Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Black and White

This article bills itself as "A Voter's Guide". It can be summed up as "Abortion and embryonic research are the worst evils facing America today and any Catholic who votes for a pro-choice candidate over a pro-life candidate is in violation of his faith and is unworthy to present himself for communion."

This article bothered me. At first, I thought it might be the "these things are the worst evil" stance. But that's not it: even though I don't agree with Archbishop Myer's stance, it's not an illogical one. If you believe that a fertilized egg is a human being with the same rights as an adult human, then abortion and the potential for embryonic research is the worst thing that's happening in America today. I may not buy the underlying assumption, but I cannot quibble with the conclusion. (Note: I am not particularly interested in arguing this point, and the rest of this entry will not deal with the rightness or wrongness of abortion.)

No, what bothers me is his implication that the stance of any given politician will actually have an effect, one way or another.

He doesn't come right out and say "You can't vote for Kerry because he's pro-abortion; you must vote for Bush because he's against it." But his whole tone suggests that's the right conclusion.

The presumption here is that, if Bush is re-elected, he will make sure embryonic research remains illegal and he will outlaw abortions, while if Kerry is elected embryonic research will be legalized and abortions will continue in ever-growing numbers. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I don't actually know the current status of embryo research in the US. I know that many fertility treatments have the undesired side effect of resulting in non-viable fertilized eggs, but are legal anyway. I don't know if it's legal or not to fertilize an egg with the specific intent that the blastomere/embryo will not be permitted to develop into a baby. I'm thinking the latter is currently illegal, and that this is a law Bush pushed for, but I'm not sure.

But what I do know is that Bush has done virtually nothing, in four years of office, to make abortions illegal.

So why should a Catholic, in good conscience, feel that he has to vote for Bush to stop these 1.3 million annual abortions, when he's got no good reason to think Bush is going to do anything about it next term, either? (This isn't even to address the next problem, which is "how many abortions will be prevented by making it illegal?" Because you can sure bet that number wouldn't be close to "all of them".) Kerry and Bush may not "be in favor of embryo killing on roughly an equal scale" but in practice I think it's quite likely that they'd each have the same effect on the law.

And this, I think, gets us closer to Cardinal Retzinger's "proportionate reasons". If someone who is strongly opposed to abortion believes that Candidate A, pro-choice, has a 50% chance of, let's say, preventing hundreds of thousands from dying of starvation in Africa, while Candidate B, pro-life, has a 0.01% chance of doing anything about abortion in America .... well, I think it's pretty fair to go with the guy who might make a difference on something that matters to you.

Of course, there are arguments to be made on the other side: maybe Candidate B won't make a difference this year. But perhaps your devotion now to this single issue will someday bear fruit. It's similar to my reasoning in voting for Libertarians even when I know they won't win the current election.

But not all rational people agree with me that voting Libertarian now helps to make the Libertarian Party more credible, and I don't think everyone would agree that making anti-abortion your top priority in picking a candidate will necessarily make a difference in abortion policy down the road.

I'm not impressed by John Kerry, I'll admit. But even if I opposed abortion, I can't see making that a reason to vote for George Bush.
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