Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Progressive Fallacy Number Two

2) Every action has a consequence – the one we want.

Of course, we know this is not true. An action may have two consequences – or more. When one strikes with a cue ball the triangle of balls in billiards, all the balls move, some in unwanted directions.

Translated from billiards to politics, this means that when I raise a tax to satisfy a need, my action may have unintended consequences. I may satisfy the need and create a dependency that may prove to be unappeasable; or the tax may create another problem; or raising the tax may have been an inefficient solution to the problem; or …

There is also a point of diminishing returns that comes into play when taxes are raised. At some point, and at some wage levels, even a reasonable tax may be the straw that breaks the camels back. Just as one might not be able to afford a new Jaguar, so one might not be able to afford high priced taxes.

What happens when a taxpayer cannot pay the tax? Pretty much the same thing that happens when a renter cannot pay the rent. Either he moves to a new better paying job, or he finds a new less costly rent. Rather than suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, hard pressed taxpayers tend to maximize their assets by moving away from the slings and arrows; or, if given the opportunity, they vote out of office their tormentors, replacing them with decision makers who understand the meaning of the words “no new taxes.”

Now, anyone who has attempted to balance a household budget will have noticed that the trick involves adjusting money coming in to money going out. This delicate adjustment is mentioned by Charles Dickens, the author of David Copperfield, in connection with Mr. McCawber’s finances: “Annual income of pounds 20 coupled with expenditure of only 19 pounds 19 shillings and 6 pence was, he mused, happiness itself. But spend say 20 pounds and 6 pence and it’s misery.” For McCawber, the over expenditures led to the poor house. To avoid debt, most of us are unusually attentive to the delicate balance; but then, most of us cannot charge our debts to a generation of workers and taxpayers yet unborn.

Progressives, those who worship at redistributionist alter, have got it figured out: We will use the government as a redistributionist instrument to move goods and services from the haves to the have nots according to the socialist formula "From each according to his means, to each according to his needs." Translated into the modern idiom, this means: Connecticut millionaires comfortably situated in the state’s Gold Coast, Fairfield County, won’t mind it a bit if the state forces them to abide by Christian commandments.

There is an unintended consequence involved in this compulsory charity though: The delicate balance between getting and spending, which serves as a break on profligacy, is overthrown when any expenditure, however extravagant, is permitted because no one will complain about spending. To put it in mathematical terms: There are in Connecticut more consumers of millionaires’ dollars than there are millionaires, and politicians are expert vote counters.

So, where is the break on spending to come from? Where is the cop who will haul off to the poor house legislators who spend beyond their means? Who will say no to the prodigal’s sons in the legislature? And is there an unintended consequence to limitless spending?

There is indeed. Just as no man is an island unto himself, but part of a larger continent, so no state is an island unto itself. If the cost of doing business in Connecticut continues to be driven ever higher by borderless spending, businesses will continue to migrate to less punishing states. And so will millionaires, leaving –Guess who? – holding the bag.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Progressive Fallacy Number One

1) We can afford things we really can’t afford if we can get a millionaire to pick up the tab.

Here is an illustration of the fallacy plucked from a story written by Paul Bass for the New Haven Independent, a blogpaper:

“John DeStefano is not waffling when it comes to Gov. Jodi Rell's plan to wipe out the estate tax and further enrich the state's richest 2 percent. DeStefano's opponent for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Dannel Malloy, has been waffling on the issue. (He's from Stamford, after all.) So DeStefano continued pressing the issue Monday at a senior center in Hartford; he called for tax breaks to help seniors afford long-term care instead of an estate tax rollback. Click here to read Christine Stuart's report. The issue, first raised on this site, represents the one real policy difference between DeStefano and Malloy.”

New Haven Mayor DeStefano wants to give tax breaks to seniors – a political group both more numerous than millionaires in Connecticut and more likely to vote in favor of giveaways. DeStefano wants to “pay for” the loss in tax revenue incurred by the breaks by collecting it from millionaires. DeStefano’s plan is in answer to a plan offered by Gov. Jodi Rell, who wants to abolish the estate tax.

Now then, if Rell is successful in abolishing the estate tax, the state may suffer a loss in revenue. Rell wants to abolish the estate tax – or, indeed, any tax – because she perceives a connection between high government expenditures and job flight from Connecticut to other states. Businesses leaving the state take jobs and tax revenue with them; lost taxes that, incidentally, might be spent servicing the needs of the seniors whose health care DeStefano is concerned about.

The chief thing to notice about Rell’s plan to abolish the estate tax is that it is not likely to come to fruition. Millionaires and others affected by the estate tax even now continue to pony up; and so, at the present time, there has been no decrease in state revenue. There will be no decrease in state revenue if – assuming the tax is abolished – streams of new tax revenue mysteriously appear owing to the abolition of the tax. Although it may appear counter intuitive, it occasionally happens that net tax revenue increases when specific taxes are either lowered or abolished. Estates and taxes attached to them are portable. When a millionaire moves from Greenwich, Connecticut to any other state where the millionaire’s assets are not exposed to raids by the revenuers, Connecticut loses taxes. When the process is reversed, Connecticut becomes a net tax revenue gainer, because millionaires and others attracted to the state by the abolition of the state tax also pay other taxes; and, Lord knows, there are plenty of those around, thanks to DeStefano and others who are concerned about the financial assets of seniors.

In any case, the thing worth noticing in Bass’ story is that, at present, no tax has been abolished. The estate tax is still there, pitched at an angle that creates a flow of tax payers from high tax to low tax states. Employment opportunities have been flowing down that ramp to other states for some time, and the flow will not be reversed until the angle of the ramp is adjusted. It was a Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who said that a rising economic tide “lifts all the boats.” That would include life rafts occupied by seniors.

Nothing has changed. The estate tax has not been repealed. It is there, along with a bevy of other taxes, increasing the pitch of a ramp that, numerous reports have shown, threatens to become a superhighway conducting employers and taxable asserts away from Connecticut. Since the state legislature is controlled by Democrats who think like DeStefano, there is virtually no chance that Rell’s plan will go forward.

So then, why is Destefano proposing to increase the cost of government by giving “tax breaks to help seniors afford long-term care” when he knows that the breaks will raise the ramp rather than the tide?

This is where Progressive Fallacy Number One comes to the rescue. As long as Connecticut is rich in plunderable millionaires, there is no need to worry about ebb tides – or the certain consequences of extravagant spending.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

One Way: Do Not Enter

At some point – assuming Joltin’ Joe Lieberman marches back into office clutching in his fist the highest vote total of any Democrat U.S. Senator in Connecticut history – the majority party in the state will realize that they have a Weicker problem on their hands; for Lieberman is the mirror image of former senator and governor Lowell Weicker.

