The National Catholic Review

At one point in his acceptance speech before the Democratic National Convention last month, Vice President Gore worked himself up into a rhetorical outcry: The last thing this country needs is a Supreme Court that overturns Roe v. Wade. That was actually a scare tactic. On June 28 of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a Nebraska state law banning partial-birth abortions. The statute was said to be so broadly worded that it placed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.

The vote, however, was 5 to 4, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who sided with the majority, indicated that she might have found constitutional a law more precisely written. That prompted the drafters of the Democratic Party platform to declare that eliminating a woman’s right to choose is only one justice away.

When Mr. Gore was interviewed on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer on March 18, he pointed out that the next president will probably be appointing at least three new justices to the Supreme Court. If he were to be that president, he said, he would nominate only those who would in no way weaken a woman’s right to choose. With the air of one who is scandalized, he noted that Governor Bush’s favorite among the present members of the court is Justice Antonin Scalia. That preference, he added, is the governor’s code way of saying that he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Mr. Bush is indeed pro-life, but he has also said that the country is not ready for a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Moreover, in the wholly unlikely event that the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, that decision would not come close to ending the national debate about abortion. It would only return the debate to the 50 states.

All the same, the Democratic platform was accurate enough in calling abortion a major issue in this year’s elections. That does not make it a reason for single-issue voting. It will not be useful to discuss candidates in strictly black and white terms as either pro-choice or pro-life. The questions facing the electorate are too many and too complicated for that. For instance, a pro-life candidate might also be an unyielding defender of the death penalty and an advocate of harsh welfare reforms that brutalize poor children.

It is entirely fair, however, to ask all candidates for federal or state offices to say where they stand on three particular issues that are currently specifying the general question of abortion.

Of these three, partial-birth abortion is the most highly publicized. The majority of the American people oppose this procedure, and it has been banned by 30 states. Although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, struck down Nebraska’s ban a year ago, a few weeks later the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, upheld very similar laws in Illinois and Wisconsin. It is reasonable to think that both Congress and the state legislatures could draft prohibitions of partial-birth abortion that would withstand legal challenges, and it would be reasonable to call upon the next president to sign such a measure.

Twenty states, including New Jersey in 1999, have passed laws requiring women under 18 to obtain some type of parental consent before having an abortion. Last month the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down the New Jersey law on the grounds that it deprived minors of equal protection under the state’s constitution. In the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Pennsylvania law placing certain mild restrictions on abortion. The task now is to determine what restrictions can be defended in light of Casey.

The third issue is underlined by the Democratic Party platform’s assertion that every woman has a right to choose an abortion regardless of her ability to pay. This amounts to a claim that government should not only allow abortions but also promote them by funding the procedure in certain cases. That would be a further descent into darkness under the pretense of compassion.

 

Confronted with this proposal, the defenders of the rights of the unborn should ask themselves what they really want. Is it just to make abortion illegal again, or is it to reduce significantly the number of abortions? If it is the latter, then now and for the foreseeable future the pro-life movement must work to provide alternatives for women who might otherwise be driven to abortion by poverty and despair.

In any case, the sanctity of unborn life must be kept before the nation. Who knows what changes of heart may be brought about? When Al Gore was in the House he often voted for pro-life measures. He now says he has rethought his earlier positions. If he becomes the 43rd president, free of political calculations, he may be inspired to rethink the abortion question once again.

Comments

Elain Lyons | 1/22/2007 - 10:07am
Your editorial should have been named “Vote for Gore” instead of “The Elections and Abortion” (9/16). When the editorial said that maybe Al Gore may be inspired to rethink his position on abortion, I really had to laugh. Are you guys so naïve? He’s not going to change his mind one whit.

I am not for capital punishment, not because I don’t believe that in most cases the death row prisoner is deserving of that punishment, but rather because I believe that life is, in fact, the purview of God alone and that every human being should be allowed exactly the amount of time that God gives them to discover him, up to the last second. But having said that, the Catholic Church does allow capital punishment in cases of extreme gravity in order to preserve the common good of society. If I had to choose between the 1.5 million aborted children and the death row inmates, well it’s a no-brainer!

So get a grip. I know that what Al Gore is espousing doesn’t sound too bad for the poor, but I don’t believe that the federal government is necessarily the best vehicle to help the poor. I’m still banking on people’s hearts to turn to the needs of those so much less fortunate. I’m banking on prayer and contemplation!

Joseph Zuschmidt, O.S.F.S. | 1/22/2007 - 10:04am
In the editorial on “The Elections and Abortions” (9/16), I found the final line of the editorial weak in comparison to an otherwise well-written column. The hope is held out to us that if Al Gore becomes the 43rd president, he may rethink his position on the abortion question. Despite Mr. Gore’s frequent turnabouts on substantial issues over the years, including aspects of the abortion issue, I believe he has locked himself into an unchangeable position regarding all matters pertaining to abortion. As a candidate for president, he has stated his pro-choice stance frequently and adamantly.

I hold little hope for any change on the Gore-Lieberman position regarding pro-choice and abortion. I also pray that I am wrong.

Francis J. Murray | 1/22/2007 - 10:02am
You are fooling yourself when you think Al Gore might have a change of heart on the abortion question (9/16). His recent pronouncements on the RU-486 approval indicate this. And even if he does have a conversion, he may have already made pro-choice appointments to the Supreme Court, where we run the risk of having the rights of the unborn denied and forgotten forever. As for the question of electing a pro-life candidate who defends the death penalty or advocates harsh welfare reforms, these are policy matters that can be and have been successfully fought at the state level.

