The Raving Theist

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Split Decision

August 22, 2006 | 29 Comments

Being pro-choice and anti-death penalty is a common political package deal. People for whom those issues matter can usually find a candidate whose views reflect that traditional liberal pairing. Conversely, it’s easy to find a conservative pro-life politician who supports capital punishment, notwithstanding the “consistent ethic of life” approach officially advocated by the Catholic Church.

New York’s gubernatorial race presents an unusual dilemma for those subscribing to the usual alignments. The Democratic frontrunner, Eliot Spitzer, is solidly pro-choice — he has the unqualified backing of NARAL and a few years back used his position as Attorney General to go on the offensive against crisis pregnancy centers. On the other hand, Spitzer has had a longstanding commitment to capital punishment. His top criminal-justice priority in his 1994 AG campaign was the restoration of the death penalty, and in the current race he has vowed to sign a bill to overcome the recent judicial veto of the existing execution statute.

Being pro-life and anti-death penalty I have no use for the man, but I’m wondering how those conflicted by Spitzer’s stance prioritize the issues. My sense is that in each case the abortion issue dominates. To many pro-choicers, pro-lifeism is viewed as a disqualifyingly hateful brand of anti-feminism; no matter how blood-thirsty Spitzer’s death penalty posturing might become, it would never overshadow his pro-life credentials. Similarly, abortion is such a core issue to many conservatives that Spitzer’s death penalty support would be an insufficient incentive to overlook his pro-choice record.


29 Responses to “Split Decision”

  1. Christopher M
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

    It’s not an irrational prioritization, since there are currently infinitely more abortions happening in the state of New York than executions, and even if Spitzer gets his pro-death-penalty way, the ratio would still be more than ten thousand to one.

  2. Professor Chaos
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

    RA wrote: “Being pro-life and anti-death penalty I have no use for the man…”

    I find this common view amusing and angering. Spitzer’s views on two issues that are extremely unlikely to have any legislation passed on them one way or another are enough to make you “have no use for” him. Who cares what his economic stances are? Who cares what ideas he has about the future of New York’s education system? Or New York’s infrastructure? War in Iraq? New York’s tax system? New York’s legislative body? Anti-terror efforts? Nah. None of these highly important day-to-day issues are as important as those issues such as abortion and the death penalty, issues which are seing [sarcasm] CONSTANT PROPOSED LEGISLATION![/sarcasm].

  3. Andrea
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

    Neither issue would factor into my decision because I don’t vote based on a candidate’s position on abortion or CP. If I had to choose, however, a candidate’s position on CP is more likely to influence my vote than his or her abortion stance, especially in states where CP has already been abolished. I cannot support overturning good law, whereas I can (somewhat) tolerate the existence of bad law. But that’s just my vote and it doesn’t count much – if I had the power to appoint a governor, abortion would matter more because abortions affect the rights of more people than the death penalty does.

    Other issues should take priority in the gubanatorial race. For example, Spitzer isn’t afraid to acknowledge that NY is so much more than the city. To many New Yorkers, that is more important than his position on two (out of many) issues.

  4. Jewish Atheist
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 2:02 pm

    Pro-choice is much more important to me, in part because it affects so many more people. I don’t think we should be executing anybody, but I’m not going to be too upset at the killing of a mass-murderer. That wrongfully-convicted men are killed is tragic, but it’s not so common as to swing my vote towards a different candidate.

  5. darwinfish
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

    I love how in canada the current abortion debate is whether the government should pay back the women who got abortions in private clinics and how to do so anonymously (in quebec me thinks). There’s no arguing if women should or shouldn’t have the right to get them or if they’re covered by healthcare (that’s right, abortions are free in canada!).

    …and then there’s american idiots who still think there’s something to argue over.

  6. benjamin
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

    [sarcasm]That’s right darwinfish, anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot.[/sarcasm]

  7. Intergalactic Hussy
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

    Being pro-choice is saying its up to the woman. If you’re against it, that’s fine. Don’t have one! But the practice is in place to keep women safe. (The reality is…it’s going to happen, sometimes necessary.)

    Men shouldn’t really even have a say unless its their’s.

  8. Dahamu
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 8:24 pm

    Religion was supposed to fade away as globalization and freedom spread. Instead, it’s booming around the world, often deciding who gets elected. And the divine intervention is just beginning. Join in as I try to be as unbiased as possible (I said try) while diverging through recent religious happenings around the world and in your own backyard.

