Saturday, June 08, 2019

Deeply Religious On Wednesday

Nate Silver tweets "it's kinda weird for left-wing pundits to drag Biden for flipping toward the positions they wanted him to adopt."

So let me say: good for Joe Biden to reverse his position on the Hyde Amendment. As a fine reporter with (virtually) no vowels in her surname has recalled

Biden voted against a 1977 compromise that allowed Medicaid to fund abortions that included exceptions for victims of rape and incest in addition to concerns for the life of the mother. While the rape and incest exceptions passed in that case, Biden voted in 1981 to again remove them, in what was the most far-reaching ban on federal funds ever enacted by Congress.

On Wednesday night, campaign co-chairperson Cedric Richmond told Chris Cuomo

I think the Vice President (has) been very consistent over his career in the sense since 1976 when the Hyde Amendment became law that he is a deeply religious man- I think everyone knows that- and he's got it by his faith. And his position on the Hyde Amendment has been consistent.

In 2012, V.P. candidate Joe Biden maintained "I accept church rule personally, but not in public life."  By stating the candidate "is a deeply religious man" and "he's got it (opinion of the Amendment) by faith," Representative Richmond was accurately transmitting the Biden stance toward abortion rights.

Although the Church's position has evolved toward a more hostile view of abortion rights over the centuries, it has in the recent path taken a fairly consistent position toward of abortion rights. It has variously been seen ungenerously as anti-woman- or extremely generously as promoting a "seamless garment" reflecting a "consistent life ethic."

However the Church is viewed, if a politician maintains (as does Biden) that he or she is  personally pro-life, it suggests a conviction that the fetus is worthy of protection against a woman's decision to end its life. 

As of Thursday night, in Joe Biden's case, not so much. Twenty-four hours after Richmond attributed opposition to the Hyde Amendment to the candidate's religious faith, Biden pleaded "If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code."

Conventional wisdom and the law of parsimony would have it that Biden's epiphany smacks of opportunism. It may indeed but, counter-intuitively, that may be overly generous to the former Vice-President.

It could be something else, which few would be so ill-mannered as to dare broach. If Biden's view of abortion were informed by his religious faith, that faith seems to have dissipated in the course of approximately 24 hours.

Perhaps it was not his faith after all, but by something else. It may have been the instinct of a man who has through much of his political career believed that touching a woman (occasionally a man) whenever he wishes was his natural right. Or it simply may have been from ideological conviction, as it is with many people.

We cannot perfectly discern Biden's motivation, then or now, and his newfound faith in a woman's right to choose should be welcomed.  But we can question motivation when someone's stated opinion changes abruptly, especially when the individual has in the past attributed his feelings to religious faith. If we do not, we trivialize religious faith- in this case, Roman Catholicism- as much as Joseph R. Biden inadvertently has done.

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