Marita Vargas
Giving empathy a bad name
Further reflections on the Judge Sotomayor nomination
By Marita Vargas
June 26, 2009

    For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

    Romans 8: 22-23

For one wild moment after learning of President Barack Obama's empathy criterion for selecting Supreme Court nominees, I could not shake the notion that he was an Audrey Hepburn fan. After all, he was shamelessly ripping-off the movie Funny Face. In it Ms. Hepburn plays a discontented Greenwich Village waif who longs to meet the world's greatest proponent of Emphaticalism: Empathy turned into a Beat Generation philosophy. But that would have required the president to have an American sense of humor, the kind that takes joy in skewering the pompous and doctrinaire; and what is more, it would have required him to have a sense of humility, the kind that doesn't mind when the joke's on him.

In my five-second fantasy, Barack Obama was cast in the role of the smooth-talking professor of empathy, and the American people were cast in the role of the Beat-chick (Hepburn) who unmasks him as a phony. What our heroine discovers is that her goateed guru of empathy has adopted his "philosophy" as a ruse to get his female admirers to do his bidding. Now that is putting oneself in the other person's place. If I were she, our professor reasons, I would want to make love to me. I'm only giving her what she wants. And therein lies the circular reasoning of today's proponents of Empathicalism — or in modern political parlance, abortion rights enthusiasts.

We should never forget that Barack Obama unveiled his commitment to empathy before a group of Planned Parenthood visionaries. You know the type — women and men obsessed with the thought that someone, somewhere, somehow was managing to get himself born — without benefit of pregnancy termination services. If I were a pregnant woman, reason our contemporary gurus, I would want to avail myself of every means of avoiding the burden of a baby. I'm in favor of giving women what they want — especially if that means abortion for third-world women living in pockets of the globe where nature visibly groans under the burden of too many progeny.

These Malthusian creeps believe that the War on Poverty means making war on the poor by ensuring that there will be fewer and fewer of them. Blinded to the mere facts of impending demographic winter, they are hardly candidates to take on the more arduous mandate to "Love thy neighbor." Nature is groaning, but not for the reason that our president and those who aid and abet him imagine; and we should never let them get away with pretending that they know anything about empathy.

Barack Obama failed the empathy test long before he entered the Oval Office. He failed it when as an Illinois legislator he voted against a law that provided emergency medical care to newborn babies that survived failed abortions. That makes him little better than the man who keeps on walking when he passes a dumpster from which the clear cry of a newborn baby can be heard. You see, to rate full points on the empathy scale, an aspirant has to have the moral ability to have empathy for the BABY.

Further, having the moral imagination to empathize with a woman distressed by an unplanned pregnancy just might include holding her hand when she's sobbing that she thought the man loved her, that it's the thought of going it alone that has lead her to consider abortion as her only way out — not the thought of a new life. If she had a helping hand through the myriad financial and familial choices facing her — the kind crisis pregnancy centers have been offering for years — she would have her baby. Obviously, this kind of empathy is not what our frightful leader has in mind.

Our president wants women the world over to have as many abortions as possible. That is why on his second day in office he restated his support for Roe v. Wade and enacted for the history books, the very next day, a reversal of the Mexico City policy to spread those abortion dollars abroad. His goals to provide millions in subsidies to "Title X" health clinics (read local Planned Parenthoods), to repeal the Hyde Amendment, to authorize taxpayer-financed abortions on military bases, to permit experimentation on those conceived through IVF, and to eliminate the conscience clause for medical practitioners who object to abortion on moral grounds are well-known. Then there is F.O.C.A., the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, which should be known as the Fear of Choice Act.

Our president's actions demonstrate that we can at least put to rest the charge made by the Left that conservatives alone are single-issue maniacs on the subject of abortion. Who are the maniacs? Try the Left for an answer. N.A.R.A.L., Emily's List, and PPF supporters were salivating at election returns, anticipating all of the lovely appointments there man would make possible. They are busily at work as Chief of Staff, Health and Human Services Secretary, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Legal Counsel, White House communications director, director of the Domestic Policy Council and deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform. Anyone who voted in the last election who didn't know that it was all about Roe, all about abortion, shouldn't have been voting.

So we come to the Judge Sotomayor nomination. Is she a wise Latina? Or is she a wised-up Latina? You be the judge. Can you imagine her weeping as she reads the stories of women damaged by abortion such as those recorded by the Silent No More Campaign or Project Rachel? Can you imagine her standing vigil with a mother who has just received word that her13-year old daughter has hemorrhaged to death as the result of a secret abortion? Can you see her sitting at the bedside of a friend who has undergone chemo for breast cancer as the friend agonizes over the youthful abortion that raised her risk factors for the disease? Thankfully, you don't have to imagine Ms. Sotomayor in these situations; you don't have to imagine them because she is a judge.

She is sworn to inquire into the facts and to strive to ascertain the truth. She is under oath to apply the law as it is written — with impartiality. Here the Left might well tremble, for an unbiased judge could become as convinced that life begins at conception as any honest doctor. In such a setting, her own beliefs become irrelevant.

And it is here that the left in this country will heave a sigh of relief. Judge Sotomayor's supporters know that she is apt to be as unmoved by the arguments of Students for Life as she is to be by the tenets of her own Roman Catholic Faith. Pero las abuelitas estan llorando. Unfortunately, it is probably a safe bet that she won't remember that she is surrounded by a great Cloud of Witnesses, by her Christian forebears who watch and pray over her, anxiously awaiting the day when they might welcome her to Heaven, even more anxiously than they welcomed her into life upon this Earth. Pero, las abualitas entan llorando. If she is not persuaded by that knowledge to uphold an inherent and inviolable right to life, she will not be persuaded by the mere facts. If that is the case, why should she be a judge at all?

Our only hope is that the American people may still yet know the true meaning of the word empathy, and that they might be willing to act in its name, a name we also know as the Golden Rule.

© Marita Vargas


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Marita Vargas

Marita Vargas believes in freedom of speech and in civil discourse. Because for decades the American people have been silenced, intimidated, and poorly informed, they are in danger of losing their freedoms for the simple reason that they rarely discuss the underlying reasons for the current state of affairs. She can be reached at


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