Thursday, January 29, 2009

Part II: An Interview with Deal Hudson - The Pro-Life Movement Under Obama and Beyond

Part II: An Interview with Deal Hudson - The Pro-Life Movement Under Obama and Beyond

By John Jalsevac

January 28, 2009 ( – Deal Hudson is the director of, director of the Morley Institute for Church & Culture, the former publisher and editor of CRISIS Magazine, a Catholic monthly published in Washington, DC, and the author of seven books. His articles and comments have been published in many newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, and the National Review. He served as director of Catholic outreach for George Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. He also assisted with presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign.

In Part I of our interview with Hudson, he responded to questions about the pro-life and pro-family legacy of former president George W. Bush. In Part II, he addresses questions about the pro-life and pro-family movements during the Obama administration and into the future.

(To see Part I, go to

Q: Obama is now the President of the United States. In your view how does this change things for the pro-life and pro-family movements?

A: Well, it changes everything. I think you saw my piece on the pro-life summit last week in Ann Arbor. That meeting confirmed something that seems pretty obvious, and that’s that there’s a huge amount of energy in the pro-life community, and it is an energy that won’t be denied. It just needs to be channeled. It needs to be made effective through leadership. I would say that Obama and his administration should be very careful about how quickly they move to remove restrictions on abortions because they may find that they pay the price in the 2010 election in a very significant way.

Americans for the most part are not pro-abortion. Americans for the most part don’t like abortion, and they would prefer that it be limited and that abortion rates are lower. And if Obama and his administration quickly, radically, as it were, corroborate the worst fears that pro-lifers have, I think that there’ll be a political price to pay.

Q: If most Americans are against abortion, as you say, then why do you think that Obama was elected?

A: I think, unfortunately, that the life issues just got lost in the economy in particular, Iraq, national security. And most of all, most of all, the negativity that was built up toward Bush and, by association, the Republican Party. I think there were people - I know there we people - who were sincerely pro-life, whose desire for a new face in the White House, their animosity towards the Republican Party and John McCain caused them to pull the lever for a pro-abortion candidate. Because they were frustrated. They felt that much animus against the president and the party.

Now some people would say they’re not pro-life. Well, that’s one way of looking at it; but the other way is to admit how high the passions were running during this election cycle, regarding the legacy of George W. Bush, the Republican Party. With the Iraq war, and throwing the economy on top of it, and that being unfairly blamed on Bush. I think both parties share the blame for that. This whole housing mess was created on both of their watches.

Voters are human beings who don’t necessarily pull the lever in principled fashion every time. I don’t see any reason why we can’t recognize that pro-life people were fed-up with a largely negative view of Bush driven by the media.

Q: Now, you mentioned that the pro-life movement has a great deal of energy at the moment. Why do you think that is and how can we go about capturing that?

A: Well, it is because of the fear of rolling back all the restrictions on abortion that have been put in place since 1973, especially since the beginning of the Reagan years. And also, of course, because of marriage and gay rights issues. There’s a possibility of hate crime legislation being passed. That would endanger religious speech. So there’s a lot of energy.

How can it be captured? I think that the summit was very clear about things. Again, none of the speakers conferred with one another, but practically across the board the speakers were saying much the same thing.

First, we have to work with Democrats. We have to support and recognize truly pro-life Democrats. There are Democrats who have very laudable pro-life voting records. These people need to be part of our movement. And encourage other pro-life Democrats to step forward.

Secondly, it needs to be a real coalition of absolutely everybody who is committed to putting pro-life politicians in the White House and back in Congress. It can’t be owned by any one group; it has to be a real spirit of collaboration, partnership, between everybody on the ground. And that’s going to be very hard to pull off, but we really have to try.

Thirdly, we have to take advantage of the recent outspokenness of many individual bishops, to encourage them to continue to do that. To thank them for what they’ve done, to encourage them to continue. Because only they can correct the harm that was done by the twisting of Faithful Citizenship by Obama’s Catholic supporters. They need to continue to tell Catholics that that document was not intended to provide cover for Catholic voters to ignore the politician’s stance on abortion.

Finally, there needs to be some sort of parish level program on the authentic version of Faithful Citizenship. What happened in the 12 months after November 2007, when that document was passed, was the important factor in Obama winning the Catholic vote. The seminars and study groups that were held all across the country at the parish level, and many of them had the same message. Often they were put on by individuals who wanted to make sure that these loopholes in the document were underlined and bolded. Of course this led to Bishops Martino storming into one of those seminars and declaring that it was “madness.” And I think that if there is any rallying cry going forward it’s what Bishop Martino said: “People this is madness.” That’s our rallying cry.

It’s the madness that we have to fight. And it is a fight. Because we all know that throughout the middle management of our Church there are powerful people who don’t see the Church’s social teaching the way the pro-life movement does. And those people are in charge of access to parish communities, to media, and there has to be a way to have this madness exorcised and not be blocked by these folks.

Q: I spoke to two other leaders in the pro-life movement today, and each of them suggested that during the Obama administration one response should be, while not discounting the role of politics, to recognize that politics isn’t going to save us, and instead focusing on a more grassroots approach. What are your thoughts on that?

A: Fr. Pavone spoke to that at the summit, where he said that the country is gradually rejecting the pro-abortion message at the cultural level. I think there’s some truth to that. I think that is right. But, it also shows you that culture and politics are two, as it were, tectonic plates that slide in different directions, creating a chasm. And that’s what we’re looking at right now. We’ve elected a president who isn’t where the country is on this issue and he’s bringing into the administration people who represent a minority view.

Unfortunately, though, with the bully pulpit of the White House, this administration can adversely affect the country in the opposite direction of where President Bush led them over the last 8 years. That’s what leadership does. It influences people. It changes people’s minds. It helps define and deepen beliefs. The danger here is that we lose ground in the culture because of this administration.

Q: While at the same time there is an increase in energy in the pro-life movement, you hear some people just throwing up their hands saying, “Well, we’ve elected the most pro-abortion president ever. Game’s over.” How would you respond to that?

A: Be not afraid! Be not afraid.

Let’s put it this way. I doubt if they really mean it. I know they’re saying it. I don’t think they mean it. I think they’re just frustrated. And I think that a lot of people worked very hard in this last election. A lot of people sacrificed and gave a lot of themselves. And then, when they saw so many Catholics supporting Obama it was very frustrating for them.

The person who has the energy to throw up his hands in disgust is the kind of person who’s not going to stop working.

(To see Part I of our interview with Deal Hudson, go to