Friday, May 17, 2019


Televangelist Pat Robertson: Alabama abortion law 'has gone too far,' is 'ill-considered'


Fr Martin Fox said...

No, he's not correct, he's lost his mind.

To be more precise, and charitable, he's thinking about this the wrong way. He's thinking about this only from the point of litigation, from an insider's perspective. He is trying to game the courts (and lots of people in the prolife movement do this), carefully calibrating the "right" sort of legal challenge that gradually erodes existing precedent.

There are two reasons -- no, five -- reasons this is wrong:

1. This means trying to read the minds of the justices of the Supreme Court, and not only in the present, but in the future! People who do this are trying to anticipate just how the collective decision-making of the Supremes will go, whenever the legislation at issue gets before them. Trouble is, who really knows? Yes, we pretty much know how the four most liberal will vote, and I would bet money on how, say, Thomas and Alito would vote. But beyond that? Do Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Roberts themselves really know how they would vote? If you think so, how do you know? You don't. You can guess, and you might guess right. But you don't really KNOW.

Also, by the time a case reaches the court, there might be a different court. Things change; personnel changes.

And, everyone knows that the high court takes notice of legislative ferment and the political winds, even if the justices don't want to admit it. So I think it's a fool's errand to try to guess what the High Court will do.

2. This results in a morally obtuse position. Pat Robertson, I thought, was entirely prolife. So how can he be against saving more babies? He ends up discouraging legislators and prolifers from supporting a good law! This is confusing and dispiriting. And, it is actually damaging, because you tell the politicians that all they need to do is pass wishy-washy, do-little bills. You end up with the wrong sort in office, and then, when you want to pass something good, who will you have to vote for it? They'll quote your own words back to you: "oh no, this is too extreme"!

(to be continued...)

Fr Martin Fox said...

To continue...

3. He entirely ignores the power of mobilization and the long game that politics is, like baseball. Sure, a good law may be struck down. So what? The current precedents of the Supreme Court are already nearly as bad as they can be. Does he really think this law would lead to this Court reverting to worse jurisprudence on abortion? That's absurd. I mean, he's probably right that the Supreme Court won't uphold this, but so what? The realistic worst-case scenario is that this case gets to the High Court, and the status-quo is reaffirmed. So what? We come back again, and again, and again. That's how it works.

Meanwhile, these fights serve to mobilize our folks and get them motivated. That's the real ballgame anyway. If you want to win in the courts, you're going to have to be able to win -- repeatedly -- at the polls. And to win the right way, with the right issues, aiming at electing the right people. Pat Robertson is making the case for electing do-little legislators, not run-into-fire legislators.

4. Good politics has to begin and be rooted in what is actually morally right. Pat Robertson is one of those people who thinks, politics is just dirty and dishonest, so we can't help getting dirty if we get into it. Lots of people in politics are dishonest, but it isn't true that you have to be dishonest or crooked in order to get into it. Telling good people that they should suspend their morality when they wade into politics is insane. But when he attacks a law because it protects too many unborn babies, he is losing sight of this.

5. Finally, where's his trust in God? Yes, we work hard and work smart in political activity, but first and last, this is God's battle. I've been praying for many years for the conversion of judges, including those on the Supreme Court. God doesn't ask us to game the outcome, he asks us to be faithful. I think that means:

- We lay out the morally right, morally coherent position: protect all unborn life.
- Work as hard as we can to elect as many people who are fired up for this coherent position.
- Keep the pressure on constantly to get bills introduced that achieve this goal, and to get them voted on, and to get them passed. Record votes, even when the bill fails, serve to help with step two; rinse and repeat.
- If the courts stymie us, this too helps mobilize people in elections, and winning elections is the only way to win court cases. However frustrating, there is no other way.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Now, having said all that, I think if you want to undo Roe v. Wade, the better legislative strategy is to pursue federal legislation that declares unborn children are persons under the 14th Amendment. This was the key issue in Roe, and the Blackmun decision conceded that the court couldn't answer whether fetuses were "persons," but if this were so established, the case for legal abortion being protected as a matter of "privacy" would collapse. "Collapse": Blackmun said that, in 1973.

