Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama on abortion

In the 1990s the Christian right took possession of religion in American politics with the result that anyone who does not want to overturn Roe v. Wade or criminalize abortion is called “pro-abortion.” But putting women and doctors behind bars would do nothing to help either the unborn or born children.

Here is an editorial I wrote that appeared in the Newsleaders, which gave me permission to post it here. It was headlined,
“An Obama win could result in fewer abortions than a McCain win.”

“How in good conscience can you vote for Obama?” asked a Catholic friend. We were talking about abortion. This is my answer to her question.

I am pro-life, and that’s why I’ll vote for Barack Obama. Back in the days when McCain led my list of honorable Republicans, I admired his positions on the environment, on torture, and on Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. But to win the presidency he took right-wing positions opposed to his original ones.

Pro-life promotes the common good. McCain’s preference for unregulated markets and his shift to cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires threaten funding for public services such as education and infrastructure that corporations don’t provide. Severe economic inequality threatens national well-being on many fronts, even national security.

Pro-life cares about children. Tax cuts for the fabulously wealthy leave children with poor child care, poor health care, poor education, and poor prospects for the future. A quarter of America’s children live in poverty.

Pro-life opposes killing. John McCain supports Bush’s war in Iraq, despite all the evidence that Iraq never was a threat to Americans. Warrior McCain’s only criticism of the war is that we should have killed more effectively. And he maintains that Islamic terrorism is “the transcendent challenge of our time,” a sure recipe for more stupid and costly military ventures. America’s job is to “defeat evil,” says McCain, which a conservative intellectual says “would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.”

Pro-life promotes public health. The Bush administration systematically undermines laws and regulations that protect the air, water, and soil needed for all life. To court the right wing, McCain chose as his running mate a woman known for her aerial shooting of wolves and her far right position on global warming.

Pro-life means more than keeping a fetus alive, because life does not end at birth. Pro-life cares about the death penalty, war, and torture, about economic justice, health care, and sustainable living to protect the planet, about reducing gun violence, all issues on which Republicans have a more shameful record than Democrats.

Obama’s positions on foreign policy and on several domestic issues do not match mine exactly, but I will vote for him because he demonstrates greater intelligence, integrity, and judgment than McCain.

Obama supports “doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies” and he got that into the Democratic platform, but the Republican platform has no abortion-reduction language. Statistics from the Guttmacher Institute showed that states giving more aid to families show a 20 percent lower abortion rate than other states. Such help for poor women would be undercut by McCain’s economic policies. For these reasons, an Obama win could result in fewer abortions than a McCain win.

Criminalizing abortion would not end them—some studies show it would not reduce their number at all—and prosecuting women and doctors for abortion would only add weight to the pro-choice side. Furthermore, it would cause more deaths as desperate women would submit to unsafe abortions. Besides that, it would simply kick the controversy back to the states where it could fester longer and more bitterly.

Abortion is wrong, but as Bernard Evans asserts in Vote Catholic?: Beyond the Political Din, the Judaeo-Christian tradition teaches that our public policies should promote the common good, and its persistent theme has been the charge to uplift the poor. John XXIII said that a country’s prosperity should be measured by its “distribution of goods according to norms of justice.” In other words, not abortion, but social justice should be the governing issue for those of us who vote our conscience.

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