I wanted to draw attention to an excellent article by Nicholas Cafardi on the issue of pro-life rhetoric versus practice. I’ve been grumbling for years that Republicans don the pro-life mantle for political purposes, and quickly toss it away when they are in positions of power. But people still insist on judging the issue by rhetoric rather than actions. Cafardi really shines a bright light on this when discussing the relative pro-life stance between Obama and Romney.
Let’s get this out of the way: I do not believe Obama is pro-life. Not just because of his abortion policy, but because of his foreign policy. In fact, the latter is far more serious as it is something he controls directly. He is the acting moral agent. While he has not aided in the abortion of any unborn children, he has indeed given orders for drone attacks and assassinations.
But overall, Obama does not look much less pro-life than Romney. Consider the evidence marshaled by Cafardi:
- The only substantive difference between “Romneycare” and “Obamacare” is that the former included direct taxpayer funding for abortions, while the Affordable Care Act did not. The Affordable Care Act also includes $250 million to support vulnerable pregnant women and alternatives to abortion. More broadly, it seeks to never put a woman in the appalling circumstance of having to choose between paying upwards of $20,000 out of pocket for maternity costs versus $400 for a quick and dirty abortion.
- The key doctrinal guidance document on abortion, the Declaration on Procured Abortion says quite clearly, “one can never approve of abortion; but it is above all necessary to combat its causes”. And here, Romney’s embrace of the social safety net gutting provisions of the Ryan budget, his support for shifting the tax burden from the rich to the poor and middle class, and his vowed repeal of the Affordable Care Act all work against the pro-life cause.
- There’s something even more direct to consider. As Cafardi puts it: “Obama does not financially profit from the abortion industry. Romney does”. When Romney was still associated with Bain, the company invested in a company described as a “major disposer of the dead bodies of aborted children”. Bain made a lot of money from this tawdry piece of death profiteering. We have a peculiar tendency to hold public figures morally accountable for every political stance they might hold, but financial leaders are held to lower standards, even when their moral proximity to the evil action is far closer.
- Much of the seed money for Bain Capital in the 1980s came from a group of wealthy El Salvadoran investors that included people who were bankrolling death squads – the same death squads that killed Oscar Romero and countless other martyrs for the faith. And yet Romney cynically calls Obama anti-Catholic!
So let’s have a little perspective here. There is plenty in the history of both these men that violates the gospel of life. That does not mean you cannot support either of them – as long as you yourself do not support the activity in question. So let’s not start pretending that one candidate can be excluded from consideration based on some falsely objective standard. Instead, let’s just do what the Church has been doing for 2000 years – support temporal leaders that you think make the best contribution to the common good out of the imperfect choices available to you.