Conservatives used to gnash their teeth over Weicker, a Republican who voted like a Republican but thought like a Democrat, until he was polished off by Lieberman, a Democrat who votes like a Democrat but occasionally thinks like a Republican.

The beef on Weicker was that he was undermining the Republican Party. Why doesn’t someone take over the state GOP, Weicker once mused, it’s such a small and insignificant thing – unlike, well … you know who. Weicker then persuaded Republicans to accept as their chairman his long-time aide and major domo Tom D’Amore, who has now resurfaced as a consultant to Ned Lamont, the Greenwich millionaire who hopes to challenge Lieberman in a primary. The ease with which Weicker fobbed off D’Amore on moderates in his party more or less proved his thesis, and the Republican Party today remains little more than a coffee klatch of earnest moderates in the service of the governor.

As Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s déjà vu all over again” -- in reverse.

The beef against Lieberman is that he is not a party animal. Democrat progressives have been gnashing their teeth over Lieberman’s position on the Iraq war for months, and when Bush shamelessly pecked Lieberman on the cheek, an acknowledgement that the president preciated’ the senator’s sometimes full-throated support, the volcanic activity churning in progressives' brains blew the tops of their heads off. The leftist vanguard of the party said “Enough! Joe must go!” Weicker crooked his finger in the direction of Lamont; the bloggers began to churn and burn; and the long knives were drawn.

What about the muddle in the middle or, as one political commentator put it, the “vital center” of state politics? Weicker was successful because he was able to define himself successfully as a Republican moderate; Lieberman has successfully defined himself as a Democrat moderate. Can the left wing of the Democrat Party convince moderates huddled in the muddled middle that they should vote for Lamont? Moderation, rather than a political position, is a strategy dodge, a way of disarming the sleepy mass of party voters who are too busy to pay much attention to ideological tenets. Both Weicker and Lieberman – with important assists from prominent journalists, moderates by profession – are very good at this.

Primaries, the battering rams that were supposed to open party doors for activists, have been turned against progressives by the political establishment. How can a liberal – or, for that mater, a conservative – oust a moderate Democrat or Republican incumbent? Well, you primary the incumbent, usually through raw ideological appeals to the party base, liberal or conservative. And then comes the general election, where ideological influence is diluted by the sheer numbers of party moderates.

Right now, as progressive puppies are yapping at his heels, Lieberman, who has cornered the market on union endorsements and pledges of support from notable Democrat Party leaders, is running a campaign oriented towards a general election.

The war in Iraq has become an albatross, but on other matters Lieberman has been, as his voting record demonstrates, an opposition Democrat. In any debate between himself and Lamont, Lieberman will be able to tick off numerous instances in which he has placed himself in opposition to the Bush agenda. And Lieberman will be persuasive on this point because he will be saying it the way it is.

The recent dust-up between Hartford Courant columnist and radio talk show host Colin McEnroe and the dyspeptic senator opened a small window on possible debates between Lieberman and Lamont, the progressive’s Great White Hope. To be sure, Lieberman had an edge on, largely because he had imagined that McEnroe would be able to address the issue of Lieberman’s position on the Iraq war objectively and professionally. Ha! But Lieberman’s general pitch was aimed over McEnroe’s head – to the vital center of his party.

Now then, if anti-incumbents in the Democrat Party were able to field against Lieberman someone to his right, they might have a chance of unseating him. That was the primary lesson of the Weicker/Lieberman campaign. But this road has been posted by progressives: One way; Do Not Enter.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

McEnroe to Lieberman: Who? Me?

It’s a little hard to determine who the initial aggressor is here, but the order of assaults might go something like this: 1) Lieberman ticked off leftist rabble rousers in his party by taking and defending a position on the Iraq war that deprived those thirsting for President George Bush’s blood of deadly talking points they might use to bring down the Bush administration; 2) the lefties rushed to their blog sites to condemn Lieberman as a traitor to his party and the human race; 3) Lieberman, threatened with a primary by Ned Lamont, a student of the Lowell Weicker Jr. school of political science, and besieged by unflattering notices on the blog sites – got ticked off; 4) Lieberman appeared on the Bruce and Colin radio talk show, where he responded to a recent Colin McEnroe rant by accusing the host of the show of – surprise! -- tendentious editing. A Lieberman quote used by McEnroe in one of his columns, Lieberman said, was “totally out of context. You might have gotten it from the bloggers, who love to do this”; and now 5) the whole of Connecticut’s political universe is singing in chorus – Is Joe losing it? Why so snippy? The inelegant proprietor of a blog site named “My Left Nutmeg” wrote, “Joe claims that he also calls on Repukes,” the Left Nutmeg’s standard name for Republicans, “to cut out their partisanship, but Joe the Repukes don't want to play fair. They never have and never will.”

Well, there are lots of reasons for short tempers, foremost among them: The war in Iraq is not going swimmingly. The richest, most accurate and nuanced recent commentary on Bush’s war may be found – where else? -- in a piece written for National Review by Rich Lowry, which introduces us to a new group of Iraq war oppositionists, the “To Hell With Them Hawks.” Lowry’s piece provoked an equally nuanced response from John Derbyshire. I do not have the time, inclination or energy to summarize either article here, but recommend both to people who are not barbaric yawpists. The barbaric yawpist would not be interested in either Lowry or Derbyshire because nothing they say can be reduced to fit on a political campaign lawn sign. McEnroe, whose political attention span is about 3 nanoseconds, would not be interested in either.

Called upon to address the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment Forum on the subject: “How to Win in Iraq,” it’s perfectly understandable that Lieberman did not wish to begin his remarks by saying, “We can win in Iraq by running up a white flag” – however much that remark would have been warmly received by extreme leftists in his party who would rather win a political battle even at the cost of losing an important war.

So, the first thing Lieberman said to the group was: You cannot win by losing, hardly a controversial or debatable proposition.

Lieberman put it this way: “The most important debate going on currently here about the war in Iraq is between some people who are focused on withdrawal of our forces regardless of conditions on the ground and the rest of us who believe that our goal in Iraq is not to withdraw but to win, so we can leave with the mission accomplished.”

Lieberman called upon the disputants to debate “in a spirit of mutual respect and national interest.” He quoted Dr. Krepinevich's observation that “The war (in Iraq), which arguably began as a ‘war of choice’ has become a ‘war of necessity’ we cannot afford to lose. The costs of victory in Iraq will be large for the U.S. But the costs of defeat would be disastrous for the U.S., Iraq, the Middle East, and most of the world.”

