Thank you, Nancy Pelosi!
In the course of your memorable interview with Tom Brokaw, Madam Speaker, you accomplished several things that battle-weary pro-life activists might have considered impossible.
1. You introduced an argument so profoundly stupid that not even pro-abortion editorialists could accept it.
In the 1970s, when abortion supporters concocted a myth about the thousands of poor women who were supposedly injured by back-alley operators, the media pounced on the story and treated it as established fact, without looking for evidence (which they would not have found). In the 1980s, when the pitch-men abortion industry rolled out their campaign based upon "a woman's choice," editorial writers began chanting that phrase like a mantra. But when you based your argument on supposed confusion about whether life begins at conception, and invoked the outdated biological theories of St. Augustine to buttress that argument, you went too far. Not even a liberal journalist will stake his credibility on the scientific understanding of the early 5th century.
In a Los Angeles Times column that was thoroughly sympathetic toward the proponents of legal abortion, and hostile to the teaching of the Catholic Church, Tim Rutten nevertheless found it necessary to distance himself from your line of thought. "If Pelosi had half a wit about her," Rutten wrote, before suggesting what he considered a more plausible approach. Liberals feel obliged to offer different arguments, because they recognize your argument as a sure loser.
2. You turned attention away from the scandal in the Catholic Church.
For the first times since the turn of the 21st century, American newspapers have been cluttered with stories about the Catholic Church that do not mention the sex-abuse crisis. Your interview drew attention away from the scandal. Or perhaps I should say that you called attention to another scandal, because…
3. You prompted American bishops to issue clear teaching statements on abortion and the duties of Catholic political actors.
Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput might have felt lonely, as he took a courageous public stand against the notion that loyal Catholics can plausibly support unrestricted abortion. With Archbishop Raymond Burke having been promoted from the St. Louis archdiocese to a key Vatican post, no other metropolitan archbishop in the US was prepared to take such an unequivocal stand. But you, Madam Speaker, changed that.
Within hours of your television interview, the Archbishop of Washington had issued a public statement correcting you. The cardinal-archbishop of Philadelphia weighed in, and the chairman of the US bishops' committee on doctrine, and the cardinal-archbishop of New York. Now American bishops are competing with each other to issue the strongest, clearest explanation of Catholic voters' duties. That competition can only serve to advance the pro-life cause, and the cause of Catholic orthodoxy.
4. You ensured that abortion would remain a major issue throughout this year's presidential campaign.
At the Saddleback Forum, when he was asked whether human life begins at conception, Barack Obama wisely tried to wriggle out of the question. But his exit line-- that the issue was "above my pay grade"-- was awkward and unsatisfactory, and other interviewers began to press the question, making life difficult for your party's presidential nominee. Then you, Madam Speaker, plunged headlong into the rhetorical whirlpool, and redoubled public interest in the question of abortion-- and, more particularly, the question of when human life begins.
Your claim that a loyal Catholic can support unrestricted abortion was particularly timely, coming just when Obama named another Catholic Democrat, Joe Biden, as his running-mate. Suddenly Biden found himself in the midst of a heated debate, forced to defend an argument that he had not chosen. The Obama-Biden team is promising "hope for the future." Now the Democratic candidates are forced to defend the biology of the past.
The Republican Party has not always welcomed discussion of abortion. But Senator McCain has seen an opportunity, and issued a ringing re-affirmation of his pro-life stance. So the political battle is joined, and the arguments for and against legal abortion will be revisited frequently between now and November.
Since truth is on our side, we pro-lifers welcome that public debate. Especially because…
5. You focused public attention on a scientific fact that proponents of "choice" cannot explain away.
St. Augustine was wrong about fetal development. We all know that today. Intelligent readers still consult St. Augustine's theological opinions, but his scientific hypotheses are completely untenable in light of the scientific evidence.
And what is that evidence? I'm glad you asked. Have you seen the stunning, beautiful pictures of a fetus developing inside the womb? Something is moving there; something is alive. If it isn't a human, what is it? And if it is a human, why does it have no human rights?
These are questions that pro-lifers have asked for years. Thanks to you, Nancy Pelosi, the questions are being asked again this campaign season.