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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Douthat on Kennedy Siblings, Eunice and Teddy

Ross Douthat has a good editorial in the New York Times discussing the irony and the differences between siblings Teddy and Eunice Kennedy, who died within 13 days of each other. Douthat's observation about each Kennedy's effect on people with Down syndrome is particularly striking. Some excerpts:
What the siblings shared - in addition to the grace, rare among Kennedys, of a ripe old age and a peaceful death - was a passionate liberalism and an abiding Roman Catholic faith. These two commitments were intertwined: Ted Kennedy's tireless efforts on issues like health care, education and immigration were explicitly rooted in Catholic social teaching, and so was his sister's lifelong labor on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired.

What separated them was abortion.
...........

For abortion opponents, cruel ironies abounded in this sibling disagreement. Because of Eunice Shriver's work with the developmentally disabled, a group of Americans who had once been marginalized and hidden away - or lobotomized, like her sister Rosemary - was ushered closer to full participation in ordinary human life. But because of laws that her brother unstintingly supported, that same group was ushered out again: the abortion rate for fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, for instance, is estimated to be as high as 90 percent.

In 1992, Eunice participated in the last significant effort to push the Democratic Party away from abortion on demand, petitioning her party's convention to consider "a new understanding" of the issue, "one that does not pit mother against child," but instead seeks "policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth." That same summer, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court upheld a near-absolute right to terminate a pregnancy - a decision made possible by her brother's demagogic assault on Robert Bork five years earlier, which helped doom Bork's nomination to the court.

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