More than in any other election since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe
(1973), legalizing abortion, the U.S. Catholic bishops have been outspoken in the 2008 presidential election about the duty of Catholic politicians to support policies opposing abortion. Abortion is the paramount life issue, because the way that we treat innocent human life defines the type of society in which we live.
While Catholics can, under limited circumstances, vote for politicians who support abortion, they can never do so in order to support abortion themselves.
Joe Biden Entered Senate as Pro-Life Catholic:
In November 1972, when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware, Joe Biden, like most Catholic Democrats at the time, was opposed to abortion. According to the April 29, 2007, episode of Meet the Press
, Biden stated in early 1973 that Roe
"was not correctly decided" and that "the right of abortion was not secured by the Constitution." Moreover, even today, he describes himself as a "practicing Catholic" who is "prepared to accept my church's view" that life begins at conception.
Joe Biden Abandoned Pro-Life Position:
By the time he cast his first vote on abortion in 1973, however, Senator Biden had adopted the position he holds to this day: "My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don't think I have a right to impose my few on the rest of society."
Senator Biden has consistently voted against federal funding of abortion and for a ban on partial-birth abortion, but he has also voted against parental notification and parental consent. While arguing that he wants to make it easier for women to choose life, he has voted against extending SCHIP healthcare to unborn children.
Barack Obama's Consistent Support for Abortion Rights:
As both an Illinois legislator and as U.S. senator from Illinois, Barack Obama has consistently supported abortion rights. While arguing for the need to find common ground between those who are pro-life and those who support abortion, he has stated repeatedly that he does not know when life begins. Like his running mate, he has opposed parental notification and consent, as well as the extension of SCHIP healthcare benefits to unborn children. He has voted against banning partial-birth abortion.
Barack Obama and the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act:
Senator Obama's most controversial stand on abortion came in 2002, when, in the Illinois legislature, he voted again the Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected children who were born alive as the result of an abortion from being left to die. That same year, the U.S. Senate passed a federal version of this bill (known as the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act) unanimously, because the senators recognized that allowing a child who has been born to be denied medical treatment is infanticide. Senator Obama's position thus marks him as more pro-abortion than his own fellow Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
The Obama-Biden Campaign's Issue Statement:
The Obama-Biden campaign's website features the following issue statement on abortion
"Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case."
Senator Obama has also pledged federal funding for abortion.
The Democratic Platform:
The 2008 Democratic Party platform supports Senator Obama's position on abortion, including federal funding:
"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."
It does, however, seem to be more moderate than either Senator Obama or Senator Biden by supporting "access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care," though it does not specifically mention the SCHIP program that both Democratic candidates have voted against.
A Catholic Evaluation of the Obama-Biden Position on Abortion:
As mentioned in the Introduction, no Catholic can vote for a candidate in order to support abortion. Under limited circumstances, however, he can vote for a candidate who supports abortion in spite of that candidate's support for abortion. When, for instance, the candidate's opponent also supports abortion, the Catholic voter does not have to abstain but can make his decision on other grounds.
That said, the Obama-Biden campaign represents the most pro-abortion ticket ever fielded by either major party in the United States. In addition, a vote for a Catholic candidate who has supported abortion rights for 35 years might send a signal to one's fellow citizens that the Catholic Church, for all of its talk about the sanctity of life, is not serious about ending abortion.
Finally, the question of federal funding for abortion is very important. If an Obama-Biden administration succeeds in implementing federal funding, every taxpayer becomes implicated in the abortions that are funded with tax dollars. Catholics who believe (in opposition to the Catechism of the Catholic Church) that they can be "personally opposed" to abortion but vote for pro-abortion candidates have to recognize that federal funding make them party to the destruction of innocent human life.