Co. is a political issue. It may be that you can see why the debate over it is as pitched as it is and that you want to see some rationality, some compromise. I just want to see why our political system makes it harder to find some rationality by requiring the full range of accounting tricks, cynical maneuvering and other, darker, means of solving problems than a normal society.

If you want to reduce abortion and still know that what it means to be pro-life is a commitment to life, then your definition of a pro-life lawmaker should be clear: If you’re pro-life, you oppose abortion. If you’re not pro-life, then you support the abortion of someone who is. To the extent that you do not agree, then you’re to be taken seriously as a “pro-choice” politician. The politics of abortion are a matter of percentages, because of who votes. There is no way of knowing what a majority of pro-life voters believes (or do not believe). That would make co. a very contentious issue. But unlike other areas of public policy, there is no state-recognized consensus about what is at stake. We have no traditional polls asking voters what they think about this or that, and thus no idea how they vote. Only by accepting that, in the end, millions of people will likely vote the way they think their votes should be cast in this matter, and that they, too, will be tempted to make choices determined by rather unserious moral “standards.”

If we tried to force someone to give up their position, say by holding him or her to an arbitrary draft, people would have to reject a tradition that they consider to be central to their identity and that has been the point of all the years of effort, etc. The arithmetic might be easy to calculate, but the calculus of how people are going to vote and what they think is more ambiguous and more complex. The details of how to handle the nexus of politics and life will be discussed intensely and obviously, but there is no way of knowing until it happens.

People would argue that there is an issue here – there is something to be done about abortion – but the simple morality of abortion itself may be at issue. We sometimes speak of abortion as a health issue, but the question that arises is not whether it is a health issue, but whether it is morally or legally acceptable.

Life and politics are never simple. They are the gifts of a system that encourages them to be conflicted and contradictory. It helps to have more people who think they have enough principles to always want to be right. When it comes to those raw politics of abortion, that may be a fear that drives many to embrace Nancy Pelosi’s more moderate tack.