Now, there are very interesting disputes about all this. There is no dispute that the United States entered the war by choice. Many honorable Democrats and Republicans agree that the entry was compromised by faulty intelligence and an aggressive effort made by the Bush administration to convince congressmen and the American public that Saddam Hussein should be overthrown “because he possessed weapons of mass destruction” that in the past he had used to destroy the Kurds, among others. But a war of necessity does not become less necessary because a nation has chosen to enter the war on premises that later turn out to be false. If it was necessary to confront radical Islam and terrorists militarily someplace in the Middle East, that necessity does not disappear because it may be shown that the United States entered the war for a wrong reason. If the war is necessary for reasons unconnected with weapons of mass destruction – One may prosecute a war, after all, for two reasons … or more – its necessity does not disappear because one of the reasons has been shown to be faulty. And, of course, the consequences of abandoning a winnable are unconnected with the reasons one has entered it.

There are only two sufficient reasons for entering a war; 1) The war is necessary, and 2) The war is winnable. The debate on the Iraq war should center around these two points. If the war is necessary and winnable and the United States withdraws from the field, the consequences may be horrific. That is what Lieberman said in his forum discussion.

On his Hartford Courant blog site, To Wit, McEnroe quotes from Lieberman’s speech: “It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril … It is time for Republicans in the White House and Congress who distrust Democrats to acknowledge that greater Democratic involvement and support in the war in Iraq is critical to rebuilding the support of the American people that is essential to our success in that war.”

Then he provides he following gloss: “So...the first paragraph says: Democrats who don't like the president should shut up. The second paragraph says: Republicans should make more room at the table so Democrats can join them in supporting the war.”

Some concisions are distortions: These are brutalizations of Lieberman’s message.

Lieberman has not said that Democrats who dislike the president should shut up. His message is that in a discussion of this kind, where decisions entail fateful consequences, disputants should focus on those consequences. Lieberman’s remarks concerning the necessity of reaching agreement on goals during a time of war are so common as to be unremarkable. It was President Ulysses Grant who said that when the United States draws it sword, all tongues should fall silent. Lieberman would not agree with that sentiment; nor does he wish to gag McEnroe – as if that were possible. He may want McEnroe and his ilk to refocus their discussion and consider that the consequences of misdirection are sometimes fatal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pill Bill Killed

A legislative bill that would have forced Catholic hospitals to provide aborticides to rape victims was itself aborted Monday before the bill could leave the public health committee.

The committee's deadline for reporting out bills was 5:00 p.m., but the debate on the Plan B bill did not begin until 4:43 p.m., which left precious little time for proponents and opponents of the bill to put their opinions on the record.

Following the legislative mercy killing, speculation filled the air. Was the bill scheduled so close to deadline because Sen. Christopher Murphy, the co-chairman of the committee, did not want a public record of a debate certain to cause difficulties for legislative backers of the bill?

Murphy himself this year hopes to be able to unseat U.S. Rep Nancy Johnson, a Catholic politician who, despite her votes against a bill banning partial birth abortion, tends to run well in places like Waterbury, an urban battleground chock-full of Catholic Democrats. One of the reasons a powerful Republican incumbent like Johnson seems to be impregnable is that Democrats cannot field a candidate from the right to run against them. A full throated defense of the Plan B bill so close to an election might have alienated even John F. Kennedy Catholics.

Murphy said that the dead-end scheduling was owing to "a recognition that this is not going to get a vote" in the absence of an agreement between Catholic hospitals and those who support the Plan B pill legislation.

And there's the rub -- because it is plain to Catholics familiar with the relevant church doctrines that there can be no agreement that violates their consciences. Perhaps the most under-reported datum in stories written about the controversy spurred by the bill is that submission to such anti-Catholic legislative dictates entails serious religious penalties: Excommunication is the sanction prescribed in canon law for Catholics who assist in the procuring of an abortion. Catholics who take their faith seriously know that excommunication separates them from the spiritual springs of the sacraments and the life of the church. For those who are not Catholics, or for Catholics who have become secularized, the possibility of excommunication is little more than theological fable and an empty threat.

Some legislators also may have wondered whether important lessons were to be learned from a similar situation in Massachusetts. Did Connecticut legislators see the recent crack-up in Massachusetts in their rear view mirrors and have second thoughts about the Plan B pill bill legislation?

In Sen. Edward Kennedy's state, the legislature passed a measure forcing Catholic adoption agencies to provide adoptees to same-sex households. The Catholic Church responded to the legislative dictate by disbanding Catholic Charities, an agency that had placed mentally retarded and physically handicapped children in homes for more than a century. It seems obvious that the Catholic Church in Massachusetts would not have abandoned its good works -- a religious obligation of all Catholics -- if the legislative order could have been fulfilled without violating both canon law and the communal conscience of the church. The response of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts means, if it means anything at all, that the state's religiously intolerant legislation could not be accommodated: Some things cannot be done. Did Connecticut legislators understand from Massachusetts' ordeal that the demands present in the Plan B pill legislation could not be met by any church forced to violate its precepts?

Cynics, ever more numerous in Connecticut, wondered whether the dead bill did not better accomplish a political purpose. A live Plan B pill bill passed by the legislature certainly would have alienated orthodox Catholics; but the bill also would have caused controversy and alarm among other faiths, for it clearly threatened to dissolve in the crucible of legislation any religious practice or precept that secularists might find obstructive. The bill, unaccommodating to religious precepts, was not hedged round by exceptions that would have preserved the spirit, if not the letter, of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prevents the state from impeding religious practices. It was, in many respects, a bill not written by the people or for the people. Instead, the bill was sponsored and pushed by pro-abortion factions whose votes partisan legislators had hoped to garner.

There may be, however, a political upside to the dead bill: It provided a John F. Kennedy moment for Connecticut's Catholic politicians. JFK made it clear in his first senatorial campaign, waged at a time when anti-Catholic sentiment roiled just beneath the nation's skin, that he would not be tied to papal apron strings. That moment has become distended absurdly in our time, when so-called Catholic politicians blithely support such horrors as partial-birth abortion and bills that force their church to violate precepts that are the foundation stones of their own faith.

Rather than asking what Jesus would have done in the present circumstances, Catholic politicians ought to be asking what JFK would have done when faced with legislation that would have forced him to violate his religious rather than his political obligations.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

We Are All Moderates Now

U.S. Senator John McCain, who has presidential ambitions, is the liberal Northeast’s safe Republican. His political program differs very little from that of other Connecticut Republicans he came to support during a campaign fundraiser. Yet, McCain has a better in state press than many a home grown product.

