The emergence of social moral issues

The media don’t quite know how to handle this.

GOP presidential candidates are talking, and more boldly, about the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, human dignity and ‘rights endowed by the Creator’, especially in their debates. Partially because they’re being prodded by media moderators.

Shortly after last weekend’s ABC debate, some top stories on my news aggregator recounted a particularly odd and persistent exchange between questioner George Stephanopoulos and candidate Mitt Romney. That story disappeared quickly and was replaced by boilerplate rundowns of the debate and especially from the angle of who was attacking whom on stage over political and business track records. Where did that story go?

It turned up here, which is pretty thorough in describing the snip and then publishing the video and transcript.

During Saturday’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, hosted by ABC, co-moderator George Stephanopoulos bizarrely pressed candidate Mitt Romney on whether the former Massachusetts governor believes the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn a 1965 ruling that a constitutional right to privacy bars states from banning contraception.

And that’s the key to what should be the focus whenever this topic is raised. Whether it’s intended as a ‘gotcha’ question or whatever. NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez brings clarity to the media distortions and confusion.

The problem with the headlines is that they are untrue.

What Santorum has said is that the Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut — which dealt with a case that was a Planned Parenthood official’s stunt — was a bad precedent and bad law. It created a constitutional right for married persons to use contraceptives. Writing for the majority, Justice William O. Douglas declared that ”specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance,” and that “various [of these] guarantees create zones of privacy.” That would be the basis for the Roe decision eight years later, which relied on a similar constitutional stretch.

All of which provides another opportunity to point to this critical understanding of Roe as bad law and wrongly-decided law. Let’s just look at the first three ‘pro-choice scholars’ quoted here:

Laurence Tribe — Harvard Law School. Lawyer for Al Gore in 2000.
“One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found.”
“The Supreme Court, 1972 Term—Foreword: Toward a Model of Roles in the Due Process of Life and Law,” 87 Harvard Law Review 1, 7 (1973).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
“Roe, I believe, would have been more acceptable as a judicial decision if it had not gone beyond a ruling on the extreme statute before the court. … Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.”
North Carolina Law Review, 1985

Edward Lazarus — Former clerk to Harry Blackmun.
“As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. I say this as someone utterly committed to the right to choose, as someone who believes such a right has grounding elsewhere in the Constitution instead of where Roe placed it, and as someone who loved Roe’s author like a grandfather.” ….
“What, exactly, is the problem with Roe? The problem, I believe, is that it has little connection to the Constitutional right it purportedly interpreted. A constitutional right to privacy broad enough to include abortion has no meaningful foundation in constitutional text, history, or precedent – at least, it does not if those sources are fairly described and reasonably faithfully followed.”

Let’s have this debate. But let it be honest, respectful, and open to core beliefs and truths.

Catholic Charities in the presidential debate

Three days ahead of the New Hampshire primary, ABC moderated yet another debate Saturday night among the GOP candidates. Questioners asked about the economy and foreign policy. But they provoked candidates pointedly on social moral issues. In response, they got an earful.

Especially from Newt Gingrich.

He siezed the opportunity to blast the media for anti-Christian bias. Which moderators teed up with their pointed questions.

New Hampshire TV’s anchor Josh McElveen first posed the question to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum:

“Your position on same-sex adoption, obviously, you are in favor of traditional families, but are you going to tell someone they belong in — as a ward of the state or in foster care, rather than have two parents who want them?”

Mr Santorum answered, “My — my feeling is that this is an issue that should be — I believe the issue of marriage itself is a federal issue, that we can’t have different laws with respect to marriage. We have to have one law. Marriage is, as Newt said, a foundation institution of our country, and we have to have a singular law with respect to that. We can’t have somebody married in one state and not married in another.”

“Once we — if we were successful in establishing that, then this issue becomes moot…

Speaker Gingrich, however, answered the question another way asking the media:

“I just want to raise — since we’ve spent this much time on these issues — I just want to raise a point about the news media bias. You don’t hear the opposite question asked. Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples, which is exactly what the state has done? Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to secular bigotry?”

He went further:

“Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and the bigotry of the administration?

“The bigotry question goes both ways. And there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concerning the other side. And none of it gets covered by the news media.”

Mitt Romney noted that Massachusetts Catholic Charities was out of the adoption business because of the Church’s fundamental beliefs. Rick Perry jumped in and criticized the Obama administration for stigmatizing Catholic Charities because of its principles on marriage and abortion, driving them out of important social services.

At the end of the debate, ABC moderators George Stephanopoulos and Diana Sawyer turned to a panel of pundits in their studios for analysis. She addressed one of them saying ‘You’ve spent a lot of time covering these charac….’ and then caught herself and adjusted her comments and said ‘covering these candidates’…and proceeded to ask the question.

The candidates debate again on NBC Sunday morning.