For any pro-lifer, Wendy Davis is a non-starter as a candidate. Her extreme position supporting abortion just excludes her from the get-go. That just goes without saying.
Our hope was in Greg Abbott who has always (to my knowledge) been described as pro-life. Without having done much research into this, I took it at face value. That said, I am always aware that pro-life is a continuum and self-proclaiming one as pro-life does not really mean much.
Today I was watching the gubernatorial debate from last night. I was struck by what Abbott said when the question turned to abortion. I pulled the transcript to be sure I heard correctly and it was worse than what I first thought. Here are his comments in full:
I AM PRO-LIFE AND I'M CATHOLIC. LIKE MOST TEXANS, I BELIEVE ALL LIFE IS SACRED. AS GOVERNOR, I WILL DEVELOP A CULTURE OF LIFE IN THE STATE SO WE CAN DO EVEN MORE TO PROTECT WOMEN AND CHILDREN. TO DIRECTLY ANSWER YOUR QUESTION, TEXAS IS ENSURING THAT WE PROTECT MORE LIFE AND DO A BETTER JOB OF PROTECTING THE HEALTH CARE OF WOMEN BY PROVIDING THAT WOMEN STILL HAVE FIVE MONTHS TO MAKE A VERY DIFFICULT DECISION. AFTER THAT TIME, THE STATE HAS AN INTEREST IN PROTECTING INNOCENT LIFE.
Closed-Captioning Transcript at 7:11 from C-SPAN. (Bold emphasis mine.)
There are too many mistakes in this for it to be a mere misstatement. It was smoothly delivered, as if rehearsed. Let’s analyze the mistakes from a Catholic, pro-life perspective.
FIRST, if all life is sacred – and it is – then we protect all life without exceptions. Those that legislate should work to do so, incrementally if necessary, but working without ceasing to add more and more protections to all life – from conception to natural death. That is the Catholic ethic on life.
SECOND, it is NOT pro-life to “do a better job of protecting the health care of women by providing that women still have five months to make a very difficult decision.” Our respect for life and protection of it does not begin at 20 weeks. Our job as pro-lifers is NOT to ensure that abortion remains available until 20 weeks. That is simply not a pro-life position.
THIRD, abortion is not healthcare. I have written before about how you have to be so careful about adopting the language of the other side. It is truly unfortunate to have “the pro-life” candidate make this statement.
So what’s a pro-lifer to do in this situation? Follow your own well-formed conscience. Objectively, an argument can be made that Abbott is marginally better than Davis. As such, of course, it is not a sin to cast a vote for him and he is not advocating for abortion in the same extreme way as Davis.
But I think it’s also moral to decide to sit this one out. He has just said, as a Catholic, that pro-lifers work to ensure the availability of abortion – as health care – for the first five months. That will have ramifications for what can be done legislatively while he is governor.
Also, I am sick and tired of having poor candidates from which to choose and rewarding those that throw us a bone now and again (although this was not such a bone) who then do not do much while in office, having arrived there because of our vote, which they received in part because we were afraid of the worse alternative.
What about the argument that not voting for Abbott is a vote for Davis? You will likely hear this. I already have. While I understand the sentiment and what they are trying to do, that is just simply not true. I do not believe not voting for one candidate is a vote for the other. It is a non-vote. It adds no vote to anyone. This is a matter upon which people can disagree – whether to vote for Abbott or not given his non-pro-life statements – but it is not fair to say that those who do not vote for him have voted for Wendy. The votes will be cast and those cast will be counted. Non-votes do not somehow add to the tally of the other candidate. Neither candidate gets a vote. It's a neutral act in terms of the numbers.
I hope that Abbott rethinks this position. It was a very disappointing revelation, but also a very telling one that we needed to hear before determining for whom – or whether – to vote. Voting for a candidate or choosing not to vote (in protest, which is not apathy, so don’t buy into those arguments either) is not to be determined cavalierly. Continue to follow the campaign, continue to evaluate as new information becomes available, pray about it, pray for the candidates, then act on your well-formed conscience. That’s the best any of us can do.
Thanks for reading!