In the past few weeks we've heard a lot of voices, Catholic, Christian, and other, trying to claim that the abortion issue is no longer or should no longer be an issue of primary importance for people of faith; that in this election, this moment in history, other matters or other issues should take precedence, and that recognizing this reality is not an abandonment of pro-life principles but rather evidence of a dawning maturity and pragmatism that in the end will do more to combat abortion in America than anything we could hope to expect from electing a President who is at least somewhat pro-life, even if there are troubling exceptions in his view of the abortion issue.
I respect many of the people who have taken this position. But my respect for them doesn't stop me from rejecting this opinion wholeheartedly, as being fundamentally misguided and philosophically deficient.
This position comes from a pragmatic standpoint, ultimately. It takes the stance that the only reason to vote or not vote for a pro-life candidate has to do with that person's ability and commitment to ending a certain number of abortions. If it is too late--if the Supreme Court will never overturn Roe v. Wade--if legislators will never attempt to pass meaningful restrictions--then we no longer ought to vote for pro-life presidential candidates. Their opinions on the sanctity of human life are like their opinions on the value of the arts or the importance of post-graduate education: not altogether unimportant, of course, but unlikely to have much more influence on the people of America than that limited influence the president can achieve by using his personal presence or forming President's Councils on the subject. So, laudable though that level of involvement might be, it's a luxury to vote at such a time as this with such pressing matters involving war and economics for an issue that, however personally important it is to us, is really not something the president can do much about.
And I recognize that there might be some merit in arguments like that. But in the end, this sort of argument misses the point completely.
Power is a curious thing. It seems to bend good men and make them bad, and to break bad men altogether in the service of evil. Earthly power especially has this effect; that power corrupts is a cliche, which means that it is true. It is not impossible for a good man of decent character to take upon himself the duties and responsibilities of a high office; it's not even impossible for him to remain a good man when his duties are at an end. But no man carries the burden of power without being marked by it; no man escapes from power's contaminating embrace entirely unscathed. If he has struggled against its temptations and emerged with a victorious soul he has triumphed, indeed, and will have the humility to acknowledge God's grace as his salvation. But if he has let himself drown in power's peccant allurements he will be changed forever for the worse, and may try in vain the rest of his sleepless nights to recapture the untroubled innocence of his earlier years. Worst of all, though, are those whose lust for power have already made them jettison everything of goodness, decency, nobility of character and greatness of soul in the quest for it; they will be tyrants when they finally grasp it, as their ceaseless ambition, having achieved at last its object, begins to starve to death unless more and more power can be fed to assuage its mewling cries.
There are, in America, private citizens who call themselves "pro-choice" on abortion. Many of them refuse to face abortion's ugliness; others would actually put some restrictions in place so long as the earliest abortions remained legal, which leads one to suspect they only fail to recognize the humanity of the unborn before she begins to look like the human being she is and has been from the start. Sometimes their positions are illogical and contradictory, not well-thought out, and not inflexible either. Many of them eventually change their minds about abortion and some become the bravest champions of innocent unborn human life.
But politicians and government leaders who call themselves "pro-choice" don't have the excuse that they haven't really looked into the matter or don't understand it. Most of them actually do, horrifying as that is to realize. Most of them know perfectly well that abortion kills an innocent unborn human child. But they try all kinds of dodges to ease their consciences, using words like women's rights and reproductive freedom and personally opposed and the ever-present choice. In this way they hide the dark reality of what they support, just as all evil hides from the light when given the chance to do so.
Some, like Barack Obama, go further than that. Obama is not "personally opposed" to abortion--I don't believe he's ever said that phrase. Obama supported partial-birth abortion, opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, opposed parental notification, supports FOCA which will tear down all state restrictions on abortion, and has said of his daughters that if they became pregnant he wouldn't want them "punished with a baby." Difficult as it is to fathom the character deficiencies of the "personally opposed" politicians, it becomes mind-bogglingly so to fathom the character deficiencies of politicians like Obama, who has literally voted to let already-born babies die, in the name of their mother's choice.
I want to say this clearly: I utterly and completely reject the notion that any man or woman who supports legalized abortion on demand is in any way qualified to hold any elected office in the United States of America. Please note that this is not a partisan statement; I have never, to my best knowledge, voted for a pro-abortion Republican either, whether they claimed to be "personally opposed" or not.
Why do I believe this? Because I think that anyone whose soul is so depraved, whose character is so deficient, whose mind is so warped and whose nature so perverted as to allow them to accept with equanimity the notion of abortion at all (let alone partial-birth abortion, as many of them do) is not even capable of being trusted with the kind of power we're talking about. The measure of a man's capacity for goodness is often taken by how he treats those who are frequently discarded by society: the widow, the orphan, the unborn, the elderly, the patient with PVS, the person who depends on others for care. Those who shrug at the murder of the unborn will do the same when these lives are threatened; they can't give him any of the intoxicating power he lives for, are worth nothing economically, and are a drain on the resources of society; they are better dead.
Such ideas as these will those who support abortion inevitably embrace; it is their inexorable way, to care only for those who can add to their substance, and to care nothing at all (except perhaps symbolically, in speeches) for those who can't. They should not be trusted to run a nation; they do not conduct themselves honorably, and are indeed incapable of honor so long as they are willing to see an entire class of people as "life unworthy of life."
In the end, the pragmatic arguments are like sand; they shift with each change in one's personal assessments of which candidate will better protect one's own interests, and fail to recognize the bedrock principles that lie beneath. It does not matter whether pro-life candidates can end abortion, now; what matters is that pro-abortion candidates are morally unfit for public office, especially the highest office in the land.