Tag Archives: Roe v. Wade

Pro-life legal effort banishing false abortion mantra

The Supreme Court’s infamous decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) forged a powerful legal weapon for the abortion industry. By fabricating a new constitutional right, the Court allowed pro-abortion activists to invalidate state laws without the political cost of building legislative coalitions. Fighting under the banner of autonomy, these activists have advanced abortion rights in the courts, costing the lives of many unborn victims.

President Trump’s conservative judicial appointments may have boosted efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and its progeny, bringing the quest to protect the unborn back into the political realm. But in the meantime, the quest to protect the unborn continues in other fronts. With both legal and spiritual weapons in the armory, faithful citizens must work together to achieve this pro-life mission.

Abortion rights have not yet displaced First Amendment rights of free speech, assembly, and religion, which have a much deeper legal provenance. These rights can shield pro-life workers who are exposing the evil residing within the abortion establishment, sharing the truth about the wonders of human development, and offering compassionate alternatives to women contemplating abortion.

 David Daleiden, Lila Rose, Abby Johnson, and other committed truth-tellers have publicly exposed the abortion industry’s crass commercialism, its harm to women and their children, and its covert abuse of racial minorities. Their important work has demolished false narratives that have been used to support abortion: instead of removing a mass of tissue, abortion kills a child with a beating heart and a body like ours; instead of expressing freedom, abortion inflicts death and pain; instead of helping women, abortion is about making money from their distress. As these truths are being shared, hearts and minds are changing. 

Others work quietly in pro-life pregnancy centers and serve as sidewalk counselors, offering prayers and assistance to mothers contemplating abortion. By providing a real choice to women – life for their child and freedom from the lifelong guilt delivered by abortion – their humble witness adds to the chorus of voices declaring that life is a gift from God that is worth protecting. Lives are being saved.

These efforts threaten the business of abortion. The abortion industry can and does fight back very hard, using large law firms to pursue its interests. It can afford the fight, as its coffers are filled by revenues from abortion procedures, charitable contributions from the rich and famous, and government-supplied taxpayer dollars. Proabortion state and local governments often provide additional aid. For example, California’s Attorney General filed criminal charges against David Daleiden which threaten prison time and ruinous fines in response to his undercover work exposing the abortion industry’s role in trafficking in baby body parts. Sidewalk counselors have faced similar threats from state and municipal officials who are intent on stopping them from offering life-affirming alternatives to abortion-bound women.

Good legal strategies are available to resist the abortion industry’s attacks in the courts, but quality representation and a fair defense is costly. Public-interest law firms play an important role here, as their attorneys specialize in protecting those who are carrying out the pro-life mission, deflecting the attacks of the pro-abortion establishment, and cutting away barriers that prevent the pro-life truth from advancing. They also provide important support for efforts to change laws that will advance protections for the unborn.

The abortion industry has many material advantages, including money, political power, and media support. But these advantages crumble when faithful citizens come together to dedicate their prayers, their time, and their financial resources to support the pro-life mission. Not all of us may be called to serve on the front lines of this conflict, but we can all pray and stand in solidarity by supporting others who are working tirelessly to protect the unborn.

EDWARD A. MORSE is a professor of law at Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Nebraska, and a volunteer attorney and member of the board of directors of the Thomas More Society (ThomasMoreSociety.org), a national public interest law firm based on Chicago and Omaha devoted to restoring respect in law for life, the family, and religious liberty

Current pro-life battle has abortion advocates in retreat

In 2019, the pro-life movement has never been closer to ending the injustice of Roe v. Wade and restoring life in America after nearly half a century of turmoil.

Pro-life optimism is at an all-time high in state legislatures, where lawmakers have introduced more than 375 pro-life bills this year alone – strong bills that protect unborn children when they can feel pain, when their heartbeat can be detected, or throughout pregnancy, as well as stopping discriminatory race, sex-selection, and Down syndrome abortions.

None of this is an accident. They’ve been emboldened to act on their constituents’ will like never before under President Trump, who has led as the most pro-life president in history and is rapidly transforming the courts to return legislative power to the American people. 

Neither are the extreme attempts to expand abortion-on-demand through birth, and even infanticide, in New York, Virginia, Illinois, and other states – but the Lord is using this monstrous evil for good.

When New York’s Governor Cuomo lit up the World Trade Center in pink, in obscene celebration of abortion on demand, in flagrant defiance of his Catholic upbringing, he set off a chain reaction. 

