If a candidate said, "I support the use of terrorism to achieve my agenda," would you respond, "Well, I disagree with your support of terrorism, but if we agree on education and health care funding, maybe I'll vote for you."
No, you wouldn't. Because you would be so repulsed by that politician's support for wanton acts of terror that it wouldn't matter what other positions he held. Support for terrorism would be a disqualifier – even if you shared other concerns in common with the candidate.
So, why do so many people who know that abortion is the taking of a human life still vote for "pro-choice"politicians because they agree with them on other issues?
That can only be explained by the fact that most people don't really know what abortion entails.
We're all sickened by images of terrorism. Any of us who saw the carnage and destruction of 9/11, Orlando, San Bernardino, or other such scenes don't need to have the act of terrorism explained to us. We know that there is no justification for its violence and inhumanity.
But the act of abortion is one that most don't see – not even the women who undergo the procedure itself. When we do view it, though, abortion can no longer remain "just another issue."
In fact, just reading about abortion techniques is horrifying enough. A major national newspaper once refused to sell me space for an advertisement that contained only abortionists' written descriptions of how they perform abortions. The paper said that just the words of the ad would traumatize its readers.
That's because abortion is just as violent as terrorism. We are not talking here about the mothers themselves. We at Priests for Life minister to them every day, we know their heart-wrenching circumstances, and we see that they are not evil people who want to kill their children. We do not judge them, and we do not compare them to terrorists.
What we are comparing, however, are the actions themselves: both abortion and terrorism are the violent destruction of a human life.
Any candidate, then, who says that abortion should be legal removes himself from the list of people qualified to hold the public trust. It doesn't matter what else he believes.
Pope John Paul II put it this way: "Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." (ChristifidelesLaici, 1988)
False and illusory. Those are strong and clear words that call for our further reflection.
When a candidate says he stands for "comprehensive health care," that sounds great. But if he considers tearing the arms and legs off of unborn babies as part of "health care," then his understanding of the term is quite different from its actual meaning. It's literally false to say that killing is part of health care. It's illusory to promise health care and deliver death.
If a candidate favors building more affordable housing, you might support his plan, depending on how the homes will be financed and other factors. But what's the point of supporting a politician's public housing project if that candidate also supports killing the public who would otherwise live in those homes?
If, in short, a candidate speaks up for any human rights, but claims that government can permit the taking of life itself, then that candidate is saying that those human rights for which he stands belong only to some, not to all. And therefore they cannot be human rights. That's why the claim is false and illusory.
Elections can be confusing, but if you start evaluating candidates by asking where they stand on abortion, you can save yourself a lot of time. If a politician says he will support laws protecting unborn babies in the womb, he has declared his fitness for public office. If he says he's in favor of keeping abortion "legal," there's nothing else you need to ask. If he doesn't care about the smallest, most vulnerable members of the human family, how can we expect him to care about us?
Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests For Life.
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