Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, August 29, 2008

On Sanctity of Human Life: The National Election Choice Becomes Poignantly Clear

With the candidates for President and Vice President now having been announced for both of the major parties, the clarity — indeed the personal poignancy — of the choice on respect for the sanctity of human life is sharper than ever before in a national race. On what the Catholic Church in American has consistently said is the greatest human rights issue of our time in this nation, the two tickets could not be more different.

Senator John McCain, who will accept the Republican nomination for President next Thursday (barring a hurricane tragedy that postpones the event) has consistently voted to protect unborn human life during his many years in the United States Senate. Beyond his political record, when Mother Teresa of Calcutta presented Cindy McCain with two desperate orphan babies during one of Mrs. McCain’s many trips around the world to work with disadvantaged children, the McCains immediately took one of those children into their own home as their adopted child, also bringing the other baby home to live with another family.

By contrast, Senator Barack Obama, confirmed last night as the Democratic nominee for President, has never used his public authority to protect unborn human life. Quite the opposite. As a state legislator, he turned a cold shoulder when a nurse testified before his committee how she has repeatedly seen aborted children who survived being left to die over many hours in a filthy disposal room. Obama was so committed to unlimited abortion that he could not even bring himself to vote against infanticide, opposing legislation to require medical treatment of infants born alive after abortions and blasting the Supreme Court’s modest decision to allow banning of partial birth abortions. Obama has promised to appoint Supreme Court justices committed to Roe v. Wade, to reverse pro-life regulations, and to use taxpayer money to fund abortions.

Senator Joe Biden, now confirmed as the Democratic candidate for Vice President, has repeatedly rejected the teaching of his Catholic Church that public officials have a grave responsibility to end the culture of death and stand forthrightly against the destruction of unborn human life. Biden strongly supports Roe v. Wade and has consistently used his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to campaign against every Supreme Court nominee who he believed might weaken the judicially-declared right to abortion. To be sure, Biden is not as extreme as his running mate, but then no Democrat in the Senate has gone as far as Obama in support of abortion. Biden voted against partial-birth abortion, a position that Obama sharply criticized. Biden occasionally has opposed federal funding of abortion, while Obama has called for repealing the Hyde Amendment and expanding public funding of abortion. Likewise, Biden (along with every other Democrat in the Senate) did support the Infants Born Alive Protection Act, which Obama worked so energetically to oppose in the state legislature.

And now, as yet another and even more powerful contrast, Governor Sarah Palin, who will be nominated as John McCain’s running mate, is consistently and unapologetically pro-life both in her political and personal life. In fact, contradicting any suggestion that Obama is more open to the moral witness of the pro-life movement than past Democratic presidential nominees, the Obama campaign’s very first statement on Palin's choice highlighted and attacked her opposition to Roe v. Wade. (The attack on Palin for opposing abortion came in the second sentence of the Obama statement, which used the first sentence to sneer at her former service as mayor of a small town).

A commitment to the sanctity of human life is hardly a mere political issue or the subject of political rhetoric for Governor Palin. Less than a year ago, she learned that the baby she was carrying had Down’s Syndrome. While she confessed that she and her husband were initially saddened by the news, they never considered aborting that child. They joyfully welcomed that baby into the world a little over four months ago. As Palin said at his birth: “Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed.”

What an amazing and compassionate woman in public life we have in Sarah Palin! (Yes, I’ll freely admit it, I am moved and delighted by her selection to run on the Republican ticket.) Tragically, the evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of women who learn they are carrying a Down’s Syndrome child later undergo an abortion. Governor Palin will become an even more prominent witness for life through this nomination. Together with John McCain’s openly expressed and consistent pro-life record, Sarah Palin’s addition to the national ticket presents us with a clear and distinct choice on respect for unborn human life.

Greg Sisk


Sisk, Greg | Permalink

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