Monday, October 27, 2008

What are the Moral Obligations of the Pro-Life Voter?

What are the Moral Obligations of the Pro-Life Voter?

The purpose of this essay is not to explain or justify a Pro-Life position but rather, to deal with the political and moral responsibilities of the Pro-Life citizen. I am a believing Catholic, I accept the whole of Catholic moral teaching, I am not only opposed to the Culture of Death in all its manifestations but I specifically oppose abortion. The question that I am dealing with here is what, as a Pro-Life voter, are my political options?

Can we get rid of abortion?

Americans overwhelmingly favor legal access to abortion.
Perhaps as many as two-thirds, but certainly more than 60%, of Americans believe that abortion is a private matter and that discretionary abortion should be available to women in the first trimester. Not only are these numbers are simply insurmountable, but they have not changed in thirty years! The idea that a Pro-Life government could be elected, much less impose a ban on abortion, is naïve at best.

Support of abortion rights is cultural and a culture cannot be changed by government fiat.
Since the advent of reliable contraception in the early 1960’s, women have come to expect that they will no longer have to plan their lives around pregnancy. They can delay marriage, take lovers, space their children as they please, pursue careers — all in complete disregard to the fertility that constrained the choices of previous generations. Most women, especially educated women, are not about to resume older modes of life. They expect — they demand — high-powered careers, exciting sex, and conveniently planned pregnancies. No amount of reasoning, moral or spiritual, will affect their essentially materialistic world-view. Similarly, the effects of medical developments, popular entertainments, and secular education cannot be reversed by government dictate. These ideas are fostered by the content of movies, books, academic curriculum, news reportage and everyday conversation. They cannot be fought at the ballot box.

A woman’s “right to choose” enjoys constitutional protection.
Whether or not you believe Roe v. Wade is good law, the fact is neither this nor any other Court is going to overturn it. The Court that ruled on Roe v. Wade was largely composed of Republican appointees, and newer Republican appointees (made by the supposedly Pro-Life Reagan and Bush) have shown no willingness to tamper with this decision.

Only a constitutional amendment can overturn Roe v. Wade.
No realistic effort exists to introduce, much less ratify, a constitutional amendment. Today, the legal situation is so nearly frozen that only nuisance laws can be passed and upheld. Laws that actually limit abortion are routinely struck down. I doubt that any law, passed at any level of government during the last thirty years, has actually prevented a single determined woman from obtaining an abortion.

Why have the Republicans
done nothing?

Where is the legislative effort?
Not only have the Republicans failed to start the process of amending the Constitution, but they have limited their efforts to banning a particular method of third-trimester abortion (“partial birth”) that would have left dozens of other methods available.

Why has impeachment not been tried?
Our Constitution provides Congress with the means to redress judicial malfeasance: impeachment. If, as is so often claimed, the Republican party thinks that Roe v. Wade constitutes a miscarriage of justice, then we must ask: Where is the Republican-led effort to impeach those justices “legislating from the bench”? The G.O.P. moved quickly to impeach a recent President over a tawdry dalliance with an ambitious tart, yet thirty years have passed without an effort to impose constitutional discipline on the High Court.

Only by perpetuating abortion as an issue can the Republicans hold captive a block of voters who find this practice abhorrent.
Certainly, some Republicans sincerely believe abortion is a crime, have done all they can to combat this evil, and do not court popularity with callous disregard to the sanctity of life. But the party as a whole has been calculating and manipulating the Pro-Life voter. By perpetuating the notion that this issue is in play, the Republicans have held Pro-Life votes captive for thirty years.

What are my duties as a citizen?

To function properly, a democratic government must respond to the will of the people.
If a sizeable block of voters take themselves “out of play” over one issue, then the government will simply stop responding to them. While some issues are dead (for example: prohibition, the gold standard, segregation) others are alive and being decided in the halls of government. A responsible citizen does not cast a “dead vote” based on issues that are off-the-table, but instead actively participates in the issues of the day. Tax policy, the environment, peace and war are all issues that change — and change dramatically — depending on the party in power. A vote for or against NAFTA, for or against school vouchers, or for or against increased environmental protections might actually affect these pressing issues. But a vote for prohibition, for the gold standard, for segregation — or against abortion — is simply wasted! I know cloistered monks who read the newspapers and vote according to the actual state of the world. Why then should secular citizens act like ostriches with their heads buried in a dead issue?

What should the Pro-Life citizen
when voting?

•An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that some forms of abortion should remain legal. Unless and until these attitudes change, an anti-abortion vote is a futile gesture at best!

•As the courts now hold abortion to be a constitutional right, only amendment or impeachment can serve as remedies.
And, as Congress controls both of these processes, abortion is irrelevant to the office of President and to any state or local office. Choosing a presidential candidate based on the his abortion stance is simply nonsensical.

