot support the logical conclusions that follow from 'Life begins at conception,' if I don't fully believe it myself."

The second is bad because it condones murder.  Look at what he said- "I agree that life begins at conception, but it's not for me to say you can't have an abortion."  Logically that simply does not follow.  Mr. Ryan's answer was not logically much better, but at least had the (unspoken) caveat of "Look, I know this illogical, and it's not what I personally support- but sometimes principle has to submit to reality."  Mr. Biden's answer though equates to this: "Well, sure I believe you're alive, but it's not for me to say you shouldn't be killed.  That's between your murderer and his own conscience." 

Logically, if one believes that life begins at conception, then one must oppose all abortions.  Even those "for the health of the mother" should make them admit there is a moral quandary there.  Two lives are at risk, only one can be saved- which do you save.  That really is a truly personal choice.  But rape and incest?  Logically it cannot follow that those are okay reasons for an abortion if you really believe that life begins at conception.

Joe Biden tried to walk a line which does not exist.  He tried to create a moral equivalency between a philosophy of life and one of death.  And in so doing, he has condoned murder.


  1. To clarify my "Coward or lying" point. He's likely both, but my point there was either a) He doesn't actually believe life begins at conception or b) he won't stand up for his belief that it does. I'm not sure there's a middle groud there of a) and b) (he doesn't believe and he won't stand up for his lack of belief?)
    I was perhaps too flippant in my 140 character respones on twitter. The "I submit..." phrasing usually is a bit of a CYA by moral theologians before they disagree. I don't think it's usually done with malintent by moral theologians (who usually are engaged in a quest for the truth)In Biden's case however I'm not so sure, it seems to be a bit of an apology towards the church.
    Let's be clear on one thing though, there's good moral theology in cases of "the life of the mother." There's Double effect principles, weighing, specific situations, questions about immediacy. In Catholic Moral Theology you can't simply declare "My god, I'll die if I have another kid" and run out and get an abortion. Furthermore, there's a "least harm" principle at play (so if there are other treatments first you have to give them fair chance at success before running to a last resort.) Usually it's not a case of "two lives can't be saved you can only save one" it's a question of "only one life can be saved, the mother's, period" The most common case of this is probably ectopic pregancy. The baby isn't going to survive, the mother will die if something isn't done, there is literally no other options.(In cases where there's a chance of saving the baby, for example preeclampsia, the moral standard is usually to try to hold off as long as possible, then induce and try to save the premature baby. Not simply D&C and walk away.) Granted, the Catholic Church has a different terminology for these cases that doesn't translate well to the law. (As an aside, the futurists who do "what if" thinking on Catholic Moral theory have considered that if we can ever correct an ectopic pregancy, rather than merely terminate, you'd have a moral obligation to persue that treatment in many cases, again oversimplification, risks matter, etc.)
    On Rape and Incest, I think generally speaking you're right, it's not a logically defensible position, but it's pragmatic. If you don't exepmt for those, the emotivists will run roughshod over you, and you're toast. It's sad but it's true. I think the best (political) approach is just to concede that point and work your ass off to prevent Rape and Incest (also, work to increase reporting and early care). This BTW is exactly how I pointed out Akin should have handled that landmine, but he's apparently a SCOAMF as well.

    (Did I hit every point? Eh, I forget. Anyway.)

  2. The newborn won't endure, the mom may pass away in case one thing isn't done, there is certainly practically not one other alternatives.(In situations where you will find there's chance of keeping the child, by way of example preeclampsia, your moral common will be to try to wait provided that probable, after that stimulate and continue to help save the actual early baby.
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