All Due Respect

As I was going through old presidential debates in writing this piece, I came across a moment in the 2004 town hall debate in which John Kerry got asked by a woman in the audience what he would tell someone who thought abortion was murder and wanted reassurance that their tax money wouldn't be going to abortion. He began his answer in the way we have come to expect Democratic politicians to: "First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins." He then went on to explain how he was an altar boy, religion is very important to him, but he won't impose his personal beliefs on others. At the end of it, he wrapped up with a discussion of the importance of family planning, and said, "You'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it."

Which got me thinking: When was the last time you heard a Republican express their deep, deep respect for the moral perspective that informs the views of Americans who are pro-choice? The answer is, pretty much never.

That's not 100 percent true—in the vice-presidential debate, in answer to the abortion question (one in which Joe Biden, like Kerry, went on at some length about his commitment to the Catholic church), Paul Ryan did say "I respect people who don't agree with me on this." But it was offered in passing, not even remotely in the kind of desperate, pleading tones Democrats use when talking about their deep, deep respect for people who want to restrict abortion, and how much they respect not only them as people but the thoughtful morality that gives rise to their anti-choice views.

In other words, when Democrats talk about abortion, they talk as if the only people listening are Republicans. And when Republicans talk about abortion, they talk as if the only people listening are ... Republicans. All of which makes for a great discussion, doesn't it?

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