But only Congress can do that. But that doesn't mean state legislatures should do nothing. So they pass good laws that represent progress. Don't worry about what the Supreme Court will do, because you never really know anyway.

Anonymous said...

Well, the Reverend Robertson is 89 years old, and he did say some crazy things in his 1988 presidential bid (which flopped badly). But as I recall, he was not critical of Georgia's law (which does have some exceptions). So I guess by Father Fox's logic, Brian Kemp should have vetoed the Georgia legislation last week---"it didn't go far enough." In fact, some hard-liners wanted him to do just that. But the governor knows---as hopefully most readers here should too---that politics is the art of the possible, not pipe dreams, and given that the legislation only got a slight majority in the Georgia House, it would not have passed without some exceptions. And good luck passing a "morally coherent bill" in a state that nearly elected the far-left Stacey Abrams last November....

Fr Martin Fox said...


So I guess by Father Fox's logic, Brian Kemp should have vetoed the Georgia legislation last week---"it didn't go far enough."

Now you're just making stuff up.

Anonymous said...

I think the televangelists is wrong. I do wonder if Alabama’s law is a response to New York’s barbaric law. I also think that Alabama’s law needs backing by a stronger pro-life agenda, and that includes much increased funding for social services.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous responds:

"Making stuff up?" Well you say "keep the pressure on constantly to get bills to achieve that goal." SO if we were to go with your absolutist position, the bill should be vetoed because it does not protect all lives. And there were some in the pro-life community here in Georgia who wanted the bill vetoed for that reason. But more sane voices stuck with the governor. I think what Robertson is saying is that if you push legislation that is way ahead of public opinion, it will lose and may in fact help the other side. I know of no state where a majority of people would vote (if they could---that pesky Roe decision is in the way) to ban abortion in every instance---no even in Republican states. About 30 years ago, Wyoming had a public vote on banning abortion (the same Wyoming that has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1968). Lost in a landslide (even with the exceptions). South Dakota had a referendum years ago and it went down, even with exceptions. Safe to say those 2 states would have voted "no" on a complete ban?

Robertson probably agrees with you 95 percent on abortion, He probably thinks, however, (as lots of other people do) that pushing a bill which likely creates sympathy for the other side is not very prudent. Just when Democrats were on the run for pushing new York's extremely liberal abortion legislation, or Virginia, or the partial-birth debate of years ago, now they can say, "well if we are far out, look at the other side---they want to jail doctors who perform abortions on rape victims." So you end up with stalemate on public opinion.

Congress is unlikely to pass "personhood" legislation, as for one you would probably need 60 votes in the Senate for that---and LOL on that. Few if any Democrats would support it, and doubtless some Republicans would too. The last the Republicans held three-fifths of the US Senate, you'd have to go back to the Model T era of the 1920s---in today's polarized environment, it is highly unlikely either party will have 60 votes in the Senate (and Lord only knows how much worse it would be for the pro-life movement if Democrats ever got 60 seats).

But you and I can agree it is embarrassing the number of pro-abortion Catholics running for president---I mean, we can't find even 1 Democrat among the 20-somethign running who is against abortion, not even for mild restrictions on the practice! It has long been past time for disciplinary action against Kristin Gillbrand, Robert Francis (Beto) O'Rourke and Nancy Pelosi, but I can't hold my breath forever!

Anonymous 2 said...

On the abortion issue, as on other controversial issues, we should certainly be cautious about what we read on social media and we should try to establish the actual facts. The actual facts may be shocking enough but we lose credibility and ability to persuade when we are factually incorrect. We also lose credibility and ability to persuade when we use inflammatory language that may make perfect sense to us but that only causes the audience we seek to persuade to shut down and refuse to listen so they cannot “hear” what we have to say—when we suggest to those who do not share our premises, for example, that mothers “murder” their unborn children and commit “crimes against humanity” when they have an abortion. We may see it that way, but they surely do not (otherwise they wouldn’t do it, would they?). No amount of literal or metaphorical “shouting” or demonizing will change an erroneous understanding but calm, cogent, factually correct, and dare I say, respectful conversation just might move some hearts and minds to see abortion as murder, or at least to be much more reluctant to have one.

