The ethics of raising the abortion story

Is it hypocritical for pro-choice people to make Mr. Bush’s girlfriend’s abortion an issue against him?

A thoughtful reader politely writes to point out that breaking the Bush abortion story would be damaging to the woman in question.

That’s a fair and important point. Whatever is done with this story should be done in a way that minimizes that damage. Her name has been published, but there is no reason I can think of to mention it, and decent media outlets won’t. The relevant names are those of the friends who drove her to the clinic; unless they’re willing to go on record and be questioned, there’s no story there.

The same reader points out that it’s odd, to say no more, for those who believe that abortion isn’t wrong to raise as an issue the fact that a politician procured one for the woman he had impregnated. He also points out that Mr. Bush could simply say that he’d done something wrong and now regrets it.

Those are plausible points, but I don’t think they’re right.

Mr. Bush has said that he thinks abortion is murder. Is an accessory to murder really fit to be President, no matter how much he now regrets it? Moreover, he thinks that it should be illegal. The fact that, when it was illegal, he helped arrange one is certainly relevant to his character.

I should have added what it should be unnecessary to add: that raising this issue, however ethically troubling if the story is true, would be flat-out wrong if it were false. (The same goes for the drinking question.) Telling inconvenient truths is one thing; telling lies is another. There’s no need for the opponents of President Bush (who doesn’t think America can win the war on terror) to descend to the level of his allies.

My correspondent also notes that, if the story breaks, Kerry should denounce it. Of course he should. He should say, “If this account is false, it’s despicable, just like the false charges Mr. Bush’s allies have been making about my war record. Even if it’s true, the issue in this campaign isn’t Mr. Bush’s private conduct thirty years ago, it’s the mess he’s made over the past four years.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “The ethics of raising the abortion story”

  1. Forgiving the murderer

    Some liberals will say anything to smear George W. Bush. These sophists insinuate that we should judge Bush by his own strict moral code. They deny that it's about whether it's moral to dodge the draft, procure the illegal abortion

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