Editor's note: Michael Sean Winters writes the blog "Distinctly Catholic" for the National Catholic Reporter and is the author of "God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right."
By Michael Sean Winters, Special to CNN
Four years ago, anti-abortion Sen. Robert Casey addressed the Democratic National Convention.
“Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion,” he said. “But the fact that I am speaking here tonight is testament to Barack’s ability to show respect to the views of people who may disagree with him… he’ll pursue the common good by seeking common ground rather than trying to divide us.”
The next day, speaking to fellow anti-abortion Democrats, we all admitted we had been moved to tears by Casey’s speech.
As candidate and as president, Obama promised he would try and heal the culture wars.
”Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause,” he said in 2009 at the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university, “and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.”
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He retained the White House faith-based office President George W. Bush had created and even increased funding for religiously affiliated charities.
This week in Charlotte, Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, addressed the convention. Nearly all the politicians who spoke celebrated the party’s commitment to legalized abortion, offering some of the biggest applause lines of the convention.
Anti-abortion Democrats were crying again, but they were not tears of pride.
It has been clear for some time that President Obama’s campaign has concluded that they were never going to win the same levels of support among moderate, white, working class voters that propelled him to victory in 2008. Whereas in 2008, he was seen as a remedy for the bad economy, Obama is now seen as the cause, or at least not as the cure.
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So the president is re-litigating the culture wars he promised to salve in 2008. It’s one way to keep the Democrats from having to talk about the 8.3% unemployment rate.
And, so while one expected the Republican Party to be engaged in the culture wars, instead it is the Democrats, feeding off President Obama’s decision to bait-and- switch, that are stoking those wars.
Last November, President Obama met with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference. Obama said that he understood the Catholic Church’s concerns about a new White House contraception mandate that requires employers to provide no-cost contraception coverage to virtually all their employees. That includes those who work at church-run organizations like schools and hospitals.
Fixing this problem wouldn’t have been difficult. Obama could have expanded the exemption and allowed women who work at Catholic institutions to get contraception coverage through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.
Instead, the president announced there would be no change in the conscience exemption.
What happened? Women’s groups besieged the White House with complaints and the Obama campaign needed the fundraising support of pro-choice groups like Emily’s List. And so, Obama picked a thoroughly unnecessary fight with the Catholic Church.
The HHS mandate was the straw that broke the Church camel’s back.
But Obama’s Justice Department had earlier entered a Supreme Court brief arguing that churches had no special protection in the hiring and firing of their pastors, only to have the Supreme Court unanimously reject their view.
Then Obama’s Health and Human Services Department denied a grant to the bishops’ conference program to help the victims of human trafficking because church agencies would not provide or promote contraception, even though the program got high marks from HHS staff.
This week’s convention speeches are more evidence that Obama is still pursuing a strategy of exciting the base and suburban women and forgetting about culturally conservative Democrats.
“[The president] believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care,” first lady Michelle Obama said to thunderous applause.
It is possible the strategy will work.
For every culturally conservative Catholic voter Obama loses in western Pennsylvania, he may pick up the vote of an affluent, politically unaffiliated, nonchurch-going and decidedly pro-abortion rights woman in the Philadelphia suburbs. She might be in a position to write a check to his campaign as well.
And it’s true that some Republican actions have made it easier for the Democrats to rally the pro-abortion rights faithful.
In the key swing state of Virginia, the Republican legislature and governor passed a law requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion, leading many centrist voters to conclude that it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are extreme on abortion. In Congress, Republicans tried to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
What may work for Obama, however, will prove disastrous for his party.
It is difficult to see how Democrats will ever reclaim the House unless they win back the seats once held by anti-abortion Democrats like Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania , Bart Stupak of Michigan and Steve Dreihaus of Ohio. All three of those seats went Republican after anti-abortion groups targeted them because of their vote in favor of health care reform.
Branding the party as rigidly pro-choice, and even refusing to include “big tent” language on abortion in the party platform, will not help Democrats reclaim the House, so we can all look forward to more culture wars in the future.
Abortion rights groups and the Obama campaign may have cut off their nose to spite their face by reigniting the culture wars. No one looks forward to four more years of squabbles between a GOP-led House and President Obama.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Sean Winters.
How sad is it that ANY person chooses to tell ANY woman what to do with THEIR own body because of a religious position. How can you say with a straight face that because of YOUR beliefs you have the right to tell someone who doesn't share that belief what they can or cant do. How absofreekinlutely ignorant of you. I was raised Roman Catholic. But i refuse to believe that I have the right to tell anyone else what to do because of those beliefs. It is up to them to live their own life, make their own decisions, and be judged accordingly when that time comes. It is not MY job to place blame, to persecute, and to try to make laws based on religious beliefs. Where did this country go so wrong?
It is so amusing to watch political candidates and the morons who support them argue about "what God wants".
Even if your god and your book of fairy tales were real, why would an omnipotent sky being care at all to trust that his plan is carried out by the very beings he created? He created the universe and the world we live in and since everything that happens is predetermined and "part of God's plan" it doesn't matter WHAT the outcome is.
So when it comes to issues like gay marriage, abortion, eating shellfish and blasphemy, whether you are a a bigot who has faith in god or a tolerant person who has faith in god, god is not on "your side" at all. Which bring me to my next point which I have championed for years: When people say this is "what god wants", the god(s) that they are referring to are themselves, or whatever evangelical loud-mouth they grovel to.
What kind of person whould want to remove the right to choose from half of our citizens? In 1973 the supremre court decided by 7 – 2 to allow women to make a choice. The decision was based on privacy. A Terrific decision. Anyone got a problem with that? If you do than you are part of the problem, not the solution. The culture war is real as is the war on women and the GOP stands on the wrong side of both.
"Pro-life" is bunk. I live in the very anti-abortion South... which keeps electing Republicans who enact policies that give our states the highest infant mortality rate in the nation, year after year after year.
"Pro-lifers" don't actually care about babies, or they'd do something to fund more programs to help children who have already been born. All "pro-life" is is a Christian-Taliban attempt to take control over women. It doesn't work, and its motivations are pathetic.
That is a very clear example of the truth.
I believe that everybody is pro-life, otherwise you would be pro-death. No one is in favor of abortions, its just that some of us have the ability to think rationally and live in the real world and some of us want to impose our values and beliefs on others. No woman has ever had an easy time deciding whether to have an abortion or not. Men should have little or no say in whether or not a woman has an abortion. Men would be better off making more of an effort to not impregnate women accidentally and supporting the children and the women who gave birth to them.
This article is not about a culture war, it is about a religious war against women.
This is all incredibly laughable. In a country where we have something call DEATH ROW. Where we can look grown adults in the eye and murder them in front of witnesses, and somehow justify that through Christianity – I don't know how. And then woops realize that some of them were the wrong guys, but hey it's still legal...? And how are we doing this now – if I trip and fall and kill my embryo – is that manslaughter or what? Do I end up on death row?? Get outta my womb.
As long as the republicans continue to abandon children once they are born, I will continue to call republicans HYPOCRITES, and reject their worthless spewing of hot, stinky air.
Who started the culture war on abortion this cycle? Those who want to CHANGE abortion from legal to illegal or those who want to oppose government interference. As the pro-Choice people said at the convention, a women's choice should be between her husband, her doctor, and her God. You got a problem with that? Republicans are against people taking responsibility for their own lives and for the lives of their families and for government taking care of people by making decisions for them. I'm pro-life, and I'm for everyone else in the country being pro-choice. I hope they choose life, but I have no right to tell anyone what to do when I sit back and enjoy a beer every day while children dying and malnurished all over the world from neglect. It's not my job to save those children, and it's not my job to tell women what to do with their lives.
I'm sorry but I feel the Catholic Church PICKED the fight with Obama. I've been listening to Catholic Radio for years. Catholic radio, which is supported by the Arch Bishops, has been anti-Democrat from, at least, the Gore/Bush campaign of 2000. In fact, the Catholic Bishops have been violently anti-Democrat on many issues. This debate on insurance was just their "opening salvo" for this years campaign. If it wasn't that, it would have been something else.
