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Abortion On The Ballot This Election

May 17, 2024

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President Trump is against a national ban on abortion. President Biden champions abortion as a matter of healthcare and wants more access for women, not less. 

As we enter the summer months, American politics continues to heat up too. Abortion will be a major topic for Americans at the polls, and it was placed even more in the national headlines following Trump’s recent words about his desire to keep abortion as a states’ rights issue. 

The former president said Roe v. Wade “wasn’t about abortion so much as bringing it back to the states. So the states would negotiate deals. Florida is going to be different from Georgia and Georgia is going to be different from other places.” Trump recently released a video stating that the nature of abortion means that it should become the will of the people for that particular region or state. “At the end of the day,” he continued, “this is all about the will of the people . . . you must follow your heart on this issue.”

President Biden has framed the abortion issue as a “reproductive freedom” that all women should have access to. “Your body and your decisions belong to you, not the government. . . . I will fight like hell to get your freedom back,” Biden said in an ad that ran in Arizona in April. The president has consistently stated that the overturning of Roe v. Wade was a mistake and that it went too far along with reiterating that abortion is not about states’ rights but women’s rights. For him, it is all about freedom. 

How should a Catholic approach abortion inside of the current political context? President Trump is misguided in thinking that abortion is about the “will of the people,” and President Biden holds to the heinous position that the murder of unborn children is a great freedom that all women should have. Yes, there appears to be an option that is the lesser of two evils, but our Catholic faith calls on us to move from a place of knowledge as well as from a place of relationship with Christ when we approach such issues. First we must understand the issues, then we must invoke prayer and direct our gaze towards Jesus. 

A country that holds to what is right and just even in the face of possible hatred by the culture is the country where I want to live.

The morality of an action is not dependent on how people view a given topic. Might does not make right, but neither does a majority vote. America is founded on the forever true notion that we are endowed with inalienable rights by God himself, not the government nor the state. The will of the people turns into mob rule very easily when truth becomes determined by the statistical majority.  

As Bishop Barron has spoken and written about, no one would ever subject the issue of slavery to some of the talking points that people use for abortion. No sitting president and candidate for the White House would ever claim that slavery (or stealing or any other heinous act for that matter) is about “the will of the people.” Americans ought to be represented properly when laws are made and officials speak about programs that impact our lives. However, that is not the absolute rule. Holding to the necessity of majority rule being promoted in law is not the most important right in our country. 

A country that holds to what is right and just even in the face of possible hatred by the culture is the country where I want to live. The United States is founded on a movement that decided to speak out against what those in power thought was right. When people are oppressed, there should be consequences at the polls. Keeping this in mind, there is no doubt that the highest percentage of people whose lives are currently at stake are the unborn. They are vulnerable and have infinite dignity no matter what “the people” say.

Biden’s claim that abortion is about “reproductive freedom” is also illogical while it similarly attempts to evoke American values. Freedom is what we are made for. It is given to us by God, and it is the responsibility of the government to protect people’s freedom. Freedom, however, is not unhindered liberty. A human being is free to jump out of a plane without a parachute, but he will surely die. Freedom is not just about the liberty to perform an action. Freedom must always be intrinsically connected to goodness and truth. One could perform an evil action, but doing so would be harmful for them and for others. Phrasing abortion as a reproductive freedom is a trap. 

According to Catholic teaching, a Catholic in good standing can vote for a candidate who supports abortion if there are other proportional issues that outweigh the other candidate(s). In moral terms we are speaking about material cooperation versus formal cooperation. Formal cooperation is when we assent to performing or assisting in an evil action. Material cooperation is when we do not commit an act that is evil in and of itself but an act that allows for an evil to occur. 

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When voting for a candidate that is not strictly pro-life, one is to consider the full picture of the person’s policies while also not assenting to the candidate’s pro-choice position. Issues that revolve around American policy are often very complex and involve many different levels of moral reasoning. An issue like abortion is not complex at all. That is why it is the key moral issue of our time, especially when it comes to politics.

Abortion is intrinsically evil. There are between 800,000 and one million abortions performed every year in America. The lives of innocent human beings are being taken at horrendously large rates. Therefore, in order for someone to vote for someone who supports abortion, one must do so in order to promote the other policies of a candidate that outweigh the harm that would occur if a different candidate were to take office. 

How does a candidate promote human dignity? Does he foster principles and policies that will bring America closer to respecting the infinite value of the human person at all stages of life? 

These are all critical questions to ask ourselves as we approach the next election. We should be informed. We should know the facts about the issues and the candidates. Most importantly though, we ought to be rooted in the intimacy of daily prayer with Jesus Christ so that hearts may be brought to a deeper conversion. Politics is about the common good and the worth of every human person, but politics is not the first and most important thing—faith is. Thankfully, our faith sheds a bright light on truth and the value of the human person. 

For our time, whether we like it or not, abortion is front and center. So give it a higher priority when you move to pray and when you visit the polls.