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.
It’s worth pondering how the politics of abortion might have been different had Ted shared even some of his sister’s qualms about the practice. One could imagine a world in which America’s leading liberal Catholic had found a way to make liberalism less absolutist on the issue, and a world where a man who became famous for reaching across the aisle had reached across, even occasionally, in search of compromise on the country’s most divisive issue.
Ross Douthat, NY Times