•The Republican party has done nothing to actually reduce or eliminate abortion and we should not expect a change of course at this late date.
A vote for Republicans on the strength of this issue is a vote for mere lip-service.

What should all responsible citizens consider when voting?

•Since 1972, wages have fallen dramatically
by at least 15% (though perhaps as much as 30%). Family income has risen only because the number of hours worked has risen, typically because married women have been obliged to work. The policies that caused this constitute an assault on the working classes, something unjustifiable to a Christian morality that holds it a sin to defraud the working man of his wages.

•Since 1980, the tax burden has been shifted from the wealthiest, to the 60% of Americans in the middle, both by the drastic reduction of tax rates on the very rich and by an increased reliance on payroll taxes. This, too, constitutes an assault on the average working citizen, as there is no link between low marginal tax rates and economic growth.

•We are engaged in an immoral war.
Iraq had no ties to Al Quida and no weapons of mass destruction, yet we were given these reasons, whether through deceit or ignorance, as a justification for war. This war has been condemned by the Pope, the United Nations, and most of the nations that we once considered our closest allies. We are hemorrhaging both blood and money, our civil liberties are being eroded, and all decent Americans are ashamed of what happened at Abu Ghraib. A vote against this war might actually save lives.

• Global warming is real.
Ask any scientist — geologist, botanist, or even ichthyologist — and, if he doesn’t work for an oil company or conservative think tank, he will tell you that global warming is a clear and growing danger. A vote against this and other forms of environmental degradation is a vote for all the babies born today.

• The death penalty is a live issue.
The Pope is against it (albeit, not dogmatically) and the record of false conviction is disquieting. Make up your own mind and your vote just might affect things.

• The bottom has fallen out of the minimum wage.
If we adjust the minimum wage of the mid-1960’s for inflation, it works out to about $11— an hour! What percentage of American workers are making even this figure, much less a real family wage?

• Our manufacturing base is gutted. Our manufacturing capability is down about 35% since 1980, our primary steel industry is virtually gone, and we no longer produce such American-invented products as microwave ovens, tube-socks, and superheterodynes.

• Other life issues actually are in play.
Stem-cell research, cloning, euthanasia — these issues are going to be decided in the next several years, but Pro-Life voters will not influence the debate if they are still captive to the issue of abortion.

• Our health-care system is inequitable, costly, and inefficient.
Health-care expenditures in all other industrialized nation are lower while life expectancies are higher. Insurance premiums and Medicare taxes are going up, while doctors’ salaries are going down, yet genuine reform is nowhere in sight.

• The economics of abortion.
Many abortions are had by women who feel they “can’t afford the baby.” Such a thing was inconceivable when a typical workingman’s wage allowed him to keep his wife at home with their kids. We can probably do more to save innocent life by restoring the income of workers to a viable “family wage” than by pursuing the forlorn hope of a ban on abortion.

• We must reclaim our political system.
Current polls show that 80% of Americans favor drastic reform of our health-care system, 70% of Americans believe that immigration should be reduced, and at least 60% of Americans oppose GATT and NAFTA, yet neither party supports these positions. We will not compel action on any of these problems as long as we are captive to a moribund issue.

Think and Vote!


RobK said...

I see you have not answered my rebuttal to your post. I also see that you continue to quote inaccurate statistics about "overwhelming majorities" in spite of recent data you are aware of from polls conducted by the KofC.

Here and in your other post, you list a variety of issues on which reasonable people may disagree, and compromise on the most fundamental issue that both candidates admit hangs in the balance (not to mention the abortion industry that certainly thinks so). There is also Obama's promise on on FOCA, the Mexico City Policy, the Hyde Amendment, support for human cloning, support for gay marriage through revoking the Defense of Marriage Act, etc.

Not only do you ignore the lives of the innocent that will be lost if Obama is elected (regardless of the Supreme Court issue) in preference to issues of lesser moral weight, you stand against more than 60 bishops who have reminded the faithful that the abortion issue issue takes precedence over the very issues you discuss (economy, health care, the war, etc.).

Beyond simply disagreeing with the bishops, you actually advocate for the most extreme pro-abortion nominee ever put forward from either party.

Perhaps you are not lukewarm after all....

I see that you find it hard to actually type Obama's name. Knowing what he represents, that makes sense.

Still, your advocacy is clear.

And very, very sad.

The Dutchman said...

Dear Rob:
It’s been several days since you posted your reply to me and I’ve been thinking things over. I was hoping to come up with something new, some way of making my position clear, since it seems we are talking past each other, not really connecting. Please find my reply here.

As for this post, it is actually something I wrote four years ago, when the issues were the same yet less pressing. Recently I got an e-mail from someone who had read this asking if I could post it on my blog so that she could link it for her friends. So it was posted, not as a reply to you, but as a favor to a friend. I’m sorry if it seemed that I was dodging you.

Yours For A Better World — Dutch