This year’s election has been unlike any in recent history and departs from many precedents. It not only marks the populist rise of an inexperienced political outsider, but it is also the first time a woman is a major party candidate. Neither candidate fits the stereotypical presidential mold, and we have seen an awkward clash of bombast and aloofness. It goes without saying that the two are widely disliked, and record numbers of voters feel “unfavorable” toward them and identify both as untrustworthy. Most significantly for the pro-life movement, however, neither candidate can be considered pro-life.
Hillary Clinton fully and unrepentantly supports access to legal abortion and federal funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood to ensure this access. Clinton has been enthusiastically endorsed by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and by abortion advocacy organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’S List. She also promotes repealing the Hyde Amendment, which has prevented federal funding, mostly through Medicaid, from being used to pay for abortions. Her movement away from the “safe, legal and rare” mantra reflects a shift in the Democratic Party, which rather than treating abortion as a necessary evil instead enshrines it as an integral right.
Though Donald Trump is the nominee for the party which has historically opposed abortion, his own pro-life credentials are questionable. Trump publicly identified as pro-choice, later claimed he had not thought much about the subject, then declared himself pro-life when it became politically expedient. While he has promised to overturn Roe v. Wade by appointing pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, Trump has also bizarrely supported criminally punishing women who receive abortions, a stance at odds with the pro-life movement. Additionally, Trump has defended abortion in the case of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother as acceptable. Though these are certainly difficult circumstances which may generate discussion and disagreement among members of the pro-life community, Trump’s willingness to embrace these exemptions further marks him as a less than reliable pro-life candidate and reveal his stance may be one out of convenience rather than conviction.
Unfortunately, such positions are expected when neither party adopts a consistent life ethic that explicitly calls for enshrining the sanctity of all human life into law. The Democratic Party Platform calls for repealing the death penalty while still enthusiastically supporting abortion. The Republican Party Platform strongly opposes abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, but it affirms the constitutionality of the death penalty and advocates allowing states to determine the issue. In short, both parties recognize the worth of the human person in some circumstances while rejecting it in others. These contradictions must be resolved before we can achieve a society that celebrates life.
The confluence of religion, politics, and the pro-life movement can be complex and has led to the misaligned policies we see today. These issues and more will be addressed at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, which will be held Saturday, January 28, 2017. In keeping with the discussion of the importance of the consistent life ethic, this year’s theme is “Working Toward a Truly Pro-Life Politics”. More information on this year’s conference can be found on our website. We encourage anyone interested in this issue to attend and come prepared to interact with these difficult topics.