I’m a smart, well-informed Catholic who is pro-life, and I didn’t choose Hillary Clinton for President.
But I know other smart, well-informed Catholics who believe they also are pro-life who did choose Clinton.
Many of them align with the “New Pro-Life Movement” that has caused a minor fracas of late. Let’s dive into this intriguing situation.
Clinton’s Catholic Coup
Something happened this election that I had never seen before: a few Catholic friends of mine voted for someone radically opposed to the Catholic Faith on countless issues.
Sure, lots of Catholics in general voted for Obama four and eight years ago. (And you even had Catholics like Doug Kmiec who toed the line for the Democrats.)
But these were not the practicing, orthodox Catholics in my circles. They were the confused Catholics. They were the heterodox ones.
In this election, practicing Catholics who have sought to follow the Church’s teachings nonetheless voted for Clinton, an enemy of the Church if there ever were one, and these Catholics, like Simcha Fisher, claimed that doing so was the most pro-life thing to do.
Was this some kind of weird Stockholm Syndrome?
I’ve dug into the rationale for why these Catholics voted for Clinton, and I can understand their thought process, even if I don’t agree with it.
Trump might drop atomic bombs or destabilize regions, causing wars and hundred of thousands of deaths. (I myself even told one Catholic friend before the primaries that Trump might drop atomic bombs on people, he was such a chaotic unknown.)
Trump is not really pro-life.
Trump is not a virtuous man.
In fact, before the primaries I urged Catholics to vote for Cruz or Rubio over Trump, because of these very fears!
And yet, he became the Republican party’s candidate. And he faced off against Clinton in the election.
For me, this was real simple: with Clinton as President, attacks on the Church and on life would assuredly be increased.
With Trump as President, the Church would have a decent chance of getting a reprieve and the the pro-life movement get closer to success.
Voting for Clinton was unsupportable.
It’s quite simple: if Clinton were elected President, Catholics would have zero influence or sway over her policies. With Trump as President, Catholics can have great influence of him.
He’s not ideologically opposed to the Catholic Church, unlike Clinton. So voting for Trump or third-party was reasonable.
So Why Would a Catholic Vote Clinton?
The pro-life movement was tremendously energized. Dozens and dozens of pro-life laws have been passed.
Hmm, sin should increase so that grace may increase? Leaving that aside, yes indeed the pro-life movement was energized. I know all about that as I live in Texas and fought to get HB2 passed. It did pass, and abortion clinics across the state shut down! Glorious victory.
Until of course it got appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and then was struck down by the liberal activist Supreme Court Justices.
All that work. All that success in protecting innocent human life, demolished by liberal activist Justices, ones that Clinton would continue appointing.
For this and several other reasons given (e.g. she claims that Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland would have been a good candidate for Supreme Court Justice) I find Fisher’s pro-life arguments to be lacking. Supreme Court Justices matter, as do the lower courts judges, and with Obama and Clinton, these are all opposed to protecting the sanctity of human life.
With Trump you actually have a proposed selection of possible appointees, any of whom would be better than someone Clinton would appoint. His own pro-life credentials are paper thin, but in an area like this where he doesn’t really care that much, he can be influenced in a good direction. Think you could influence Clinton? Not a chance.
I have spoken with a few other Catholics who think similarly to Fisher. One said that “Roe v. Wade will never be overturned.” Quite despairing! Maybe it won’t be, but imagine if the abolitionists of the 1800s said that slavery would never be outlawed? That despairing stance is unacceptable. We fight for justice and leave the results in God’s hands. We don’t give up. This is what it means to be pro-life.
There’s an erroneous sentiment in this camp that Republicans have played pro-lifers for fools for decades and have done “nothing” for the movement. That claim sounds attractive but is false, as any number of examples show. Choose Texas and I’ll give you five off the top of my head in the past decade alone.
The New Pro-Life Movement
Many of these Catholics who went toward Clinton in the last election started a “new” pro-life movement to offer an alternative to the current pro-life movement. The new pro-lifers find the current movement’s singular focus on abortion to be too narrow and also not fully aligned with Catholic social teaching.
But here is the truth of the matter that all of us in the pro-life movement need to accept: fighting abortion in the courts will never play out in our favor. It is not a proper means to an end because this issue is significantly more complex than we realize.
If we want to effectively end abortion, we need to stop focusing on where and how, and start focusing on why. What drives a woman to abort her child in the first place and what can we do to alleviate it?
Tyson presents an either-or choice, which in this case is an error because the solution is both-and: we both fight against abortion in the courts and we work to eliminate the factors that lead a woman to choose abortion.
