Why “But, Abortion!” is No Excuse for Ignoring Moral Imperatives

Brian Fraga writes:

“But, abortion!” has become sort of a tongue-in-cheek retort in some Catholic circles to refer to arguments when the right to life is seemingly used by people to downplay or dismiss other important principles in the Church’s social teaching, such as the preferential option for the poor, caring for creation, welcoming the stranger or paying the worker a just wage.

The right to life is a foundational issue, and I would argue that all the other rights we have, including those that are enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, really don’t mean anything if we don’t have the right to be born. As I see it, abortion is a social justice issue….

the way we Catholics often talk about abortion has become sadly myopic, especially in our American political context where neither of the two major political parties offer platforms that are fully consistent with Catholic Social Teaching principles….

Democrats have solid ideas on consumer and worker protections, the environment, firearm regulations, immigration reform and healthcare. But they have become increasingly liberal on some social issues, especially abortion. The leading Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 want to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal tax dollars from being used for most abortions.

Republicans are staunchly against abortion….

But the Trump presidency has also become synonymous with nativist and divisive political rhetoric, heavy-handed immigration policies such as child separation, not to mention racist dog whistle politics, chronic dishonesty, a disrespect for democratic norms, even an alleged disregard for the rule of law that has resulted in an impeachment inquiry.

That is a vexing political picture for Catholics in the United States. But to hear some tell it, any legitimate concern one may have about a politician who claims to be pro-life automatically takes a backseat if the opposing candidate supports legal abortion. It’s akin to a get-out-of-jail-free card for a politician who steals from taxpayers but promises them that they’ll make abortion illegal.

That kind of thinking makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to have honest, straightforward and respectful conversations about politics, especially abortion….

I think that is what the “preeminent” abortion language debate was really all about last week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Baltimore….

Welcoming the stranger, caring for creation, advocating to abolish the death penalty, taking care of the poor and standing up for the vulnerable who are already alive are moral imperatives, not “prudential matters” as some would suggest out of ignorance or cynicism. Implementing those imperatives into public policy and legislation is where prudence comes into play.

The current state of our politics does not always make it easy to make prudential decisions, especially in the voting booth….

So it’s unfair to assume that criticizing Donald Trump for his immigration policies means someone is pro-abortion, just as it is to say that someone who voted for Trump because of his promises to appoint pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court must be a racist or hate immigrants.