CAMPAIGN 2012: The future of the pro-life cause

“It’s the economy, stupid!”—James Carville’s memorable note-to-self during the 1992 presidential race—will be the determining factor in the 2012 campaign, according to the common wisdom. That may be true. But as Catholics consider their responsibilities between now and Nov. 6, it would be good to remember that the future of the pro-life cause in America is also at stake.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 79. Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are 76. Justice Stephen Breyer is 74. The president elected in November will likely appoint two Supreme Court justices, and may appoint as many as four, over the next quadrennium. If that next president replaces Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kennedy with nominees who think that Roe v. Wade (1973) and Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992) were wrongly decided, there could conceivably be a 7-2 Court majority to overturn (or, in effect, gut) those dreadful decisions and return the abortion debate (and related life-issues questions like euthanasia) to the states. There, the pro-life cause would win some states (likely the majority) and lose some others. With national opinion polls showing a pro-life majority for the first time in a long time, however, the conditions would be right for legally advancing the cause in a dramatic way.

If, conversely, Justice Scalia (and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, and possibly Kennedy) were to be replaced in the next presidential term by nominees favorable to the court’s judgment in Roe and Casey, the radical abortion license created by those two decisions might well be set in federal legal concrete for the next 30 years. The pro-life cause would go on, but it would continue under severe federal legal restraints.

That this choice should present itself in partisan terms is a national tragedy. In the aftermath of the 1992 election, several of us gathered around Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania to plan a Democratic nomination challenge to President Clinton in 1996. Casey had been blocked by the Clintons from speaking at the 1992 Democratic convention; he combined a strong pro-life record with an appeal to the important voting bloc of “Reagan Democrats”; he had twice been elected governor of a crucial swing state; and whether or not he could wrest the Democratic nomination away from President Clinton, a strong Casey campaign in 1996 would have established two crucial points—the pro-life issue is a bipartisan one, and there is ample room in the Democratic Party for gung-ho pro-lifers.

It would have been great fun; it might have been historic; but it was not to be. Governor Casey’s health went south, the challenge to President Clinton never materialized, and the throw-weight of pro-lifers within the Democratic Party was further reduced. Where all of that eventually led was demonstrated in early 2010, when pro-life Democrats in the House of Representatives provided the slim margin of victory for Obamacare—the implementers of which are now whittling away religious freedom and asking dental insurers whether they provide abortion coverage in their plans, all in the name of a virtually unlimited and government-funded right to abortion-on-demand.

As the natural successor to the classic civil rights movement, the pro-life cause ought to have been a bipartisan cause; it should certainly have been the cause of Catholic progressives. Yet as early as 1967, Richard John Neuhaus, then a Lutheran pastor and a civil rights veteran, warned his fellow-liberals in a Commonweal article that they were betraying the civil rights cause by flirting with “liberalized “ abortion laws. Neuhaus’s article won a prize from the Catholic Press Association; but that was then, and this is now. And as the Democratic Party has become ever more intransigent on the abortion question—with rare exceptions like Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois), a true pro-life hero—the pro-life cause has been abandoned by the old pro-civil rights coalition, even as African-American communities are decimated by the abortion license.

In any case, the pro-life stakes in 2012 could not be greater. Men and women of conscience will form their judgments accordingly.

COMING UP: Colorado bishops issue letter on the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life Congressional policies

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We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, urge Congressional Representatives to support the Hyde Amendment and the Walden Amendment. We also ask the Faithful to sign The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petition to lawmakers encouraging them to preserve the Hyde Amendment, which can be accessed at:, and to contact their Congressmen and women to support the Hyde and Walden amendments.

The House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee recently passed a spending bill that strips protections for pre-born children, healthcare providers,and American taxpayers by excluding pro-life provisions, including the Hyde and Weldon amendments.

The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortion in most cases, except for rape and incest, has received bipartisan support since its inception in 1976 – including by pro-abortion administrations. Hyde is critical in saving lives. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that approximately 60,000 pre-born babies are saved every year because of the Hyde Amendment.[1] This is the first time in 40 years that the Hyde Amendment was not included in the annual appropriations bill[2] and failure to include pro-life amendments will only further increase divisions in our country.

The Weldon Amendment prevents any federal programs, agencies, and state and local governments from discriminating against health care practitioners and institutions that do not provide abortion services. It ensures that pro-life individuals and organizations can enter the health care profession without fearing that the government will force them to perform a procedure that violates their well-founded convictions. It has also received bipartisan support and was added to the appropriations bill every year since it was first enacted in 2005. [3]

Congress’ recent actions endanger the lives of pre-born children and infringe on the rights of millions of Americans who do not wish to participate in the moral evil of abortion. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions[4] and a 2019 Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in a few circumstances.[5]

The government should neither use taxpayer funds for the killing of pre-born children nor compel medical practitioners and institutions to violate their well-founded convictions. Congress must uphold these long-standing, common-sense bipartisan policies that promote a culture of life in our nation.

Human reason and science affirm that human life begins at conception. The Church objects to abortion on the moral principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with respect due to every human person. There has never been and never will be a legitimate need to abort a baby in the womb.

It is critical that Congress continue its long-history of supporting policies such as the Hyde and Walden amendments, and that all Colorado Catholics and people of good will make their voice heard in supporting these life-affirming policies.

Sign the petition to Congress here:

Contact your Congressional Representatives here:

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend James R. Golka
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver