October 18, 2012
Thursdays are my day off, and last Thursday I was sitting on a beach with a pile of books. The sun went down and I was left in the dark without a reading light. So I began to wonder if I could pull up a live-stream of the vice-presidential debate on my phone. After some fiddling, I pulled it up, just in time to hear the moderator lob the bomb at our two Catholic candidates. Please tell me, she said, “what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.” This was the big moment, the Catholic moment. The question afforded Paul Ryan, a faithful Catholic, the opportunity to broadcast clarity on the abortion issue to an unprecedented degree. Everyone was listening. And so he began: “My faith informs me in everything I do.”
I groaned and shifted my chair on the beach. He had fallen into the trap that Raddatz so casually tossed before him. She wanted him to speak about abortion as a religious issue rather than a scientific issue, and he did just that. Granted, Congressman Ryan mentioned “science and reason,” but he did not drive the point home. Abortion is not a religious issue. It is a human rights issue, a civil rights issue, based on scientific fact. A human fetus is human, and genetically distinct from his or her mother. Vice-president Biden, in his turn, of course, affirmed the falsehood of abortion as merely a matter of religious opinion.
In the days following the debate, I waited for someone to point out Ryan’s missed opportunity. On Monday, the redoubtable George Weigel did it, at National Review Online. He imagines Ryan answering the question “what role does religion play in your own personal views on abortion?” in one word: “None.” Weigel imagines Ryan going on to explain: “When I say ‘none,’ I’m speaking about abortion, as I assume you were, as a public-policy issue. My opposition to the abortion license that Roe v. Wade created is based on science and reason. Biology and embryology teach us that the product of human conception is a human being — nothing more, but certainly nothing less. No scientifically literate person denies that; it’s a fact, not an opinion.”
Weigel’s full commentary deserves a wide reading. We missed a golden opportunity to point out an obvious fact, to point out the elephant in America’s living room: the human fetus is a living human person with inalienable rights. Those rights are egregiously violated 4,000 times a day in our country.