Conor Lamb just won the open congressional seat in a Pittsburgh suburb. As a professed Catholic, he says, "We believe that life begins at conception, but as a matter of separation of church and state, I think a woman has the right to choose under the law...." He went on to say that his personal opposition to abortion would never allow him to vote for a single ban, including those in the late term.
By making his personal decision grounded in Catholicism, Lamb missed a great opportunity: it is science that tells us that life begins at conception. That Catholicism agrees with this scientific fact is commendable, but lacks the persuasive power necessary to win this argument in a diverse society. He should have simply referenced Biology 101, punctuated by his religious beliefs.
It must also be said that the pro-choice position on racial discrimination—"I am personally opposed but will not impose my views on others"—would be read as a flat-out endorsement of discrimination. That is why Lamb's position is so lame. Moreover, referencing separation of church and state is downright silly: no Catholic opposed to the death penalty worries about imposing his religious beliefs on others.
But it is not Lamb's convoluted thinking that is most interesting. It is the reaction it has had with the champions of abortion.
In his March 16 column in the New York Times, David Leonhardt has a reasonable commentary on this subject. Speaking of pro-life Americans, who oppose aborting children because they suffer from Down syndrome (as well as other reasons), he writes, "They're more likely to believe that babies with the syndrome have as much right to life as those without it." Then he writes, "That last sentence probably offends some readers—which helps make the point that personal opposition to abortion means something."
Which raises the question: Why would it offend anyone to say that all babies have a right to life? Why wouldn't they simply disagree? Because that would make them out to be what they are—people who get exercised just hearing about a child's right to life. And what that makes them is not the subject of polite conversation.
Christina Cauterucci, writing for Slate, is more than exercised over this issue—she is ready to stick it to Lamb. "By broadcasting his belief that, lawmaking aside, a fertilized egg is a human life, he's essentially scolding women who've had abortions. 'I believe you've killed someone, but I will fight for your right to do it!'" She's touched on something real. Anyone who believes that life begins at fertilization, yet opposes laws to protect it, is morally challenged, to say the least. But it is her anger at Lamb that is most striking.
It's not good enough for her to have a congressman who will vote against all abortion bans. No, she loathes Lamb's personal conviction that life begins at conception because it ineluctably reminds people of what abortion is. She's right about that.
This is why the pro-abortion crowd is losing the argument. Their outrage over merely voicing the obvious—that life begins when the sperm and the egg unite—is proof positive that Lamb has hit a nerve. They know, deep down, that abortion kills. The only weapon left in their arsenal is to intimidate, if not muzzle, those who make public declarations of it.