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The Catholic Vote and the Counterbalance to Abortion

How can Catholics for Obama rationalize their support for the pro-choice candidate?

by
Elizabeth Scalia

Bio

July 13, 2008 - 12:04 am

In his column of June 24, Wall Street Journal writer William McGurn looked at the mostly NARAL-friendly Catholics named to the Obama campaign’s National Catholic Advisory Council. Noting that Obama enjoys a NARAL approval rating of 100%, and that — while in the Illinois State Senate — he voted against a measure similar in intent to the unanimously approved 2002 Federal Born Alive Act, McGurn wonders how the council and other Catholics for Obama can rationalize support for a candidate who stands in such profound contrast to the church’s firm teaching that abortion is “an intrinsic evil.”

The…line of argument is the They’re-Just-As-Bad-As-We-Are defense. Thus the Web sites that go on and on about Catholic social teaching on war and poverty and greed and the death penalty…the implication being, of course, that…simply by enumerating all these concerns, you can somehow balance out the Democratic Party’s singular commitment to abortion on demand. [link and emphasis mine]

On the surface, that argument seems reasonable — so reasonable, in fact, that the ardently pro-life Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Denver, writes of forming his own conscience in just such a way in 1976:

I knew Carter was wrong in his views about Roe and soft toward permissive abortion. But even as a priest, I justified working for him because…he was right on so many more of the “Catholic” issues than his opponent seemed to be. The moral calculus looked easy.

The moral calculus does look easy until one considers that war, torture, the death penalty, poverty, racism, and even the excesses of capitalism — those evils so well defined in Catholic social teaching, and of concern to Catholics of all political persuasions — are fully present in the act of abortion.

Consider:

War is a struggle between two evolving powers over who will have dominance; whether just or unjust, it involves the murder of the innocent and the disruption of families. War introduces pain, fire, violence, savagery and torture into societies.

Abortion is a struggle between two evolving powers over who will have dominance; whether “justified” or not, it involves the murder of the innocent and the disruption of families. A vacuum abortion, saline abortion or a D&C introduces pain, fire, and a limb-shredding, relentless violence deep into the very being of a woman’s body, within her very womb. A partial birth abortion, which involves inserting a scissor into the base of the skull of a partially delivered fetus, then suctioning out its brain before fully withdrawing the fetus from the birth canal, embodies the sort of savagery and real torture which is the most abhorrent part of any war.

The death penalty is a legal execution of an individual judged guilty of heinous acts against the larger society; convicts are sometimes discovered to have been innocent of the charges made against them only after their lives have been taken. Many consider even the most “humane” means of execution to be cruel and inhuman, and even when the convict is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, it may be well-argued that killing a murderer does not bring back the victim and that “two wrongs do not make a right.”

In an abortion, the fetus is as subject to the death penalty as anyone ever so ordered by a jury; the fetus is always innocent. Even the most “humane” means of abortion — whatever that might be — involves cruel and inhuman measures. And even if the fetus — in its innocence — is the product of a violent and “guilty” conception, it may be well-argued that one merciless violation cannot be healed by a second — equally merciless — violation and that “two wrongs do not make a right.”

Poverty steals hope, exposes the helpless to political, sexual, and economic exploitation (from friend and foe) and defers dreams. It breaks rather than builds and reduces human beings to the status of mere “votes” or “workers” or “things.”

Abortion destroys a hopeful life, exposes the mother and fetus to political, sexual, and economic exploitation (from friend and foe) and defers dreams. It destroys what is being built and reduces a thriving being, species human, to the status of mere “products of conception” and “blobs of tissue.”

Racism is the superficial and unjust rejection and/or exploitation of another human being or group of people based on race. Racism works to suppress; it denies opportunity and feeds stereotypes (“your kind are not good enough!”) Racism has inspired exclusionary rhetoric and genocidal movements, as may be found in the supremacist literature of the KKK. Racism exists to diminish another human.

Abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood have been observed agreeing to a superficial and unjust request to apply donated money toward the destruction of fetuses of a specified race. Abortion works to suppress; it denies opportunity and feeds stereotypes (“your kind are too good/too poor/too promising to be “punished” with a baby!). Abortion has inspired exclusionary rhetoric and genocidal movements as may be found in the elitist literature of Margaret Sanger. Abortion exists to diminish another human.

Capitalism in the imperfect enterprise system by which free markets provide jobs, goods, and services in order to stir economic growth. Its excesses often result in — among other things — unlicensed or unscrupulous practices and the exploitation of the worker, in pursuit of maximum profit.

Abortion providers are capitalist enterprises that often indulge in — among other things — unlicensed and unscrupulous practices and the exploitation of women in difficult circumstances, in pursuit of maximum profit.

A Catholic conscience is a complex thing that must rely on more than bumper stickers and impassioned rhetoric. Catholicism does not reject reason for faith but demands integration of the two, and prayerful discernment, before taking any action. It serves both prayer and reason to consider that abortion is not separate from the evils of war, torture, poverty and the rest, but of a piece with them. In fact, abortion supersedes those issues by dint of its personal nature. Government policy affects war, poverty, and the rest, while abortion is — like the casting of a vote — a personal choice. But it is a personal choice for the physical and intellectual internalization of war, and of torture, and of the death penalty, and of poverty, and of racism, and of capitalistic exploitation.

Thus weighed, the only counterbalance is life.

Elizabeth Scalia is a contributing writer to First Things Magazine and the blogger known as The Anchoress.
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