Why Condi Rice is Pro-Choice

Sarah Pulliam Bailey gets former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to talk about her libertarian views on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Rice identifies herself as an evangelical, but she says she also supports abortion rights and civil unions. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

CT: In the past you said you worry about the government trying to legislate morality, and you know that evangelicals care very much about the issue of abortion.

Rice: I’m generally pretty libertarian in these matters, because Americans are quite good, actually, at finding a way to deal with these extremely divisive and difficult moral issues. And it’s not that I’m a relativist. It’s not that I believe everybody has their own morality. But I do understand that there are different ways of thinking about how these issues are going to play out in people’s lives, and I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in governing their own lives. Sometimes when things are out of whack the government has no choice but to step in. But I’m wary of the government stepping in to too many issues.

CT: Was there a time when you came to a place on that issue, where your faith informed your position on abortion?

Rice: I’m still coming to terms with it. I don’t like the government involved in these really hard moral decisions. While I don’t think the country is ready for legislation to overturn Roe v. Wade, certainly I cannot imagine why one would be in favor of partial birth abortion. I also can’t imagine why one would take these decisions out of the hands of the family. We all understand that this is not something to be taken lightly.

CT: Same-sex marriage is another issue that has captured the country’s attention in recent years.

Rice: I have lots of respect for people on both sides of this divide, because there are really hard issues. I don’t ever want anybody to be denied rights within our country. I happen to think marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s tradition, and I believe that that’s the right answer. But perhaps we will decide that there needs to be some way for people to express their desire to live together through civil union. I think the country, if we can keep the volume down, will come to good answers.

I’m generally a fan of Condi Rice, but the moral reasoning on display here is incoherent. She says that she’s not a “relativist”—which means that right and wrong are not derived from or based on an individual’s or a community’s preferences. As she says it, she does not believe that “everyone has their own morality.” Nevertheless, she says that “there are different ways of thinking about how these issues are going to play out in people’s lives.” In other words, Rice explains her own views on abortion and marriage, and then she implies that other people’s views are just as valid as hers as far as public policy is concerned.

And therein lays the fundamental incoherence. Either the unborn have a right to life as God’s image-bearers or they don’t. If Secretary Rice believes that the unborn have an intrinsic right to life, then it make no sense to say that their lives deserve no protection in law (à la her support of Roe v. Wade). If she believes that they don’t have an intrinsic right to life, then why oppose late term abortions (as she says she opposes in the interview)? The unborn are either worth protecting from conception to birth or they are not. The ground between these two positions is an ethical no-man’s land.

Secretary Rice says that she is still “still coming to terms” with her views on these matters. I hope she sees her way through the moral inconsistency to a concern for the protection of the unborn.

25 Responses to Why Condi Rice is Pro-Choice

  1. Donald Johnson December 21, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    What I would say (and what I think she is trying to say) is that there is a difference between what one individual believes is morally correct and what is valid for a government of a country (composed of many varied individuals) to enforce.

    That is, there is a difference between what is (seen as) immoral and what is illegal and there is a difference between what is (seen as) moral and what is legal.

  2. Kelly December 21, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Mr. Johnson articulated what I was thinking far better than I could have. As a fellow Presbyterian (USA) with Ms. Rice, I know that this is how even most of the small (but vocal) conservative wing of the church stands on the issue.

    It is not being relativistic, it is simple being aware that in a nation where many people of good will have an opposing opinion, and in the case of myself and Ms. Rice, even the majority of fellow Christians in her own church (myself included there) think differently, it is inappropriate for one group to legally enforce its views on the entire society.

    I know that many here will not like reading that. And, I suppose that this is because to most evangelicals (how is that whenever a Mainline Protestant is a political conservative they get saddled with the title “evangelical” by the way? Did she use it for herself? Somehow I doubt that. Few Mainline Christians see it as a compliement due to the political baggage it now carries) there is no serious debate on the morality of abortion, even in the early part of pregnancy. Same with recognizing gay relationships and families. Please remember, to most of us, it us YOU who are deeply immoral due to your work to do everything possible to prevent any legal recognition of Gay people and their families, and thus are preventing them from getting the benefits and emotional recognition they deserve.

    Please remember, Ms. Rice (and I) are members of a church that has asked the hard questions on these issues, and has come to a very different set of conclusions than those of the Southern Baptists.

    I don’t care for her politics, but, I admire her very Presbyterian and Christian approach to justice, and NOT expecting her views to be the standard for all, especially on those issues where there is NOT a clear moral concensus, even within the Church itself, much less in society overall.

    That is not relativism, rather, that is tolerance, and humility, on her part.

  3. Joe Blackmon December 21, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Simply put, you cannot be Christian and be pro-choice or pro-sodomite “rights”. Period.

  4. Brent Hobbs December 21, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    While I disagree with her (on abortion), I don’t think her reasoning is quite as skewed as Denny makes it sound.

    I believe it’s wrong to tell people they are ugly. But I don’t think the answer is to pass laws and make it illegal. Am I a relativist for thinking that way?

    Where we disagree is that I think the seriousness of abortion rises to a level where legislation is necessary and proper—and I’d love to have that discussion with her.

