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If You're Conservative, Vote for Hillary, Part One
I've always thought that the labels "conservative" and "liberal" are badly misused. Correcting that would be a huge task, though. Let me just say that I think conserving ought to be an important part of conservatism, and whether it's environment or people or values inherited from our democratic and Christian heritages, the supposedly conservative Republican Party has mostly preferred the ideology of capitalism free of government interference, which our European partners and every pope for 100 years have known enough to call "neo-liberalism."
Instead of defending that last thought, I'll just stay with the customary U.S. language. In a series of posts I'll look at a number of issues that are important for many who call themselves conservatives and propose that Hillary Clinton is a stronger candidate than Donald Trump on precisely these issues. I'll start with an issue that is especially important for Catholics and some other religious groups.
Abortion is nearly always a tragedy. I cannot prove this statement, but I'm pretty sure that women in general love their children--all of them, including the ones in the womb. You can tell, when I say "*nearly* always," that I'm not talking, as any pro-life person would, about the tragedy for the one whose life is ending but about the financially strapped and pregnant woman faced with a decision that, in her mind, just cannot go right.
The frequency of abortion has gone down among financially secure families and has risen among those who are poor. That by itself ought to tell us that a woman chooses abortion mainly when she feels she has to. And in those circumstances American society does practically nothing to help her take her first preference--to have the baby. Money, or lack of it, should never be the reason a woman chooses abortion, but it often is; and we are at fault for that because we don't have real pro-life policies.
Any real pro-life policy would start with free or nearly free health care. Countries that make adequate health care available for everyone have much lower abortion rates than ours. That even includes countries like Great Britain that pay for abortions with taxes. In the words of Catholic Cardinal Hume, formerly of London, now deceased, "If a pregnant woman can be sure that her and her child's health needs will be met, she will be much more likely to keep her baby. Isn't it obvious!" Obamacare, or a stronger program with a public option, ought to have been enthusiastically supported, and not vilified, by anyone who is opposed to abortion.
Reconfiguring health care is only a start. Food, childcare, and education are difficult challenges for families in need. If we really want a child to be born, why don't we as a society share those burdens with mothers and fathers? Pro-life advocates are fond of saying, "Adoption, not abortion." A good idea, though a heart-rending decision for a woman. I don't doubt that most in the pro-life camp would be sympathetic and supportive, but I've never heard them address the problem of the pregnancy itself. Can a poor, newly pregnant woman afford the next nine months or more? Will she be paid full salary for time off of work? Or if the woman has chosen to be a full-time mom, do we have a way of honoring that with pay? Why shouldn't that option (or the full-time dad option) be available to poor families as it is to rich ones? And, for heaven's sake, why should any full-time worker in the United States be paid less than a living wage?
All of these factors--health care, childcare, education, wage compensation and living wage--help to determine whether a woman chooses abortion or brings a baby into the world. Taking all of them together, it's easy to see that this year's Democratic Party Platform is miles ahead of the Republican, and Clinton easily beats Trump.
The Republican way to address the tragedy of abortion is almost entirely to use the legal system. They want to make abortion illegal, but the best they will ever do is overturn Roe v. Wade,throwing the decision back to the states and making a crazy-quilt pattern of laws permitting or outlawing or restricting abortion. Without the kind of support for poor families that Democrats favor, this simply allows the rich plenty of access to abortion while pushing poor families deeper into poverty or toward illegal and dangerous abortion providers.
I need to be critical of this year's Democratic Party Platform. For the first time it advocates repeal of the Hyde and Helms amendments, which limit federal funding for abortions here and abroad. It also advocates overturning many state laws limiting abortions. These are complicated issues. there are differences of opinion, even among people favoring legal abortions, on what kinds of regulations there should be and how to respect the conscience of those who have moral concerns about paying for abortions with their tax dollars. This platform jumps past where the majority of Americans, including Democrats, stand. It may even be on the wrong side of history as the belief that a fetus in in fact a person, whose rights need to be respected, seems to be advancing, aided no doubt by technology that allows us ever clearer views of the child in the womb. As a society, we've even grown to see the pregnant woman as beautiful. The presence of a child in the womb is no longer a thing to cover up.
I have made my task of presenting the Democrat Clinton as the real pro-life candidate much harder by deliberately narrowing the pro-life cause to abortion. I wouldn't have had to. Pro-life includes much more, as Pope Francis teaches. It includes everything we do to protect the environment, help people out of poverty, address economic structures that create excessive inequality, fight race injustice, and on and on. But even with this narrow focus, and even with my personal objections, I believe the Democratic Party is the more pro-life of the two major parties. I believe Democratic policies that support pregnant women and families can save more babies than Republican policies of making abortion illegal or hard to get. If I haven't proved my case on this one issue, at least I have raised some serious objections to the Republican claim to be effectively pro-life.