By Joe Stopulos
I had been asked to do a Catholic voters guide edition of the show [MAN UP on Iowa Catholic Radio/click to listen above]. I initially rejected the idea because of the polarization of the topic and the fact that usually those conversations tend to stay very high level and not get into actionable steps. The more I thought and prayed about it, one issue continued to come to light, and it is this. That if we could draw up a perfect catholic political candidate for office, a person of integrity and virtue, who followed all of the teachings of the church and was bold in standing up for those convictions; a person who on paper voted 100% of the way I believe the Church would have us vote. If this person existed, but happened to have one notable exception to being in line with the teachings of Christ and the Church, that exception being in favor of abortion rights, I could not vote for them. Even if every single other issue was perfectly in line with the Church, I could not vote for them. Even if they have the most upstanding personal moral character, I could not vote for them
The more I thought about this, the more I could not help shake that notion.
I think of it like this: If today, that person I described was, instead of being pro-abortion, was pro-slavery, could you vote for them? If they agreed with 100% on every other issue, but just happened to slip up on the issue of slavery, would you vote for them? I do not think this is an apples and oranges comparison. Both of those are clearly mortal sins. Both of those are a disgrace to our country. Both of those are an outrage before our Lord. The reason we do not think this way is because of the culture we live in.
The founding fathers knew that slavery was against the moral order. They spoke out against it. They also knew they would never be able to form the union with the southern states if they didn’t allow it. Thomas Jefferson famously said about slavery, “”But as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” So, while they knew it was wrong, they pushed it off to the following generation of leaders to fix. Instead of being fixed in the following generation, the slave trade grew exponentially therefore making it more difficult to stop. Here is a quote from a book I recently read on the topic:
“Thanks to both the South’s total reliance on slavery and the growing antislavery sentiment of the North, the arguments regarding slavery began to change. Southern advocates began to argue the morality of slavery – particularly John C. Calhoun, an ardent white supremacist – and insisted that the federal government enshrine slavery for all time, force free states to return escaped slaved, and allow for the expansion of slavery into new territories. The positive argument for slavery was actually a new development – before the rise of abolitionism, even the slaveholder had tolerated, but derided the immorality of slavery. Calhoun infamously stated that the key tenet of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal” produced “poisonous fruit” – such as the argument that slaves ought to be free.”
End quote. From slaveholders like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who understood that it was amoral, but tolerated it, the landscape shifted over time to a vehement promotion of the goods of slavery.
I believe a similar thing has happened on the issue of abortion. Not too long ago, Bill Clinton talked about abortion rights in the context of “safe, legal and rare”. Today, we hear “shout your abortion”, it is “a positive good”, its “healthcare”. The days of “safe, legal and rare” are long gone on the pro-abortion side. Which isn’t totally surprising. Safe and legal make sense, but rare? Rare would imply that we do not want to have them for some reason. It would mean that there is something in abortion that would lend itself to wanting to be rare. That is heresy today. At least the people on the pro-abortion side 30 years ago were able to admit it is something we did not to see the proliferation of. They understood, rightly, that this is not a good thing. But, as the progressive movement has shifted the landscape those people have been left behind. Today, like slavery in the south in the 1850’s, it is a positive good.
CHANGE THE LANGUAGE
The progressives in favor of abortion have changed the language such that it numbs you to what is actually taking place. It is now “healthcare” and a “women’s right to choose”, instead of what it actually is, the murdering of unborn persons. This same thing happened during the years of slavery. In order to numb society to the evils of slavery, the pro-slavery contingent purposefully used language to help desensitize people to the atrocity. I should warn you that the following language is extremely offensive, and should serve to remind of you of the atrocity of slavery and the mindset enabling it:
- During the days of slavery, Blacks were called “dregs of humanity,” and were considered “exactly intermediate between the superior order of beasts such as elephant, dog, and orangutan, and European or white men.”
- Other slave owners referred to the slave’s “ignorance, brutality, obscenity, animal appetite, viciousness, and illegitimacy,” and called them “ignorant, perverse, wicked, the pest of white men, and agents of satan.”
- Today in America, the same dehumanizing terms are used as an effective weapon against the preborn. The following terms, used by anti-life writers to describe the unborn, are all extracted from pro-abortion literature; they liken babies to:
- “Just like fingernail clippings or warts;”
- Products of conception, contents of the uterus;
- Little worms or maggots;
- Blob of tissue, parasite, leech;
- A kind of venereal disease;
WHAT ABORTION IS
These types of deceptions keep you from realizing the horrors of abortion and dehumanize it completely. Here is an actual summary of what happens in an abortion. Again, this is rather graphic, but important to understand:
Suction Aspiration (Suction Curettage)
The woman’s cervix is dilated and a suction instrument with a blade-like tip is inserted into the uterus. The placenta and the embryo or fetus is cut into pieces and suctioned out. This procedure is usually performed up to 16 weeks gestation.