    But calling her a relativist because of these comments doesn’t follow.

  5. Kelly December 21, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Joe Blackman is not the Pope (not that I would respect that old queens opinion as authorative either), and does not get to tell other Christians and whole denominations what the Christian stance is on issues of reporductive rights, abortion, or gay rights.

    Period.

    And Thank God for that.

    Even if one disagrees with her, and other Christians, on these issues, that does not mean that we are not approaching the issues in a serious manner, with great concern for the rights of others. The same respect we hope they will have for our rights, as it happens.

  6. Nathan December 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Denny, I must correct you in your assumption that Condi’s pro-choice view is libertarian. It is not libertarian in any sense of the word to take the life of an innocent unborn baby. Being libertarian means protecting personal freedoms and prosecuting anyone who violates that freedom. The unborn baby has their personal freedom violated when they are aborted. By its very nature, the act of abortion is anti-libertarian.

    There are libertarians who do believe in abortion just like there are republicans and democrats that believe in abortion. But, those libertarians are simply being inconsistant with their own philosophy- a philosophy that is clearly defined, unlike republicrats.

    For more info, check out: Libertarians for Life
    http://www.l4l.org/

  7. Chief Katie December 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    Joe,

    While I might agree with you in terms of calling those things sinful, I think that what Condi Rice is saying, is that even though she believes in moral absolutes, she has a concern about giving government more opportunities to interfere in our lives.

    Think about it. Government has now taken over our healthcare. Have you thought about all those implications thoroughly? Moral issues are all over the landscape and it’s not going to be good.

    There is not a planet on the earth that has as much morality as we do.

    I don’t think you want to live in a Theocracy either. That’s the ultimate interference in our lives based on someone else’s view of God. That should seriously scare every single Christian.

    I’m with you that abortion and same sex or polygamous marriage are abominations unto God. But I won’t go as far as you did as to say Condi Rice isn’t a Christian.

    She has spent years of her life traveling to places where people still think it ought to be okay to stone your wife to death and call it righteous unto God. I’ve seen first-hand what happens to babies who are born out of wedlock in places such as Bahrain, Dubai, Saudi Arabia. That’s an abomination as well.

    So I think she knows that both extremes, offer opportunities for yet more evil. I think this is the place that Condi speaks from.

    I’d prefer that she had been more consistent, but from my own experience of watching theocracies, I know of what she speaks.

    And Joe, no matter how much we may not want to face it, we do have to be careful when we mix faith with government. Have you thought about a Presidential candidate who would meet your standards? How about Mitt Romney? He doesn’t even know the Jesus we do. If I have to choose between Condi and Mitt… I’m going with Condi and make no apologies for it.

    I stand with you to fight against these things. I know your heart is sincere in wanting to follow the Lord. However, as you know, we Christians need to get our own houses in order before we decide exactly how other people ought to order theirs. There is a whole mountain of dirt in the SBC that we might want to start with. Yes?

    God Bless

  8. Nathan December 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Now that I reread her statement, I see she calls herself a libertarian. So, yeah, I wouldn’t buy into her understanding of libertarianism. It just isn’t right.

  9. Kelly December 21, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    interesting. Honest opinions, presented cordially, get scrubbed now if they so much as point out that Dr. Rice is part of a denomination that is prochoice, and which approaches gay rights with the understanding that the whole Church does not speak with one voice on this issue and many Christians don’t want to impose their views (not that all of them have anti gay views by the way) on others.

    That does not imply great confidence in the strength of ones positions, if they can be threatened by merely pointing out that not all Christians agree, does it?

    By the way, if you are going to do so scrubbing of offensive material, the “Pro sodomite” comment by Mr. Blackmon is only a step above the tone of Fred Phelps. Might wanna’ think about that.

  10. Kelly December 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    my apologies, deeply stated, and eaten with a plate of crow. The computer was showing only the first three posts, and none of mine, when I came back, I don’t know why. I had assumed they were scrubbed. It appears they were not. Mea Culpa, mea culpa, and my sincerest apologies to Dr. Burke. I was wrong, and I am very sorry indeed.

  11. paul December 21, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    “Simply put, you cannot be Christian and be pro-choice or pro-sodomite “rights”. Period.”

    You can, however, be a Christian AND be a total buffoon.

  12. paul December 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    More proof that Republican concern for human life is a sham…

    http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2010/12/09/911-health-bill-fails-senate-vote/?mod=wsj_share_facebook

    Please, someone, please decry the Wall Street Journal as the liberal media. Please.

  13. Derek December 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Paul, I guess you’re unfamiliar with how things work in Washington, where one side promotes a bill that features something that everyone agrees with, while downplaying the stuff that is in the fine print – the stuff that lobbyists are sneaking in, or the stuff that is setting the stage for something else. Other times, it is just a PR stunt to get people focused on the left hand, while the right hand is passing some other legislation. Both sides do this, don’t pretend your liberal heroes in Washington don’t do it too.

  14. paul December 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    Once again, Derek starts throwing around “liberal” as some sort of denunciation.

    If the WSJ wasn’t going to pick apart the bill, it’s because there wasn’t anything to pick apart.