Pro-abortion overreach has only increased pro-life resolve and, ironically, hastened the day of reckoning for Roe by exposing the full horror of the abortion agenda

Abortion advocates are in retreat. They have expanded abortion in a small handful of liberal strongholds, where even Democrats and pro-choicers disagree with them. Missouri, Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina, Utah, Louisiana, and others show that momentum favors the pro-life cause.

That doesn’t mean the battle is over or that victory is inevitable.

Every leading Democratic presidential candidate has embraced extremism – including several Catholics, an appalling scandal. Every U.S. senator running has refused to protect babies who survive abortions. They all agree that the Hyde Amendment, the longstanding policy that prevents forced taxpayer funding of abortion on demand and has saved more than two million lives, must go. Even “moderate” Joe Biden now begrudges fellow Catholics that modest concession to their conscience, and Kirsten Gillibrand likens pro-lifers to racists and anti-Semites. 

Meanwhile in Congress, Nancy Pelosi chalks up her caucus’s inability to “get rid of ” Hyde and other pro-life policies not to moral qualms, or concern for the children who would perish, or even respect for the taxpayers, but to “the current occupant of the White House and some in the United States Senate.”

The stakes of this election are clear. Part of America that has been sitting on the sidelines is awakening to the human cost of failing to engage. That is why Susan B. Anthony List is doubling its budget this cycle to replicate its success at the federal level in priority states, working with local allies to pass aggressive pro-life legislation, in addition to educating millions of voters about the need to defeat extremists and elect pro-life leaders.

Pro-life Catholics played a decisive role in the last presidential election. As politicians misrepresent the faith, this is an excellent time to bookmark The Participation of Catholics in Political Life and recall Pope St. John Paul II’s words in it, urging the laity “never to relinquish” their right as citizens to participate fully in the democratic process. No one else, not even a bishop, can fulfill the role given to each layperson – and, like the Apostles sharing the Gospel, it begins with engaging those closest to us: family, friends, and neighbors. Extrapolate to some 50 million Catholic adults, and even a small shift could mean saving countless girls and boys loved by God and intended for this world.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List. SBA List’s mission is to end abortion by electing leaders and advocating for laws that save lives, with a special calling to promote pro-life women leaders. She is also a Legate of the Northern Virginia Chapter

The stunning illogic of Roe v. Wade

In its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the laws against abortion in all 50 states. This decision is still the guiding precedent for the Supreme Court on abortion cases. Because of it, our nation continues to deny unborn human beings any rights whatsoever and allows (even encourages) their deliberate killing. As slavery was the central issue in the 19th century, so abortion is central in our time.

Dr. Patrick Lee

Writing for the majority in Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun claimed to find in the 14th Amendment an implicit right to abortion, when it said the state must not deprive a person of liberty without due process of law. That argument has been soundly refuted many times. But Blackmun’s most egregious errors occurred when he addressed the fetus’ personhood and humanity.

Texas (the defendant in this case) argued that the human fetus is a person and so deserves equal protection of the law, provided by laws banning abortion. Significantly, Blackmun admitted, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, then the case against striking down the abortion laws collapses.” However, he then argued that the word “person” is neither defined, nor used to refer to fetuses as persons in the Constitution, and so human fetuses are (he concluded) not persons in the Constitutional sense.

But this argument does not hold up. Nowhere in the Constitution are toddlers referred to as persons either, but one cannot deny they are persons in the Constitutional sense. Clearly, the word “person” is used in the Constitution as a descriptive term. That is, it refers to whatever can truly be called a person, whether the authors of that phrase had them explicitly in mind or not. Now, since human fetuses (unborn humans) are identical with beings who later quite clearly show they are persons — by reasoning, making deliberate choices, and so on — it follows that they are persons when in the womb, and so the 14th Amendment applies to them, and they deserve equal protection of the law.

Texas also rightly argued that, apart from the question of whether fetuses are persons according to the Constitution, they certainly are human beings, and the state has a compelling interest to protect every human being. Blackmun’s reply was stunning: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

But as a matter of fact science — embryology — does settle that issue: What is killed in abortion is without doubt a distinct, living human individual. (There are different positions on whether this is a “person” — but it’s a matter of science that from conception on, what is growing within the womb is a distinct human being.)

