Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Abortion vs. Healthcare

During my comment sparring with the writer of Liberal Catholic News, the question came up about whether a Catholic should give up on trying to outlaw abortion in favor of promoting other life issues like health care.  A similar question was emailed to me by my friend Lisa.

It was an interesting question, so I decided to do some research.  It didn't take long to find this excerpt from paragraph 2273 of the Catechism:
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority....Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined....As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."

That is pretty strong language.  It says the state is under a moral obligation to respect the rights of unborn children and to outlaw abortion.  In a democracy, it follows that Catholic voters are under a moral obligation to ensure the state does so.

Contrast this with what the Catechism says about health care in paragraph 2288:

2288 Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.
Here the Catechism is less specific.  It does not say the state must "provide" health care, nor does it say that health care is a "right."  Rather, it says the state should "help in the attainment" of health care and other basic needs.
Respecting human life does not end when the child is born.  It involves promoting human dignity throughout life.  There are people suffering in our society with inadequate health care and lack of other basic necessities, and we have to do more to help them.

That help can come in several forms.  Certainly the state could create a massive state-run health care system.  This works well in some countries (Norway) and not so well in other countries (Britain).  The larger the population of the country, the less likely it is to work well.  The state can also help by promoting a robust economy so that its citizens can afford to purchase health care for themselves.  Reasonable Catholics can disagree on the best method.
There are pros and cons of both Obama's and McCain's health plans, and neither of them will survive Congress unchanged.  One may better than the other, but both will "help in the attainment" of health care.
Conversely, only one candidate has expressed a desire to respect an unborn child's right to life in law. The other candidate, by supporting FOCA, will further diminish that right.  Protecting the rights of the unborn is not the only issue in this campaign, but it hard to imagine a more important issue.  

I was very impressed with my local bishop's, Paul Loverde, homily today.  He emphasized the importance of supporting human life with our vote because life is the "foundation of our society."  Life is fundamental and a prerequisite for all other rights.  He also said there could be proportionate reasons to vote against the pro-life candidate.  But then he reminded us that 4,000 unborn children are killed every day in this country.  In my mind, it would be hard to find any proportional issue that can outweigh that startling statistic.

Pray the rosary for this election.  If you do, I'll promise to stop beating this dead horse (until after the election). 

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  • We are guaranteed Life, liberty etc. by our constitution not health-care and until Life is respected, health-care has no bearing. Without life, health-care is irrelevant. You are wise to have given us a comparison.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, November 03, 2008 12:36:00 AM  

  • This is why I'm a pro-life Democrat. All children should be allowed to be born, obviously, but our concern shouldn't end there. We need to make sure that they have access to health care (though I have seen better hypothetical plans than Obama's), we need to make sure that their environment is as clean and healthy as possible, etc.

    I wonder if Catholics would start voting Democrat in larger numbers if abortion were outlawed?

    By Blogger elf, at Monday, November 03, 2008 10:16:00 AM  

  • ELF -

    I'm sure they would, as the Catholic population of the US was overwhelmingly Democrat prior to the 1970's.

    I, however, would not be joining them in their return to the Democratic Party. Both Democratic presidents in my lifetime - Carter and Clinton - drastically cut military spending, the one area of government spending that is a) spelled out clearly in the preamble to the Constitution ("provide for a common defense") as a legitimate government function, and b) equally beneficial to each and every American. Asking our military to defend the country while skimping on their numbers, equipment, training, and technology is something I cannot and will not support.

    I also cannot support the Democrats' ideas about taxes and govt. spending. The two most massive govt. spending programs - FDR's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society - were both wasteful and unsuccessful. Any economist will admit the New Deal prolonged the Depression (which was ended by the industrial needs of WWII) and that the Great Society failed to improve a single aspect of what it set out to rectify.

    Add to the above list the tendency for Democratic presidents to appoint Supreme Court justices who have a rather (to be kind) elastic or (not to be kind) fraudulent view of the Constitution, and I don't see my (R) turning to a (D) even if the Dems miraculously reverse course on abortion.

    This is not to say, of course, that I think a Catholic who votes Democrat is somehow less moral or less intelligent than I am. In fact, there are often times when I suspect that there is no one on earth that could possibly be less moral or less intelligent than I am. It's just where I stand on things.

    One more thing: Why in the hell can't Notre Dame run the football? Or stop the run? They're killing me.....

    By Blogger Jerry, at Monday, November 03, 2008 6:47:00 PM  

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