Oxymoron of the Week: Pro-Life Catholics for Obama

Today I am proud to offer a guest post from Michael J. New,
assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan Dearborn and a regular columnist at the National Review Online.

I met Michael just a few weeks ago quite by chance.  We found ourselves standing side by side on Telegraph Road in Dearborn Heights in a light drizzle, holding pro-life signs during the national Life Chain.

After adhering to the Life Chain rules and standing in silent prayer for perhaps half an hour, I finally introduced myself and learned what a great person he is:  Michael runs a pro-life student group at UM-Dearborn and is involved at a neighboring parish.  He had been just passing by, running errands; but when he spotted the group from our parish standing street-side, he came on over and asked for a sign to hold.   His scholarly research (as I explain below) has helped to shed light on the positive impact of pro-life legislation.

Michael has given me permission to share this column with my readers; his only request, of course, is that I give full credit:  This originally appeared in the National Review Online.

Catholic, Pro-Life, and Voting for Obama?

As Election Day approaches, many media outlets, like clockwork, make an effort to convince pro-life voters to support Democratic presidential candidates. This year is no exception. Last Friday, the Huffington Post ran an essay by University of St. Thomas law professor Thomas Reid entitled “Catholic, Pro-Life, and Voting for Barack Obama.” In his essay, Reid successfully manages to recycle the same tired talking points that his predecessors have made every election cycle since 2000.

Here is the template. 1) Claim that more generous social programs will reduce the abortion rate. 2) Use the lower abortion rates in Europe as an example for the United States to emulate. 3) Blame past Republican presidents for failing to overturn Roe v. Wade. The only trope Reid forgot is to blame President Reagan for the slight increase in the incidence of abortion during the 1980s while crediting Bill Clinton for the 1990s abortion decline.

Of course, these arguments are as flawed today as they were in previous election cycles. First, there is literally not one peer-reviewed study which shows that greater spending on welfare or any other government program is an effective strategy for lowering abortion rates. Second, Reid neglects to mention that most European countries offer better legal protection for the unborn than we do in the United States. Moreover, pro-lifers who think Europe’s model of more generous social programs is worth following should realize that the abortion rate in many European countries is rising, while the U.S abortion rate is falling.

Finally, it is true that Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican Presidents have not been able to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, these justices have offered constitutional protection to various pro-life laws. These include state-level parental-involvement laws and informed-consent laws, both of which have been able to lower abortion rates. Furthermore, every Supreme Court Justice appointed by a Democratic president since 1973 has clearly and publicly voiced their support for the Roe v. Wadedecision. That trend is unlikely to change.

Many commentators realize that the Democratic party has a real problem with pro-life voters. They know the Democratic party’s support for legal abortion is hurting them with key demographic groups, including working-class whites and Catholics. Furthermore, this problem is likely to worsen as the pro-life position gains in the court of public opinion. It is unfortunate these commentators continue to mislead pro-life voters instead of encouraging Democrats to support real legal protection for unborn children.


Dr. Michael New is a regularly columnist at “The Corner” on National Review Online.  A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Dartmouth College, Dr. New received a master’s degree in statistics and a doctorate in political science from Stanford University in 2002.  Dr. New previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-MIT Data Center.  Dr. New’s research interests include the positive impact of pro-life legislation in the states, fiscal limits, and campaign finance reform. His first study on the effect of state level pro-life legislation was released by the Heritage Foundation in January of 2004 and two additional studies were released by Heritage in 2006. Dr. New has given pro-life presentations at Harvard, MIT, Holy Cross, the University of Pennsylvania, Lousiana State University, the University of Alabama Law School, the Students for Life Conference, and at the last 4 conventions of the National Right to Life Committee. His writings have appeared in National Review Online, The Weekly Standard, The New York Post, and National Right to Life News.

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