On Voting for Pro-Abortion Candidates

It’s election season again, and we should make one more attempt to convince our fellow citizens (and our fellow Catholics) that they cannot morally allow any issue to take precedence over abortion in their decisions about how to vote in the U.S. presidential election. This statement may strike some readers as just another example of knee-jerk conservatism or, worse, sycophantic advocacy for the Republican Party. But it is neither. It is simply a moral fact of life. This time around, I’m taking the gloves off.

God’s Teaching and Man’s Statistics

Church teaching could not be more clear on this point. The Magisterium has stated repeatedly that direct abortion is intrinsically evil under all circumstances, and that it is immoral to vote for a politician because he supports abortion. The Church has also taught that voting for a politician in spite of the fact that he supports abortion is at least remote cooperation with evil, and so can be justified only when there is a proportionate reason. I endorse this latter point entirely. But the problem, for those who wish to take advantage of this to support pro-abortion candidates, is that there is no issue on the contemporary American political scene that is even remotely proportionate to abortion. No issue exists that can be cited as a proportionately moral reason to support a candidate that favors abortion, especially in a Presidential election.

Admittedly this is partly a prudential judgment, for it involves not only the nature of the evil involved but how widespread it is — how many people are impacted by it. The Church’s teaching authority can help us to discern that murder is a more serious evil than theft, but the Church can employ no special charism to determine how large a problem murder may be in a particular society at a particular time. If the murder rate is very low, and the theft rate high, one is certainly justified in voting for a politician who concentrates his attention on reducing theft. But abortion is not only in the most serious class of moral evils (the deliberate taking of an innocent human life), but it affects more people than any other comparably serious crime.

The number of abortions reported in the United States is over one million per year. Since abortion is notoriously under-reported, the actual numbers are substantially higher. For the sake of argument, we will suggest that there are at least 1.5 million abortions annually in the United States. By contrast, there are about 17,000 other homicides per year in our country, a number two orders of magnitude lower. In fact, abortion is in roughly the same class as far less serious (but still significant) crimes such as burglary and domestic violence assaults, which numbered about 2.1 million each in 2005.

When compared with the issues that are widely argued to be somehow proportionate, the lack of proportionality is even more astonishing. Thus, while abortion claims between one and two million lives per year in the United States, premature deaths due to inadequate health care are estimated at about 34,000 per year; the Iraq War has claimed a total of roughly 55,000 American and Iraqi lives since its beginning several years ago; and the death penalty claimed the lives of 42 persons in the United States last year, most of whom were presumably at least guilty of a serious crime. You can find all these statistics in about five minutes of research on the web. I submit, again, that no voter who is guided by reason can even begin to make the argument that there is an issue in the United States presidential election that is remotely proportionate to abortion.

False Assumptions

The argument that there are legitimate reasons to support a pro-abortion candidate is weakened still further when two common but false assumptions are brought into play. The first false assumption is that there is a moral equivalence between a candidate who places his emphasis on other issues and a candidate who is actually in favor of abortion. I stated earlier that, if the murder rate were very low and the theft rate very high, one might well vote for a politician who advances a good program for reducing theft. But what if this same candidate is determined to protect the right to murder or even seeks to expand murder’s “availability”? Surely this changes both the moral equation, and the potential consequences.

life.jpgThe second false assumption is that abortion is so endemic to our culture that there isn’t likely to be much that any candidate can do about it; therefore, whether a President is pro-abortion or pro-life will make very little practical difference. While I would reject this assumption for symbolic reasons alone (what impact does it have on a culture to place in its highest office a person who publicly advocates murder?), the argument rests on so deep an ignorance of American political life as to be utterly ludicrous. The primary political reason abortion is both legal and extremely widespread in our culture is because we are increasingly ruled by an oligarchy of activist judges who wish to remake society in their own image. At the apex of this oligarchy is the Supreme Court, and Supreme Court justices are appointed for life by the President of the United States. Apart from all other considerations, this political fact is of capital importance in the selection of the next President, especially with the Court in many ways fairly evenly divided, and with an opportunity for the next President to appoint two or more justices.

Moreover, in the culture wars overall, our nation is fairly evenly divided. The future of abortion (along with many related grave evils) will depend on relatively small shifts in American voting patterns. Yes, it is a difficult and long struggle, but it is hardly an irrelevant struggle or a struggle with no hope of success. Persons who are very much more pro-life than would be suggested by existing rulings and laws are not in a tiny minority. On the various related issues, they are always close to half of the population, and often more than half. The person who argues that there is nothing we can do about abortion, and therefore it is perfectly moral to vote based on other considerations, is simply denying — in the midst of hotly contested circumstances — that there is at least one very important thing he can do: He can refuse to vote for those who support abortion.

