John Schwenkler responds on abortion and the GOP.
Here's the thing: the reason why I find the pro-life position more extreme (aside from the rhetoric) is that it's long been pro-life orthodoxy that a fetus is a human being. Now, that language is explicitly stated in the Republican party platform literature. To me, the question about abortion (and it is a philosophical and moral question, not a scientific one) is whether or not a fetus is a human, and thus deserving of human rights. If the answer is yes, I could never in good conscience support abortion, outside of specific circumstances when carrying the child to term poses significant risk of killing the mother. Not even in cases of rape or incest.
I remain a staunch supporter of abortion rights, however, because I don't believe a fetus is human. I can imagine, however, a compromise position from someone who doesn't believe that a fetus is human; it seems to me much easier for someone who believes that to compromise in the direction of more limitations on abortion, than for someone who believes that a fetus is human to compromise on more permissiveness regarding abortion. I'm just profoundly unmoved by pro-choice arguments that assert the human-ness of the fetus. So it just seems to me that there is greater moral and rhetorical space for the pro-choice side to compromise given our stance on the fundamental question. In order to attract more socially-liberal voters, meanwhile, pro-life conservatives don't have to stop thinking life begins at conception. But I think they do have to stop making that a fundamental litmus test of whether someone is conservative or serious or not, which seems to me to be precisely what Douthat is doing to Kmiec. I guess compromise isn't the right word. What I'm really looking for is less constrictive definition of who sits at the table, and I think it's important to point out that there are some pro-life Democrats who hold seats of real power in the legislature.
But, you know, Schwenkler is probably right, and there just isn't much room for compromise at all here. I do think that's more of a problem for the pro-life party than the pro-choice one, however. It really seems to me that the GOP's seemingly inflexible stances on abortion, gay rights and similar plays directly into the notion of the Republican Party as a restrictive and intolerant organization. Then again, I'm pretty deep in the bubble, so I could be wrong.