Recently, one of my Franciscan brothers stated his frustration with our two-party political system. He said, “I wish there were candidates who stand for everything I stand for.” Then he ticked off a long list that included things like these: respect for the rights of labor unions, respect for life, equitable immigration reform, protecting marriage, equal rights for women, care for creation, racial equality, health care reform and rejection of war as a means of resolving international disputes.
Many Catholic voters share that same frustration. Under our two-party system no one who holds extremely conservative or extremely liberal views will be able to win the votes needed to get elected or reelected. So voters have to support candidates who represent their views as closely as possible.
Take the right-to-life issue, for example. There are quite a few pro-life bills moving through state legislatures around the country these days. One such law is the “Heartbeat Law” in the Ohio State Legislature, which has gained substantial support among the legislators. The bill outlaws abortions anytime after the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. Ohio House Bill 125 is so-called “Heartbeat Law.” It was passed with a narrow 12-11 vote from committee.
The proposed law opposes the legal status quo, based on Supreme Court rulings, including Roe v. Wade, which permit abortions up to the point of fetal viability—about 24 weeks—but allow states to impose restrictions after that stage. Fetal heartbeats are detectable much earlier than the last trimester of gestation.
Of course, many restrictions on abortion are already in place. However, advocates of the “Heartbeat Law” believe that they have found the key to limiting the impact of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. They want to save as many lives as possible.
That is why Ohio’s “Heartbeat Law” is both important and of great political interest. Supporters claim that it has the best chance of restricting the impact of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
At present, neither the National Right to Life Committee nor the Ohio Right to Life Committee endorse the Heartbeat Bill, but many local Right to Life organizations in Ohio have supported this bill. For example, here is an endorsement from Paula Westwood, the Executive Director of Cincinnati Right to Life:
“At the very least, any innocent tiny human with a beating heart deserves life. This bill ensures that this commonsense protection is granted for the most vulnerable among us—the child in the womb.”
My guess is that the State and National Right to Life organizations assume that support for the “Heartbeat Law” can compromise their ability to gain votes for other legislation they have already endorsed to help limit the number of women who choose abortion without being fully informed about fetal life and other options such as adoption.
Abortion is one of the “tough issues” which vex politicians and Catholic voters. That is why the “Heartbeat Law” deserves serious attention. Some voters refuse to support any politician who is not absolutely opposed to abortion or is not willing to take a stand against it under all circumstances.
Some voters will support candidates who will help limit the number of children who lose their lives due to abortion. Ohio’s proposed Heart Beat Law is such an example. It represents a prudential compromise to do what is possible, even though it is not an absolute proscription of abortion.
During the 2008 election, some bishops and moral theologians claimed that no Catholic should vote for a candidate who is not absolutely opposed to abortion. Other bishops and moral theologians disagreed because they believed that there is room for voters to make prudential judgments about how to best limit the number of abortions.
Where do you stand? Are there politicians you know of who support all or some of the views the Catholic Church teaches? For more on this issue see:
by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
*****Photo Credit: Sura Nualpradid