If one believes strongly in the right of women to equality and autonomy, but also in the fundamental right to life of the unborn human, neither the existing pro-choice movement nor the existing pro-life movement is sufficient. Ironically, pro-choice advocates are often the ones who offer solutions for women in difficult situations. Meanwhile, many pro-life advocates say “choose life!”—but make it difficult for women to do so.
Well, neither is sufficient perhaps but the pro-choice movement is diametrically opposed to one of her principles–the fundamental right to life of the unborn human–whereas the pro-life movement also believes in women’s equality.
Further, her claim that the pro-choice advocates are the ones offering solutions for women in difficult situations is inaccurate. A crisis pregnancy is a difficult situation. Yet, the one solution offered to this situation by pro-choice advocates is abortion.
Pro-lifers, on the other hand, offer housing, support, prenatal care, and options to the mother for keeping her baby or finding a family to adopt her baby. I never see pro-choicers offering these solutions. So again, the tone of these new pro-lifers rings hollow.
What these new pro-lifers don’t recognize is that that current pro-lifers already do work to eliminate these factors leading to abortion. They already do support women in need, women in crisis pregnancies, women before and after having a baby, before and after having an abortion.
The current pro-lifers already do this by:
- Running and donating to crisis pregnancy centers
- Running and donating to maternity homes
- Run Project Rachel for post-abortive women
- Run the Gabriel Project
- Give to St. Vincent de Paul Societies across the nation and world to help women in need
- And too many other activities and programs to count
For these reasons the people in the existing pro-life movement are unimpressed by the new pro-lifers. Austin Ruse wrote an article that, exasperated at the ungrateful temerity of the new pro-lifers, points out various errors in their claims and uncovers their main beef:
The real crime of the “old guard” [existing pro-lifers] is they went where they found a political home and that is the Republican Party and the Republican Party has not been perfect. Pro-lifers have had to fight to maintain our policy dominance in the party and some presidents have let us down in Supreme Court picks.
When you have two main options: one party, the Democrats, that wants to stomp on you at every turn, and one, the Republicans, that you can influence and that supports some of your most important principles, of course you go with the latter, even if they are far from perfect.
The new pro-lifers have concerns that expand to other areas however, including issues like euthanasia, women’s equality, “gun violence,” poverty, and the death penalty.
Most of this is well-trodden, “seamless garment”-type ground. Again, nothing new to pro-lifers, many of whom work to fight poverty, support women, and so on. (Some of their bullet points on gun violence and death penalty are off-base in the usual ways, but this is a small distraction to the greater issue we are dealing with here.)
Bottom line: it is laudable to want to widen the focus of the pro-life movement, but doing so in spite of the pro-life movement, rather than working within it, shows an appalling lack of gratitude that strikes pro-lifers in the trenches as farcical at best and rudely ignorant at worst.
I’m Smart and Well-Informed
Back to the Trump vs. Clinton election result in general.
Scott Adams has a trenchant analysis of the cognitive dissonance that has struck the educated classes after Trump’s shocking victory.
Smart and well-informed people “know” that Trump is a monster, so people who voted for him must prefer a monster!
I’ve witnessed an effect among educated people that, even if they weren’t going to support Clinton, and even if they secretly voted for Trump, they would never admit that they did. Voting for Trump was for unenlightened people, uneducated people.
Those of us Catholics who style ourselves as smart and well-informed and who run in such circles even among non-Catholics were not immune from this strong influence: we don’t want to be the odd man out among our friends, our colleagues, our classmates. I know I didn’t want to be.
All my criticisms of Trump from before the primaries still stand. I find many aspects of his personal life objectionable. He’s a business showman and TV personality. I would have chosen a hundred other people I’d prefer to be President of our country.
And so I understand why these Catholics voted against him. I see how they came to the conclusion that Clinton was actually the better pro-life option. But I disagree completely. There is no possible world where Clinton is the most pro-life option.
Trump is shortly to be the President now. And the Church has been given a reprieve. We now need to make the most of it by letting our voice be heard: demanding HHS Mandate immediately to stop the attacks on the consciences of Catholics would be a great start; demanding Trump appoint a pro-life, Constitution defending Justice to the Supreme Court would be another necessary step.
This election revealed more divides within the ranks of Catholics in the United States. Those divides are not going away any time soon. Their roots are deep and the blame for them resides within our own house. We can and must work on healing those divisions, of evangelizing, catechizing, converting and reconverting, starting with ourselves. But we can all agree that we want our country to promote the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death.
Let’s join together with those noble goals and move forward.