Abortion and the Catholic Voter

The New York Times has a piece today about Obama and the Dems and their efforts to appeal to Catholic voters who may be turned off by the party’s pro-choice dogmatism. It includes comments from the much-pilloried pro-life, yet pro-Obama, Doug Kmiec. I expect this won’t be the last of these sorts of stories.
On the other side, the Supreme Knight of the K of C (no, not the Colonel), Carl Anderson, gave McCain an all-but-endorsement speech at the Knights’ annual convention this week. According to the CNS story, Anderson–author of a popular book, “A Civilization of Love,” called for a “regime change” of sorts, namely the “regime of Roe v. Wade” by calling on Catholics to withhold their votes from any candidate who supports abortion. (Are there really “pro-abortion” candidates”?)


“It’s time to put away the arguments of political spin masters that only serve to justify abortion killing,” Anderson said.
In apparent reference to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Anderson said change in the country can come only when the practice of aborting unborn children ends.
“We have all heard a great deal this year about the need for change,” he said. “But at the same time we are told one thing cannot change, namely the abortion regime of Roe v. Wade. It is time that we demand real change and real change means the end of Roe v. Wade.
“It’s time to stop accommodating pro-abortion politicians, and it’s time we start demanding that they accommodate us,” Anderson added as the 500 delegates from around the world stood up and loudly applauded.
Anderson said he was not singling out candidates from any political party for criticism.
Later, Anderson told Catholic News Service that he decided to focus on the same terminology that Obama is using in his presidential campaign “to get people’s attention.”
“This is kind of the touchstone for this whole election year; I’d like Catholics to think what real change, fundamental change in a Christian sense would mean,” he said.


(Ironically, the Knights convention included a video tribute from President Bush, who would hardly be considered an exemplar of Catholic social teaching.)
I know this post is poking a stick into a hornet’s nest, but the topic of abortion and Catholic voters (and pols) is going to be a persistent theme (and thread) up to November, and beyond. And that’s probably as it should be. Abortion is a central issue, and addressing it is a political as well as religious enterprise.
That said, I struggle to understand the absolute (Manichean?) divide that says it is impossible for a pro-life Catholic to vote for a Democrat, and cites Roe as the reason. In reality, Roe may well not be overturned, and even if it is it would just move the battle to the states. Abortion is a reality that exists far beyond the borders of Roe, and indeed some of the Catholic majority justices on the Supreme Court say that even if they don’t like the case, they wouldn’t use their Catholic distaste of abortion to inform their decision.
Republican presidents have come and gone, Republican congresses have come and gone, Republican (and Catholic) supreme court justices have come, and much remains as it has always been. In fact, the near-total focus on Roe seems to blind many to all the other ways that abortion can be reduced–or the ways that the purportedly anti-Roe party, the GOP, does not support life, in the seamless garment sense or otherwise.
And yet, this issue continues to be used to polarize and divide Catholics (see many posts below). It is a policy debate, a campaign issue, that is used as the yardstick for whether someone can receive communion. The Dems obviously aren’t perfect by any means. But the old approach seems to sanctify–and immunize–the Republicans on this issue. I have a sense some Catholics, beyond Kmiec, are trying to redress this Republican Captivity. Again, this is a longstanding debate. Is there any new light to shed on why a Catholic should be politically and morally bound to vote for anti-Roe candidates–or at least those who profess such a view with their mouths, if not their hearts?
(Cross posted with dotCommonweal)

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Charles Cosimano

posted August 7, 2008 at 12:01 pm

But they do not understand something that goes with their idea. Can a non-Catholic, in conscience, vote for a candidate who would put the doctrines of his religion against the will of his constituents or the best interests of the country?

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posted August 7, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Putting aside the fact that a Republican Supreme Court Justice appointed by a Republican President wrote the majority opinion in Roe v Wade; and the only divorced President was a Republican and the Republican nominee now would make it two divorced Republicans; and there are a number of Republicans who have been caught almost literally with their pants down in a variety of sex scandals that make Bill Clinton look like a piker, the Republicans do hold on to votes by conservative Catholics. But what are those Catholics getting for their vote? As you point out, Roe has not been ended and would not end abortion if it was overturned. In the meantime, that seems to be the only part of Catholic doctrine that seems to matter to those voters. It was refreshing to see that Kmiec reasoned that there was an ability to vote for Obama and still be a Catholic.
In truth, many Catholics will vote for Obama because abortion is not the only factor in deciding their vote. For those to whom abortion is the linchpin, my guess is that they are simply Republicans and they would not vote for Obama no matter what, just like “conservatives” who are against federal deficits will vote for McCain even though he wants to continue the same policies that a Republican President and Congress used to give us the largest Federal deficit in history.