Dilation and Extraction (D & X) procedure
The woman’s cervix is dilated for approximately two days before delivery with absorbent laminaria that are inserted into the entrance of the uterus. The day of the surgery, they are removed and the membranes are ruptured. An ultrasound is used to locate the fetus’ position in the womb. The doctor locates the fetus’ lower extremities, inserts large, grasping forceps through the vagina and cervical canal and into the uterus where he can grasp the child’s leg. The leg is pulled through the vagina until the lower extremities, torso, shoulders, and upper extremities are delivered. The child is situated spine up, face down with the head lodged at the opening of the cervix. There is usually not enough dilation for the skull to pass through. The doctor runs his fingers along the spine to find the base of the skull. Blunt, curved scissors are inserted into the skull and spread to enlarge the opening. The scissors are removed and a suction catheter is inserted into the skull to remove the brain. The head collapses and the now dead child is delivered. The placenta is removed with forceps and a suction curette is used to scrape the uterine wall for any tissue left in the womb. This procedure can be performed from 20 weeks into the pregnancy (second trimester) until full terms (40 weeks LMP).21
This is not healthcare. This is not a women’s right. This is not a positive good. It is murder. Plain and simple. But, we, like the people who grew up in the south in the 1800s, have been purposefully deceived and desensitize. Like the people in the south in the 1800s, we have been told that these are not human beings, we have been told this is a positive good for society.
And they have been successful in doing so. In 2017, approximately 18% of U.S. pregnancies ended in abortion. In 2016, approximately 34% of all pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion. More than 60 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States since 1973. 60 million. That is the population of entire state of Iowa, 20 times. That is the equivalent of the entire metro areas of NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. The numbers are staggering. 60,000,000 children who never had an opportunity to live.
This issue is also personal to me. I had a lot of time to think about this while I was spending the night in the hospital after the birth of my fifth child a few weeks ago. I have heard the heart beats of all of my children at 8 weeks. I have seen them all in their 20 week ultrasound. For anyone who hasn’t seen one, you are basically watching a fully formed human on a TV screen. Head, arms, feet, toes, spine, heart, face, nose, everything. It’s an incredible moment. In addition to my own children, I have a niece and a nephew who both gave me new perspective on the issue of abortion.
My during my sister’s third pregnancy, a test early on revealed that her child was going to be born with some serious complications and special needs. This news was obviously not expected, but we all banded together and embraced what was going to be a life changing situation for my sister and brother-in-law, and our entire family. It is in situations like this where abortions are common; where a person who is not as strong as my sister to make the life affirming decision, or someone who has been told it is just a clump of cells, or someone who has been convinced by the pro-abortion movement that this child is better off not being born and you are doing them a favor. As the pregnancy processed, none of the signs changed, and while we held out hope for a healthy child, we prepared for the arrival of our special needs family member. Fast forward a few months, and when she was born, she was a perfectly healthy baby girl. Grace is also my god-daughter. I shudder to think how many Graces out there are not alive today because of a faulty test. Because of a society that says if you are not perfect in the world’s eyes, you are not worth being in the world. Because of a child being a burden is too much to bear and you are encouraged to discard them in order to concentrate on your career, or other aspirations.
Another example in my life is of my nephew Alex. My sister-in-law unexpectedly when into labor at 24 weeks. For those of you who don’t have kids, that is about halfway through a pregnancy. My wife and I don’t even start talking about names until well after that. Point being, it is extremely early in the pregnancy. Luckily for us they live 45 minutes from the University of Iowa Children’s hospital. She gave birth to our nephew Alexander and he weighed in at 1 lb. 8 oz and could fit in your hand. That said, he was just a little person. Not a potential person. Not a clump of cells. A person. Albeit, a very very little person. Today, he is a perfectly healthy 6 year old. He has zero complications. He might be the most energic and smiley 6 year old I know. The pro-abortion movement would say children at 24 weeks are not children. They don’t have a right to live if the mother doesn’t want them to live. People, this is demonic. It is actually demonic. When you see my nephew Alex and my niece Grace and you look at their faces and realize how many million children like them do not exist today under the guise of the “right to choose”, “women’s rights”, or “healthcare”
PRODUCT OF THE CULTURE
As I said before, we are a product of the culture we live in. Every one of us is inherently influenced by our surroundings. Just like the people who were in favor of slavery in the 1800s, I have empathy for many of the pro-choice people today. It is easy to sit here in 2020 and look down on all of the people who were pro-slavery. Earlier this year a favorite thinker of mine, Robert P. George, who is a professor at Princeton wrote this:
- Sometimes ask students what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly against it.
