In the current election, the two major parties differ on abortion, as was clear from the discussion of the topic in the third presidential debate. The Republican party platform says “the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.” The Democratic platform says that “we will continue to oppose – and seek to overturn – federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion.”
In 1973, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision permitted abortion throughout pregnancy, for any reason or no reason at all. Though weakened over these 43 years by subsequent jurisprudence, the decision still stands in its core holding: child killing is permitted.
This raises a fundamental political question: Does government have the authority to permit child-killing? And if it does permit it, what kind of a government does it become?
And though abortion is an issue in this year’s election, the question is not being adequately expressed or even grasped.
Many Democrats, while holding to Roe, will nevertheless try to argue that they want abortion to be rare and that they are working for policies to accomplish that. We should all be working, across partisan lines, to accomplish that.
But that dodges the core question. While boasting of efforts to reduce abortion, they still think it should be allowed.
Let me repeat the core question is: Does government have the authority to permit child-killing?
Look at it this way: What kind of government do we have? What kind of authority do the candidates think we are giving them if we elect them? Are we giving them power over life and death? Are they the arbiters of our rights, or rather the guardians of our rights?
This is no small question. If a candidate or a party believes that abortion can or should be legal, they believe in a different kind of government from what our Founding Fathers established. In the Founders’ views, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, government does not have authority over the right to life. The right is given by God, and “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”
Either government can authorize the killing of a baby – in which case it is claiming no longer to be bound to secure the right to life – or it must protect a right that “cannot be infringed” because it was granted by the creator.
Pope Saint John Paul II zeroed in on this point in one of his most important documents, the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life):
“This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people – even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the ‘right’ ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves toward a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the ‘common home’ where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State.”
Note that he does not simply claim that legalizing abortion is a bad policy. There can be many bad policies on which candidates and their parties disagree, and about which they debate and try to persuade their constituents. Candidates, for instance, can argue about the best way to reduce crime or protect people from terrorist attacks. But these debates are about how to protect the people, not whether to protect them. We don’t hear anyone campaigning for “the right to crime” or “the right to terrorism.”
But when it comes to the right to life, the debate is not about how best to protect children, but indeed whether to protect them at all. It is not a disagreement about what policy best implements a mutually accepted principle; it is a disagreement over whether to accept the principle.
And the principle is that no government can authorize the killing of a baby.
When it does, John Paul declared in his encyclical that such a government “is transformed into a tyrant state.” He says this is a “tragic caricature of legality,” “the death of true freedom,” and indeed, that in this case “the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.”
To think of this as “one issue,” or even simply as the most important issue, falls far short of the reality. This question is the foundation of every issue and the foundation of the political and human community itself.
It’s time for the candidates to fully answer this question, and it’s time for the voters to challenge them to do so. It is also time for all of us to recognize a key fact about Hillary Clinton and the Democrats: They are proponents of a tyrant state.
LifeNews.com Note: Father Frank Pavone is the national director for Priests for Life.