Where is gender equality??? When can a male 'choose'? These same people that are stroking the tune of 'women's rights' are calling men deadbeats that don't support their children. I remember Obama stating it 4 years ago that the minority men need to step up to the plate and stop allowing women and grandparents to raise their children. I agree with the president on that BUT you can't have it both ways!!
"These same people that are stroking the tune of 'women's rights' are calling men deadbeats that don't support their children."
Soooo, men who do not support children are not deadbeats? Is that what you are saying?
When can a man choose what? What are you getting at?
No I am not saying that. I am stating that the male did not have a choice and the woman did. NOT EQUALITY! My opinion which I'm sure only matters to me is that children are a gift and anyone that doesn't want THEIR CHILD to live and be successful is selfish! Whether that's aborting them or not funding them.
Are you saying a man who does not support his children (aka deadbeat dads) have equal rights?
That seems to be what you are saying. Did I get that correctly?
Pro-life is a joke.It's perfectly ok to send men and women into battle to kill the enemy. And if a few innocent people die well the is ok too. Just collateral damage. And criminals convicted in an imperfect justice system...Kill-em too. Get rid of the dead weight. And if people get sick who do not have insurance let them die too. You make me sick with your hypocrisy.
You make me sick with your twisted liberal socialist rant.
pdough – that's not an articulate answer; 'twisted liberal socialist' is just the culture war that the right, esp. the religious right hails then accuses those it attacks for causing it. The fact is that by and large abortion is a medical care issue of a woman. The Supreme Court has properly determined that. Your religious belief may be different. But our consitutional democracy separates church and state – we're not your theocracy. You want to force your theocracy on everyone (OK I guess) just don't accuse those that object with a preference for of consitutional freedom of starting the fight (That's very... Taliban).
It's funny pdough – you didn't even make a counter argument. At least JohnReedjr made some points while ranting. You simply ranted. No wonder so many have no respect for the Right.
You are right, if one life is sacred why isn't all life sacred.
140,000 UNBORN CHILDREN ARE KILLED EVERY YEAR! These are killed in the name of womans rights... How many femals would have come from these innocent children that were murdered? It seems like the democrats dont care about wemon unless they can vote. The democrats on this one issue, show their true colors; they dont have a big heart like everyone thinks... they just want your vote. If you arent going to vote for them, they dont care about you.
I am so very tired of all the bellyaching done by "pro-life" whomevers and "pro-choice" soandsos. Lemmings. Every one of you. What exactly is it that any of you think a politician is going to do about Roe v Wade. NOTHING. Yet the whole lot of you let every one of these politicians on either side of the isle lead you right off the cliff by standing up and saying abortion should be . What is worse, is many of you will vote those lines. That is like walking on to a car lot and buying the first car you see because it is green! It is called misdirection! The democrats don't want you to pay attention to the economy and the republicans don't want you to pay attention to Romney's failure to provide his tax information because they don't want anyone to have proof that he is just a rich guy that will screw everyone with tax loopholes. Lemmings!
The fact that much of the voice of this article comes at the hand of a religious political reporter states it all. Don't get me wrong, I have my beliefs too, but every time one of these people stands up and says we need to get back to "Christian Values or Catholic Morals" in our government, I want to kick something cute and furry. Separation of church and State. Remember? Besides, which particular set of Christian morals are you looking for? Kind of an important distinction, as "Christian Morals" led The Crusades
Tod and SOmom,
You are so right. From day one the president went way out of his way to find common ground and work with the republicans. The president was met with much more than normal and extreme resistence. The republicans took the path of "make him (Obama) fail". The republicans openly, boisterously, and proudly declared that "their (the republicans) number one priority was to deny him (Obama) a second term.
The republicans even openly and proudly declared themselves to be the party of NO.
The republicans with "their way or no way" – slash and burn policy regardless of the consequences to the country approach to negotiation was embodied in Boehner's proclamation "I got 98% of what I wanted".
The republicans have earned the tïtle of Grandstanding Obstructionist Party.
The republicans constant focus on cutting taxes for the very rich and calling for cuts or elimination of Medicare, medicade, Dept. of Education, etc has earnedthem the tïtle of Greedy Obstructionist Party.
