Election times in non-pandemic years can bring out some of the best and the worst of America. Both parties, in their convention productions, were maybe a mix of both. The aspirational, inspirational moments are the best, which, of course, may be a bit too much of a promise about what electing one ticket to the White House could ever possibly do. At the same time, they are important reminders that policy isn’t mere ideological adherence — it affects human lives, family lives. It’s important, noble work. In campaign season, it can become harder to remember it isn’t everything, though.
We don’t get our meaning from politics, politics is a necessary exercise — our vote and our engagement in politics is one way we live out our civic responsibilities. Politics is not a never-ending reality-TV show for our entertainment or distraction. It’s not religion. As Sister Deidre Byrne put it during her Republican Convention segment, there’s such a thing as eternal life, and this life — including politics — should be part of our expressions of gratitude for our very lives and part of how we express hope for something greater. Anything inconsistent with that journey should have no place in politics.
This leads us to abortion. There’s a lot of dismissal of “single-issue voters” these days. Believe me, I see it in my inbox. That makes an assumption that isn’t a given — not everyone who is opposed to abortion is planning on voting for Donald Trump. There are debates about whether voting for someone other than Trump is a cop-out — “blood on your hands” some on the right will argue. But set that debate aside for a moment: In recent weeks I’ve expressed my disappointment in Joe Biden. The Democrats have refused to give an option to people who consider abortion the preeminent human-rights issue. For that, I have been told I am a “so-called” pro-lifer.
I actually agree with all those who insist that pro-life needs to mean more than defending the life of the unborn — we as individuals and as a society must do all that we can to make life plausible, to ensure that single mothers and families have a fighting chance. We can’t look away from the children in foster care who will never have a shot if someone doesn’t give them the love of a family. Absolutely, pro-life should mean more than opposition to abortion. And anyone who has been around the pro-life movement has seen that it so often is people full of love for a mom who just needs some confidence and resources — people walking with her, and, yes, for more than nine months.
The other day, a Catholic priest responded to one of my columns mentioning Joe Biden and abortion. He explained that he considers Biden pro-life and that he’s voting for him. Here’s the problem with that: While I’m with the priest and believe that we absolutely must help vulnerable children in all kinds of situations, you can’t be pro-life and adhere to the extremist abortion policies of the Democratic Party.
There’s a reason that the Democrats didn’t talk much about abortion during their convention — because that’s not the pitch they want to make to people. The vast majority of Americans want to see some restrictions on abortion, they don’t see abortion as a good, but they want women in desperate situations to have options. “There but by the grace of God go I.” But like other words we use in our politics, the word “pro-life” is drained of meaning if it means contrary things — if “pro-life” means that you can claim to be personally opposed to abortion but publicly supportive of it through all nine months of pregnancy, and even to the moments after a baby is born, having survived an abortion attempt. Democrats’ current abortion stance is a radical expansion of abortion. Just look to Andrew Cuomo for an example of that. A supposed leading light of Democratic politics expanded legal abortion in a state that was already considered the abortion capital of the country, and he celebrated it by lighting up the Empire State in pink neon. And he is lauded despite his decision that caused so many COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in the state.
The Democratic Party has chosen to double down on the death of innocents. That is what abortion is: It is a law that says the unborn can be treated as inconvenient and thrown away. The value of that human life is determined by the mother under the influence of the circumstances and pressures she finds around her. That they have to use euphemisms to make it attractive exposes the underlying rot.
I have hopes that in a non-election year, people who call themselves pro-life and those who choose the pro-choice label can work together on foster care and adoption and paid family leave and other issues that we can agree on that are not the A-word. I’d like to see a day when fewer people consider themselves pro-choice, because they see the pregnancy help centers and communities who truly live the Beatitudes and help women and anyone in need. In the meantime, let’s not lose our heads — or our souls — over an election. There’s more to life, there’s more to do.
Essential to that, too, though, is honesty: The Republicans are far from perfect, to say the least. And the Democrats refuse to stand for the vulnerable unborn. It’s a lie to call them pro-life and an abdication of responsibility not to insist on something better.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.