By all means, let the new abortion laws in Alabama, Georgia, etc. be tested in the courts. I think we know what will likely happen in the lower federal courts, which have to follow SCOTUS precedent, even if, as Father Fox suggests, we don’t know what will happen in SCOTUS itself when a suitable case gets there eventually. (By the way, arguments have been made that SCOTUS itself could declare the unborn to be “persons” under the XIV Amendment without assistance from federal legislation. See e.g.,

And in the meantime, how many more of unborn babies will die? Wouldn’t it be good if we could reduce that number to as close to zero as possible through persuasion? Shouldn’t we at least try, instead of setting all our hopes on criminalization of abortion? Which brings us back to credibility.

Does the New York law really allow “infanticide” from a botched abortion? Perhaps it does but, if so, then we must rebut the following claim by the spokesman for the sponsor of the New York law when asked about repeal of the provision requiring that an additional physician be present for abortions after 20 weeks to care for “any live birth that is the result of the abortion” and that such babies be provided “immediate legal protection under the laws of the state of New York.”:

“Asked about the rationale for removing the section from the law, Justin Flagg, a spokesman for New York State Sen. Liz Krueger, who sponsored the new law, said that ‘the requirement that a second physician be present … did not reflect medical realities of abortion later in pregnancy nor modern standards of medical care, and was legally redundant and unnecessary.’

‘Modern abortion techniques do not result in live birth; however, in the great unlikelihood that a baby was born alive, the medical provider and team of medical support staff would provide all necessary medical care, as they would in the case of any live birth,’ he wrote in an email. ‘The RHA does not change standard medical practices. To reiterate, any baby born alive in New York State would be treated like any other live birth, and given appropriate medical care. This was the case before the RHA, and it remains the case now.’”

For this and other information on the New York law see

Misinformation about the New York law propagated by pro-life voices is no more helpful than misinformation about the new Georgia law propagated by pro-choice voices, some of whom, for example, falsely claimed that a woman having an abortion could be criminally punished with life imprisonment or even the death penalty!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just love it when Fr. Fox posts here! A true Catholic (with an capital C) cleric!
His money-quote for me: “He's thinking about this only from the point of litigation, from an insider's perspective. He is trying to game the courts (and lots of people in the prolife movement do this), carefully calibrating the "right" sort of legal challenge that gradually erodes existing precedent.”

I am no expert anything, but I have said this same thing for the past 30 years while praying at local abortion mills (two, one now closed TBTG). The battle here, of course, is being fought by legal minds, but the answer is moral. You can’t change minds until you change hearts. More movies like “Unplanned” and “Gosnell” will help and, in my mind, the more court cases the better because they generate the public forum talk so needed. There was NO talk in the first twenty years after 1972...Most notably, NO talk from the pulpits/ambos. So, the mass killings multiplied exponentially. At one point, the statistics were that the same percentage of Catholics as non were procuring abortions. Don’t know the stats presently. TBTG, in the next 20 years, the ambo-talk has improved greatly.

I say, KEEP EM TALKING—politicians, lawyers, clerics, average Joes—and maybe some real progress will follow...

Anonymous said...

Anonynmous at 1214 is absolutely right at changing hearts, and kudos for those movies. Keep talking indeed. The number of abortions has gone down in the US, and even in Georgia. Hopefully people will start to realize that abortion is NOT health care, and as for a "woman's right to choose", well, the time for her to choose is BEFORE she engages in intimate contact, not after---and of course that choice should only be within the sacrament of marriage, period. Of course you never hear the pro-choice side condemn the "hook-up culture" that is responsible for the vast majority of abortions in this country (probably 80 percent+).

And all the more important that the US Senate stay Republican. A Democratic Senate cannot be trusted to promote life legislation---heck, the only pro-life Democratic senator now is Joe Manchian of West Virginia, who doubtless feels like an outcast in his own party.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I point out that Rev. Pat Robertson is against a bill because it is too pro life. You accuse me of demanding a governor veto a bill that isn't good enough. Trouble is, I never said that, nor do I believe it. Had you had the courtesy to ask, I would have told you that.

So, yeah, you are making stuff up. And since no one else is participating in this thread, I see no reason to continue.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox, there is more than one “Anonymous” posting here. I think there are at least three in addition to “Anonymous 2”.
I am Anon 12:14, and only posted once. God bless