The republicans constant focus on tearing down the wall of seperation between religion and state, the constant interjection of religion into politics, the constant and ever present attempts to insert creationism into science classes, the we want to shrink government except where the republicans want to control others lives, etc has earnedthem the tïtle of Gods Only Party.
It's about time Obama has grown a spine! I hope his "growing a spine" is not only rhetoric. I hope Obama really holds the republicans accountable.
No more of Boehner's "I got 98% of what I wanted."
An average convention plus a failed jobs report (369,000 more people have quit looking for work) will equal one term for President Obama. He focused all his initial efforts on healthcare reform, which he got, at the expense of focusing on job growth. This is not about obstruction. It is about misguided focus and failed policies.
At the end of Bush we were losing 700,000+ jobs a month, the first and second time derivatives of both jobs rate and the stock market were negative ( that is loosing ground at an accelerating pace).
The stock market is now double what was at its bottom of around 6000. You know, the same time Glen Beck was on FOX selling the fear (and his own branded survival gear at the same time – crass commercialism) of the market plummeting to 3000.
Jobs are recovering, not as fast we would like, but we were in a very large hole.
Existing home and new home sales are starting to gain some ground.
So yeah, while more improvement is needed, the situation today is far better than when we were losing 700,000+ jobs a month and the stock market was in free fall.
"...It is about misguided focus and failed policies."
This one sentence of yours is correct, but let's see; who's focus was misguided and who had failed policies? The one that lost 700,000+ jobs a month and set the stock market into free fall or the one that brought the stock market back, reversed the downward trend of jobs, and where the housing market is now recovering.
You might like the former, but I and my retirement funds definitely like the later.
"Abortion rights groups and the Obama campaign may have cut off their nose to spite their face by reigniting the culture wars"
He isnt reigniting anything, hes pushing back against the gop that have always been fighting it.
Nonsense. The author of the piece is correct. Obama/HHS doubled down on this, and as usual, his supporters now point the finger at the GOP (or anyone else but themselves).
Careful women and Democrats....careful. I am pro-abortion but at the same time realize if the anti-abortion groups change their argument from 'life' to 'gender equality' then the only probably outcome by the supreme court would be to totally make abortion illegal. If it takes 2 to tango, but only 1 to make the baby decision then it creates a gender inequality that, thus far, no man or organization has challenged. A woman can't decide to have a baby when a man doesn't want the baby and the man be forced to pay child support – its gender inequality – where the decisions of one person affects the life of another who doesn't support that decision. If a woman doesn't want the baby and the man does – he has no rights to his off spring and she gets to do as she pleases and he has no recourse – its gender inequality. The argument no longer is about life or a woman's rights to her body – it becomes gender inequality about an issue where it takes both genders to participate but only one gets the power of decision. If the anti-abortion folks pick this argument up as the mantle of their position then the only logical conclusion is to completely outlaw abortion and force both sides to have the baby and support it. The closest thing to equality – versus outlawing abortion – would be allow women to have the power to have the baby but not make the man responsible for the child if he doesn't want it. There should be no legal ramification towards the man if he chooses "NO". But on the other side, if he does want the baby and she doesn't – he is still screwed. Again, thus the only logical conclusion is to make abortion illegal. So careful Democrats and pro-abortion groups – without considering this argument and crafting a position that defends gender equality – it could very well one day be the thing that bites you in the a$$.
EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Those have been my 2 arguments. 1. I can't commit suicide even if going through a painful death (MY BODY) and 2. A man can't choose which is NOT GENDER EQUALITY!!!!!!!!
Thanks for the COMMON SENSE!!!
Are you talking about children resulting from "legïtimate räpe" or "illegïtmate räpe"?
I don't know anyone that's pro-abortion. Some of us are pro-choice, though. I hear you.
Russel. Although I respect your opinion, your thesis has been long refuted. I believe you've grossly misinterpreted 'gender equality'. The main philisophical question of RvW (even before the legality of abortion) is whether a husband can dictate to his wife what medical treatment she can or cannot recieve. It's not gender equality to say "Well, I knocked you up so now I dictate your choices".
First off, the culture wars aren't just about abortion. They've been about gay rights, support for the arts and a whole host of other issues. The GOP are the ones who've been dialing up the rhetoric so in the President's defense he's really got no other alternative but to get in front of these issues given that his opponents are trying to use them against him.
