My Turn: On slavery and the moral order

Bishop Edward J. Burns’ column, “Faith, politics, and the election,” makes a curious argument regarding Vice President Biden’s position on abortion, in particular the way in which it differs from the Bishop’s beliefs and those of Congressman Paul Ryan.

Bishop Burns argues if politicians who personally oppose abortion (like Vice President Biden), but would not impose their beliefs on others, thought the same way about slavery, “...How much further behind would we be in civil rights and the understanding of human dignity if they were to have said that he personally was against the slavery of African Americans but did not want to impose their moral stance on slave-owners so that they and everyone else could have the ability to choose?” The Bishop goes on to say we might not have an African American president today if this were true.

This is quite a tortured argument, but one I feel I must address.

The Bishop, