Voting Pro-Life: Responding to the argument against being a ‘one issue voter’

The Argument:

Pro-life means more than just defending the live of unborn babies, but all stages of humanity, including those of the immigrant, the imprisoned, the poor, the homeless, and unjustly treated minority groups in our society. Therefore, if a candidate supports these other areas of the pro-life movement but supports legal abortion, it is justifiable to vote for this candidate because on the whole they support many pro-life causes, save for one.

The Conclusion:

Catholics considering voting for a particular candidate should resolve that a candidate’s advocacy for or against the legality of abortion should not be the only consideration or even the top consideration when making this decision.

The Response:

The defense of an innocent unborn right to life is the principle/foundational position on which all others rise and fall. This is official Catholic teaching. See: USCCB Article: ‘On the importance and priority of defending innocent human life.”

The right to life is the first among human rights.

Pope Francis

This is in the charter of the U.N. and is also the principle right found in our country’s Declaration of Independence. The most innocent and vulnerable of human lives are the unborn in the womb. Therefore, any allowance to kill the unborn in our laws and any support of these laws undermines every other protection of human life outside the womb.

If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?” and, “A nation that kills its children in the womb has lost its soul.”

St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta

Therefore any political candidate that allows or advocates for legal abortion in our country cannot be supported by a Catholic who seeks to be faithful to her teachings which have been given to her by Christ. A Catholic commits a serious sin when voting for a candidate who is cooperating with the advocacy of legal abortion.

But I can speak about my experience working for those fleeing war-torn and impoverished countries all around the world. Those refugees all share a common experience. They have all been marginalized, viewed as insignificant, powerless and voiceless. And while we tend to think of the marginalized as living beyond our borders, the truth is the largest marginalized group in the world can be found here in the United States. They are the unborn.

Sister Dede Byrne, Full remarks are here: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-sister-dede-byrnes-speech-at-the-2020-republican-national-convention-71435

I want to offer an illustration to this reply to reveal how this argument is untenable. Imagine if you were in Germany in the early 1930’s when the Nazi party was growing in popularity. At this time there were five other parties running in the elections against the Nazi party.

Imagine if the Nazis were more forthcoming with their positions and plans for the country at the outset and they ran on these policies: improved German economy, rebuilding infrastructure, low unemployment, improved healthcare, eradication of poverty and homelessness for the German people, and…….the forced sterilization and abortions of any non-Aryan German peoples, the sending of the Jewish people to the Ghettos and then the exportation of the these non-Aryan people to concentration camps with the plan for their total extermination.

Meanwhile, the other five parties offered positions on improving German society and some even suggested the deportation of non German citizens back to countries of origin and imposing greater limits on immigration into the country through enforcement of their borders. The people voting in this election divided their votes between these different party candidates, which diluted their vote and allowed the Nazi party to receive, not a majority of votes, but only a plurality (about 33%).

Today in America we have candidates supporting the abortion of unborn children up to the ninth month of pregnancy. We have candidates accepting the endorsement of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion advocate in our nation. But they support less restrictions on immigration and a path for citizenship for those who did not enter our country through normal border control access points. This is the treating of already born persons with greater compassion and clemency while denying unborn persons the freedom to live.

An unborn child is denied entry to live in this world; they are apprehended at the border of the placenta and not placed in a cage or returned to the womb, but immediately exterminated. To be pro-choice is to be anti-immigrant to the extreme.

Follow up Argument:

There is reason not to support a political candidate that claims to be pro-life, who even collaborates with other pro-life advocates, but holds other positions that are antithetical to other elements of the pro-life position relating to the issues mentioned above. (immigrants, the poor, the imprisoned, the homeless, the elderly etc.) Many politicians attach themselves to the pro-life movement disingenuously because they know that this is the only way to receive the most support from the people who vote pro-life. What’s the point of voting for them when they only give lip service to the pro-life movement and are not true advocates for it?

Reply to Follow Up Argument:

I would suggest that too many pro-life people still vote for pro-abortion candidates. In 2016, 48% of those who identified as Catholics voted for the pro-choice candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood. Political candidates who have not thought deeply about the abortion issue are not being sent a clear message. By this evenly split support among Catholics for pro-life/pro-abortion candidates it has had a disastrous double-effect:

First, pro-abortion candidates can conclude that abortion is not the abhorrent evil in which faithful Christians will not tolerant as something to be held by a candidate that they vote for. Instead, the message is sent that abortion is not so bad as to offend enough voters to stop them from voting for them. The best thing that could happen is for Catholics to get on the same page on this issue and to punish any candidates holding to the pro abortion position in complete unity. Then, in their crushing defeat by an overwhelming rejection, a serious soul searching of a candidates positions will be done. Then, when they ask and poll faithful Christians why they so resoundingly rejected their candidacy, it should be clearly expressed that abortion is an intolerable evil and any candidate supporting its legality will never receive their vote.

Second, the even split of Catholic voters between pro life and pro abortion candidates also negatively effects the pro-life movement. The message it sends to pro-life candidates, who may deep down want to vigorously defend the unborn and end the evil of abortion, is one of dissolution. If Christians, especially Catholics, divide their vote, it makes it much more likely that strong pro-life candidates will be less bold and may even not consider running since the support for this issue is so tepid and compromised. So, in this I give a blunt challenge, for any Catholic that complains that pro-life candidates are not more bold and forceful in there stand, we must first look at ourselves and the way we have been voting. Our lack of unanimity on this issue is undermining the strong pro-life candidates from running or expressing a resounding intolerance toward legal abortion.

I want to give an illustrative example on a different moral/social issue that shows what can happen when people become more united in their voice. Look at the swift change in our country on the issue of the societal redefinition of marriage to include any two adults that have romantic love for each other. For thousands of years cultures have understood the purpose of marriage to form a family out of the complimentary of men and women who are by nature capable of procreation and bringing children into existence from that union. That was until a strong political movement swept across the country and persuaded people to become unified on the grounds of “marriage equality”.

https://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/

The swift unifying of voices on this issue not only persuaded a withdrawal of legislative and executive support from the foundational understanding of marriage, but it also persuaded a few members of the Supreme Court who decided that overthrowing a multi-millennial definition of marriage was warranted. That is what can happen in a society when a large enough group of people express a unified opinion. The results can cut both ways, for good or for ill. Sadly, the pro-life movement has never had this unity among those who claim to be faithful Catholics and Christians.

Finally, what of the claim that it is pointless to support pro-life candidates who may only be giving lip service to the issue and not really advocating for it? I present the case-study of the past three years. I would argue that the current president is mostly in this position. He had a long history of being affiliated with a different political party and giving financial support to candidates who advocated for abortion. When he decided to run for president and knew that he needed to run against the current status quo of the party in power, he aligned himself with a party that has many pro-life advocates. He knew that he could not win in that party if he wavered on that issue. So, even if his motivation is mixed and even if he has not been genuine in his current position, his actions from that moment of his candidacy to his third year in office is undeniably pro-life. He has been appointing over 300 justices to the courts that reject the idea that abortion is a constitutional right. He restored the Mexico City policy, denying federal taxpayer dollars to cover international organizations that provide abortions. He struck down Title IX taxpayer funding toward U.S. organizations who provide abortion services. With this, we have seen the lowest amount of annual abortions since the Roe v. Wade decision back in 1973. And this was all done with Catholic voters being split on the issue and voting for pro life and pro abortion candidates. What would happen if in the next election, Catholics voted by 80 percent for the pro-life candidate and when they were asked why they voted the way they did, they would say that they could never vote for a candidate that advocates and promotes legal abortion. How quick do you think the party that promotes legal abortion would reevaluate its position?

I really would prefer to have both of our major parties rejecting legal abortion. Then, there would be a genuine return to less polarized elections. Other important issues which both parties take different approaches on could be fairly debated and both parties would likely modify their arguments on all these issues as people voted more for one party over the other. There are valid arguments presented by different candidates in different parties on how to reform immigration law, reduce poverty and homelessness, and provide adequate healthcare to the most vulnerable. But, if those issues are placed above the fundamental right of the unborn to live it would be akin to placing those issues above the issue of evil of slavery a hundred and sixty years ago.

In conclusion, it is with this argument and without doubt that I would support a candidate who speaks for and acts on behalf of the unborn, even if he or she does so for a variety of motives and to different degrees of intensity. I would never vote for a candidate that supports legal abortion and does nothing to advocate its end. I would have taken the same approach a hundred and sixty years ago on the issue of slavery. I would have voted for the candidate who promotes its end even if that candidate has a mixed motive for running against slavery. I would have never voted for a candidate of any party who tolerated or promoted its continuation. For those who think that our political discourse has really reached a low point, go back and check the debates on slavery (this is accurately portrayed in the film Lincoln. Watch how nasty the debates on the floor of the house got concerning the Amendment to end slavery).

I leave you with this homily by Father Jonathan Meyer about whether we should trust a person who claims to be pro-life even when their character and past history is questionable:

9 thoughts on “Voting Pro-Life: Responding to the argument against being a ‘one issue voter’

  1. The struggle is real. If the unborn are seen as an inconvenience and something that can be eliminated at will, is it too far fetched to believe the natural progression of this thinking would be to eliminate any humans that are “inconvenient” at some point? The sick, the elderly, etc? At what point in the future will some propose that idea?

  2. What an awesome article Fr. Michael!!!!!! I pray every Catholic Christian reads this! We need to be sure they do! Thanks so much for sharing your very enlightening thoughts & educating us about many issues facing our nation and the importance of educating others and putting an end to abortion by re-electing President Trump! I wish every parish priest would speak from the pulpit and publish your article in their bulletins to educate their parishioners! THANK YOU!
    God bless you Fr Michael Goodwin

  3. A highpothetical guestion: if the anti-abortion candidate said, ” democracy fails just look at the legal deaths if the unborn that this government allows. I will take over this government and end abortion.
    Will you vote for this candidate?

    Remember Republicans said: ”Goverment is the problem”.

    1. I will always support life. Except for those who destroyed the lives of others. Freedom and opportunity is for all, and as long as they don’t remove that opportunity by overt actions, we all can enjoy life and the pursuit of happiness. But I won’t support a dictator under any terms. For it’s the people that are entrusted with the opportunities and are the safeguards of this nation. When we fail, that’s when we see what we have seen.

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