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posted August 7, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Although the Republican Party has been in a position to make serious changes to this country’s abortion policy, it has not and will not, because a marked increase in unwanted or economically disadvantaged children would mean
1) More taxes
2) More Democrats

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posted August 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm

I think abortion is an important issue. I don’t know if Obama has reached out to Catholics and other pro-life Christians over this issue. The abortion industry is big business and they take in a lot of money. That is the issue. In our country money talks. And yes there really are “pro-abortion” candidates. Sadly, many of them are Catholic. Many Catholic politicians have sold out to Planned Parenthood and NARAL. I support Obama even if he isn’t pro-life because I think if he is elected things will be better for the middle class. This may translate into less abortions. If Obama is elected perhaps the number of black women having abortions will decline. We can’t have 4 more years of having the oil people and millionaires getting more and more of the pie and middle class people getting less. A lot of these people give lip service to pro-life Christians but where has it gotten us? Having the middle class continue to get poorer is not going to lessen the number of abortions in my opinion. Our country needs a change. Since Obama will be the president of all the people maybe he will reach out to Catholics and other pro-life Christians.

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posted August 8, 2008 at 2:19 pm

I look at Carl Rove’s and John McCain’s faces and I don’t see a single snip of pro-life or anti- abortion in their eyes. Fakers..

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posted August 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Should Catholics nabandon all other pro-life issues to vote for a candidate who professes to be anti-abortion?

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Pakeha Tohunga

posted August 9, 2008 at 8:37 pm

This election probably presents the best opportunity in a couple decades to steer the Democratic Party back away from abortionism. To do that, Catholics need to vote for John McCain, and they need to make the reason for their vote clear to pollsters: abortion. Make no mistake about it: Barack Obama is a radically pro-abortion politician. If he loses the election, despite all the the things he has going for him this election cycle, the national Democratic leadership (which is, largely, in the pocket of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc.) might finally decouple itself from the Roe v. Wade crowd. A couple years ago, they ran pro-life candidates in order to take pro-life congressional seats away from Republicans, and they won! Maybe, with Obama’s defeat, they will finally get the message.

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posted August 11, 2008 at 1:19 am

The basic argument that some are making are that Catholic voters in the US should make voting decisions solely on the basis of one issue. An authority no less than one Cardinal Roger Mahoney as gone on the record and said this is by no means proper reasoning. This includes even the issue of abortion, which I would agree is a very important issue.
To my mind, even if Catholics were to do such a thing, I feel that they would have had to do it in a year like 1996, where the stakes didn’t seem so high. For after years and years of trying to present themselves as the “pro-life” party, the GOP have gone ahead and have taken an anti-life stand that reaches the level of importance that abortion is at. Their stances on the death penalty, war and poverty didn’t do it. Even St. Ronald Regan’s appointment of a Pro-Roe Justice didn’t do it. (And of course we won’t even mention Papa Bush’s appointment of David Souter.)
But torture does. Torture, the majority of Republicans in office today, including John McCain, support torture. (A decent amount of Democrats did too actually but that is beside the point here, sadly enough.) The passing of the Military Detainee Act of 2006 legalized torture by CIA operatives, if the President of the United States feels that it is necessary, it is legal. Hundreds have already been tortured; some were torture until they were dead. The majority of those tortured were completely innocent on any charge.

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posted August 11, 2008 at 4:52 am

If we look at one issue voting with a critical eye, we see that it is a formula for disaster on a biblical scale.
The current argument by pro-life proponents is that there is nothing worse than a candidate that is not pro-life. Their argument is that the only issue of any importance is the abortion issue and that the only candidate who deserves office is the anti-abortion candidiate.
If we extend this argument into a hypothetical situation where the two candidates in the race are adolf hitler and barack obama, then using the logic that is being pontificated, the appropriate choice to lead the country would be adolf hitler. The level of evil that hitler would unleash with his anti-semitism is irrelevant as long as he is anti-abortion.
I can hear the angry protests already, I can imagine the hateful rhetoric that will be spewing forth. The fact is, this is the argument that the pro-life platformists are presenting. Their argument is absurd. The logic of their position is flawed. The who is irrelevant, it could be any of a hundred or more names substituted, and the absurdity and stupidity of this position would still be obvious. One issue voting is absurd. One issue voting is stupidity.
Perhaps that is why the majority of catholics are breaking with Vatican edict on this issue.

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posted August 11, 2008 at 8:01 am

Roe vs Wade needs to be overturned so women can take back the process of abortion into their own hands.Bring back the coat hangers, knitting needles, crochet hooks and give women the freedom to perform her own abortion. Give back the power of abortion to the underworld who will indeed rise to the occasion. Bring back the herbs/plants, surgery, poison, and mail-order pills. The internet will groan under the shear weight of remedies when we overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Seriously no one likes abortion and everyone in their hearts sees it as morally wrong. As a Catholic, I believe abortion is truly a moral evil. But I ask one question: Will overturning Roe vs Wade end abortion?

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posted August 11, 2008 at 9:35 am

It is a form of disinformation to say that Republican Presidents and Congresses have “come and gone” with little change. The truth is, and I can provide hearing transcripts, the Democrats blocked every nomination to the courts they could if they could ferret out an anti-abortion stance. The Republicans have never had voting control of the Senate (thanks to cloture rules) which must approve all nominees. They have come close…close enough to provide four of nine justices who would probably overturn the Roe decision. In fact the Supreme Court has changed so much under Republican nominations that the McAbortions NOW decided not to sue South Dakota in Federal court fearing the decision at the Supreme Court level.
Don’t allow Democrats to continue this lie. They can all claim to be anti-abortion but they will all vote a judiciary committee and Senate leadership dedicated to keeping abortion a nationally protected activity. Then, after blocking any judge who they fear will not protect abortion, they can look downcast back home and say “abortion is a fact of life thanks to judicial rulings”

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posted August 11, 2008 at 3:37 pm

“Abortion is a central issue”
Debatable at best. The Rasmussen Report says it ranks 10th in importance to voters.
The National Conference of State Legislatures doesn’t even put it in the top 10.
And, as I’ve posted before, 34% of all U.S. Catholics (note, not just the “good” ones) think abortion should be generally available to those who want it, and a further 37% think it should be available but under stricter limits than currently. Only 28% think it should not be permitted.
That this is “going to be a persistent theme” (especially on right-wing blogs) smacks of desperation.
“Is there any new light to shed on why a Catholic should be politically and morally bound to vote for anti-Roe candidates”
“New light”? LOL! It doesn’t seem that Catholics are going to do that anyway. Trying to ‘find’ (i.e. make up) reasons for them to seems a bit of a stretch.

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posted August 14, 2008 at 3:16 pm

“Should Catholics nabandon all other pro-life issues”
I suggest you familiarize yourself with the tenets of the Church, since you obviously have not. The Church is quite clear that abortion is not on a par with other issues. And the author is being disingenuous. It has nothing to do with voting for Democrats. It has everything to do with voting for a Senator who has so little respect for human life that he voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Obama feels that children born alive should be left to die.

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Joe Texas

posted August 16, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Thank goodness a “voice in the wilderness” (28% of Catholics surveyed) remember God’s message (and the teachings of the Catholic church) of “love the least of your bretheren” from the New Testatment and “Thou shalt not Kill” (Steal, Covet, etc.) from the Old (Torah). Even our Founding (most who were not Catholics) Fathers’ “Life Lierty and the Pursuit of Happiness” phrase is the cornerstone for the birth of our Nation. Abortion, which has existed forever, was not an acceptable practice to the Founders of this Great Nation. Every month scientific research is pointing towards a more crystal clear case (if you don’t want to accept the teaching of the Church underscored by many Popes) that any abortion is the taking of life.
If a candidate is not on board to defend life, then there is no need to consider any other stance (good or bad) that he might represent. Until the Democratic Platfrom and Democratic Candidates for any position supports “pro-life” the decision is easy for sprirtual people of all religions, not just Catholics. All other issues, as important as they may be, are smoke screens, excuses, and temptations to confuse.
One should vote Republican, versus Democrat, as long as the particular candidate is pro-life and until the Democrat’s leadership embraces “pro-life” versus “pro-choice”. Nothing is a woman’s right or a man’s right if it violates God’s laws. Don’t kid yourselves by numbing your consciences thinking you know better than the Scriptures and the Teachings of the Catholic Church. Don’t rationalize yourself into a one way ticket in the wrong direction at death.
Nobody wants a return to the back alleys. But if an “unwanted pregnancy” does occur, please know there are more people wanting a baby in the USA than we can produce. So don’t commit murder to cover up embarrassment (pride). If you are thinking about an abortion…don’t do it! Rather, please offer your birth child for adoption (open or closed) to a loving couple who would continue to give love to the person you provided life.