Governor Jodi Rell’s popularity, and her press, is off the scales, though lately she has received a drubbing from the state’s two Democrat gubernatorial wannabes, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor John DeStefano.

The mayors and their supporters in the Democrat Party managed to land two solid punches to Rell’s solar plexus, without appreciably buckling her popularity quotient.

First, top aide Lisa Moody slipped on blood when she asked state commissioners to solicit campaigns funds from their subordinates; there are laws against that sort of thing in these parts. After much hollering from the opposition, Moody was reprimanded by Rell and sent to the woodshed without pay for a couple of weeks, while the offending commissioners were fined.

Then, elections enforcement Director Jeffrey B. Garfield provided to Rell campaign manager Kevin Deneen information concerning the proposed settlement with the 16 commissioners and deputy commissioners who had been accused of illegally soliciting money for Rell. The information should have remained private because Garfield’s investigation was ongoing.

This last story surfaced just before McCain’s appearance in Connecticut, during which the senator lavishly praised Rell for her efforts in shaping the state’s campaign finance reform legislation, an issue very close to the senator’s heart. "When we elect Jodi again, this time on her own,” McCain said, “I think we will send a message to the country that reform's time has come. It's come time in Washington. It's come time in Arizona and California. And we can look to the state of Connecticut as a model for reform."

Appearing with the senator on the dais along with Rell were Simmons and Shays. Some years ago, Shays proposed that the Bush administration had been delinquent in not pushing through Iraq into Syria, a piece of bravura that cost the congressman an election campaign endorsement from the Hartford Courant. On the Iraq war, Shays, Simmons and McCain all appear to be in the same pew. U.S senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman are in the same church. Recently, Dodd came to the defense of Lieberman, who has come under attack from arch liberals in his party.

On the question of moderation, it appears that everyone mentioned above -- Lieberman challenger Ned Lamont being the rare exception -- is a moderate. When Lamont announced his candidacy at the Old State House, Dan Levine of the New Haven Independent reported on his blog site, “Of five Democratic constitutional officers, 24 Democratic state senators and 99 Democratic state representatives, just two back benchers showed up… to hear the anti-war Lamont.”

Looking Before Leaping: Plan B and the Catholic Conscience

Catholic hospitals presently withhold Plan B pills from rape victims who are pregnant or ovulating. Plan B pills are administered to other rape victims in Catholic hospitals. In cases in which the pills cannot in good conscience be administered, the patients are referred to other near-by hospitals. The arguments presented by those who favor legislation forcing Catholic Hospitals to provide Plan B to patients that are referred to other providers include the following points:

1) Opposition to the use of Plan B pills in Catholic hospitals is being waged by “local Catholic bishops.” The implication is that local bishops have distorted the teaching of their church by viewing the use of Plan B pills after ovulation as aborticides.

2) Catholic bishops are “not competent” to make “scientific judgments.” But, of course, it is not Catholic bishops who presently make the scientific judgments that a) the rape victim is pregnant, or b) ovulation is occurring. These judgments are made by competent medical personnel. The bishops are simply applying a theological rule to the judgments. It is by no means “unscientific” to assert that ovulation is the beginning of the birth process. That assertion is made by the manufacturers of Plan B in their literature. The Plan B pill, after all, is designed to prevent birth after other birth control methods have failed.

3) The Plan B pill is not an aborticide; it is a contraceptive, because it acts before pregnancy has occurred. The pill may be ingested before a pregnancy occurs. But if a pregnancy is in process, Plan B acts as an abortifacient. In a column printed in the Hartford Courant Ms. Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, asserts that Plan B is not an aborticide, an untenable argument for those who claim that Catholic hospitals permit the use of Plan B “only when it is not necessary.” In her column, Ms. Kissling claims the Catholic health care industry has attempted to “sooth public alarm” by claiming it does provide Plan B to rape victims, “but only if they don’t need it.” Presumably, the pill would be “needed” only after conception has occurred, to prevent an issue that is not wanted. In other words, Plan B is “needed” only to abort a pregnancy.

4) The theological precision of the church doctrines relating to abortion are “hair splitting.” Actually, the controlling doctrine is very precise: If the medical procedure results in an abortion, the procedure may not be permitted because the church has determined that abortion is a crime in cannon law, the punishment for which is excommunication. The position of pro-abortionists may be less precise -- scientifically. In some instances, they do not agree with most scientists – and the producers of Plan B – that the birth cycle begins with ovulation.

5) The morality of “emergency contraception” should be determined by rape victims – not clerics. Ms. Kissling puts it this way in her column: “…no bishop and no hospital board member has the right to substitute his conscience for that of a woman who has been raped.” Adopting the Kissling rule, what countervailing moral precept will Ms. Kissling rely upon to prevent her rule from being extended to rapists? The church has objectively determined that rape is a sin. Should the “right” to make that moral judgment be reserved only to the conscience of rapists? If only I have the “right” to determine morality, is it not plain that I may determine all my actions to be moral – even those that Ms. Kissling and the Catholic Church may find immoral? Furthermore, if only a person directly affected by a rule may determine whether it is an offense to conscience, why should Ms. Kissling – or Connecticut’s legislature – have the “right” to tell Catholics in hospitals that they must dispense aborticides to their patients? If morality is to be determined subjectively by the individual conscience, why shouldn’t Catholic hospitals be forced to provide abortions – not merely birth preventatives – to patients whose consciences have determined that abortion does not offend their moral sense? Is it possible that whether something is moral or immoral must be objectively determined – preferably not by immoralists?

6) When a conflict in conscience exists, Ms. Kissling decrees in her column, “decent people will agree that it should be settled in favor of the woman” who has been raped. But some people would argue that the present arrangement in Catholic hospitals is a true mediation between the needs of the woman who has been raped and the Catholic conscience that would be violated by pending legislation. Conflict mediators will agree that it simply will not do to abolish one term of a conflict of interest and claim that the conflict has been suitably addressed. After all, any conflict between observant Catholics and the pro-abortion lobby may be settled by abolishing Catholicism. In China and India, abortion is used to control populations. And in India particularly, abortion is employed to thin out the population of women – a perfectly legal procedure. There are, however, some people who claim the process is immoral, because it is used invidiously against women. Relying upon the theological doctrine that life is sacred, the Catholic Church vigorously has opposed these practices. It is important to understand that a “right” is something citizens have in virtue of positive laws establishing the right. But suppose a “right” is wrong in the moral sense. How are such “rights” to be righted except by the application of a pre-eminent moral authority objectively arrived at? If there is no moral foothold beyond positive law, how will we protest the injustice of the laws? What is our authority for claiming that slavery must not be permitted in countries where it is permitted by law? And if such issues are to be decided solely by an individual’s conscience, what is our warrant for deciding the issue in favor of the slave and against the slave owner, both of whom have consciences?