So in summary: 1. make an excuse for your actions 2. blame the other party and 3. ATTACK That's not the pres we voted for in '08!!!!!!!
@Stating The Obvious– you're right...that's not the president you voted for in 2008, because that's not what the president does. Turn off Fox News.
Trying to prevent religious fanatics from outlawing American women's right to choose for themselves is not "reigniting culture wars." It's fighting against extremists' attempts to impose their own beliefs on the country at large through law. There'd be no fight over abortion rights if those extremists would stop trying to do so. Like most anti-choice zealots, you try to make the argument about abortion rather than rights and the law – no one is taking away your right to think abortion is wrong, and to not have one if you get pregnant. No one is trying to force you to have an abortion by law. It's you, the extremist zealots, who are trying to force everyone else to do what you want.
Thank you, well stated!
The issue here is the HHS contraception mandate. It was unnecessary, it was a unilateral move by the administration, and now you're crying foul about legitimate opposition to it. To use your term, "extremist zealots" believed that every woman in the country requires BC pills at no copay from every employer's health insurance plan and declared it so by fiat.
I'm sorry, but the administration owns this one. They did it themselves and they can take whatever heat they get for it.
Only in the current society is choosing life an "extreme" position. You will never see me with a picket sign or sneering at young women leaving an abortion clinic, but to call those of us who believe that life begins at conception "extreme" is incorrect. Just because the vocal minority (which is still what you are) declares the majority as extreme does not make it so.
Agreed ECassious2! The politicians like to throw the words extreme, right, left, etc to continually divide this country. We need to remove the smoke screen and ask what will you do to fix the economy? I hope Obama would offer details but it was another wonderful speech with nothing to hang your hat on.
Why did they let this idiot write for CNN?
I see somebody's mother who should have chosen the other way.
Can you be more juvenile? LOL FAIL. But thanks for the laugh.
So pouring acid into a womb to smother a life is OK with you? That says enough about you right there...... And yes my mother chose life AND I am thankful each day for all those mothers that love the gift of a child!
You sound about as bright as a small appliance bulb.
He may be a 60 watt with his comment but you are a 40 watt if you think that 4 years of failure deserves 4 more. I say that we create term limits on our own. Vote them out every 4 years, either side!
Character ässässination, name calling, innuendo, etc, the tactics of the disinformationalist who has no viable, cogent, logical, or well reasoned comment.
How is that technique working for ya?
I am offended by the article stating that if you are for a women's right to do whatever she wants with her body and what is contained within it means you are pro-abortion. I am not pro-abortion and would advise anyone who discussed it with me not to have one if it is not absolutely necessary. But I absolutely believe that no one has a right to legislate away my freedon of choice or anyone elses
Offended? Choice? They are choosing to END A LIFE!! There are many people in prison that made this same choice BUT only a few months later! What a SHAM that we have turned this into 'A woman's right' Get out of here! A man can't choose to pay child support or not if he never wanted a child. I thought we had equal rights???????
Exactly. We're not pro-abortion, we're pro-CHOICE. They aren't pro-life, they're pro-BIRTH (and you're on your own once you're born. Food? Education? Housing? Parents are poor? Get boot-strappy, kid!)
If you are for a woman's right do do whatever she wants with her body and what is contained within, and abortion is one of the choices (the central one, if you listened to the Democractic National Convention speakers-no one mentioned adoption to my knowledge), how can you claim offense?
I mean, ride the fence if you want, but all of us don't have to play along with you.
If we are not going to legislate the protection of life in the arena of abortion, then we should legislate nothing. All rules, as we are told, have to do at least in part with the protection of citiizens. Make drugs legal, as it should be the choice of the individual. No more DWI laws, as getting behind the wheel of a vehicle drunk should be your own choice. The percentage of abortions that end in death is close to 100%. DWI numbers are nowhere near this high. Remove all speed limits and make the red light and stop sign a suggestion as opposed to a law. The reality is that all legislation is a representation of someone (or a group of people) morals. All legislation represents a beleif system.
Well said ECassious2! They won't like your comments.......darn logic!
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