The final institutionalization of abortion would be a dangerous precedent for the acceptance of other immoral principles, such as physician-assisted suicide, with which we are faced here in Maine in the coming election. This question will eventually find its way up to the Supreme Court, where it will more likely be acceptable to pro-choice justices than to those who are pro-life. There is a thin line between physician-approved suicide and euthanasia. Acceptance of euthanasia could lead to eugenics, and so on. We need to nip the culture of death in the bud by keeping pro-choice justices off the Supreme Court. At the same time, of course, we need to continue to promote the church’s social agenda at all levels of government.

(Rev.) John E. Hart | 1/22/2007 - 10:01am
I was deeply saddened and disappointed to see the editorial “The Elections and Abortion” (9/16), in which you practically anoint and endorse Al Gore, even though he is blatantly anti-life. By that I mean that he is passionately pro-abortion.

I was very sorry to see you use the expression “pro-choice.” That’s what the pro-abortion side calls it—we don’t. And sorrier still to read your line, “It will not be useful to discuss candidates in strictly black and white terms as pro-choice or pro-life.” Why not? Is there anything redeeming about being pro-abortion as far as the Catholic Church and other clear-thinking denominations and faiths are concerned?

I agree wholeheartedly that a pro-life stand must include a commitment to abolish the death penalty and all offenses against the sanctity of life, but I am afraid you have contributed to the obfuscation of this issue rather than its clarification. I really expected more from your fine, Catholic, Jesuit magazine.

To paraphrase your last line in the editorial, I pray that you may be inspired to rethink the abortion question again.

Elain Lyons | 1/22/2007 - 10:07am
Your editorial should have been named “Vote for Gore” instead of “The Elections and Abortion” (9/16). When the editorial said that maybe Al Gore may be inspired to rethink his position on abortion, I really had to laugh. Are you guys so naïve? He’s not going to change his mind one whit.

I am not for capital punishment, not because I don’t believe that in most cases the death row prisoner is deserving of that punishment, but rather because I believe that life is, in fact, the purview of God alone and that every human being should be allowed exactly the amount of time that God gives them to discover him, up to the last second. But having said that, the Catholic Church does allow capital punishment in cases of extreme gravity in order to preserve the common good of society. If I had to choose between the 1.5 million aborted children and the death row inmates, well it’s a no-brainer!

So get a grip. I know that what Al Gore is espousing doesn’t sound too bad for the poor, but I don’t believe that the federal government is necessarily the best vehicle to help the poor. I’m still banking on people’s hearts to turn to the needs of those so much less fortunate. I’m banking on prayer and contemplation!

Joseph Zuschmidt, O.S.F.S. | 1/22/2007 - 10:04am
In the editorial on “The Elections and Abortions” (9/16), I found the final line of the editorial weak in comparison to an otherwise well-written column. The hope is held out to us that if Al Gore becomes the 43rd president, he may rethink his position on the abortion question. Despite Mr. Gore’s frequent turnabouts on substantial issues over the years, including aspects of the abortion issue, I believe he has locked himself into an unchangeable position regarding all matters pertaining to abortion. As a candidate for president, he has stated his pro-choice stance frequently and adamantly.

I hold little hope for any change on the Gore-Lieberman position regarding pro-choice and abortion. I also pray that I am wrong.

Francis J. Murray | 1/22/2007 - 10:02am
You are fooling yourself when you think Al Gore might have a change of heart on the abortion question (9/16). His recent pronouncements on the RU-486 approval indicate this. And even if he does have a conversion, he may have already made pro-choice appointments to the Supreme Court, where we run the risk of having the rights of the unborn denied and forgotten forever. As for the question of electing a pro-life candidate who defends the death penalty or advocates harsh welfare reforms, these are policy matters that can be and have been successfully fought at the state level.

The final institutionalization of abortion would be a dangerous precedent for the acceptance of other immoral principles, such as physician-assisted suicide, with which we are faced here in Maine in the coming election. This question will eventually find its way up to the Supreme Court, where it will more likely be acceptable to pro-choice justices than to those who are pro-life. There is a thin line between physician-approved suicide and euthanasia. Acceptance of euthanasia could lead to eugenics, and so on. We need to nip the culture of death in the bud by keeping pro-choice justices off the Supreme Court. At the same time, of course, we need to continue to promote the church’s social agenda at all levels of government.

(Rev.) John E. Hart | 1/22/2007 - 10:01am
I was deeply saddened and disappointed to see the editorial “The Elections and Abortion” (9/16), in which you practically anoint and endorse Al Gore, even though he is blatantly anti-life. By that I mean that he is passionately pro-abortion.

I was very sorry to see you use the expression “pro-choice.” That’s what the pro-abortion side calls it—we don’t. And sorrier still to read your line, “It will not be useful to discuss candidates in strictly black and white terms as pro-choice or pro-life.” Why not? Is there anything redeeming about being pro-abortion as far as the Catholic Church and other clear-thinking denominations and faiths are concerned?

I agree wholeheartedly that a pro-life stand must include a commitment to abolish the death penalty and all offenses against the sanctity of life, but I am afraid you have contributed to the obfuscation of this issue rather than its clarification. I really expected more from your fine, Catholic, Jesuit magazine.

To paraphrase your last line in the editorial, I pray that you may be inspired to rethink the abortion question again.

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