The Basement of the Culture of Death

With a pro-abortion president in the White House, new sub-groups in the broader “culture of death” are coming into view. One of them is dark, indeed.
Take two recent events: Dr. George Tiller is compared to Martin Luther King, Jr. The president of Catholics for Choice attacks a political appointee, Alexia Kelley, who defended Obama’s abortion record before the nation’s Catholic voters.
As head of Catholics in Alliance with the Common Good, Alexia Kelley was second only to Doug Kmiec in making Obama’s record on abortion palatable to Catholics. Aren’t these two organizations supposed to be on the same side? Why wouldn’t Catholics for Choice applaud Ms. Kelley’s appointment to the faith-based office of the Department of Health and Human Services?
In previous commentary on this quarrel, I implied that the objection to Kelley was a simple territorial spat. During the presidential election, Kelley’s Catholics in Alliance had supplanted Catholics for Choice as the preeminent organization of the Catholic Left. Kelley now stands atop not only the movement pecking order, but also controls $20 million of the Health and Human Services budget earmarked for family-planning services. The present and former presidents of CFC, Frances Kissling and Jon O’Brien, fear the loss of status, but they fear the loss of power as political gatekeepers even more.
In dwelling on the political aspects of the attack by O’Brien and Kissling, I neglected to probe the deeper issue feeding their animus against the “abortion reduction” argument and Kelley’s support for it. That dimension reveals a subculture among abortion supporters that may well distinguish O’Brien and Kissling from Kelley. If not, it surely distinguishes them from many who consider themselves “pro-choice.”
O’Brien considers his objection to Kelley’s advocacy of abortion reduction so fundamental that he describes both her and Catholics in Alliance as “anti-choice.” I should have paused longer over that description, because it reveals an outlook entirely at odds with the abortion-reduction program (assuming that it is held as a matter of sincere conviction and not political expediency).
When O’Brien accuses Kelley of an “abandonment of ideals,” it should be clear that Catholics for Choice cares, first and foremost, about protecting a woman’s alleged “right” to end a human life in her womb. What pains O’Brien and Kissling is any stifling of a woman’s choice, not the death of an unborn child. What enrages these two about Kelley is that she and her organization publicly regarded abortion as something to be equated with torture or war. Catholics for Choice is so exercised over Kelley’s leadership that the organization produced a pamphlet titled, “The Trouble with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.”
Indeed, Kissling and O’Brien employ “pro-choice” not as a euphemism to disguise the horror of what they espouse, but as a direct signifier of what they value to the exclusion of anything else: choice. Anyone who describes herself as pro-choice but has any impulse to protect the unborn is “anti-choice.” Thus is revealed the darkest recesses in the “culture of death,” when all compassion for the unborn child is reviled in the name of freedom.
Such was also the case recently when late-term abortionist Dr. LeRoy Carhart compared the murder of Dr. George Tiller, another late-term abortionist, to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But Dr. Carhart went even further:
This is the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania, and any other major historic event where we’ve tolerated the intolerable for too long.
Dr. Carhart is exactly right: The argument over abortion is about what is intolerable. Once we have fully recognized that this question divides even abortion supporters, we must ask, “Which side does President Obama stand on?” Based upon his record in supporting infanticide, I would guess he stands with O’Brien and Kissling, which may explain why they were surprised with the appointment of Alexia Kelley to a plum position at HHS.

Deal W. Hudson is the director of and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).


  • Deal W. Hudson

    Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of “Church and Culture,” a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

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