  15. Derek December 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Once again, Paul portrays one political party as evil and the other one as pure. Note that I described both parties as equally guilty. Everything is not as it appears on the surface.

    For what it’s worth, the 9/11 recovery workers will be taken care of. Neither party, nor their surrogates should demonize one side of this simply because they don’t want to deal with it in the compressed and partisan atmosphere of a lame duck congress. If the shoe was on the other foot, the Dems would be saying the same thing. And if they had just won a historic election, they’d be right.

  16. Brian December 21, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Paul,

    I believe you are confusing the Wall Street Journal News Section (which leans liberal) and the Wall Street Journal Editorial/Opinion Section (which is staunchly conservative). If the article you referenced were written in the Opinion page, by say, Peggy Noonan, Fred Barnes, etc, I think you would have a point.

  17. John December 22, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    I read what Ms Rice said, and I find no evidence of incoherence at all, assuming that word is being used in a philosophical sense, rather than as a vernacular pejorative. However, I think her argument fails in that the issue of abortion addresses the life of a human being, and our federal government is already charged with protecting human life. I think everyone wants the government to have the power to protect life (and liberty and the pursuit of happiness), but once we start discriminating between types and values of life, we are already halfway down the Nazi highway.

  18. paul December 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Brian,

    To quote Stephen Colbert, “reality has a liberal bias.”

    Derek —

    Once again, learn how to read. Let’s pick this apart now…

    “Once again, Paul portrays one political party as evil and the other one as pure.”

    I never did any such thing. I rang the Republicans’ bell in #12 because their own party platform includes pro-life language, but really, their actions, much of the time, to me, have nothing to do with being “pro-life” and everything to do with being “pro-birth.” Sorry. Prove me wrong.

    In your response, your use of the word liberal (not democrat – and there IS a difference) certainly seemed derogatory. Hence, see my response in #14.

    Now, what is really galling to me is this: “because they don’t want to deal with it in the compressed and partisan atmosphere of a lame duck congress.”

    translation: the Republicans want to be able to write their own 9/11 workers bill so that they can take the credit for it. You’re right to say that such a thing might be politics as usual. You’d be wrong to say, however, that such a thing is in any way holding the moral high ground.

    You know what’s really kinda funny? The way you seem to think of liberals is that we’re all bad, terrible, horrible people that believe in a whole bunch of bad ideas. Now, I may very well be in the minority, but I do not at all hold the same view for conservatives. Rather, I see the difference between the George Wills and William F Buckleys, whose positions were clearly thought out and well articulated and the Sarah Palin/Michelle Bachmann brand of tin foil hat partisan war with the left “conservatism” that unfortunately is a much louder voice in the conversation.

    You would do well to heed that in situations like there.

    Back to Condi Rice — I think she takes a realistic stance here. Call me all the names you want, but the political landscape will not allow an overturn to Roe v. Wade, and to base one’s vote upon that single issue is nothing short of crazy in my opinion.

  19. paul December 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    modded? For what?

  20. Derek December 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    The 9/11 responders/volunteers situation is now resolved, as I predicted it would be. I’m especially glad that Tom Coburn and the Republicans worked to limit the amount of money that trial lawyers could make off of both the taxpayers and volunteers. I’m sure that the trial lawyer lobbyists are mad about it, but that is a good thing for the rest of us.

  21. Derek December 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Paul,
    I read your comments perfectly fine. You made a bellicose and naive comment, inferring that conservatives aren’t pro-life because of reluctance to sign the 9/11 responder bill “as-is” without modifications, at the midnight hour of this Democratic congress. Your implication that Democrats/liberals = good, Republicans/conservatives = evil was hyper partisan … before I even entered the comment section to rebut.

  22. Tim Webb December 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Dr. Burk,

    Another Christian libertarian here to concur with others above: libertarian and pro-choice are not the same thing.

  23. Paul December 23, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Derek in #21 –

    Let’s try this again, then:

    1) “…You made a bellicose and naive comment, inferring that conservatives aren’t pro-life because of reluctance to sign the 9/11 responder bill “as-is”…”

    Nope. That’s just the latest in the long list of “pro-birth, but hardly pro-life” hi-jinks that Republicans (and not necessarily conservatives) are up to.

    2) “Your implication that Democrats/liberals = good, Republicans/conservatives = evil was hyper partisan…” No implication at all. As a matter of fact, I went to great length to explain that in #18.

    I guess all I can really do is make a promise to myself to exit conversations whenever Derek enters them. Not because Derek is brilliant, but rather because I get tired of all of the “liberal is a bad word” verbiage that flat out disallows any sort of dialogue where we can learn anything from each other.

  24. Derek December 26, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    Paul,
    It is beyond the pale for EITHER party or their supporters to even suggest that a person isn’t pro-life if they didn’t sign one or even several specific packages that were being offered at the very end of a lame duck session.
    For the third time, I said that both parties engage in the tactics you described. Stop misrepresenting my words.

  25. Lucas Knisely December 27, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Simply put, you cannot be Christian and be pro-choice or pro-sodomite “rights”. Period.

    Wow. Really?

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