Moreover, the question at issue is a practical one, not just theoretical. If it were a question only of theory — for example, what is matter? what is time? — we could suspend judgment. But this is a practical question about how we will treat a certain class of individuals. The question is: Should we treat unborn human individuals as the same kind of beings as ourselves or not? The United States must settle this issue: It will either treat the unborn as human beings, deserving of equal protection of the law or not. So Blackmun saying the Court would not settle the issue was simply false. By striking down abortion laws, the Court determined that unborn human life would from then on be treated as mere sub-personal objects.

What should Blackmun have concluded? First, even if he stuck to his erroneous view that there was no consensus on the question whether the fetus is a human being, the Court should have left the issue to legislators, recognizing the limits of the judiciary’s role (its role is only to interpret the Constitution and the law, not make it).

But even at that time there was — and still is — a consensus in science. Blackmun should have therefore concluded that since what is killed in abortion is in fact a human being — as determined by the science of embryology — to deny unborn human beings the equal protection of the law is unconstitutional.

May the Lord help us! A civilization cannot long survive — or deserve to —that relegates a whole class of human beings (in this case unborn human beings) to the status of mere objects that can be shredded and then thrown into the trash can.

PATRICK LEE, PH.D.,is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Pain-capable abortion legislation

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER writes that new pain-capable legislation is a pro-life game-changer . . .

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Marjorie Dannenfelser

by Marjorie Dannenfelser

For the first time since Roe v. Wade, we are very close to protecting an entire class of unborn children from abortion. These children will not be spared because of a parental notification law or because their mothers rejected the gruesome reality of abortion after informed consent.

Although these laws are good, just, and lifesaving, they regulate around the child. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would save the lives of children simply because they are children. Boy or girl. Created by God. Sent into the world for a specific purpose, without whom we are a lesser nation.

We may have lost faith at times along the way, but it’s telling of the pro-life movement that we did not stop. While we have been waiting to change the law, we have been on our knees in prayer. We have been in front of abortion facilities counseling. We have welcomed women into our hearts and into pregnancy care centers and have welcomed their children into the world by the tens of thousands.

But our nation is finally getting to the point where we are living up to the aspirations of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Living up to those aspirations — to protect and enrich the lives of the most vulnerable — means that we are continuing a pathway begun by our Founders. In their wisdom, these men set up a system of government where, when there was an injustice to be confronted, the American people had the tools to fight and to overcome. It’s simple: There needs to be a law.

Every other successful human rights movement has come to this moment. It is that moment to understand where you are in history, to seize what is before you. It is that moment to freshen resolve because the fight it not over; there is a seminal battle ahead of us. And for the right to life movement, the battle has two fronts: at the ballot box and in the halls of Congress.

First, at the ballot box. The 2014 midterms revealed that abortion-centered feminism is dying, if not dead. Pro-choice candidates in the last election were advised, almost unilaterally, not to speak of the abortion issue. Retreated from their own abortion-centered position, the abortion lobby and its candidates are talking about pay equity and family life. Meanwhile, our candidates and volunteers are going on offense to expose hidden abortion extremism.

The Susan B. Anthony List saw this on the ground in 2014. We saw how person-to-person interaction, on doorsteps across five states, can make the difference in a tight race. Our pro-life activists were ready and willing to talk to their neighbors about the importance of voting pro-life. Moreover, they were ready to bring our message to outlying communities. We have learned that being bold with our pro-life ideals, taking our message to Democrats, women, independents, and Hispanics, yields important fruit.

Our candidates are echoing the message. Fourteen declared and likely Republican presidential candidates have spoken out in support of the Pain-Capable bill and are now calling out their Democrat counterparts for their unwavering allegiance to abortion on demand. With a broad coalition of candidates going on offense, cheered on by an equally broad coalition of pundits, pro-life leaders are poised to flip the script on abortion.

The pathway to success in 2016, to electing a pro-life president, will require going on offense like this. Taking the White House is the last key step in passing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on May 13.

That journey was not without its own struggles. In the interim months since the bill was delayed, pro-life activists rallied by generating thousands of phone calls and messages to Congress requesting a vote. Fortunately, our pro-life champions in the House heeded the calls of the grassroots.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is ready to move with this proposal in the U.S. Senate and will introduce the legislation with an impressive number of original co-sponsors. When the time comes to have the debate in the Senate, Graham said, “It will be a joy; it will not be a burden.”