    Check out the blog!

  9. beepbeepitsme
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

    There is the temptation to fall into the logical fallacy of the false dilema. Pro-lifers aren’t really pro-life in all things. I have not met a pro-lifer for example who is totally anti-war, or anti-capital punishment. So, they are not really pro-life.

    I call them what they are : anti- abortionists.

  10. bernarda
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 3:03 am

    As a quip goes, for anti-abortionists, “Life begins at conception and ends at birth”.

    So-called “pro-lifers” are not pro-life for women. They consider women expendable. They are not much different than those who believe in “honor killings”. They think that the woman has somehow offended the family or the community and should be punished.

    Anti-abortion laws first appeared in the U.S. around 1820 and became almost universal by the end of the 19th century. But one of the main reasons was that at the time abortion was a risky medical procedure, dangerous for women’s health. Today abortion is as safe as a medical procedure can get.

    At the same time in the 19th century, misogynist religious fanatics passed the Comstock Law which made giving information about birth control and distributing birth-control devices illegal. It wasn’t until 1938 that Margaret Sanger won a court case against the ban.

    So it is easy to see the utter hypocrisy of the anti-abortionists, hypocrisy that continues to this day. Look at how the religious right wants “abstinence” only programs in the third world, thus condemning millions to death and illness from aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.

  11. Graham
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 8:00 am

    Sorry, bernarda, but your statements simply don’t apply to a large number of anti-abortionists. I want real sex ed MANDATED in schools, complete with condoms being passed out for kids in 9th grade up. I’m an pro-life atheist like RA (well….maybe, if RA is still an athiest – lol), and I have no religious basis for my beliefs. Yes, I know MOST anti-abortionists aren’t like RA and me, but its unfair to lump them all together. I believe there are many different viewpoints which lead to a given position on abortion, and its wrong to make such sweeping generalizations about either the pro-life or pro-choice folks.

    “They are not much different than those who believe in “honor killings”. They think that the woman has somehow offended the family or the community and should be punished.”

    Uuum…..NO. I see nothing inherently imoral with pre-marital sex, and so there’s nothing imoral about unintended pregnancy. But we do obviously differ on what happens after the conception of the new citizen (loaded term, for sure…).

  12. Pansy Moss
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 9:41 am

    Being pro-life and anti-death penalty I have no use for the man,

    Ditto. I won’t be voting for him.

  13. Glo
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 10:25 am

    Pro Choice and Pro Capital Punishment is not all that unusual. That is exactly my position.

    Like others have mentioned, I’m more Pro Choice than pro CP if only because Pro Choice affects so many more people.

  14. bernarda
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 10:26 am

    I notice that Graham did not contest anything about the history that I posted.

    “I’m an pro-life atheist ” That is an oxymoron if meant in relation to the right to abortion.

    Science, biology, and evolution have nothing to say about the rightness or wrongness–morality if you like–of abortion.

    Only religious people can be opposed to the right of women to have an abortion if they want one.

  15. Kate B.
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 11:10 am

    “I’m an pro-life atheist ” That is an oxymoron if meant in relation to the right to abortion.

    Science, biology, and evolution have nothing to say about the rightness or wrongness–morality if you like–of abortion.

    Only religious people can be opposed to the right of women to have an abortion if they want one.

    Once again, ladies and gents, we see that all atheists everywhere must hold exactly the same opinions on all matters. All the time. The Flying Spaghetti Monster apparently demands obedience to all of his monumental tenets, regardless of the free will with which he apparently endowed his little macaronis. There shall be no free thinking in the great Church of Free-Thought! All un-un-believers shall be ex-ex-communicated!

  16. benjamin
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    Bernarda is confused, because “Science, biology and evolution have nothing to say about the rightness or wrongness–morality if you like– of” anything at all.

  17. Samurai Sam
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

    I find it very unlikely that there are many out there who think abortions are a good idea. I agree with beepbeepitsme in that “Pro-Life” is a misleading term; nobody’s “Pro-Death” are they? The abortion debate isn’t really about whether or not aborting fetuses is morally acceptable. It’s about who should get to make that decision. Those who are “Pro-Life” seem to feel that either the government or a plurality of voters should get to decide. Those, like myself, who are “Pro-Choice” believe that individuals should make that decision for themselves without government interference. Laws like we have allow for each person to make their own moral decision on a deeply personal, private matter. Neither the government nor the electorate is in any position to decide what is the best reproductive strategy for any individual.