These are questions that ought to be addressed and fully debated before the state legislature, bowing to special interests, passes a bill that may create more problems than it solves.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

How Does Your Foot Taste Today?

State House Assistant Majority Leader David McCluskey regretted the remark almost as soon as it left his mouth. “In spite of all the many good things Senator Lieberman has done,” McCluskey said, “this (Iraq war) is the overriding moral issue, and if he doesn’t change his position, I cannot be with him in good conscience. He needs to come to Jesus on this one."

McCluskey apologized not because he crossed Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation,” an ideological picket line that is supposed to prevent an impermissible mixture of religion and politics, but because he thought the comment might offend a devout Orthodox Jew.

If McCluskey had made the remark while testifying before a legislative hearing, Lieutenant Governor Kevin Sullivan might well have demanded that McCluskey quit his job and join Victim Advocate James Papillo on the unemployment line. Good thing that McCluskey was addressing peace activists rather than legislators. Has Governor Jodi Rell heard about this?

What Do The Kossacks Want?

The obvious answer to the question “What does Ned Lamont want?” is that he wants to replace Joe Lieberman in the U.S. Senate. And there are plenty of other people who would like to assist him.

Lamont’s most active and articulate supporters are the Kossacks; that is what they call themselves. They are readers and assiduous followers of Daily Kos, a liberal web site maintained by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga. Some of the people who support Lamont’s insurgency campaign may be Republican sappers. It’s no secret that Lieberman will draw votes from Republicans in a general election. Connecticut Republicans afflicted with a bad case of moderation like Lieberman because a) he’s genuinely affable, and b) a moderate Democrat.

Lieberman probably cannot be defeated in a general election. The senator is more popular in Connecticut than Chris Dodd, whose position on the war in Iraq has not alienated the readers of Daily Kos. But anything can happen in an election. The war in Iraq may yet become an albatross for Lieberman, depending upon whether and how quickly the country reverts to its previous condition before the war. Saddam Hussain is gone, but the conditions that gave rise to him are still very much present.

In Iran, those conditions have boosted the fortunes of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is developing the country’s nuclear capability and has promised to wipe Israel off the map. Lamont is in the enviable position of being able to present his views on the war, similar to Dodd’s, by quoting solely from conservative writers. Bill Buckley has said that the efforts of the Bush administration in Iraq have failed, and Arnaud de Borchgrave, an unblinking conservative who writes for the conservative Washington Times, is convinced that blood is thinker than water. In a recent piece, de Borchgrave addresses convincingly the question why Pakistan has been unable to find Osama bin Laden. Lamont’s opposition to the war is his strong suite. He claims, however, not to be a one dimentional candidate and points to other of Lieberman’s failings.

Lieberman’s most glaring failure, according to Lamont’s speech announcing his candidacy, is the senator’s reluctance to present a Democratic face to the administration. On several points, Lieberman has not “stood up” to the president. Lamont favors more spending on social security over private savings accounts; “universal, affordable health care” over health savings accounts; more spending on public schools over vouchers; and on Iraq, he wants those who “got us into this mess” to be held accountable. If elected, Lamont has promised a direct frontal assault: “I will tell the Bush administration to put their haughty arrogance in their back pocket and deal with the rest of the world with respect. That's how America will start winning again in a post 9-11 world.” There is no telling how all this will play in Peoria; but in Connecticut, it’s red meat for hungry Kossacks.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lamont and the Alchemist

When former senator and governor Lowell Weicker – now retired, sort of – looked around to tap someone to run against his battle hardened old political enemy, current Senator Joe Lieberman, his gaze fell upon fellow Greenwich millionaire Ned Lamont, who obligingly agreed to pay any price, shoulder any burden for the sake of his party and Weicker.

Weicker is pretty much the antitheses of a party guy, famously having denominated himself “The turd in the Republican Party punch bowl.” Lamont wants to be a party guy; at least, he has surrounded himself with party activists who claim they have the best interests of the Democrat Party in mind – with one exception.

That would be Tom D’Amore, Wicker’s battle hardened major domo and no friend to political parties. D’Amore has been around the political block several times, as an aide to former governor Tom Meskill, later as Weicker’s chief aide and state Republican Party Chairman, still later as an aide and consultant to Russ Potts, an “independent” candidate for governor of Virginia.

Under D’Amore’s tutelage, Potts, according to a Times Dispatch story, “explained his own conversion from a conservative Republican to a tax-raising Republican maverick.” Said the maverick Republican turned Independent, “only a damned fool doesn't change his mind. The only person you should be afraid of is a guy who has made bad decisions and is afraid to admit a mistake."

When the votes were tallied, Potts managed to garner 2.2% and enjoyed a political afterlife as an independent Republican. When Virginia’s Republican stalwarts suggested that Republicans do not generally run as independents against other Republicans in gubernatorial campaigns, Potts replied in Weikerian tones that he regarded himself as a Republican and refused to allow others to define him. At the end of his various transmutations, no one was quite sure what kind of a political animal Potts was. He seemed to be masterless. Bob Dylan probably had it right when he said that everyone is a slave to some master; but independents have several masters, some of whom are paid political consultants.

At some point, Lamont’s most ardent supporters must confront the realities of winning a campaign. Primaries sometimes are decided by political activists, but general elections are decided by a majority of voters. Unaffiliated voters plus the loyal opposition usually outnumber the members of either major party considered separately. If a general election is the dog, party activists are the tail, and only in nightmares do tails wag dogs.

Before Lamont reaches a general election, he must leap over at least one daunting hurtle: Unless Lamont wins 15% of the delegates at the Democrat nominating convention or obtains between 15,000 and 16,000 petition signatures, there will be no primary. If there is no primary, Lamont still may enter the general election on a third party ticket, in which case his appeal to voters in a general election will be decisive. But all the polls indicate that Lieberman’s appeal in a general election is broad based, despite feelings of animosity between Lieberman and liberal leaning party activists. In a general election, emotions that have made liberals swear eternal enmity towards Lieberman will be submerged in a sea of votes and so diluted. Though Lamont has yet to fleshed out his campaign, his present message is narrowly tailored to appeal to left leaning Democrat activists.