Passing this legislation and seeing it signed into law by a prolife president, who we must help elect in 2016, will be no small accomplishment. This compassionate legislation will save 15,000-18,000 children a year! When we consider the effort that goes into saving just one life, imagine what it will means to save 40 per day! We are on the cusp of this reality and we must see it as a beginning. This is the beginning of the end of abortion.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.

Implementing the plan for victory

Fr. Frank Pavone says pro-life gains are adding up quickly and victory is near . . .

Fr. Frank Pavone celebrates Mass with Fr. Rob Schenck during the annual Legatus Pro-Life Conference

Fr. Frank Pavone celebrates Mass with Fr. Rob Schenck during Legatus’ annual Legatus Pro-Life Conference

When I became director of Priests for Life 20 years ago, I began visiting national pro-life leaders to learn what they were doing and to offer our help.

This led us to develop a specific plan to end abortion, which marshals the strengths of the pro-life movement against the weaknesses of the abortion industry. We update and implement that plan through networking with leaders, not only through strategic summits but also through spiritual retreats.

I am more convinced than ever that we are winning the fight against abortion. I’d like to explore one of the key reasons why the plan is bearing fruit, and how we can build on this momentum. Two key issues for pro-lifers today are the battles for marriage and religious liberty. Priests for Life was among the first to file a lawsuit over the HHS mandate, and we are confident of victory. But the battle for the defense of life itself will always remain the most fundamental moral struggle, because one can neither be married, religious, or free unless one is first born. Murder, including abortion and euthanasia, takes away these other rights and goods as well.

In the fight against abortion, the words of St. Paul are playing out: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless works of darkness; rather, expose them” (Eph 5:11).

Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s trial and conviction exposed abortion to national debate. It opened many people’s eyes to three things: what is done to the child; what is done to the woman, who is often injured and even killed; and the unsafe, unscrupulous environment of the abortion industry, which doesn’t even measure up to the standards in place at veterinary clinics.

As various members of our Priests for Life team attended Gosnell’s trial, reporters would ask us if we thought Gosnell was “crazy.” I responded, “Not necessarily. He is simply following the logic of the abortion industry.”

Roe v. Wade did not deny that unborn children are living human beings, but it did remove their protection under the law. “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins” [410 U.S. 113, 159], the decision said, and at the same time, “the word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn” [410 U.S. 113, 158].

This leads to what Gosnell did — namely, killing the same babies even after birth. The Journal of Medical Ethics published an article entitled, “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” (Feb. 23, 2012). The authors state, “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Controversial ethicist Peter Singer once said that the “location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make such a crucial moral difference,” and that to be consistent, there are “only two possibilities” — “oppose abortion or allow infanticide.”

My recent public letter to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (LetterToNancy.com) caught such national attention because it demanded that she answer a question that we must all answer: What is the difference between killing a baby by legal abortion in the final months of pregnancy and killing the same baby outside the mother’s womb (for which Gosnell is serving life sentences)?

Raising this question has helped legislators to pass legislation that protects children after birth and in the later stages of pregnancy. Some 10 states — as well as the U.S. House of Representatives — have voted to prohibit abortion starting at 20 weeks of fetal age. This is monumental. Pro-lifers are also working with legislators to strengthen state laws that regulate abortion facilities, causing many of them to close. At least 58 U.S. abortion mills — almost 1 in 10 — have shut or stopped killing children since 2011.

These measures don’t represent the final goal; they represent the next logical step. Every abortion is equal in its moral violation, but not in its psychological impact. And regulating an abortion clinic doesn’t make the abortions right. But pedagogically, we take the public and our legislators from the more obvious to the less obvious, and real progress is being made. Just exposing abortion is enough to bring most people to reject it.

As our executive director Janet Morana points out in her new book Recall Abortion, the testimonies of those who have had the experience (and the studies of the damage it does) make the case for the government to protect these women — and ultimately to recall the procedure as harmful to the public. We are closer to that day than ever before!

FR. FRANK PAVONE is the national director of Priests for Life.

The power of a good story

In the wake of mass shootings, Patrick Novecosky explores why we value human life . . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

Ever since a madman went on a murderous rampage in Connecticut on Dec. 14, debate across the U.S. has swirled around the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Pundits have debated everything from gun magazine size to violent video games and mental illness.

One point that hasn’t entered into the debate, however, is the reason we value human life at all. To most Christians, the reason is simple: We are created in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:27). Catholics go deeper: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next” (Baltimore Catechism, #6).