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posted August 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Great article!
After having wrestled with this decision and carefully read platforms, I actually feel that Obama’s plan to reduce unwanted pregnancies is sound and a realistic look at the problem. I also am having a very difficult time with the very pro-life issues of war, genocide, poverty, the environment. What prayer and my heart have told me is that babies with God are not suffering…aren’t we taught that this is a place free of pain and fear. But left behind by all of these other issues are millions of people in true suffering…in true pain…most of them innocents. I know that I am not going to persuade any single-issue voters, but I feel like I’ve seen the light…I’ve felt like I’ve been being manipulated by the Rep. party that has used us for their own gains. I read the entire Bishop’s Council piece and really came to this realization that what God was placing on my heart was acceptable within the Catholic teachings, but I certainly respect other interpretations. Also, the media has cleared up the misleading info. about Obama supporting Live Birth Abortions…he does not…this was tied to another piece of legislation that he could not support.
However the one point I really felt the need to make is this…I was a little angry with Joe Texas….you wrote: “But if an “unwanted pregnancy” does occur, please know there are more people wanting a baby in the USA than we can produce.” Well, honey GET BUSY! There are 148 MILLION children on this earth right now that need parents. As an adoptive mother, this is the issue where McCain really lost me…when he lied about his daughter’s adoption and Mother Theresa as a way to win political gain. I would never use my children or manipulate their sacred stories in the tiniest way. As someone immersed in the adoption community, this is a no-brainer….he has hurt his own child tremendously to make himself look like a hero.
I did not rescue my children…they are just my children…I was put on this earth to be their mother. They are a gift to me every single day. And we talked about adopting more, but as things progressed with this administration, and my business began failing in this economy and my husband took a 25% pay cut to save his job, it was longer possible for us to consider if we expected to be able to send our kids to college or put gas in the car. There is so much more pain and suffering in this world in the last 8 years. The number of children who need families around the world is sstounding. So, Joe Texas, if you are out there, let me know how many of those 148 Million souls you find families for this year. While I am certainly not pro-abortion, I, like many Christians, are finding that there are broader ways to address this issue by reducing unwanted pregnancies.

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posted September 6, 2008 at 3:03 pm

My goodness, come on, fellow Catholics, don’t let the Right succeed in stealing from you the singlemost important tenet in Catholic teaching: our responsibility to act conscientiously in accord with our own prayer, thought and reflection!
To fail to think hard, long and seriously about the constellation of ALL issues at play in a presidential election, and to act in the direction that your conscience points you is NOT a moral act. Rather, it is a non-act.
A Church dogma is NOT the same thing as a directive to be followed without reflection. God has given us the power of autonomy and individual choice. If you do not bring to bear your whole conscience, your whole intellect in reflecting on how to vote, you are shying away from moral choices and taking solace in automaticity, NOT doing your part as a servant of God.
Our Catholicism is not there to protect us from having to make choices, it’s there to inform, illuminate and enliven them.
MANY MANY MANY Catholics throughout this wonderful country are AGHAST at the actions of the Bush administration: torture, the killing of innocents, the scaling back of the rule of law, the politicization of morality and religion, the desensitization of the populace to the impact of violence and bloodlust, dishonestly, fear, the death penalty.
Many Catholics have resolved independently of one another, in surmising our individual responsibilities to God and to our fellow man, we will NOT allow our politicians and few ideologically motivated Church leaders to persist in succeeding to make abortion into a wedge issue.
You must vote with your conscience, and you must be prepared to act in ways that are unfamiliar in order to carry out your duty to God.
We are Catholics, but we are also Americans: citizens in a democracy. We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters, to God, and to the younger generations. I will not allow my children to grow up in a country ruled by hate, fear and lies; I will not let them grow up in a country in which I must explain to them that our government commits torture.
In Obama’s speech in Denver, he said “Enough!”, and when he said that my heart leaped for joy. There’s so much at stake in the election, and so many conflicting voices and interests. It’s hard to know who to trust.
I am going to trust my heart, my reflections, my prayers and my thoughts. I am going to vote for Barack Obama.

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