- Of course, this is nonsense. Only the tiniest fraction of them, or of any of us, would have spoken up against slavery or lifted a finger to free the slaves. Most of them—and us—would have gone along. Many would have supported the slave system and happily benefited from it.
- So I respond by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have stood up for the rights of unpopular victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing:
- (1) that it would make them unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by powerful, influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that they would be abandoned by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and
- (5) that they would risk being denied valuable professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness. In short, my challenge is to show where they have at risk to themselves and their futures stood up for a cause that is unpopular in elite sectors of our culture today.
With the context of history, I do not fully condemn people for having certain views at certain times. I would like to think many of those same people, if alive today, would be horrified at the stances they had, but were a product of the culture they grew up and lived in.
I believe, that just as we look back to the 1800s with horror at the sins of slavery on our nation, and just as we look back at the child sacrifice rituals of the Aztec and Inca cultures, we will similarly look back in our history with horror at the proliferation of abortion. How casually we destroyed millions of human lives in the name of convenience and selfishness.
A couple final notes to mention. Recently, Chrissy Teigen posted on Instagram an emotional picture and message explaining that they had lost their son Jack due to miscarriage. The baby, I believe, was around 18 weeks. The outpouring of support and condolences from all corners of the internet was overwhelming, in the 10,000,000 of millions of responses. And rightfully so. This person lost a baby. She didn’t lose a clump of cells, or a potential baby, she lost her son, Jack. We as a society have to understand this, and I believe most people in their hearts do. What else could it be other than a baby?
Furthermore, to emphasize that I think we do understand this, we have laws that criminally punish people for the destruction of Bald Eagle eggs. Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act the first criminal offense is a misdemeanor with maximum penalty of one year in prison and $100,000 fine. The second offense becomes a felony with maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and $250,000 fine. We are not talking about fully formed Bald Eagle, but an egg.
My nephew Alexander, was a human being at 24 weeks. He was a human being at 20 weeks. He was a human being at 8 weeks. He was a human being from the moment he was conceived. We understand that with Eagles, I sure hope we can as a society understand that for humans.
All of that said, I know many people who are practicing Catholics who will echo the words of Jeannie Gaffigan, the wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan, that she wrote in the Jesuit publication America Magazine last week on this issue. She says, and I quote
“How can we strive to heal the tragedy of abortion without acknowledging the deep wounds and life-threatening crises that drive people to it? How arrogant we are to condemn women of any color living in poverty, faced with the unimaginable and horrific circumstances that would drive them to seek an abortion, without taking a good look at how we have failed them by not offering adequate health care, child care, education and employment opportunities? Do we ever stop to think about how far we are from achieving a “culture of life” in light of the well-documented and video-recorded police brutality against Black Americans? Are refugee children, homeless pregnant women or the prisoners on death row not also “society’s most vulnerable”?”
Healthcare, racism, education, child care; these are all extremely important issues. That said, those are issues with which we can have a debate on the best way to fix them. To just turn a blind eye to the horrors and evils of abortion in the name of a preferred healthcare or education policy is not the answer. We need people, especially people like Jeannie Gaffigan, to stand up to the pro-abortion candidates and say “I really want to support you for all of these reasons, but cannot because of your abhorrent stance on abortion.” And I am not saying to then go support the other candidate if you don’t like them. I have not voted in elections for specific offices (even president) where I did not believe I had a good choice. But, to equate the importance your preferred education or healthcare policy on the same plane as the widespread legal murdering of children, is not an honest weighing of the issues.
It is with all of that in mind, that I cannot, under any circumstance support a candidate who is pro-choice. Just as I could not support a candidate, not matter how much I liked them, or hated the person they were running against, who was pro-slavery. And furthermore, even if the candidate says “I am not personally for abortion, but I am not going to infringe my beliefs on a woman and her doctor”, that is the same thing as saying “I would not personally own slaves, but I am not going to infringe on the rights of someone to own slaves.” If you “are not personally for abortion” there is probably a good reason for that. We need to have politicians who can stand up against the radical pro-choice progressives of this country.
If all Catholics and Christians (and other believers) stood up and unanimously said, “we will not support any more candidates who are in favor of abortion” politicians would respond. I have a lot of friends who are practicing Catholics who support many of the positions of certain pro-choice politicians, yet abhor abortion, and still vote for the candidate. I am saying, if we all stand up against this, we can make change. If we do not donate another dollar to pro-choice politicians, or cast one more vote for them, while explaining to them why, we will make progress. If we, as Christians band together, regardless of our stances on education, immigration, healthcare and the like, and make it clear we will not go along with the pro-abortion movement any more, we can, and we will make change.
[Thanks to Joe Stopulos and Iowan Catholic Radio for permission to publish Monday’s edition of “MAN UP.” You can listen to this show every Monday morning at 9AM and 9PM at 1150AM and 88.5 and 94.5FM.]