Secularists recognize the value of human life to a point because we have an instinctive drive to preserve it — and as a by-product of the West’s Christian roots. Neither of these reasons, however, have been able to stop the rapid erosion of respect for human life in our culture. Newtown is just one example. Planned Parenthood’s recent annual report revealed that the abortion giant took the life of an innocent child every 94 seconds in 2011.

Pro-lifers have been working to change hearts and minds for 40 years, ever since the Supreme Court handed down its most notorious ruling, Roe v. Wade. TIME magazine even had a cover story last month noting the pro-life movement’s steady progress. More Americans than ever consider themselves pro-life and want restrictions on abortion.

Nearly half a million people took to the streets of Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25 to protest Roe, but there is still work to do. Legates are in the thick of the battle. Members operate networks of pregnancy care centers, they do advocacy work, they fund pro-life initiatives, and most members pray regularly for the unborn and abortion-minded women.

One new Legate-driven initiative uses the power of film to influence the hearts and minds of those who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise oppose abortion. Jason Jones (Hollywood Chapter) knows the power of a good story. He was an executive producer of Bella in 2006. For his new film, Crescendo, he teamed up with Pattie Mallette, mother of pop superstar Justin Bieber. (Click here for a related story.)

Jesus taught in parables for a good reason, and the best homilies contain stories that help us understand the gospel in our own day. Jones does the same thing in his 15-minute film. It’s sure to change many hearts and minds, adding to the growing number of those who respect life from conception to natural death.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.


Filmmaker David Kyle exposes the evil greed and exploitation of the abortion industry . . .

Writer/Director: David Kyle
TAH.LLC Films, 2010. Not Rated. 80 min.

Filmmaker David Kyle’s BloodMoney goes where few documentaries have dared go — into the belly of the beast that is Planned Parenthood. He exposes the truth behind the nation’s billion-dollar abortion industry and its systematic exploitation of women.

Kyle is joined by Alveda King, Fr. Frank Pavone, Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, who later converted to Catholicism), and others. He examines abortion’s devastating effects on women.

Order: Ignatius Press, Aquinas and More

Abortion: The pivotal issue

Brad Mattes: Abortion kills more Americans every day than terrorists did on 9/11 . . .

Bradley Mattes

Few reading this magazine would debate that the moral fabric of our nation has been ripped apart by spiritual and cultural warfare. At times it seems we don’t even recognize the America we so passionately loved as children — an America so many have bled and died to protect.

At the epicenter of this war zone is the battle over abortion. This evil has spawned a pervasive disregard for innocent human life that has further evidenced itself in euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research and the commonplace, casual killing of human embryos through in vitro fertilization. We’ve also seen an alarming increase of infanticide and murder in society, all resulting from one of the darkest days in American history. On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Roe v. Wade that unborn children were mere chattel to be killed at will by their mothers for any reason. It was a pivotal and catastrophic moment in the culture war.

Abortion is a foundational issue of our day because it has denied life to over 53 million Americans since 1973. Without the right to life, all of our other rights — 100% of them — are also denied to us. Every day, more than 3,200 babies are brutally killed in abortion chambers across the country. Think about it: America legally and intentionally kills more daily than all those who died in terrorist attacks on 9/11. Hands down, abortion is the most important human and civil rights issue of our time. It should be the focus of our attention, prayers and resources in order to bring it to an end as quickly as humanly possible.

It’s been 38 years since abortion-on-demand was legalized, so it’s fair to ask some basic questions: Are we making progress? Are we winning this life-and-death battle? My answer is a resounding Yes! Here’s why.

Roe v. Wade gave birth (ironic isn’t it) to one of the most compassionate, loving and extensive grassroots movements in history. Pro-lifers, consisting mostly of volunteers, have been diligently working since 1973 to protect unborn babies and their parents from abortion. Millions of our fellow citizens from all walks of life — liberal, conservative, rich, poor, black, white — participate in a unified mission to end the plague of abortion in America.

As a result, protective pro-life legislation has been enacted from Washington, D.C., to Juneau, Alaska, and everywhere in between. Pregnancy centers provide concrete alternatives to women facing unexpected pregnancies, and they’re reaching out to hurting mothers and fathers of aborted children. Not only are we offering women true choice that they won’t get in abortion facilities, we help them pick up the pieces of their shattered lives after they’ve chosen abortion.