Democrat incumbents like Chris Dodd and members of what might be called the Democratic Party proper, so very proper, continue to wonder at the apparent recklessness of the Lamontites. Despite the enormous wart on Lieberman’s face – his support of President George Bush, the Iraq war and, perhaps even more, the senator's unwillingness to get in Democrat trenches and throw rhetorical grenades at the opposition – do the Lamonties not understand, proper Democrats ask, the calculus of elections? Rell is weighty and her popularity mass threatens to pull other Republicans with her into office; therefore Democrats need a moderate in the political scales to offset her; that would be Lieberman.

Lamont has answered his critics by begging them to chill out. Connecticut is a Democratic town, he points out, and one of the two Democrat contenders -- himself or Lieberman; preferably himself -- is bound to win the election, however fractious. His challenge will have a beneficial effect: Even if Lamont loses, Lieberman will have been chastised, and his course for the next decade will adjust to the drubbing. No one is begging off and various interests in the Democrat Party are busy sapping the Lieberman campaign – including political freebooters like D’Amore who, everyone may be certain, will be well paid for his efforts.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Papillo and the Freedom to Blow Whistles

The Hartford Courant, in an editorial that oddly is not available online, has joined a chorus of voices protesting that Victim Advocate James Papillo has in his testimony at a public hearing “crossed the line” and wandered into “religious” territory.

The Courant cites as proof the following statement made by Papillo to an Associated Press reporter: “victims here are being used as a hook to further an agenda they are hiding … The issue is an attack on the Catholic institutions.”

First of all, it should be noted that the offending statement, which might be made by any atheist or agnostic editorialist, is untainted by religious doctrine. Whether Papillo’s statement is true or false is a separate question that would depend upon facts unexplored in the Courant’s editorial, but the statement itself is not a religious proposition on the order of “I believe in One God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth ...” Papillo was not here stating any of the doctrines of his faith; he was asserting a political proposition.

As it happens, the very same issue of the Courant that included the paper’s editorial protesting that Papillo had “crossed the line” in his testimony also contained a heartwarming story celebrating a whistleblower case that had been decided in favor of the First Amendment. The title of that story was: “`Great Day' For Rights.”

According to the story, U.S. District Court Judge Dominic J. Squatrito ruled against Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who had been defending the “right” of the state to prevent a police officer from disclosing information about a case to the press. The judge ruled that a state police policy restricting troopers from talking to the media was unconstitutional. Following the judgment of the court, Blumenthal decided on a settlement to “avoid a lengthy, costly litigation when there can be an agreement that serves the public interest." Blumenthal said he would “advise other state agencies to establish policies similar to the one being put in place by the state police.”

It is not known whether Blumenthal intends to send the advisory letter to Lieutenant Governor Kevin Sullivan, who earlier had called upon Governor Jodi Rell to fire Papillo for having exercised his right to give inconvenient testimony at a public hearing.

What is the real difference between the information conveyed by the police officer to the press and the information conveyed by Papillo at a public hearing, which eventually made its way into the press? And why should the gag removed from the officer’s mouth now be placed in Papillo’s mouth?

The controversy between Catholic hospitals and groups supporting legislation that would force Catholics to violate their religious precepts has been boiling on the front burner of many newspapers for weeks. Some facts, important in settling the controversy, have arrived very late in the discussion. Readers of the Courant who wanted to know how many rape victims had been referred to other hospitals were given some indication – only today – of the number of rape victims referred by Catholic hospitals because they were either pregnant or ovulating.

Some readers may have been misled by incomplete early reports. Today’s Courant provided a statistic for three Catholic hospitals: “St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford and the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven report that they have treated a total of just over 100 sexual assault victims a year … St. Vincent officials said they could recall only one of 50 sexual assault victims treated last year who were referred elsewhere to receive emergency contraception.”

So then, here is the state of the growing controversy so far:

1) Connecticut’s legislature, at the behest of pro-abortion interest groups, has constructed a law that forces Catholics to defy the cannon laws of their church regarding abortion and risk incurring the penalties prescribed in such laws. One of the penalties for assisting in the procuring of an abortion is excommunication.

2) When a political appointee, Victim Advocate Papillo, makes a political statement at a public hearing that he can recall no rape victim who had complained to his office concerning treatment at Catholic hospitals, he may be silenced for “crossing the line.”

3) Newspapers, traditional defenders of freedom of the press, should characterize such statements as have been made by Papillo as “religious” and falling on the other side of the line that protects them from unwanted political pressure to shut their traps.

4) Providing first responders with instruments that may detect ovulation and protocols requiring them inform rape victims that Catholic hospitals will not administer an abortifacient in such cases is not a sensible solution to the present controversy.

Is everyone comfortable with all this?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

On Crossing Lines: Kevin Sullivan’s Belated Celebration of Martin Luther King Day

Lieutenant Governor Kevin Sullivan was celebrating Martin Luther King’s day late this year. A little more than a month out from MLK Day, he told Victim Advocate James F. Papillo, a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, to shaddup! It appeared that Papillo, who had given testimony in a public hearing against a bill designed to force Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B to rape victims, had impermissibly crossed a largely imaginary dividing line in his testimony and wandered into treacherous religious terrain.

Sullivan said he thought Papillo had "crossed the line when he expressed his personal religious point of view" in testifying against the bill at a legislative hearing and called upon Governor Jodi Rell to fire him. Denise W. Merrill, the co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee said, "I think he did a disservice to all women who are victims of sexual assaults." And Rell remonstrated with Papillo, after which Papillo promised to stay in his religious cage. "I believe he now understands that he went far beyond the bounds of victim advocacy," Rell admonished. "Mr. Papillo knows he must not cross the line again between his personal beliefs and the interests of those for whom he advocates."

Merrill overreached a bit in her comment. In speaking against the bill, Papillo was not doing a disservice to all women who are victims of sexual assault because Catholic hospitals, as it happens, do provide Plan B to their patients who are rape victims. But the Plan B pills are not dispensed to women who are pregnant or ovulating because in those instances the pill acts as an aborticide, and the Catholic Church is (gasp!) against abortion. The bill snaking its way through the legislature would abolish these reasonable exceptions and so force Catholics to violate their religious precepts. Papillo sought to draw these distinctions in his testimony, which infuriated proponents of the bill. At one point, he characterized the bill as a solution is search of a problem and acknowledged he had received no complaints concerning the Catholic hospitals in his official capacity as Victims Advocate. Distinctions of the kind raised by Papillo, however, will not fit on bumper stickers, do not play well in political ads and usually are lost in press reports.