Thanks, But I’m Not Personally Affected

I could go on at considerable length about the links between abortion and so much else that horribly afflicts the American people and their social fabric: the breakdown of the family, the objectification and abuse of women, contraception, rampant divorce, female poverty, ubiquitous pornography, experimentation on human persons, euthanasia and everything else that attends both irresponsible sex and increasing callousness toward the human person. But it should be enough to focus on the unmistakable fact that well over one million innocent persons are being willfully and directly murdered each year, and that this is happening not in a few inaccessible locations but all around us, in our local communities, as part of the fabric of our daily lives.

The bottom line is that to most of us the unborn child is invisible. It is not as if we have to witness the fear, the screams of terror, the bloodshed, the grief and the devastation that accompanies the murder of older persons, whom we often encounter and sometimes come to know. No, abortion is rather a case of out of sight, out of mind, for a little baby that hardly anybody wanted anyway, and we find it very easy to go on with our lives, attending to the issues that affect us personally, hobnobbing with those we find congenial, feeling secure in being part of the status quo, and thankfully aware that we’re not foolish enough to rock the boat. Indeed, with respect to abortion, the commitment to resist is very seldom the result of an emotional process; it is very seldom governed by our feelings. Very few pro-lifers are moved by feelings of solidarity with pre-born children. How could they be?

Instead, the pro-life moral and political commitment is a rational commitment: Abortion is a serious evil, it is an epidemic evil, and it is linked to a great many other evils in our culture. Therefore I will oppose it, root and branch, tooth and nail. Unfortunately, those who seek instead to justify with specious arguments their desire to vote for pro-abortion candidates make no such intellectual commitment. As we have seen, their arguments are utterly bankrupt. For where is their proportionate issue? Global warming? Tax revisions that might possibly benefit the poor? The price of gas? No, we are talking here about death, death immediately before us and on a grand scale. That is why those who justify voting for pro-abortion candidates are so obviously wrong, so seriously wrong and — let us tell the whole truth — so dangerously wrong.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Mirus


Dr. Mirus is the founder of Trinity Communications and a veteran Catholic writer. He was previously a professor and co-founder of Christendom College. His writings can be found at CatholicCulture.org.

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  • dennisofraleigh

    Dr. Mirus writes:
    “The bottom line is that to most of us the unborn child is invisible. It is not as if we have to witness the fear, the screams of terror, the bloodshed, the grief and the devastation that accompanies the murder of older persons, whom we often encounter and sometimes come to know. No, abortion is rather a case of out of sight, out of mind…”

    Dr. Mirus identifies a major, and little discussed, obstacle pro-lifers face in the abortion debate when it comes to putting their position across to the general public. Anti- Iraq war advocates have had hours and hours of Iraq war footage, photos of service men and women killed in that war displayed on television for the folks back home, not to mention the snootfull of Abu Ghraib photos the entire family was treated to night after night by network news programs a few years ago. Then there are the often tiresome “global warming” stories with the obligatory footage of stranded polar bears, beached whales, usually accompanied with shrill and alarmist commentary, all designed to convince us that whatever it is going on out there is “OUR fault and we need to DO something about it.”

    On the other hand, where, I might ask, are the “tragic” first-person stories of post-abortive women to be seen on “60-Minutes,” “Frontline” or an in-depth “Entertainment Tonight”-style interview with repentant post-abortive celebrities like Jennifer O’Neal? When’s the last time anyone ever heard a graphic description of abortion on, say, Public Broadcasting’s “All Things Considered?”

    True, one can find “graphic” abortion material on the internet, but unlike television and radio which are “passive” media (viewers just sit there and let the good times roll), the internet (especially when it comes to accurate abortion information) one must carefully look. The mainstream media, even on the WWW treats me to regular daily updates on Madonna’s divorce travails. I don’t care about Madonna. (Though apparently much of the world does.) I want the top headline tomorrow to read “Two Thousand More Unborn Babies Scheduled for Brutal Abortion Procedure Today—Where Will It End?” And then when you click on the hyperlink it’s an interview with Dr. Bernard Nathenson describing what an unborn baby is likely to experience undergoing an abortion (not to mention the hideous methods abortionists use), and mentioning that over half of those babies doomed to die are black.

    Pope John Paul II understood the power of the electronic media and used it to effectively communicate the Gospel. It wasn’t for nothing that he said “If it doesn’t happen on television, it doesn’t happen.” In the matter of abortion, unless it “happens” on television it will never be considered as more than just another controversial “issue” (like “prayer in school” or “affirmative action”) for Americans to get truly alarmed at the carnage, and demand action from their elected leaders to “do something” to restrict its practice, if not abolish it altogether.

  • James

    I heartily agree. This article makes the argument well; I have had a difficult time convinsing people because I just state the fact – “the taking of innocent life is a number one issue that affects all of us more than we know.” I need to commit these statistics to memory, but I think the eyes will glaze over anyway.

