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”â€”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 (Ã 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.