In my last post, I argued for the need to protect the “pro-life” brand. By that, I meant that we pro-lifers should be careful about how we use that term, in order to preserve the integrity and purity of our message, and to avoid confusing people about what it really means to be “pro-life”.
Yesterday, at the national convention of the Democratic Party, we saw a perfect example of why it is so important to protect our brand name.
One of the speakers from the main podium of the convention was Sr. Simone Campbell, a religious sister who is also the head of Network, a lobbying group. She is also famous for being one of the so-called “nuns on the bus”, who conducted a media-friendly tour this summer to protest a budget proposal offered by Rep. Paul Ryan.
People can certainly differ in good faith about the prudential merits of Mr. Ryan’s budget proposal. And people can certainly evaluate whether it is a good expression of Catholic Social Teaching or not. People can also argue about the propriety of a vowed religious addressing a partisan political event. That’s not my concern here.
What I care about is something that Sr. Simone said during her address and in a comment to a reporter — and, most importantly, what she did not say.
During her talk to the convention, Sr. Simone spoke of her support for the Affordable Care Act, and claimed that “This is part of my pro-life stance”. When questioned by a reporter before the talk about whether it should be illegal to perform abortions, Sr. Simone said “That’s beyond my pay grade. I don’t know.”
These remarks are simply astonishing from a vowed Catholic religious. Regardless of any benefits of the Affordable Care Act in expanding access to health care, it cannot be reasonably denied that it also expands public support for abortion, and enshrines abortion as a matter of ordinary health care. It will force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions through subsidies to private insurance plans, it will coerce people to pay directly for elective abortions, it will force insurers to pay for elective abortions, and it will force religious individuals and organizations to pay for and promote abortion. If that’s all “pro-life”, then the term means nothing.
It is also shocking that a vowed Catholic religious would say that she does not know if abortion should be made illegal, and to hide behind a reprehensible evasion by saying that it’s “beyond her pay grade”. To punt on such a fundamental moral issue is hardly a “pro-life stance”.
The teaching of the Catholic Church, as presented in the Catechism, is absolutely clear about this matter:
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”
“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined…. As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”
All of that is outrageous enough, but what’s even worse is what Sr. Simone did not say. It is essential to recall that earlier in the same evening, the blood-soaked leader of Planned Parenthood — an organization that kills over a quarter of a million unborn children each year — took to the podium and extolled the 100% anti-life policies of the President and his Administration.
When it was her turn at the same podium, Sr. Simone had nothing to say about how the pro-abortion policies of the Administration (and their friends at Planned Parenthood) measured up against “her pro-life stance”. The sister shared a stage with a representative of an evil organization that is the very epitome of the Culture of Death — and remained silent about the most significant human rights violation of our time.
There is nothing “pro-life” about that.