Barack Obama and some of his supporters are trying to court the anti-abortion vote, suggesting that the candidate’s stands on other issues — such as health care, economics, and foreign policy — should outweigh his support for abortion rights.
This suggestion is misguided. Indeed, it is radically unjust to the unborn. By their position on abortion, Obama and Biden have relegated a whole class of human beings to the status of sub-personal objects that may be destroyed for the benefit of others.
The differences between the two presidential tickets on most issues concern means to the same ends — both candidates want accessible health care, a growing economy, and a peaceful world, but they disagree on which policies will best get us there. By contrast, the difference between the two tickets on abortion is a difference about the ends themselves. One side wants to preserve life, the other access to abortion.
At stake in this debate is the principle of the fundamental equality of every human being. This was the same principle at stake in the 19th century in the slavery debate.
Therefore, it is unjust to vote for, a candidate who supports abortion rights if another candidate does not, or does to a lesser degree — even if one disagrees with the pro-life candidate about other issues. Such voting violates the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If a candidate were in favor of killing philosophy professors, I would expect my fellow citizens to vote against him even if his positions on health care or economics were superior.
Some object that Obama does not actually endorse abortion, because he promises that his economic policies will result in a decrease in the number of abortions. He would prefer that women not have abortions, or at least that there be fewer of them. But
Obama has consistently supported public funding for abortions, and his governmental health-care plan would mandate such funding. Since Obama has been in political office, he has done everything he could possibly do to promote abortion and assist the abortion lobby and industry. On his website, Obama writes: “I have been a consistent champion of reproductive rights and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v.Wade a priority as President.”
Indeed, Obama has received a 100-percent grade for pro-choice voting from NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League) and a 0-percent pro-life rating from the National Right to Life Committee.
If a politician in the 19th century took a position on slavery analogous to that of Obama and Biden on abortion, his claim would go something like this: “I do not endorse slavery. I wouldn’t own slaves. I think people should be free not to own slaves, if they wish. But I am pro-choice. I have been a consistent champion of the right to own slaves for the last ten years. And I will make defense of that right a priority in my presidency. Of course, I hope fewer people will feel the need to resort to that choice, and so as president I will put into place economic policies that will reduce the need for slave labor in agriculture and in factories. But, to ensure that slavery remains an option for white men who should, after all, be free to decide how to manage their own affairs, I am in favor of providing subsidies for the purchase of slaves by whites whose farms and factories are at risk because of the high cost of wage labor.”
The central principle of our civilization is that all human beings possess an equal fundamental dignity, and no class of human beings can with justice enslave, use, experiment on, or deliberately kill other innocent human beings for their own purposes. Obama and Biden have rejected that basic principle. McCain and Palin embrace and uphold it.
– Patrick Lee is director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.