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Holy Votes correction for Democratic platform

Sebastian Rosato | Sunday, April 15, 2012

To the Editors:

Your article, “Professors Discuss Politics” (April 13) mischaracterizes my views on Catholic teaching, the Democratic Party platform and the abortion issue.

In the article, you state my position as follows: “the pro-choice stance allows for a common good available to many and that all issues should be considered before voting, despite its contradiction with Church teachings.”

There’s just one problem: I never said or even implied this.

What I actually said, excerpted from my prepared remarks for the event, is the following:

“If you think about it carefully, the Democrat approach to the abortion issue is just as or more compatible with a culture of life than the Republican position.

Before laying out this argument, a point of clarification on the Church’s position.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger argued that a Catholic may vote for pro-choice candidate: a Catholic would only ‘be guilty of formal cooperation in evil if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stance on abortion.’

Now let’s look at the parties’ approaches to the abortion problem.

The Republican approach is to criminalize abortion, which is to say overturn Roe vs. Wade.

There are three problems with this approach: there is no evidence that the Republicans are serious about overturning Roe, there is no chance that Roe will actually be overturned and even if it were overturned the data suggests there would likely be no significant reduction in abortions.

The Democrat approach is to enact socio-economic policies that discourage abortion. The logic is two-fold: healthcare and education result in fewer unintended pregnancies and pre/post natal healthcare, income support, paid leave and adoption programs mean that women are less likely to terminate their pregnancies.

The evidence suggests that it works. The Clinton administration emphasized education and brought millions out of poverty and had more success at reducing the abortion rate than the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Plus we know that countries where abortion is legal but that have strong welfare systems (think Belgium and the Netherlands) have some of the lowest abortion rates in the world. It is also worth noting that the Bishops support such measures because they protect life by reasonable alternative means.

So let’s assume that you decide to be a single issue voter (not a position, incidentally, that the Church preaches). Do you vote for a Republican approach that has almost no chance of success and will, in any event, not improve the situation. Or do you vote for a Democrat whose policies have a real shot at protecting life?”

That’s what I said. Clearly, I did not imply that a pro-choice stance “allows for a common good” and I did not suggest that Catholics should be prepared to ignore Church teaching. What I did say – and I stand by this claim – was that the Democrat position is eminently compatible with a culture of life.


Sebastian Rosato

assistant professor

Department of Political Science

April 13