A simple web search for the order of presidential succession in the newly-minted Obama administration makes clear what a profound debacle the ’08 election was for the pro-life movement in the United States. The country’s top leadership now looks like a Who’s Who of the National Abortion Rights Action League’s “100% pro-choice” club. Largely ignored in the last election, abortion remains a massively important political issue. Catholics who did so should be ashamed of themselves for voting with disregard for a ticket and party that is inimical to a central moral tenet of their Church’s teaching. Abortion kills.
This nation daily tolerates the willfully procured death of over 3,200 innocent and defenseless human beings, and that slaughter is an abomination far beyond other considerations that entered into electoral decisions last year. To maintain any sort of credible witness to the value of human life, Catholic leaders and faithful must choose to directly and publicly reengage the pro-life movement and to put John Paul II’s Gospel of Life at the very top of their social and political agendas in the battles that lie ahead.
The new Cabinet, White House staff and top Congressional leadership, several so-called “pro-choice Catholics” among them, look to be clearly unfriendly to the protection of embryonic life. From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, voting records indicate a steeply pro-choice political trajectory for the coming years. (Vice President Biden actually received only a “mixed” pro-choice rating, based in part on his support of the partial birth abortion ban.) Worse than having these elected and appointed officials around for the coming term, can it be imagined that President Obama will not nominate as lifelong Supreme Court members jurists as radical on life issues as his cabinet and staff? The new administration is headed by a man who said that one of his first actions as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, as extreme a piece of pro-choice legislation as can be imagined. A clear and chilling harbinger of things to come, his first executive orders are likely to be targeted at overturning Bush era restrictions on using federal funds for abortions overseas and for research that destroys embryos.
The Respect Life community failed to make abortion a meaningful issue in the past election and the current situation is the sour fruit of that negligence. Catholics especially abandoned the unborn at the polls. At least 54% of those identifying themselves as Catholic supported President Obama, while “Church-going Catholics” voted 50% for McCain to Obama’s 49%. Either number demonstrates an inability in the ecclesial hierarchy and the lay leadership in the Catholic Pro-life movement to make a convincing argument about the nature of the abortion act and the issue’s relative importance versus other weighty but lesser political questions such as the election of African-American leaders, the economy, or the war on terror.
Abortion kills and its deadly impact is orders of magnitude beyond the violence of the Iraq war or any indignities visited upon detainees held at Guantanamo. However many millions of visitors may have journeyed to the Capital for this week’s inaugural, it is certain that several million Americans never had the slightest chance of making it to the festivities. At least 45 million to be more accurate: all those aborted since the handing down of Roe v Wade. While the election of President Obama means good things for progress in racial integration in this nation, it cannot be ignored that abortion continues to heavily disproportionately target African-Americans, 13 million since 1973.
While claims that embryos and fetuses are members of the human family are often dismissed as based on faith alone or merely a matter of personal opinion, from a scientific standpoint this is entirely untrue. At the moment of conception, when egg meets sperm, either in the petri dish or the fallopian tube, the complete genetic blueprint of a new unique human individual comes together. This is scientific fact. It was at the moment of conception that each and every reader of this article began to journey through the developmental stages of life. Those destroyed in an abortion are genetically human except under the most bizarre circumstances. They are also certainly alive, consuming nutrients, excreting waste products of metabolism, growing, possessing the potential to reproduce, and responding to external stimuli such as local pH, availability of oxygen, and the presence of hormones in the fetal and maternal circulation. Abortion kills a human being in the earliest days, weeks or months of its development, period.
Today, as the bunting comes down and crews disassemble the reviewing stands on Pennsylvania Avenue, the annual March for Life will stream quietly by the Capitol dome and Congress will prepare to debate the Freedom of Choice Act as a first order of business. This government is poised to push the pro-life movement in America into oblivion. Whether they decide to do so in the pulpit, the media, or in their extensive school networks, bishops, clergy and lay leaders in the Catholic Church will have to motivate their flocks to action if they want to see any movement out of the moral quagmire this country finds itself in on abortion.
Dr. William Blazek, a Jesuit scholastic and physician, is a board certified specialist in Internal Medicine and a Research Scholar in the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He teaches ethics and clinical skills as an Adjunct Assistant Professor while preparing for ordination to priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church.