In addition to the fruit born by the pro-life movement, technology has opened a window to the womb. I proudly displayed a computer mouse pad and coffee mug with the sonogram picture of my first granddaughter — before she was born. Those images literally circled the globe via email and the Internet long before the first labor pains began.

Now, replicate that happy event millions of times over by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors. You may remember the TV ad campaign not long ago by General Electric promoting their ultrasound technology. It was a pro-life educational campaign that cost far more than any pro-life budget would have allowed. The evidence shows Roe v. Wade is on a collision course with modern technology, the growing numbers of post-abortive parents and millions of Americans who have come to know the ugly reality of abortion. Pro-life education is the foundation on which we end abortion.

An additional milestone has been the public discourse over partial-birth abortion. Up to that point, the biased media had regularly reported that abortion was legal only during the first three months of pregnancy. Also, a new law in Nebraska requires the abortionist to administer pain medication to the unborn child at 20 weeks or later into pregnancy. These watershed moments in the abortion battle have turned the nation’s focus to the heart of the matter — the unborn child.

It’s absolutely crucial that we stay focused on protecting innocent human life from womb to tomb. We must continue to make slow, steady progress. Far too much is at stake.

A poignant reminder of the price American has paid for abortion are my peers who years earlier chose what they believed to be a quick and painless solution to an unexpected pregnancy. Not only have they mourned the loss of their child(ren), but while I celebrate the birth of my grandchildren, they realize that theirs are missing. It’s a dramatic reminder that the decision to choose abortion will affect many generations to come. And it’s one of Satan’s ways to repeatedly assault these repentant children of God.

It’s impossible to calculate the cost of abortion on America. To give up — or to ease up — would cause further unspeakable carnage on this great nation.

Bradley Mattes is an Emmy Award-winning television host, as well as host of a daily radio commentary on over 700 radio outlets. He is the executive director of Life Issues Institute, an international pro-life organization, cofounded with John Willke, MD, a member of Legatus’ Cincinnati Chapter.

The future of America

Life issues divide Obama and McCain

Like many U.S. Catholics, Umberto Fedeli believes this year’s presidential election presents Catholic voters with a clear choice — one that hinges on the sanctity of human life.

“If you’re not right on that issue, it has me concerned about your compass or your direction on other issues,” said Fedeli, a member of Legatus’ Cleveland Chapter.

Life issues

When it comes to the life issues, there’s little doubt that the differences between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are profound. According to a nonpartisan voter guide prepared by Priests for Life,McCain has voted to oppose Roe v.Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, while Obama has made unrestricted abortion a priority.

McCain also supported legislation providing protection for infants who survive abortion while Obama opposed a similar bill in the Illinois State Senate.

But with both McCain and Obama touting their positions on an array of other issues from the economy to the Iraq war, some Catholics may wonder whether a single issue like abortion should hold sway over others in their choice of a candidate.

After all, faithful Catholics should also be concerned about poverty, marriage and a host of other social issues. Many question whether war, for example, isn’t as evil as abortion — or whether providing healthcare for the poor isn’t as important as helping unborn children.

The answer, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is that “not all issues are equal.” The USCCB’s 2007 statement on political responsibility, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, draws a line between issues involving “matters of intrinsic evil” such as abortion and “affirmative obligations to seek the common good,” such as helping the poor.

Faithful Citizenship lays out 10 policy goals intended to help guide Catholics as they weigh the moral dimensions of their voting choices. Topping the list is protecting “the weakest in our midst — innocent unborn children” through an end to abortion, followed by such issues as immigration reform (on which Obama and McCain have nearly the same voting record), poverty, prejudice, peace, human rights and healthcare.

Guides developed by Priests for Life and Catholic Answers Action differ slightly in approach, but emphasize the pre-eminence of abortion and other life issues.

The Catholic Answers Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics identifies five non-negotiables involving intrinsically evil actions: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual “marriage.” The guide also says Catholics should “avoid to the greatest extent possible voting for candidates who endorse or promote intrinsically evil policies.”

All issues are not equal

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has staunchly defended Catholic teaching on the life issues this election season.

“One of the pillars of Catholic social thought is this: Don’t intentionally kill the innocent, and don’t allow others to do it. That’s where our political reasoning needs to start,” he explained. In Render Unto Caesar, his new book about the Catholic citizen’s role in public life, Archbishop Chaput calls abortion “the foundational issue of our age.”

“Obviously we face many other issues this fall — the war in Iraq, the economy, the need for immigration reform and others,” the archbishop told Legatus Magazine. “These are urgent and important. But they can’t be used as an alibi or counterweight to avoid defending the unborn child.”

