The Issue That Stands Above the Rest
Posted on July 21, 2011
by Steve Karlen – Development Director, Pro-Life Wisconsin
It’s the same narrative every election: candidates vying for office plead for your vote, insisting their policies will cure all that ails America and bring about an unprecedented age of peace and prosperity from sea to shining sea. Sounds great, right?
But despite these bold claims, the nation faces many critical challenges in a quickly evolving world, making it difficult to vote with confidence. Sure, Senator Statesman’s economic policies aim to end poverty, but Representative Goodbody has some cutting-edge ideas for improving public health. How, then, can Catholic voters possibly sort through the many compelling interests and exercise their civic duty to promote the common good at the ballot box?
The Catechism provides guidance: “The common good presupposes respect for the person….Public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person.”1
While the Catechism’s list of these rights is complex, it’s well summarized by the inalienable rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
By any standard, the first among the inalienable rights is the right to life. Without this most fundamental right, there is no possibility of liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Those who are deprived of their lives can hardly benefit from strong domestic or foreign policies.
That’s why it’s imperative for Catholics to vote for candidates who seek to protect all innocent human life from abortion, euthanasia, and life-destroying research.
Defending the Least Among Us
As a nation founded on the premise that “All men are created equal,” it’s especially tragic that one group of people—pre-born children—can be summarily executed with the full backing of the United States government.
Sure, there might have been a time when technology was so primitive that there remained legitimate questions about when life actually begins. But modern science proves without a doubt that, at conception, a new, unique and individual person comes into existence. The question, therefore, is not “When does life begin?” but “What value do we as a society place on new life?”
As Catholics and as US citizens, the answer is clear: the child in the womb is of equal value and dignity to any born person. Therefore, we have a moral obligation to promote the common good by supporting candidates who fight for equal protection for the pre-born—an obligation highlighted by the Gospel’s call to preferentially serve the weak, the poor and the defenseless. As Pope John Paul II noted, there is no person poorer than the pre-born child: “…she is weak, defenseless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defense…of a newborn baby’s cries and tears.”2
Single Issue Voting
A common objection to voting for pro-life candidates is that “abortion is only one of many important issues.” The pejorative “single-issue voter” label is frequently applied to pro-lifers by those who seek to portray them as narrow-minded and unsophisticated.
Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life illustrates the absurdity of this logic:
“If a candidate who supported terrorism asked for your vote, would you say, ‘I disagree with you on terrorism, but where do you stand on other issues?….You would immediately know that such a position disqualifies the candidate for public office — no matter how good he or she may be on other issues. The horror of terrorism dwarfs whatever good might be found in the candidate’s plan for housing, education, or health care. Regarding those plans, you wouldn’t even ask.”3
Simply put, no other political concern can possibly trump the taking of innocent human life.
Some pro-abortion politicians try to get around this inconvenient fact by claiming their anti-poverty policies will eliminate the so-called “need for abortion.” This contention is fatally flawed, if not deliberately dishonest. No candidate ever runs on a pro-poverty platform. Instead, candidates make competing prudential judgments on the best approach for ending poverty.
For example, Sen. Statesman might try to reduce unemployment by increasing workers’ skills through publicly subsidized workforce training programs. Meanwhile, Rep. Goodbody might take a different approach, cutting public spending and taxation to increase the capital required for hiring new employees. Neither approach is morally objectionable because both strategies make good faith, reasonable efforts to promote the common good.
Abortion and euthanasia, on the other hand, are non-negotiable because the taking of innocent human life is intrinsically evil. Neither can ever promote the common good. As Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura Raymond Cardinal Burke wrote, “There is no element of the common good…which could justify voting for a candidate who also endorses and supports the deliberate killing of the innocent.”4
Sound Economic Policy and Respect for Life
From time to time a purportedly pro-life politician will suggest a ceasefire on the abortion debate, claiming that urgent fiscal concerns must be dealt with before abortion and euthanasia are addressed. Such disingenuous claims are excuses for politicians disinterested in ending the culture of death to continue receiving campaign contributions and votes from pro-lifers. If these politicians examined the facts, they would recognize hostility to life is one of the biggest and most easily avoidable contributors to economic crises.
Take, for example, the perpetual hand-wringing over the impending insolvency of social security. While pundits debate raising the age of retirement or increasing paycheck deductions, the root of the problem—acknowledged even by the Social Security Administration as “low birth rates”—is rarely discussed.
The same principle applies to the rest of the economy as well. In any recession, tax revenues decline leaving local, state and federal government agencies with hefty budget deficits. Politicians rarely note that were it not for decriminalized abortion, there would be 53 million more taxpayers to help fund the shortfalls.
In fact, after nearly two generations of abortion on demand, the economic devastation it has caused can no longer be confined to isolated crises like the social security crunch or cyclical recessions. Instead, hostility toward life has caused massive underpopulation that threatens the very foundations of Western society.
To maintain a stable population, the average family must bear 2.13 children. Anything short of this for a protracted period of time means that societies will lack the population base to provide for the elderly or fill out a workforce needed to grow the economy. In fact, according to the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic & International Studies, no country whose fertility rate has dipped below 1.5 has ever recovered.
Every European nation has reproduced below the replacement rate for decades, with many falling below the 1.5 threshold. As a result, the entire continent faces economic turmoil. Thanks to mass immigration from Latin America, the population in the United States has remained stable. However, the same demographic trends that have Europe on the brink of collapse indicate that America soon faces a population-driven economic crisis of its own.
As Catholics, it’s never easy for us to find the ideal candidate. But our respect for human life provides a guiding light for carrying out this civic duty. So on Election Day, let your vote be guided by the Holy Spirit: “Choose life, so that you and your children may live.” — Deuteronomy 30:19.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 1907.
- Blessed Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 58.
- Rev. Frank Pavone, Faithful Christians, Faithful Citizens, 2006.
- Cardinal Raymond L Burke, On Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good, 2005, para 39.