Guest ColumnistSome Catholic pundits say pro-life voting is problematic, but give abortion advocates a pass

Voting Credit Vox Efx via Flickr CC BY 20 CNA 11 19 15 Vox Efx via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

As it usually is in election years, abortion is now very much a political issue in 2016, and Catholics are playing a key role in how it is discussed.

Last week, speaking to about 2,500 Knights and family members, 100 bishops including a dozen Cardinals, and a worldwide TV audience, Knights of Columbus leader Carl Anderson urged Catholics not to vote for any candidate who was pro-abortion.

Others took the opposite view. Sister Simone Campbell of "Nuns on the Bus," and Planned Parenthood both doubled on support for legalized abortion in this election cycle.

Anderson laid out his case on Aug. 2. He cited words he first spoke in 2008, saying: "We need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates. It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians."

He added, "We will never succeed in building a culture of life if we continue to vote for politicians who support a culture of death."

Though Anderson's comments on abortion made up just a few minutes of his hour and a half speech, even that was seen as too much for some commentators on the Catholic left, who quickly attacked his words.

In an opinion piece thinly disguised as a news story, David Gibson of Religion News Service made the case that Pope Francis does not see the right to life as an absolute value. In an attempt to paint the pope a relativist, he cited a CNA piece entitled: "All values are non-negotiable, Pope says in new interview."

Unmentioned by Gibson was Francis' recent comment that, "The commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value." Also unmentioned was the Holy Father's previous public support for Knights of Columbus initiatives to defend life.

And though Anderson said nothing about who people should vote for, Michael Sean Winters attacked as well – not on the substance of the argument – but on the basis that it must somehow be partisan.

Among Winters' issues was that Anderson didn't mention Laudato Si (he did) and that he didn't care about people south of the Rio Grande as much as those in the Middle East. (Leaving aside the lack of genocide south of the Rio Grande, Winters apparently missed the portion of Anderson's speech highlighting a recent visit to Mexico during which he personally helped dozens of physically handicapped people).

As to what that portion of his speech meant, Anderson told CNA: "My comments apply to candidates of both parties and to every political race. To draw partisan inferences from those statements may reveal more about the partisanship of those drawing the inferences than about what I said."

Interestingly, while the idea that Catholics shouldn't vote for pro-abortion politicians seemed to give these commentators the vapors, neither Gibson nor Winters had anything negative to say about Sister Simone Campbell, who came out in support of legalized abortion last week.

The head of the liberal advocacy group, "Nuns on the Bus," who addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2012, Sister Simone Campbell gave an interview Aug. 1 on the radio show "Democracy Now!" She said: "I don't think it's a good policy to outlaw abortion." She argued that economic development for women was a better focus.

As recently as last month Sister Simone had chided the Democrats for their opposition to the Hyde Amendment, and worried that the Democrats could lose if they moved their "agenda to the far left."
The abortion industry is also in full election mode, something that seems of little interest to those who sought to politicize Anderson's remarks.

Reports last week indicate that Planned Parenthood will register people to vote at the organization's clinics and other locations. It will also remind those who it registers to vote as the election nears.

Though technically non-partisan, the campaign "will likely benefit Democrats and Hillary Clinton," according to the Huffington Post, which broke the story.

This will be in addition to the $20 million that Planned Parenthood plans to spend this year to support pro-abortion candidates – Hillary Clinton for president, and various candidates for the Senate as well. This is according to Think Progress, which also reported that Planned Parenthood is "training a political army" of grassroots activists. More than 1,000 were already trained by the group in Pittsburgh this spring.

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How Catholics will react to all of this remains to be seen, but recent polling by Marist (commissioned by the Knights of Columbus) indicates that practicing Catholics are pro-life in even greater numbers than Americans on the whole.

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