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said common sense also dictates that all issues are not equal. For example, he said, although every life has the same value, the number of those being lost through abortion far exceeds that of other tragedies, including war. The key difference, he added, is that in war, although innocent people are sometimes killed, the government does not authorize their deliberate killing, as is the case with every single abortion.

The U.S. bishops’ Faithful Citizenship document further notes, “It is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions…. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic, guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.”

Conscience, however, is not a matter of personal preference or opinion, as Archbishop Chaput points out in Render Unto Caesar. “For Catholics, ‘conscience’ demands a mind and heart well formed in the truth of Jesus Christ. And these come foremost through the teaching of the Catholic faith.”

Archbishop Chaput is quick to point out that he doesn’t tell Catholics who to vote for. “I don’t do that,” he said. “But if we describe ourselves as ‘Catholic,’ then we need to act in accord with Catholic teaching.”

Dissenting Catholics

Nonetheless, there are Catholics who, while claiming to accept Church teaching on human life, support pro-abortion candidates.

Among these is constitutional law scholar Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University, who has outlined his reasons for backing Obama in a new book, Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama.

Although Obama is a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would undo nearly all state and federal limits on abortion, including partial-birth abortion, Kmiec said he thinks the Democratic candidate has better ideas than McCain on how to reduce abortion.

McCain and the Republicans, Kmiec argued, are focused on overturning Roe v.Wade, which Kmiec considers a “failed and uncertain path” because it would return the matter to the states, allowing them to become pro-abortion.

Kmiec said Obama’s approach, while retaining legal abortion, would provide prenatal and income support, paid maternity leave and greater access to adoption as means of reducing the incidence of abortion.

Archbishop Chaput, however, said all public leaders should be working to offer abortion alternatives.

“But ‘pro-choice’ candidates have used this bogus approach while running for office for 35 years with virtually no results,” the archbishop said. “We still have more than 1 million abortions a year.”

Kmiec also argues that Obama’s positions on the living wage, healthcare, family home foreclosures and the needs of the disadvantaged are more consistent with the Church’s social justice mission.

But Archbishop Chaput said the problem with that line of thinking is that “there’s no way to justify or ‘balance out’ killing an innocent unborn child by weighing it against other social benefits. No amount of good social welfare legislation can excuse support for a phony ‘right’ to abortion.”

Catholic outreach

Both McCain and Obama have reached out to Catholic voters, who make up nearly a quarter of the country’s electorate.

McCain launched a Catholics for McCain effort in December, setting up conference calls with key Catholic leaders and organizing groups in various states, particularly battlegrounds like Ohio.

The Obama campaign followed suit in April, appointing a 26-member National Catholic Advisory Council. In late September, Obama’s campaign revived its religious outreach by announcing a “faith, family and values” tour in key battleground states targeting voters less concerned about abortion or same-sex “marriage.”

Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), national co-chair of Catholics for McCain, said the Republican candidate’s campaign resonates with Catholics on core issues like abortion, euthanasia and marriage — and on social justice matters such as immigration.

Fedeli, who co-chairs Catholics for McCain in Ohio, agrees.

McCain wants to create a culture where all Americans will want to serve an interest greater than themselves, Fedeli said. “He is shy to talk about his faith and doesn’t talk much about religion, but when he says things like that, he’s saying we are called to be men for others.”

Brownback told Legatus Magazine that McCain’s position on core issues resonates with Catholics, whose vote will be critical in this election.

“We’re one vote away from overturning Roe v.Wade,” Brownback said. “If McCain wins, we’re likely to get one to three Supreme Court judges. If Obama wins, he will get to appoint the same number and we could well lose the chance to overturn Roe for 20 to 40 years. That’s at the core of this election. I would hope people would pray about it before they vote.”

Judy Roberts is freelance journalist based in Graytown, Ohio.


Resources for Catholic voters

Booklet: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. www.faithfulcitizenship.org

Statement: Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.usccb.org/prolife

Various: Voter guides comparing the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates and party platforms, Voting with a Clear Conscience and more. Priests for Life Political Responsibility Center. www.priestsforlife.org/elections

Booklet: Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics. Catholic Answers Action. www.caaction.com

Book: Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life by Archbishop Charles Chaput (Doubleday, 2008) Available at book stores everywhere or call toll-free (800) 726-0600.