My Catholic vote
Karen Gilmore | Thursday, April 7, 2016
On Monday I attended Wendy Davis’ talk sponsored by the Notre Dame College Democrats. She contributed her views as well as her personal experiences to the political dialogue on campus, discussing important and contentious issues such as minimum wage, healthcare and the role of gender discrimination in those arenas. Several weeks ago, I voted in the Ohio primary election. I come from a very traditional Catholic family in which my parents had always made it clear that they supported Republican candidates, and they cited pro-life beliefs as their primary reason for doing so. Though I too treasure my Catholic faith and oppose abortion, I voted for Bernie Sanders, because I believe that he is the candidate with the most respect for the dignity of human life, despite his pro-choice platform. Davis’ comments on the ideology that underlies the Democratic Party further convinced me that I made the right choice.
There are no perfect candidates, and I disagree with Senator Sanders on more than just his position on abortion. However, more than any of the other candidates, I find his priorities and agenda are more consistent with my faith and hopes for our country, especially when one considers the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching. These themes are far from being realized in our society today. Life and dignity of the human person are compromised by more than just abortion. Life and dignity are also currently subjugated by practices like capital punishment and a lack of commitment to solving conflicts abroad using peaceful means. The theme of “option for the poor and vulnerable” is ignored every time we do not put the needs of the disadvantaged above the privileged. The current minimum wage is not a living wage, which is an affront to the “dignity of work and the rights of workers.” The widespread disregard for environmental initiatives stands in opposition to “care for God’s creation.” Though Bernie’s positions on the economy, healthcare, the environment and international policy were not formed on the basis of Catholic Social Teaching, they seem to me to put the poor, the planet and peace ahead of the interests of businesses and billionaires, which is exactly what the Catholic church calls us to demand from our government.
I believe that life begins at conception, and, thus, the right to life for an unborn child outweighs any rights of a mother aside from her own right to life. Wendy Davis provided examples of situations where many believe abortion is an appropriate and necessary course of action, which all involved medical conditions that already served as a preexisting threat to a fetus’ life. In these cases, I believe there should be an active debate surrounding whether abortion is moral. The abortions that I oppose entirely are those chosen based on non-medical reasons.
However, I hold a deep empathy for all women who choose to have abortions and a deep frustration with the circumstances that lead to that choice. Abortion is a result of desperation. Fixing the issues that cause this desperation is the only lasting solution to this problem. A Sanders presidency could provide for key changes in our society that would dramatically reduce the perceived need for abortions. This need was born out of a lack of support for mothers and respect for women, especially those who have to deal with poverty, racial discrimination, gender inequality and gendered violence, and the intersections between these struggles. Bernie has been fighting to find solutions to these problems for decades.
Abortions will continue to occur as long as women are deprived of better options, even if their right to them is no longer protected by our legal system. I want to live in a world where an unplanned pregnancy does not completely derail a woman’s career, end her education or sentence her to a lifetime of struggling to clothe, feed and shelter her child when she was already struggling to do the same for herself. I want to live in a world where children are blessings, not burdens. Though mothers who choose life are heroes, I want to live in a world where the decision to “keep the baby” is expected and supported, not heroic. The way forward is to give women more options, not take them away. Universal healthcare, gender equality and an overhaul of the adoption system would all be necessary to guarantee life and dignity to unborn children. Senator Sanders’ bold challenges to our unequal system, which often puts mothers at a severe disadvantage, makes him the most dedicated fighter for human dignity in the presidential race.
We are blessed to live in a democracy. However, this blessing comes at a cost — at times, we must come to terms with the fact that our beliefs are not always popular. And though I do not believe that women have a natural right to abortion, the Supreme Court has granted us a legal right to them. I respect Davis’ and Senator Sanders’ dedication to advocating for all women’s rights, including this one. As long as this right exists, efforts to undermine it through executive channels are threats to our democratic system and undermine the role the courts play in protecting all of our rights.
Until we provide mothers with the support they need, they will continue to seek out abortions. In my opinion, anti-abortion legislation is not sufficient to protect the dignity of life. The Republican candidates — who all identify as pro-life — lack understanding of issues that lead women to choose abortion and are not dedicated to solving them. I voted for Bernie in the primary because Bernie’s dedication to equality and vision for the future of America are the most consistent with my own views. I don’t think my decision opposes my Catholic faith, and I pray that I will have the opportunity to cast a vote for him again in November.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.