When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month, abortion became a key issue in the 2020 election. Previously back burnered by both former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump’s campaigns, Ginsburg’s death left a hole in the Supreme Court, allowing Trump, who has been called America’s most pro-life president, to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the bench. Unlike the pro-choice Ginsburg, Barrett has spoken out loudly against abortion, and it’s possible that Roe v. Wade, the landmark court case that legalized abortion, could be overturned if she is confirmed.
Meanwhile, Biden, a Catholic, has pledged to make Roe v. Wade “the law of the land.”
As Catholic voters head to the polls on Election Day (or mail in their ballots early), they must make a decision between two candidates: Biden, himself a Catholic, who is pro-choice, but has promised human rights and social service policies in line with Christian teachings, and Trump, whose pro-life stance is strong, but other policies limit access to health care for many people.
We turned to Catholics with opposing views to debate: Can pro-life Catholics vote for Joe Biden?
By Thomas Groome and Richard Gaillardetz
May pro-life Catholics vote for former Vice President Joe Biden? Our consciences lead us to say an unqualified “yes,” and then some. First, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoing the teaching of Popes Francis and Benedict, makes clear that Catholics should not be single-issue voters. While we may not vote for candidates because they support abortion, we can do so for the totality of their views. This reflects Pope Francis’ statement that “equally sacred” are the lives of those already born.
Further, and recognizing that other Catholics may reach a different prudential judgment, out of the depths of our Catholic faith, we are convinced that not only may we vote for Biden, but even must do so, and for grave moral reasons.
As faithful Catholic Christians, we accept the teaching of our church that “every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred.” This being said, we recognize that more than 80% of Americans favor allowing abortion, at least in certain circumstances.
The greatest Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, taught that laws must reflect “the consensus of the governed” if they are to be effective. So, until the great majority of Americans oppose abortion, Catholics cannot impose our moral norms on the rest of society.
So what are Catholics like us to do with our ethical convictions that cannot — at least at this time — become the law of the land? Again, Aquinas advises that when applying general moral principles, one must take account of the social context and discern how best to apply them. In such circumstances, Aquinas advised that we are to choose the greater good and the lesser evil. The greater good that is achievable now is to significantly reduce the number of abortions with effective social services. Fully confident in the deep commitments of Biden to his Catholic faith, and especially to its social teachings, he — not Donald Trump — is the one who will implement this accommodation.
Our best warrant is the record of the Obama-Biden administrations. Over their eight years, and by improved health care and social services, they reduced the U.S. abortion rate by 27%.
A President Biden will make it more possible for people to avoid unintended pregnancies, and that all who desire to bring a pregnancy to term will have the necessary health care and then the resources needed to care for their child after birth.
We’re also confident that a Biden-Harris administration will champion an aggressive program to promote adoptions by strengthening the Adoption Assistance Act and streamlining adoption procedures. Further, providing health care that makes available improved means of birth control can greatly reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Even for Catholics who accept church teaching forbidding artificial means of birth control, such social services can be seen as choosing the lesser evil — to abortion.
Now contrast a Biden-Harris administration to four more years of a Trump-Pence one. Trump has done many things that can be deemed evil. This includes his refusal to address the 400-year pandemic of racism, his approving of Nazi-like groups and their hate-filled rhetoric, his contributing to environmental destruction, his disrespect for immigrants, his dumbfounding denial of the scientific evidence regarding COVID-19, his incessant lying, and the list goes on.
It is not for us to dictate the conscience-based decisions of other Catholics. But speaking from the depths of our own souls, not only may we vote for Biden-Harris, but believe we must do so. To do otherwise would be contrary to our consciences — our sin.
Thomas Groome is a senior professor of theology and religious education at Boston College. Richard Gaillardetz is the Joseph chair in Catholic systematic theology at Boston College.
By Bernadette Repisky
There was once a time when a politician looking to be the Democratic contender for president of the United States declared abortions should be “legal, safe, and rare.” That was Hillary Clinton during her first failed presidential bid in 2008. Today, the Democratic Party led by Joe Biden would reject her and those words. The former senator from Delaware used to consistently vote to at least limit abortion and the federal funding of it. No more.
Biden has devolved on the issue of life. For every positive move Donald Trump has made to defend life, Biden has promised to reverse, repeal, and rescind it. He has declared he will make Roe v. Wade “the law of the land.” And he said he will end the Mexico City policy that bans federal dollars going to programs overseas that provide abortion. In an affront to religious liberty, Biden also supports policies that would force organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor to cover contraception and abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.
Biden’s silence as high-ranking members of his party call for looser and looser restrictions on abortion, including allowing abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy, speaks volumes.
With that in mind, Catholic voters must examine the positions of Republican President Trump and Democratic candidate Biden on this issue.
“The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed,” stated Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ chairman, on pro-life activities. “Abortion is an intrinsic evil, meaning that it is never permitted or morally justified, regardless of individual circumstances or intentions.”
The Biden-Harris ticket has accepted an endorsement and money from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
“Life is the preeminent issue,” Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia said this summer. He also commented on the youth who attend the annual pro-life rally in Washington, D.C., attended for the first time by a sitting president in January. “At least 70% are young adults. They clap, they sing, they hold their banners. They’re just on fire.” I can personally attest to this.
These young people embrace science and truth. With its own DNA separate from the mother, created male or female, life begins at conception. The 3D ultrasound image is a baby, a human being, not a “choice.” These youth are the future. A Biden presidency, however, would jeopardize our faith and our country. Not only is Biden “unabashedly pro-abortion,” the Democrats are pushing America toward socialism, a “soul-robbing ideology that always and inevitably leads to totalitarianism, where the government presumes to put itself in the place of God, in the lives of its subservient citizens,” said Father Edward Meeks of Maryland. Socialists view our church as “an enemy to be destroyed, or, at the very least, to be silenced and marginalized.”
The Gospel tells us the unborn John the Baptist leaped in the womb at the mere presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Is there any doubt that we’re to honor and respect these yet-to-be-born lives?
Bernadette Repisky is a college-educated “suburban housewife” enthusiastically supporting President Donald Trump again. A practicing Catholic, she’s happily married and the mother of four adult children.