by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
One of the saddest moments for me during this year’s election campaign occurred during the vice presidential debate, when the “Catholic” vice presidential candidate, Senator Joseph Biden, bragged about his role in preserving Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which in effect legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
This outburst of pride by Sen. Biden occurred as part of his response to a question inquiring how his thinking had changed since he first entered public life. Senator Biden answered by noting that when he first became a member of the Senate, he believed judicial appointments should be made purely on the basis of the legal competence of a candidate. However, at some point in his Senate career, his thinking evolved. Senator Biden now believes that ideology must also be a factor in evaluating the suitability of a judicial candidate.
By his own admission, Sen. Biden’s leadership on the Judiciary Committee was critical in defeating a nominee who in his opinion, except for his opposition to Roe v. Wade, was qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. By helping preserve Roe v. Wade, Sen. Biden was also assuming a share of responsibility for the deaths of millions of children who have died from abortion because of that Supreme Court decision.
Senator Biden’s debate comments serve as a reminder that our current permissive policies sanctioning abortion have come from the courts — not from Congress, the state Legislatures, or a referendum of the people. It was the decision of the Court in 1973 that struck down all the state laws restricting abortions.
Senator Biden says that he accepts the Catholic Church’s teaching on when human life begins, but asserts that it would be wrong for him to impose this belief on others. At the same time, he is happy and even proud to cooperate in preserving the Supreme Court’s imposition of abortion public policy on the entire nation.
Inadvertently, Sen. Biden also reminded American voters that ultimately we have the ability to change public policy, even those imposed by an overreaching Court. One of the most important responsibilities of any president is the appointment of federal judges and, in particular, appointments to the Supreme Court.
Senator Biden’s assertion that he preserved Roe v. Wade makes clear that it also matters whom we elect to the U.S. Senate. The Senate has the ability to block any presidential nominee. Also Governor Sarah Palin’s meteoric rise to national prominence demonstrates the importance of electing pro-life candidates as mayors and members of public school boards because of the values they bring to these important local offices and because they form the pool of potential candidates for higher office.
There are those who argue that there were illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade, so what difference does a law make? This is like arguing that since there are still murders, rapes, and thefts, we should just decriminalize these actions.
Of course, there will always be those who will not comply with the law. This does not mean that such laws are ineffective or unnecessary. There are no accurate records of the number of illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade. Doctor Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist and one of the founders of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) admits that abortion advocates made up the statistics they used in their propaganda efforts to promote abortion’s legalization. The more honest estimates indicate that abortions increased by more than 10 times with legalization. This means that there are more than a million additional abortions annually because of Roe v. Wade. The law really does make a difference.
Senator Barak Obama says that he does not believe in litmus tests for Supreme Court nominees, but he also pledges to protect Roe v. Wade. Senator Obama has also stated that he wants, early in his presidency, to sign into law the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would eliminate the modest limitations of abortion permitted under Roe v. Wade. Informed consent and parental notification statutes have reduced the number of abortions.
FOCA, in its present form, would also take away conscience clauses. In other words, it could be used to coerce doctors, nurses, hospitals and health care systems to participate in abortion. We should take Sen. Obama’s promises seriously because they are very consistent with his record as Illinois state senator and his brief career as a U.S. senator.
There are many in political life who would like the abortion issue to just disappear. They argue that abortion distracts from the much more important issues of the economy and the national security. The most important crisis in our nation today is a moral crisis. It is a crisis about fundamental values and beliefs. The foundational issue of this moral crisis is whether we will continue to permit the state-sanctioned killing of our own children.
In a recently published interview Sen. Biden said that he is a “John XXIII guy” and “not a Pope John Paul guy.” I hope that he is not trying to imply that Pope John XXIII would bless or approve his action in support of legalized abortion. It is not my responsibility or my role to tell the people of the archdiocese for whom to vote. However, I can tell you there is no such thing as a “John XXIII Catholic” or a “John Paul II Catholic.” There are, however, “faithful” and “unfaithful” Catholics.
Senator Biden is proud to have helped preserve Roe v. Wade and thus to share responsibility for its consequences. Consider this when casting your vote: Are you ready to accept some responsibility for the more than a million unborn children who are killed every year by abortion? Think about it!