“The test of a democracy is not whether the people vote, but whether the people rule,” G. K. Chesterton once wrote. In other words: Does the average citizen see her values and concerns reflected in public policy?
Charles C. Camosy, a Catholic ethicist at Fordham University, argues that a moral consensus has emerged in the United States around the issue of abortion. Yet neither the major political parties nor the federal government reflects that consensus. Citing poll after poll, from sources across the political spectrum, Camosy demonstrates that the vast majority of Americans would prefer much more limited access to abortion.
In Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation (Eerdmans), Camosy takes stock of the polling data and concludes that abortion policy could comfortably shift in a restrictive direction. Under his preferred settlement, national public policy would allow abortion only in cases of imminent danger to the life of the mother, conception by rape or incest, and a few other extraordinary instances. To this end, Camosy outlines an actual legislative proposal, what he calls the Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act (MPCPA).
State of the Debate
The abortion debate has long been framed as a deadlock between two extremes. Camosy—who has written elsewhere on animal compassion and health care—argues persuasively that this framing persists because it serves the interests of major news media, political parties, and advocacy groups. Polarization and demonization attract viewers and listeners, galvanize supporters, and mobilize volunteers. Binary categories harden edges, stiffen spines, and arouse passions.
Polls show, however, that two-thirds of Americans identify ...1