The Catholic Thing
The Pelvic Left and the Heartless Right Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Pelvic Left just cannot get over the fact that we are a pro-life nation. Writing in the Nation a few days ago, Katha Pollitt bemoaned the recent elections that will bring “fifty-three additional anti-choice Republicans in the House and five in the Senate.”

Pollitt could not help but gild the lily. She says “Senator-elect Rand Paul, and incoming Representatives Mike Fitzpatrick and Tim Walberg oppose most common methods of birth control, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research, and join Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey in opposing abortion even for rape and incest.” Perhaps all of this is true. One can certainly dream that someone wants to get the United States out of the global condom business and begin at least to regulate IVF. The most interesting thing for pro-lifers, however, is that these largely libertarian newcomers think one of the ways government should be limited is to get it out of the sanctioning of abortion.  

Pollitt lays out a remarkable pro-life agenda for the new Congress. She says it will reinstate Mexico City policy, effectively defunding abortionists and pro-abortion advocates overseas. It will pass Chris Smith’s No Tax Payer for Abortion Act, which would expand the Hyde prohibitions on federal abortion funding to the entire federal budget, and will pass the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would forcibly remove Planned Parenthood from the federal teat. She predicts much more doom and gloom, which makes pro-life hearts go pitty-pat. 

It’s not just the Pelvic Left who are cranky about November’s outcome. So is the Heartless Right. A tiny group among libertarians sent a letter to Congressional leaders a few days ago trying to persuade them that this election was only about economics and that they will take up social issues at their peril.

The letter, which was co-written by several homosexual groups, said: “The election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check. Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party’s message and use it to push their own agenda – particularly as it relates to social issues. We urge you to stay focused on the issues that got you and your colleagues elected to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests.”

        Aware of what it takes for a society to reproduce and defend itself

Well. Here is something for the new kids on the block to understand. The so-called conservative movement is broad and deep. We can call it conservative for convenience sake, but it consists essentially of all the people who understand what it takes for a society to reproduce and defend itself. It includes economic conservatives along with social conservatives and national security conservatives, in fact, anyone who understands how invasive government destroys the family and freedom.

More than any other part of the conservative coalition, pro-lifers embody all parts of the conservative credo. We are not just pro-life; we are economic conservatives and also favor a muscular foreign policy. Many conservative libertarians do not hold with either the pro-life position or the position on a strong defense. Many national defense conservatives abhor the pro-life issue. Pro-lifers embody the purest form of self-reproducing, self-defending – in a word, viable – conservatism.

It is certainly true that the recent election was driven largely by economic concerns. But doesn’t the Heartless Right know that five Tea Party Senatorial candidates held unapologetic pro-life views including outlawing abortion for rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother? Does the Heartless Right really think that abortion is not a federal issue? Do they really not understand that the decision that has most warped our Constitutional republic and our politics was Roe v. Wade? Do they really not understand that the marriage issue is being federalized?

The dirty little secret is, I suspect, that they do know each of these things and that, no matter their protestations to the contrary, they are fine with the killing of unborn children and they are fine with the judicial destruction of marriage.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not equate the Tea Party with the Heartless Right. The Heartless Right is merely a subset of the Tea Party and an even smaller subset of the conservative movement in general. Heck, I am a Tea Partier. So are my wife and my mom. We believe in smaller government, lower taxes, closer attention to the Constitution as the Founders intended it. We also oppose abortion for any reason and we oppose homosexual marriage. Poll other Tea Partiers like us and you will discover exactly the same thing in overwhelming numbers.

In her Nation piece, Katha Pollitt reminded us of Thomas Frank’s epigram from his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? He puzzled over the fact that pro-lifers consistently vote for Republicans and then never get what they really want: “The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes.” There is something to that. Pro-lifers have been remarkably loyal to the conservative coalition but it is the economic types who seem always to walk away with the legislative prizes. But who knows. Maybe this time it will be reversed. Vote for economics; get a roll back on abortion.

Austin Ruse
is the President of the New York and Washinton, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy.
The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.

©2010 The Catholic Thing.
All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by Martial Artist, November 19, 2010
Mr. Ruse,

I find it intriguing that you think it "interesting" that people who are libertarian should "think one of the ways government should be limited is to get it out of the sanctioning of abortion." As an essentially libertarian (although I prefer Hayek's choice of Old Whig) Catholic (a recent convert from Episcopalianism), allow me to explain my confusion. One way of summing up libertarianism is as a political philosophy that believes the law should be largely confined to the protection of fundamental human rights, the rights which are given us by our Creator, including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Once a sentient person recognizes that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception, the rest of the argument against abortion becomes virtually automatic, barring willful refusal to exercise one's moral and intellectual integrity. Why should this be so surprising?

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer
written by Austin Ruse, November 19, 2010
Well, i find it interesting that you find it intriguing that I find it interesting!
written by Patrick, November 19, 2010
When gay Republican groups ask the newly elected "to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests" -- the most straightforward interpretation of that statement would seem to me to be to take a conservative position on marriage (although I am of course aware that's not what they meant).
written by Graham Combs, November 19, 2010
First, I want to thank Mr. Topfer for his comments, I too am a recent (2009 Easter Vigil) convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism. I occassionally graze through LIBERTY, the libertarian monthly, and am often enlightened but also periodically troubled by what often seems an anti-religious inclination. I was pro-life long before becoming a Catholic and often felt like a libertarian at an AFSCME rally. Out of place and suffocating under the feverish rhetoric. Second and lastly, I work for a well-known bookstore chain notorious for its leftist bent. Today, and not for the first time, I was verbally assaulted for my conservative views and Catholic beliefs complete with hateful -- yes hateful -- looks. But this was one of the rare times I talked back. Never a pleasant experience and mostly a waste of time, but the culture of death and contempt for constitutional rights is deeply imbedded in corporate American these days. As it was in law school. I sometimes wonder if the Church understands what it is like outside her walls and sancuaries. The hatred and slander of the pro-life movement as well as the profound desire to completely neutralize the Church in this country. How can one be a "progressive" Catholic given what I and others like me endure in the secular and business world? I can only say that it is a lonely and disspiriting engagement and one that I always lose. And yes, it does have career consequences. So much for employee rights. But I can do no other. The stakes, as Mr. Ruse and Mr. Topfer explain, are high indeed.
written by Aeneas, November 20, 2010
"We urge you to stay focused on the issues that got you and your colleagues elected to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests.”

This said by....special interest groups, what a joke, LOL! Also I agree with Patrick's above statement. It would be in helping gay marriage that the politician would be going down a social issue rabbit hole. Not the other way around.

Great article Mr. Ruse, I hope this new congress will be pro-life, among other things as well.

And on a side note.....Newly elected Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick goes to the same church that I do! In fact, just last Sunday Mass, I was sitting right behind him. I got to meet him in person after the mass ended. He seems like a very genuine man, and someone who is very Catholic. Glad to have him back in congress. Here's hoping that Fitzpatrick and the other recently elected officials do well!

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author