Why Abortion Is Different From Other Issues

There are many issues that Catholics should be concerned about, but that does not mean that some issues are not more pressing than other ones.

White crosses in front of a church in Lansdale, PA on March 14, 2019 with a sign that says "Each Cross Represents 1,000,000 Surgical Abortions Since 1973."
White crosses in front of a church in Lansdale, PA on March 14, 2019 with a sign that says "Each Cross Represents 1,000,000 Surgical Abortions Since 1973." (photo: Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com)

We are now less than 50 days from the Nov. 3 election, and as Catholics take this time to discern which issues should be our priority when we vote, one issue always seems to come to the fore: abortion.

That should hardly be surprising, as abortion — among all of the issues in our country — is unique: both in its prevalence and in its taking of completely innocent lives.

Still, some Catholics try to downplay the importance of this issue. 

Those who support pro-abortion candidates often point to the importance of other issues to justify that support. Some may reference the “seamless garment” approach, which looks at a basket of issues that affect human life, and then argue that abortion is just one of those important issues.

For example, sometimes Catholics who wish to conveniently overlook Joe Biden’s position on abortion will point to the resumption of the federal death penalty by the Trump administration as a sort of equivalence. 

There are many issues that Catholics should be concerned about, but that does not mean that some issues are not more pressing than other ones.

In the United States in 2020, moral equivalence when it comes to abortion just does not hold up. 

Over the past decades, the Catholic Church has increasingly condemned the death penalty. In the United States, there were five federal convicts executed this year. In the same span, nearly 1 million children will be aborted.

Immigration, hunger and poverty are all important, too, but none of them will result in anywhere near the loss of human life that abortion does. Not even close.

Nor do any of these other issues make parents complicit in the deaths of their own children.

Little wonder the U.S. bishops have listed abortion in the United States as “our preeminent priority” on human life, and it should be treated as such when we vote. When a group of American bishops discussed abortion as a preeminent priority with Pope Francis, he replied: “Of course it is.”

Abortion is both qualitatively and quantitatively different from other issues. 

It is qualitatively different from other issues because abortion results in the death of the innocent. Blameless children are wiped out just for being conceived. Abortion denies our inherent, God-given dignity as human beings, and it brings violence and death into the family. 

It is quantitatively different from other issues because the sheer numbers of lives lost are staggering. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute estimated that there were 862,000 abortions in the United States in 2017. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the leading cause of death in the United States as heart disease, at 647,457 deaths. More than 200,000 more American lives were lost to abortion that year, and it is completely preventable. 

Throughout the violent 20th century, pogrom after pogrom took hundreds of millions of lives. In those countries where one group was exterminating millions of its neighbors in killing fields, gulags, concentration camps or in their homes, would that not have been the preeminent moral issue confronting those nations?

How would we react if nearly 1 million “born” lives were being legally taken each year in a violent fashion? Would it then become a moral priority for those who wish to downplay the issue of abortion? 

Perhaps a large segment of the population can look the other way here because the unborn are so small and so invisible. They remain out of our sight.

But there is something deeply wrong with us as a society — and with our reasoning — if we do not make preeminent the full protection of the unborn — as human beings — under the law. 

We should rightly look at abortion as the government-sanctioned atrocity of our time, and voting for pro-life politicians and legislation is a peaceful way to bring this atrocity to an end. 

Too often, those who argue that we should not be so focused on a single issue when voting want us to look away from the nearly 1 million lives taken in abortion each year. 

Unfortunately, that seems to include many Catholic supporters of Joe Biden, a baptized Catholic, whose broad support for abortion includes proposing to codify Roe v. Wade, enshrining the institution of abortion in federal law. Such advocates — be they bishops, priests, religious or laity — are misguided. 

The unborn are uniquely vulnerable and are killed legally so often that their deaths outstrip the No. 1 natural cause of death in America. They are more at risk than any other group in the United States. 

Catholic voters should understand the gravity of the situation and act accordingly when they vote — in races local and national — in November. 

God bless you! 

Joe Biden leaves after attending Mass at St. Ann Catholic Church on Nov. 21 in Wilmington, Delaware.

The U.S. Bishops’ Biden Problem

A NOTE FROM OUR PUBLISHER: The U.S. bishops have challenged some of Joe Biden’s public positions as problematic because they cause confusion about Church teaching. But for many Catholics, the bishops’ stance on whether politicians should be allowed to receive the Eucharist when their public positions are at odds with Church teaching is equally confusing.