    One can take this article with yesterday’s feature. One has to wonder about our options when it comes to Republican candidates, but you are right to remind us about the all important role of Supreme Court judges. That is why I don’t write in a name on the ballot. I wonder, though: If long ago catholics didn’t support the Republican party, let’s say when George H.W. Bust was running, and said, “we want someone who really communicates the seriousness of this tradgedy, and started a separate political movement – where would we be now with our efforts today? Would we be in a better political position? It is hard to say.

  • vtanco

    You’re right, Dennis. Last night I heard Fr. Pavone discuss how USA Today rejected a prolife newspaper ad which quoted abortion doctors (giving testimony in court) because it contained words like “dismember” and they claimed it would offend the readers.

  • Abortion is a sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance. May God have mercy on us if we put another pro-death candidate in office.

  • ciskanik

    Where does that leave those who don’t want to vote for McCain? There seems to be a lot of talk about write-in candidates, etc, to send a message to the Republicans that it is not “business as usual”. Isn’t a vote for an independent really just a vote for Obama? Especially here in Virginia?

  • Loretta

    I think it does depend on where you live.
    Here in Massachusetts, it is a fore-gone conclusion already. I feel “freer” to vote write-in. I would not feel so free if I was in a swing state.

  • marcey

    I know that many people do not feel that they can confidently vote for McCain (and although I heartily disagree), yet I pray that the Holy Spirit will help each and every person see that a write-in IS a vote for abortion, plain and simple. This is because each and every vote is needed to at least proclaim that obama’s intent to roll back all pro-life gains is unacceptable and that will only happen if they are cast for McCain. It seems like there are so many other ways to let the Republican Party know of dissatification instead of giving the White House to the obama.

  • gerimom

    I am a staunch republican, and I will be voting for McCain come November. I do not think the President really has the power to change things overnight in ANY of life’s issues, but having someone in our corner is better than having the enemy in charge. And I would rather take a stand and vote for whom I want, even if he does not win, than to assume that my state will overwhelmingly elect the other guy. My vote DOES count in the eyes of God. And miracles can happen.

  • tarasz

    ciskanik –

    Perhaps you could offer it up to God? When I go into the voting booth, I’m going to be honest with Him. My prayer will look something like, “Lord, here we are again: not too many wonderful options deserving of my vote. I’m not a huge fan of this McCain fellow, but of the two candidates You have made available, he and his VP seem to be closer to Your teachings. So I’ll vote for him, Lord, and place my vote in your hands and I trust that you’ll take it from here. Please help us find better and better candidates with each election.”

  • vtanco

    Who are the people in the electoral college and how do they get chosen? How do they cast their vote? Does my prolife vote count in Texas? Is there a good website that explains all of this in simple language? Thank you very much.

  • James

    The electoral colleges of each state cast their vote winner-takes-all. There may still be an exception, but I think all the states operate this way now. The number of votes in each college is equal to the number of congressional seats for the state. Look up electoral college on wikipedia.

  • PattyK

    I agree, James and Dennis- these facts need to be televised.
    Is there anything we can do to try to get Dr. Mirus or Mary Kochan or Fr. Pavone, etc) on TV? ok, maybe I’m a bit in la la land here, but shouldn’t we try? Does anyone have a connection with O Reilly or Hannity? Or how about someone at the McCain campaign- I don’t get it- why can’t McCain be educated on abortion, so he can make known publicly that BHO is for unrestricted access to abortion, and exactly what that means. I just don’t get why he is failing to bring this atrocity to the forefront. If McCain wants to win, he should. Everyone in my hubby’s family gives me that glazed over look when I get on my pro life rant- most people I’ve come in contact with are unaware of the realities of abortion.

  • revueltos67

    Here’s another telling statistic that’s almost never mentioned. Per the CDC each year approximately 2.5 million deaths occur in the US. Of course, that number does not include the deaths of the roughly 1.5 million children aborted each year – but those children certainly lived and certainly died.

    Abortion is, by far, the largest cause of death in this country. Nothing else, not heart disease or cancer, not accidents, crime or war, is even remotely close.

  • c-kingsley

    About feeling that your state is safely one way or the other — be careful about that. There’s evidence that polls up to the election tend to be skewed toward the democrat. Read “84% say they’d never lie to a pollster”:

    Rasmussen Reports has tended to have the most accurate results:

  • SolaGratia

    As pro-life leaders have been saying for years, the time for us to demand better from our parties is during the PRIMARIES not during the general once our votes have been narrowed down to mediocre vs. abominable. We need to get more active in grassroots politics and insist on patriotism being taught in the public school systems (including universities)! That has been the tactic of the socialists – and they are now actually reaching for the doorknob of the White House!

    Who would have ever thought we would be in this position that we are now where a man who has every indication of being a Marxist socialist has a very good possibility of taking the reins of our country? (And those types aren’t real good at letting go of the reins either)

    Our Lady of Lepanto, please save us!!!