"Hang me or crucify me if I’m being unreasonable," Papillo said in utter frustration. "I’m just trying for balance … it’s a political hot potato. Do I become a potted plant? I can’t."

It is true that there are important differences between Papillo and Martin Luther King. Papillo is a Catholic and deacon in his church. King was an African American Baptist minister. However, there is one striking point of similarity: Both struggled against the notion that the U.S. Constitution provides an impermeable wall of separation between church and state. And both, pointedly, did not shut up.

King was more than a great political rhetorician; He was a great Christian. The turning point in King’s life – the crossing of the line, so to speak – occurred when he was alone in his kitchen after he had unfurled his Christian ideals and realized that he was a simple, poor weak man, not at all up to the task at hand.

Here is a revealing passage from Marshall Frady’s masterful Martin Luther King, Jr:

“And at that moment, as King would tell it, he seemed to hear ‘an inner voice . . . the voice of Jesus,’ answering him: ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice, stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world.’ That voice of Jesus, King recounted, ‘promised never to leave me, no, never to leave me alone.’”

Sullivan, to his credit, had second thoughts about asking Rell to fire Papillo and withdrew his demand. Perhaps he had read the transcript of Papillo’s testimony and found it was not a series of religious propositions such as is found in the Credo that Sullivan, as a Catholic, gives his internal assent to. Or perhaps he had stumbled upon Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States,” a provision that opened public offices to religious people of all persuasions, particularly Catholics, who at the time were the targets of vicious discrimination. Where there can be no test for admittance, there should be no bar for the profession of religious beliefs. What is the point in admitting a Catholic to office and expecting him to behave as a pagan?

The good news is that Papillo has not been fired. God works in mysterious ways.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Who Died and Elected This Guy Pope

According to a Hartford Courant story, Catholic hospitals do presently offer Plan B pills to women who have been raped -- except under very narrow circumstances, when urine tests show that the victim is pregnant or ovulating. In these cases, said a representative of the hospitals, the Plan B pills "can be equivalent to an abortion and thus the proposed law would violate the hospital's religious freedom."

During his testimony at a hearing on a bill crafted to force four Catholic hospitals in Connecticut to provide Plan B pills to women who have been raped, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that Catholic hospitals have a contractual obligation similar to that of Wal-Mart. Recently Blumenthal bullied Wal-Mart into providing Plan B pills to their customers through the threat of sanctions. Wal-Mart, according to the story, "was required to provide all legal prescriptions to comply with its contract to participate in state health insurance plans." Blumenthal said that Catholic hospitals "which provide care to people insured by the state would have a similar obligation." Pope Blumenthal also said "the proposed law would not violate the hospitals' fundamental rights to religious freedom."

But surely there are important differences between Wal-Mart and Catholic hospitals. Wal-Mart is not a hospital. Unlike Wal-Mart, the Catholic hospitals, according to testimony given at the hearing, already administer Plan B pills. The hospitals restrict the use of the pills only when they may operate as an abortifacient, in which case their use would be clearly prohibited by the Catholic Church.

How does Blumenthal know that the use of Plan B pills, under these very restricted cases, would not violate Catholic precepts and therefore represent a denial of the freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution? At a minimum, the freedom of religion clause provides that the state should not make laws restricting freedom of religion. And it cannot be constitutional for the state, or its representatives, to decide on behalf of churches which religious practices shall be permitted. The pope has not died, and the attorney general has not yet been elected Pope.

If the use of Plan B pills, under the narrow exceptions observed by Catholic hospitals, is an abortifacient, and if the Catholic Church regards abortion as a sin and a crime in cannon law, then Blumenthal in his testimony seems to be proposing to force Catholics to commit a sin and a cannon law crime so that the Catholic Church may be brought into compliance with the hospitals contractual obligations to the state.

Just a few questions: Does Blumenthal intend to bring suit against the Catholic Church for defying present laws that apply, in the attorney general's opinion, to both Wal-Mart and the Catholic Church?

Since the legislature, Blumenthal, and several political interest groups already have involved themselves in the issue, is their anyone on planet earth who can convincingly assert that the underlying issues are not politically driven?

Since the proposed bill will deprive the hospitals and the Catholic Church from acting on their religious precepts, is there anyone on planet earth who can convincingly assert that there is no freedom of religion issue involved in this dispute?

The only person who spoke forcefully against the bill at the hearing was James Papillo, the state's Victim Advocate. After his testimony, state Lieutenant Governor Kevin Sullivan called upon Governor Jodi Rell to fire him. Sullivan quickly had second thoughts and withdrew his demand following a reprimand delivered by the governor to Papillo, who apologized for inserting religious beliefs into his testimony. How is it possible to have an honest discussion of this issue without adverting to religious beliefs?

Would Blumenthal defend the right of Victim Advocates to exersize their First Amendment rights in public testimony on bills that seek to restrict religious freedom as ardently as he has defended the state's rights to enforce private contracts?

Is there any Catholic reporter in this state -- preferably not in full rebellion against the teachings of his church -- who will obtain the answers to these and other important questions? And if that reporter is accused by his editors of smugging into his report toxic religious opinions, may he depend upon Blumenthal to assist him in exercising his First Amendment rights?

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Hill and Bill Show

Though it’s amusing to discover that former President Bill Clinton and the present occupant of that office, George Bush, feel similarly – for different reasons – about Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, last week provided an Oops! moment for Hillary Clinton, the former president’s ambitious wife.

Mrs. Clinton wants to be president, and to this end any compromising political position Bush lumbers into is a help to her. When the roiling controversy concerning Bush’s support for Dubai – a friendly Arab country that is to administer several ports in the United States – was burbling in the press, Senator Hillary Clinton thought to distinguish herself from the president by strenuously objecting to the deal.

Sen. Clinton said the deal represented “an unacceptable risk” to national security. She was not the first to hack away at Bush, nor will she be the last. The New York Times has been in a perpetual tiff against the president, but many conservative Republicans also harried Bush on the Dubai deal.

Bush is in his twilight years as president and, as he moves towards lameduckery, it is not unusual to find his opponents and former Republican helpmates jockeying for position. Republicans are staking out their own political ground for the future. Of course, here in Connecticut, the land of the quisling Republican, virtually all the members of the state’s GOP congressional delegation have taken care to oppose the president on important issues. Former Governor John Rowland was heavily petted by Bush on several occasions, a relationship that proved fatal. For two decades and more, Connecticut Republicans quite literally have made their careers distancing themselves from their conservative brethren. Incumbents prefer that all politics should be local. The ties that bind are the ties that destroy, which is why Governor Jodi Rell will not be attending big-tent Republican functions any time soon. She saw Rowland go down with the “I Love George Bush” tattoo on his ankle and seems determined not to make the same mistake.

