There have been quite a few people in the Catholic segment of the blogosphere upset about Tim Kaine’s recent position on abortion. In an op-ed published by CNN, Carter Snead points out that Kaine has recently changed his position on abortion. The policies previously advocated by Kaine were essentially of the “safe, legal, and rare” variety of abortion policies that don’t try to overturn Rose V. Wade while they do try to reduce the overall amount of baby-killing.
Now, he has taken a stand in line with the Clinton campaign and is for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment along with co-sponsoring a bill to nullify any other legal restrictions on funding for, regulation of, or access to abortion. Kaine is smart enough to know, and his friends in the Democratic Party smart enough to tell him, that the general consensus of the party has shifted on abortion…in the direction of loosening any restrictions on it.
Now, it’s certainly possible that Kaine is conveniently changing his position on the issue because the consensus of the Democratic Party has changed and he wants to be in line with the party as their Vice Presidential candidate. It’s also possible that his current position was the position he held all along, and he was finally able to put himself in a political position in which it made sense to reveal his genuine policy beliefs.
Given that Kaine has stated that his progressive political ideology stemmed from his exposure to the Jesuits, and given his being of a particular progressive age, it would not surprise me at all if he had been in favor of loosening all restrictions on abortion for a long time. That said, his argument that he is personally opposed to abortion but in favor of keeping it legal may not be dishonest.
It is definitely rationally incoherent, as Snead pointed out. But as someone who used to make that same argument Kaine is making (along with almost half of the American electorate), I’m aware that the folks who make that argument are generally making it in good faith. It’s not that they’re being cynical; they truly believe that even though they would never personally choose an abortion, the government’s role isn’t to intervene in such a complex moral dilemma.
Sure, I used motivated reasoning to reach my policy prescription of keeping abortion legal (and on such an emotionally-charged issue it’s difficult to avoid motivated reasoning), but my bad reasoning did not come from having bad intentions or a desire to gain political power. Just as I truly believed it, the current crop of Pro-choice activists truly believe that the most compassionate thing we can do for women is to make abortion readily available and as comfortable as possible.
I don’t know that there is any way we can determine whether Tim Kaine is finally putting forward the policies that have matches his views all along or finally setting his personal views aside for political gain. It could well be either one. I just hope that he comes to a point at which he can stand firm on his actual principles, whatever those are. Personal integrity is too important to sacrifice for something as small as temporary political power and great book deals.