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Abortion issue dominates talk

John Tierney | Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The issue of life and the issue of social justice are the same, according to the Pizza, Pop and Politics panel on Social and Moral Issues. The discussion Monday night focused almost entirely on the abortion issue.

“Social justice is the care for the dignity of each human being and the work for the common good,” Mary Keys, a professor of political science said. “The paradigm should be social justice, at the heart of which should be the dignity of every human being.”

“There is no common good if an entire class of human beings is denied protection by the law,” she said.

It’s important to remember the purpose of politics in discerning a position on life, Professor Paolo Carozza of the Law School said. “We start with one premise, that the purpose of politics is to serve the common good,” he said. “If we’re electing someone, we’re giving them the authority to serve the common good.”

“If that’s not the premise, the rest of the discussion doesn’t make sense,” Carozza said.

As a human rights lawyer, Carozza argued that the common good is protecting everyone’s basic human rights. One human right cannot be separated from another human right, he said. “All of these principles are necessary and interdependent on each other,” he said. “It’s an integrity of principles.”

Humans have basic human rights by nature, according to Carozza. “They’re founded on the basic idea that human beings have an inherent dignity to them by virtue of their being human beings,” he said.

Protecting the dignity of human beings is a principle tenet of both the Catholic Church and the United States, according to Indiana Right to Life supporter Mike Parkinson.

The United States is founded on the idea that “governments are established for safeguarding the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which meant that people should be free from government restraint to pursue the ultimate virtue, the ultimate good, which is God,” Parkinson said. “There’s nothing about securing the greatest economic benefit for everybody.”

However, today, protecting human dignity has become less of a focus of politics. “To a large degree, the philosophy of materialism, that is, that all politics should boil down to economics, tends more and more to be the paramount issue in modern day politics,” Parkinson said. “Contrast this with thousands of years of history of western civilization in which the primary purpose of politics was to seek that which was just whether it causes economic harm or benefit, whether it caused comfort or hardship.”

Parkinson, who has done research on the Nuremburg trials, tied abortion to the practices of the Nazi SS. He said that many of the SS officers who were convicted at Nuremburg were convicted for promoting abortions. At the time of the Nuremburg trials, “all countries knew it to be so wrong that those who committed such barbaric acts should be brought to justice in an international tribunal to answer for their crimes,” Parkinson said.

Abortion has become a political issue in modern day, but at its heart, abortion remains a question of morality, according to Carozza. “The protection that we afford and that we’re able to realize for human dignity and human rights is something that doesn’t primarily depend on politics or law,” he said. “Law and politics are necessary and important, but they’re not sufficient.”

That said, abortion is only illegal if the government legislates against it. While life issues are currently overshadowed by issues of Iraq and the economy, the upcoming election will still be important in determining the fate of abortions in the United States, according to Notre Dame Right to Life member Christine Romano.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is a “consistent champion of free reproductive choice,” Romano said. He supports upholding Roe v. Wade, and would not support a Constitutional amendment banning abortions, she said.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain “presents a stark contrast to Obama,” she said. McCain is in favor of overturning Roe, but this decision would not automatically ban abortions. Instead, it would return the decision on abortion’s legality to the states.

No matter what happens in the election, the most important thing is to create a culture of life, according to Carozza. “It begins in the human communities in which we create, absorb, and transmit basic human values,” he said.