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Appeal to the public first

Andrew McGloin | Sunday, February 12, 2012

The past month has had me thinking a lot about Catholic teaching regarding abortion and contraception. Several of my friends went to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, and the news for the past few days has been filled with stories about the health insurance mandate on Catholic employers to provide contraceptive services to its employees.

Although I lean left politically, I value my Catholic faith, and I can understand the efforts of Catholics to make the law correlate more closely to their beliefs. They certainly have made sound arguments backed by the First Amendment for their right to limit the services they provide in their health care plans, and I can certainly sympathize with their efforts to work against pro-choice legislation.

However, I can’t help but have doubts as to how far these efforts can really go. Many states already have laws similar to the contested mandate for contraceptive services, and the Supreme Court has clearly established a women’s right to choose in Roe v. Wade.

I do not mean to belittle the ambitions of Catholics involved in these pursuits, and I hope that they can fulfill their goals or reach a suitable compromise. However, to override Roe. v. Wade would likely require a constitutional amendment defending an unborn child’s right to life, and such a bill would be highly unlikely to even get through Congress, let alone be ratified by the 38 states required for legalization.

The efforts of Catholics in regards to the health care mandate are a little more promising, but the Obama administration seems determined to provide women with contraceptive services regardless of whether the insurance company or the Catholic employers pay for it. The ability of Catholics to promote their beliefs through legislation is at best uncertain.

However, I think Catholics can and do have much more success in influencing individual people. Every day, people are drawn to the Catholic faith and are inspired by its teachings. When Catholics work to inform women about alternatives to abortion or contraception, and explain their objections to certain contraceptive practices, I believe they have much more potential for success than they do lobbying government, where they face strong opposition from social liberals.

If women working for a Catholic employer had no interest in using the contraceptive services provided to them, or if women as a whole tended to choose adoption over abortion, then the fact that these services were available would be much less significant. Furthermore, if citizens become more supportive of the Catholic viewpoint on these issues, then even Democrats will begin to appeal to the Catholic perspective, even if only slightly.

I encourage Catholics to dream big and to work for legal protections to the right to life. However, I want to remind them that taking small steps can go a long way. Convincing people to make better personal decisions on their own is much more effective than forcing people to comply through legislation. By appealing to the general public first and lawmakers second, I think that Catholics can be successful in accomplishing their goals.

Andrew McGloin is a freshman

living in Alumni Hall. He can be reached at amcgloin@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.