In the vice-presidential debate, the topic of abortion came up. Vice-President Biden said that he was “personally opposed to abortion,” but he did not believe it was right to oppose his personal aversion to abortion on women who disagree with his personal beliefs. Biden is Roman Catholic, and if there is a consistent voice of opinion in the Church it’s that abortion is a grave moral wrong.
Biden’s abortion position is not new. Take a look at this comment that can be found on his “On the Issues” page when he served in the Senate:
I remember vividly the first time, in 1973, I had to go to the floor to vote on abortion. A fellow Senator asked how I would vote. “My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I have a right to impose my few on the rest of society. I’ve thought a lot about it, and my position probably doesn’t please anyone. I think the government should stay out completely. I will not vote to overturn the Court’s decision. I will not vote to curtail a woman’s right to choose abortion. But I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.”
When someone states that he or she is “personally opposed” to something, my first question is, “Why?” What is it about abortion that you oppose? This question is almost never asked of the “I’m personally opposed” (IPO) crowd. I can see using this argument for “I’m personally opposed to smoking cigarettes,” or “I’m personally opposed to drinking alcohol” since they only affect the consumer (unless a pregnant woman is smoking or drinking for which there are labels on tobacco and alcohol products), but I don’t see how the IPO argument works for abortion since the issue revolves around what’s being aborted.
So we’re back to why Biden is personally opposed to abortion? Is it because abortion snuffs out a human life? If this is the reason, then being personally opposed must transfer over to the civil arena since snuffing out a human life is murder. If what is growing inside a woman’s womb is not a human life, then there is no reason even to be personally opposed. But a preborn baby is not a part of a woman’s body. He or she is a separate biological entity. A preborn baby is not like a diseased appendix or lung that doesn’t develop into a human being.
I’m sure there were people who said they were personally opposed to slavery, but they were unwilling to impose their personal morality on slave owners. They might even have had reservations about supporting slave owners legislatively or financially similar to the way Biden has chosen not “to use federal funds to fund abortion.”
My guess is that Biden would argue there is a separation between Church and State, therefore, it would be inappropriate for him to mix religion and politics. But the Roman Catholic Church is also against slavery, rape, murder, and a whole host of other moral wrongs that are written into our laws. Does he abstain from imposing these views on the electorate? The next fall-back position would most likely be that abortion is the law of the land. It is, but so was slavery.
While Paul Ryan’s answer to the abortion question was adequate, it didn’t get to the heart of the issue. The next time someone uses the IPO argument, ask them why, and then watch them squirm.