Tim Kaine’s Being Logical About Abortion, If Not Totally Consistent

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Democratic National Convention: Day Three
Republicans threatened by an observant Catholic Democrat on a national ticket are going to yell about his "flip-flop" on abortion funding.Photo: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

Even as some (though a steadily declining number) of progressives worry about Tim Kaine’s ideological reliability, conservatives are coming at him from the opposite direction, especially concerning his position on abortion policy. He has long been one of those Catholic liberals who balances a “personal opposition” to abortion with policies letting women make their own judgments about it. This makes many anti-abortion activists crazy, since they cannot imagine having sincere moral qualms about abortion without denying that women should have any say about it whatsoever; it should be a matter decided between men and their religious authorities (also men).

Now Kaine is apparently going to inflame Republicans and their Right to Life allies even more by accepting a new Democratic Party platform plank favoring the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which has long prohibited the use of Medicaid funds for anything like abortion services.

Yes, it’s a "flip-flop," but one that is logical enough. If you are going to favor keeping abortion legal, as Kaine has long done, making it equally available to women regardless of means makes good legal and moral sense. By and large, people left of center have problems with setting up different rules for poor people and rich people. The Hyde Amendment is only a "compromise" in the sense that it asks poor women to pay for protecting the tender sensibilities of cultural conservatives. 

Yelling about Kaine’s abortion positions, of course, is a political no-brainer for Republicans worried about Donald Trump’s trustworthiness in this area, compounded by his rampant secularism (despite the frankly ludicrous attempts of some Christian-right figures to claim that the mogul is a “baby Christian” who recently got to know Jesus as something other than the ultimate loser). White conservative Evangelicals are pretty much onboard the Trump train, but Catholics — whose voting patterns are usually right in line with the overall results — are another matter. Kaine is an observant Catholic, and he’s comfortable talking about his faith in a way that past Catholic liberals — notably 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, a regular Mass-goer — haven’t always been. Between Trump and his references to the Most Blessed Sacrament as “my little cracker,” and running mate Mike Pence, who abandoned Catholicism for the siren contemporary-Christian song of a Protestant megachurch, a serious Catholic Democratic voice in the presidential general election could be a minor threat.

So there will be much talk about Kaine supporting Planned Parenthood and now embracing the “extremist” position that totally legal medical services ought to be treated like totally legal medical services when it comes to Medicaid dollars.