Hillary’s thrust at Bush was returned to her in a rather unusual way when the Financial Times discovered that her husband’s relationship with Dubai was, if possible, even more intimate than the president’s. “Hillary Clinton 'unaware' of Bill's Dubai ties” screamed the headline.

The combination of extreme wealth and a willingness to pay to play in the political game attracts lobbyist the way honey attracts bees. Many Washington lobbyists are get-rich-quick salesmen who have drifted from the political to the more lucrative private sphere; others are friends and staffers of the once high and mighty in the Washington politico-lobbying complex. Dubai, a country that meets all the necessary requirements and is, moreover, amenable to American interests, was bound to ensnare both Republican and Democrat politicians in its coils.

It was Dubai, it will be recalled, that opened its arms to Michael Jackson after he had been mauled by America’s judicial system. Mr. Jackson visited Dubai in the company of Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamed Al Khalifa, the son of the king of Bahrain, and was astonished by the beauty and civility of the small sheikhdom. Truly, a country that offers sanctuary to Jackson and money to senator Clinton's husband can't be all bad.

High priced Republican lobbyists Vin Weber and Bob Dole were involved in putting together the Dubai port deal, as was Jonathan Winer, who spent ten years as an aide to Sen. John Kerry. When Sen. Clinton, speaking to the Jewish Community Relations Council at Manhattan's 92nd Street YMCA, said that the unsavory Dubai arrangement was “emblematic of a larger problem" of ceding "some of our fiscal sovereignty,” she did not mean to direct political birdshot at Democrats, still less to shoot herself and her husband in the foot. Nor did she mean that Washington politicians had ceded their legislative sovereignty to deep pocket legal firms and their lobbyists.

When she was made aware of the embarrassing Bill Clinton/Dubai connection, the senator professed surprise, supplying the Financial Times with the following explosive lead line: “Hillary Clinton, a leading opponent of DP World's takeover of some US port operations, was this week forced to admit that she did not know her husband had advised Dubai leaders on how to handle the growing dispute.” Senator Clinton told the New York Post, the Financial Times reported, “that she was unaware her husband had been contacted by Dubai officials two weeks ago and offered them advice on the deal.”

Robert Novak reported in his column that the relationship between Hillary’s husband and the United Arab Emirate was “far from casual. The sheikdom has contributed to the Clinton Presidential Library, and brought Clinton to Dubai in 2002 and 2005 for highly paid speeches (reportedly at $300,000 apiece). He was there in 2003 to announce a scholarship program for American students traveling to Dubai.”

But this is not the first time Mrs. Clinton has expressed surprise at circumstances involving her husband, an affable man who occasionally conceals important information from his wife. There is an upside to Sen. Clinton’s wide-eyed astonishment: The lobbyists and entangled politicians appear to be losing the PR battle for the hearts and minds of voters, who may be in a throw-the-bums-out mood. And Dubai, an Arab state made up mostly of millionaires that really does appear to be pro-American, has decided to fully transfer its operations of U.S. ports to a U.S. entity.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Plan B vs. Plan A

“Malloy said that he was sensitive to the religious freedom issue but that emergency contraceptives are designed to prevent conception, not cause a chemically induced abortion.”

This sunburst was teased out of Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat gubernatorial contender, by a reporter who then wrote a story under the title “Rivals Blast Rell Stance: Catholic Hospitals, Rape Victims At Issue.”

The “emergency contraceptive” in question, called Plan B, is described by its producer as a backup method for preventing pregnancy when ordinary contraceptives fail, and the reporter helpfully explained that “Emergency contraceptives are a high-dose birth control pill that can reduce the risk of pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.”

Plan B, some Connecticut legislators feel, ought to be adopted by every hospital in the state, including Connecticut’s four Catholic hospitals, and the pending bill that would enforce the use of Plan B has created some consternation within the Catholic community, because Catholics, if they are not Malloy or New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, also a Democrat gubernatorial contender, or all of the state’s Catholic Congressional delegation, tend to follow their church’s precepts on abortion and contraception.

A bill that would force Connecticut’s four Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B to women who have been raped is now making its way through the legislative sausage maker.

Catholics and, until very recently, Governor Jodi Rell, an Episcopalian, were comfortable with what might be called Plan A. Under Plan A, a woman who had been raped and was in danger of being impregnated by her rapist could elect to take Plan B at a providing non-Catholic hospital. The emergency contraceptive reduces the risk of pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Under current arrangements, Catholic hospitals presently offer Plan B pills to women who have been raped – except under very narrow circumstances, when urine tests show that the victim is pregnant or ovulating. In these cases, said a representative of the hospitals, the Plan B pills “can be equivalent to an abortion and thus the proposed law would violate the hospital’s religious freedom.”

The Catholic Church and, derivatively, Catholic institutions teach that both abortion and artificial birth control are moral evils. Both the teaching and practice of the church would be violated if the state legislature were to order its hospitals to allow the procuring of an abortion.

While it is true that Plan B pills are not aborticides like RU-486, the moral, legal and medical principles that the legislature must rely upon to force Catholic institutions to violate their religious precepts may also be used to force the same institutions to provide aborticides on request.

The Catholic Church’s view, rooted in science and not only theology, is that life is a natural process that begins at conception and ends at death. Abortion and euthanasia aggressively interfere with this process and are especially evil when they are not necessary. An abortion that occurs when a doctor is attempting to discharge the terms of his Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” is not a sin. If an abortion occurs when the doctor is attempting to save both the life of the prospective mother and child, no offense has occurred.

The very first question the legislature should consider before it promulgates a law that well may be unconstitutional is the question of utility: Is Plan B necessary? Catholic hospitals regularly refer patients to other hospitals in the narrow cases cited above.

Is it necessary to force upon Catholics in Connecticut a law that does violence to their faith? Plan B is effective when taken within 72 hours of a rape. Connecticut is a state in which any hospital can be reached within 3 hours. Would it not be suitable to create a protocol in which first responders advised rape victims that Plan B was not available in Catholic hospitals?

There are practical considerations that may come into play as well: Politics involves the administration of the entire polis, which includes the welfare of churches and hospitals that operate under their aegis. If the enforcement of Plan B necessarily resulted in the closure of Connecticut’s four Catholic hospitals, would Malloy still favor the plan?

If Plan A can be mended, not ended, would the law forcing state Catholics to violate their consciences still be necessary?

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