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Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox says he’s pro-life, but his language is chock-full of pro-choice phraseology

Earlier this month the Democrat Party’s nominee for governor, Walt Maddox, responded to a questionnaire about his views on many issues facing Alabamians, but his answers about abortion proved to be the most revealing, although probably unintentionally.

The Tuscaloosa mayor began by writing that he was “personally opposed to abortion,” a slippery term if there ever was one, before proceeding to use similar phrases that we normally hear from the pro-choice crowd.

It’s as if Maddox was sampling lines from an abortion apologist’s Greatest Hits album.

Why this matters: Alabama already has one pro-choice politician in high office with Sen. Doug “20 Weeks” Jones, who infamously voted against banning aborting unborn children when they’re 20-weeks old and capable of feeling pain. We cannot afford to have another one.

The questionnaire was formulated by the editors of Yellowhammer News and our partners over at the Alabama Policy Institute. Here’s the rather straight-forward question on abortion:

“Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?”

And here was the mayor’s answer, which as you can read isn’t really an answer at all:

“I’m a pro-life Democrat who is concerned that many Republicans are more pro-birth than pro-life,” Maddox wrote. “Perhaps Sister Joan Chittister best summed up my feelings when she said “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

He continued. “Although I am personally opposed to abortion, under the law of the land a woman has a right to choose up until the point of fetal viability,” he wrote. “The federal Hyde Amendment prohibits use of federal funds to pay for abortions except those that endanger the life of the woman, or that result from rape or incest, and Alabama law does not provide any state funds for abortions. The courts will ultimately decide which of Alabama’s several laws regulating abortion are constitutional, including any restrictions on new abortion clinics. As a governor sworn to uphold the federal and state constitutions and the laws of Alabama, I will faithfully execute Alabama’s laws within the constitutional limits defined by the Supreme Court.”

Here’s a breakdown of Maddox’s pro-choice phraseology:

— “Republicans are more pro-birth than pro-life.” 

I’ve seen this same line in dozens of emails from pro-choice activists after every pro-life column I publish. 

It’s like clockwork. They can’t cope with keeping the focus on abortion because the act is indefensible, so they attempt to change the subject entirely with what they hope is a witty turn of phrase. 

But it’s not witty. It’s hollow, and betrays the hollowness of both their argument and the moral framework it’s built upon. 

The two issues — abortion and welfare — are two entirely different subjects. But in their world, it must be OK to end someone’s life if the state isn’t willing to provide for it financially (which we do for the truly needy, by the way).

— “Although I am personally opposed to abortion, under the law of the land a woman has a right to choose up until the point of fetal viability.”

Maddox is trying to have it both ways here, but this isn’t that sort of issue. If he believes an unborn child is a person, which I suppose forms the basis for his personal opposition to abortion, then any measure of morality would compel him to oppose it completely. 

The unborn child is either a living person or not, and if so, it’s life must be defended as anyone else’s life would be defended.

To believe that, personally, yet do nothing to stop it from happening means one is either a coward or creature of such unscrupulous ambition as to be wholly undeserving of public office.

— “The courts will ultimately decide.”

No, the people will, at least in the end.

But to the point: here Maddox evades the core question by falling back on courts, as if the governor has no role. As if nobody has a role but five of nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. But we’re not living in a judicial tyranny, at least not yet. 

There are many things the governor can do — sign pro-life bills into law, make executive decisions about funding certain abortion providers, and use the bully pulpit to encourage greater action.

It seems as if Maddox might not be willing to do any of those things, preferring to toss the hot potato over to the courts.

Fundamentally, this is weakness. I’m sure one could have heard an argument similar to Maddox’s in the 1850s: “Although I am personally opposed to slavery, under the law of the land a white man has a right to own a black man. So …”

Then he quotes Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun, in what he may think is some sort of clever nod to faith. 

But conservative Catholics would see straight through this, too, because Sister Joan disagrees with Catholic teaching on abortion. She’s effectively pro-choice because she has said that she opposes it as a primary form of birth control but leaves room for abortion in many other situations, which makes her opinion on the matter decidedly not Catholic at all. 

The fact that of all the people he could quote, Maddox quotes a nun who disagrees with the Catholic teaching on abortion is very revealing.

Perhaps one of his staffers wrote the response, allowing their pro-choice phraseology to seep into the answers. Maybe he would have said more if given more space and time.

If it’s sincerely held, Maddox should stand strong on his personal opposition to abortion. We need more people who share his beliefs to step forward, to convince others, and to help put an end to the awful practice. 

Yellowhammer News would happily publish a guest post by Maddox should he wish to further explain his beliefs about abortion, and we’d hope such an explanation would dispense with wordy obfuscation and answer our inquiry more directly — since he is opposed to abortion, what would he do to stop abortions from happening in Alabama?

Until such an explanation is offered, Alabamians should remain very skeptical of Maddox’s views on abortion, and certainly his ability to represent a state whose citizens are overwhelmingly pro-life.

@jpepperbryarsis the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter