During his gubernatorial campaign, Edwards succeeded in making a sufficient portion of the voting public believe that he was conservative enough on social issues to obscure his garden-variety leftism on most others and get himself elected. To anyone who listened he alleged his Catholicism informed his views on these issues, asserting as a man of faith he followed his religion’s doctrines on such matters as when life began and the evil of abortion – despite his statement when contemplating a run for Congress in 2006 that “Abortion is the freedom of choice, between the appropriate parties and their higher power.”
But now as governor he has to put his money where his mouth is, and legislation carried by social conservatives will put him to the test. Interestingly, bills that have the effect of curtailing abortion that go much farther than Louisiana ever has since the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution to mean that states could not regulate the gruesome act have sprung up this session, despite that there would have been no question of their acceptability in previous years given the unimpeachable pro-life views and actions of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Perhaps these legislators feel that an Edwards eager to prove his credentials would avidly back these controversial bills to get them to his desk, or, alternatively, perhaps they feel such bills could unmask a calculating politician who has used social issues to convey an inaccurate portrait of his real ideological leanings, but regardless these are putting him on the spot. Tellingly, he included none of these in his publicized legislative agenda.
One such bill, HB 386, would triple to three days the period of time most women would have to wait to get an abortion, and another, HB 606, would prevent any organization from performing abortions to receive state funding for any other kind of service (with money directly for abortions not threatening the mother’s life already prohibited). Edwards has indicated he would sign both. However, a few others that should impose greater constraints on the practice also continue to wend their ways through the legislative process as effortlessly as have these, which present harder choices for him if he wants to please his liberal base.
HB 488 would restrict doctors who perform elective abortions to have certification in just a few specialties. HB 1019 would prevent abortions only for the reason of genetic abnormalities. HB 1081 would prohibit the most commonly-used method of abortion, essentially the tearing apart of the unborn, making the process costlier and more time-consuming. All likely would have the impact of reducing the incidence of abortion. Edwards has not publicly commented on these bills.
Yet the bill that threatens most to expose him as denying Catholic teaching on abortion, HB 1102, does not come from pro-life legislators seeking to limit further the killings. This bill would create a framework for the state to enforce surrogate motherhood contracts. Currently, nothing makes surrogacy arrangements in Louisiana illegal, but if a party reneges on such a contract, the aggrieved party cannot turn to the state to intervene for redress.
Catholic belief maintains the inherent immorality of surrogacy arrangements. The process requires the harvesting and potential wasting of unfertilized female gametes that equates to taking human life. Further, interspersing a third party into the reproductive process robs an essential attribute from the sacramental state of marriage between and single man and single woman, a violation of the Sixth Commandment.
As with the others, this bill seems destined to reach Edwards’ desk. Many, even Catholic, lawmakers support the bill, and were Edwards put into a position to veto the bill, that would not be the first time a politician who claimed to practice Catholicism had acted in a manner contrary to the teaching of his faith.
However, Edwards campaigned stridently on his faith, and to turn his back on it on this issue would expose him as nothing more than a “cafeteria Catholic,” one who picks and chooses what parts of his faith to observe by convenience, not through genuine conviction. Again, politicians remain free to do so, but in the case of anyone who made so much of his faith guiding his public policy decisions – as well as claiming he adheres to the truthfulness required from the honor code of his days as a military cadet and commissioned armed forces officer – would reveal himself as a hypocrite of the highest order. And to avoid doing so by signing all bills, he would anger his abortion-on-demand base.
If Edwards feels he would have to decide between his faith and political necessities on these bills, he must hope somehow these become derailed somewhere prior to reaching him in the legislative process or he will hit a political landmine.