For Your Consideration

Why America's decency, civility and moral integrity is at stake in this year's election

As young people reflect upon this election, they ought to step back from war, the economy, and other pressing issues and recognize that the critical issues of our day continue to be abortion and marriage. Young Catholics stand to gain, or lose more than anyone else in this election because of the candidates’ profoundly different views about these two issues.

Abortion undermines our decency and civility as a society more than any other form of aggression. The imposition of same-sex marriage by courts or legislatures is also likely to erode our society’s moral integrity as well as intensify the culture war. To those who argue that the permission of same sex marriage will establish a consensus on the issue, I simply ask them to consider how wrong people were in thinking back in 1973 that Roe v. Wade would end the debates about abortion in America.

Embryology shows that a new member of the human species is created at conception, and the social sciences (see show marriage between a man and a woman to be the best arrangement for raising children. Same-sex marriage is bad for those with same-sex attraction just as abortion has been very bad for women and their children.

America’s support of both same-sex marriage and abortion reinforce Muslims’ perceptions (increasingly noted by scholars of contemporary Islam) that we actually encourage the breeding of terrorists because of our moral and religious laxity.

Lastly, legal experts warn that if same-sex marriage is enshrined as a right, communities of faith who believe that same-sex marriage is wrong will have their religious freedom taken away from them in various ways. There is already a case in Massachusetts of parents not being permitted to have their child opt out of a school class that teaches homosexuality to be the moral equivalent of heterosexuality.

Religious liberty scholars see a train wreck approaching as two views of homosexuality and how this is treated in the classroom will clash in the near future. People that consider homosexuality to be wrong will be considered bigots in some places they already are.

Profound Effects
As never before in recent history, the result of this election will affect the number of innocent lives killed in this country by abortion. The next president stands to appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice who will either shift the majority of the Court toward overturning Roe v. Wade, leave things as they are, or remove the few restrictions on abortion that have been permitted. We can be reasonably confident that the judges McCain selects will be pro-life and that the judges Obama selects will be pro-choice. The candidates’ records strongly support this view.

To determine how overturning Roe would reduce abortions, we have to realize that the law shapes how we behave by either reinforcing or eroding our good moral intuitions.

We can quibble as to the exact numbers, but the evidence is clear that there was a very significant increase in abortions after Roe was decided in 1973, and yet nothing changed but the law. We can then quite reasonably conclude that overturning Roe will reduce the number of abortions.

One could argue that the culture was changing also, but that would not explain the dramatic increase in such short time. Cultural changes normally occur gradually.

If, as I mentioned above, the legalization of abortion predisposes society to be vicious, would overturning Roe make us not vicious?

Not entirely, but perhaps less vicious.

Overturning Roe would not make abortion illegal: it would only remove the protections on abortion that currently forbid the federal government or the states from prohibiting the procedure (except in the case of partial-birth abortion). Overturning Roe would reopen the process of debate and education about abortion that is vital in a democracy, and would thereby restore the freedom of the electorate.

A law can be bad law because of the way in which it is created or because of its content. Roe is bad on both counts. After Roe some states would permit abortions but others would not, and the result would be better than our present situation.

There would actually be more freedom of choice because people in different local governments would have the freedom to enact laws regarding abortion as they saw fit: either to prohibit it or to permit it.

People collectively would be less angry because those who oppose abortion would not have it imposed on them by unelected court officials as in the current situation. This scenario would not be perfect, but better than the present.

What about the candidates?
Are the candidates positions on abortion relevant only on the presumption that a Supreme Court Justice will retire? No. There are many other ways in which the president can affect abortion policy.

Based on the record of what each one of the candidates has done and has promised to do, it is clear that Obama’s policies, setting aside the question of the Supreme Court, would be the most permissive ever with regards to abortion.

Consider, for example, his strong support for passing the Freedom of Choice Act. Why is abortion graver than, say, poverty, torture, or other forms of killing (none of which McCain supports)?

Because abortion always directly kills an innocent life. No other form of direct, intentional killing or vice is so clearly evil, either in wars, self-defense, or the use of force against criminals.

However, some Catholic politicians, theologians, and public intellectuals have put abortion on par with many other evils. But their arguments neither withstand reasoned scrutiny, nor are they supported by the Catholic Church.

We can debate whether or not to kill in a particular case of self-defense, but there is no debate in the case of abortion. The Catholic Church and common sense teach that the moral gravity of abortion is greater than all others.

Left Up to the States
In terms of the issues surrounding marriage, some say that both candidates’ positions are roughly equivalent.

Not true.
While both McCain and Obama have claimed that they believe marriage is between one man and one woman, and both believe the question should be left up to the states, their positions differ significantly in detail.

For instance, Obama has publicly stated his opposition to California’s Proposition 8, which would overturn the California Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, while McCain has publicly supported the measure. McCain voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, while Obama has stated that he opposes it.

While it may be a matter of opinion whether the leadership of the Democratic Party has been co-opted by forces that make it extremely pro-gay marriage and pro-choice, it is not an opinion without some foundation in reality. Democrats or Independents should reflect on just how difficult it is for human beings to extricate themselves from entrenched positions, unless forced by necessity or God’s grace.

Do not go along with those who have firmly committed themselves to abortion. Vote pro-life and pro-family. Force the Democratic Party to change in these crucial issues.

For a different perspective: “Something New in the Abortion Debate