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Civil Rights

VP Nominees Debate Abortion, Religion

— October 5, 2016

During Tuesday’s first (and only) televised vice-presidential debate between Hillary Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine and Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, the issue of abortion was brought up, quickly changing the tone of exchange between the two men. When CBS news correspondent Elaine Quijano, who served as moderator of the debate, asked the question about abortion, both Senator Kaine and Indiana Governor Pence responded by relaying their heartfelt beliefs regarding the hot-button issue. It is no secret the conservative right opposes abortion, touting a firmly-held pro-life stance, while the liberal left maintains the right for a woman to choose should be protected by ensuring safe, affordable and legal access to fundamental healthcare. However, just because a Democrat supports women’s rights, government funding for providers such as Planned Parenthood and upholding Roe v. Wade, it doesn’t mean they personally support the purposeful termination of an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. As I’ve stated before, the issue of abortion is a deeply complex one; it is not, and never will be, an uncomplicated matter of this side or that because there is simply too much involved in the why of it all. Naturally, religion plays a huge role in whether a person identifies as pro-life or pro-choice, but religion cannot dictate policy; we are not a Christian nation, as outlined in the United States Constitution, and therefore, can’t use religion as a means of enacting laws that infringe on another’s civil rights.

Though Trump’s views and knowledge on the issue, and seemingly every other political topic, have been feeble at best, Pence affirmed if elected, they would work to overturn Roe v. Wade and cease all government funding to Planned Parenthood and any other abortion provider in an effort to make the procedure illegal. He did, however, deny he and Trump would “punish” women who have an abortion as Trump has previously suggested, claiming Trump simply misspoke because he is not a “polished politician.” When speaking on the issue, Pence said, “For me … the sanctity of life proceeds out of a belief in that ancient principle of God.” He further stated, “A society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable: the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn.”

The problem with that statement revolves around the fact that the Republican party does not make good on such promises to care for these “vulnerable” populations; opposing government funding for maintaining the health, well-being and safety of those mentioned above is the exact opposite of feeling a moral obligation to ensure those with the least receive the best. We can’t have it both ways and call it justice. It is also worth mentioning the “moral issue” surrounding abortion lies in the religious belief that every life matters in God’s eyes, yet Capital Punishment is still legal, with the majority of Republicans supporting and encouraging the death penalty. This doesn’t make sense, because supporting the death of one but not another falls under the category of pro-birth, not pro-life. If every life matters, then every life matters, regardless of the way said life was lived.

Pro-life vs. pro-choice; image courtesy of
Pro-life vs. pro-choice; image courtesy of

When Kaine, who is a practicing Catholic, spoke on the issue, it was clear he deals with his own battles of conscience and law. He said, “We can encourage people to support life, of course we can. But why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves? That’s what we ought to be doing in public life: living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing each other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day. But on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.” Certainly, his personal moral beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, but he is well aware they cannot intrude on the formation of law, which excludes the government from taking any formal religious position. He said, “We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience and make their own decision about pregnancy. That is something we trust American women to do.” He further stated “you should live your moral values, but the last thing governments should do is to have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices. That is the fundamental difference between the Clinton-Kaine ticket and the Trump-Pence ticket.”

I have to wonder how many pro-lifers would accept religious law if it were different from Christianity? Would conservative Americans be accepting of Muslim law? It’s a widely-practiced religion in this country, too, and as such, should be given the proper consideration if we’re heading in the direction of creating mandatory faith-based policy. That can’t be argued, though I don’t doubt it would be based on the outrageous, unfounded and unfair accusations made about all other religious beliefs that differ from the conservative right’s own, which begs the question: how does it make sense in a democratic society to do for some and not for all if every law should be reflective of subjective morality? The answer is simple: it doesn’t.


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