  18. Drusilla
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 3:32 pm

    Dear Friend Bernarda –

    I truly understand why you say being against abortion is pro-death for women since the mother must die for the child to be born. And since those women who refuse to be impregnated are, at the very least, shamed and, at worst, summarily executed life for us is both brief and bitter.

    I do hear that change is in the offing. There is talk of a new type of arrangement, tentatively called “democracy” (a strange word, but then it’s a strange concept as you will see). This democracy will have laws (Did I not tell you it is strange?) to protect the innocent, to protect the forgotten as well as the remembered, the unpopular as well as the popular. And the laws can be changed by voting (another strange concept), and personal convictions, personal beliefs and free exchange of ideas will be necessary conerstones of the entire arrangement. And, I hear, that even when a law exists, it can still be changed. (Imagine that!)

    This democracy is fraught with risk. Bad laws may be passed, very bad laws. But there will be opportunities to correct them. And new laws will be introduced over time so that the innocent, unpopular and forgotten will continue to be protected.

    And, for the first time, women will be able to decide if they want to become pregnant. Those who choose not to have children will no longer face execution. (Dearest friend, can you believe such news. Soon you will be free to relinquish your men’s garb and while clothed as a woman, study and work and live to your heart’s content.)

    But Bernarda, there is yet another wonder, talk of medical advancements that will allow women to have babies without dying. Just think of it, babies can live and mothers can live. Both! At the same time! Have we not found ourselves in a strange and wonderful age? If this be earth, then what wonders will heaven hold?

    Your friend,


  19. Godthorn
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

    If this be sense, make the least of it.

  20. Drusilla
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

    Ah Godthorn –

    How canst thou hope to comprehend the world of women?

  21. Oz
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 4:08 pm

    Darwinfish, don’t use the word ‘free’ to discuss government programs. The word is “prepaid.”

  22. Sean
    August 23rd, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

    Where do those who favor abortion for its ability to limit the number of undesirables entering the world, and who are against the death penalty not because it’s morally wrong, but because innocent people will occasionally get executed fit in?

  23. Thorngod
    August 24th, 2006 @ 9:55 am

    Sean, clarify that.

  24. Kate B.
    August 24th, 2006 @ 10:11 am


    They fit in with the eugenicists.

  25. Godthorn
    August 24th, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

    Okay, Sean, maybe my request was as unclear to you as you question was to me. I was not sure whether you were being deprecating of those in the classes referred to, or whether you were describing your own attitudes and asking what we thought of them.

    In any case, is not the probability of wrongful executions a moral consideration? And should not the suffering of children and the increasing demand on the planet’s bounty take precedence over the survival of embryos?

    It is not eugenics; it is humanity. -Thorngod.

  26. bernarda
    August 26th, 2006 @ 1:15 am

    Well, here is something to shock the bejesus out of the anti-abortion crowd. In fact it shocks me but for diametrically opposed reasons. A video on what happens to many embryos.

    These will never be used for stem-cell research, unfortunately.

  27. SamuraiPizzaCat
    August 29th, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

    ok Bernarda is quite obviously a complete idiot, but I find myself somewhat ambivalent on the abortion front.

    It all boils down to when you believe human-life actually begins, which is unfortunatlely quite difficult to nail down. A line has to be drawn in the sand somewhere, but I fail to see how this could be done in anything but a totally arbitrary fashion.

    I’ve done a fair bit of research on the subject, and based on what I’ve seen I believe a fetus should be considered a full individual human-being at 8 weeks past conception and afforded the rights of such at said point.

    But as I’ve said, its tough to nail down and thats only my opinion. You know, higher brain function in humans doesn’t actually begin until about 3 years of age. Perhaps one could make that case that a mother has a right to terminate the life of her child until said child reaches the age of 3.

  28. Thorngod
    August 29th, 2006 @ 4:23 pm

    If you calculate right to life on that basis, things could get pretty damned scary. In my judgement, higher brain function in most humans is severely delimited for the duration.

  29. bernarda
    September 1st, 2006 @ 9:55 am

    We seem to have samurais proliferating on this thread.

    Anyway, I always get a laff from people like pizzaforbrains samurai cat who have nothing to say about someone’s posts but feel compelled to jerkoff anyway.

    Thank you for sharing.

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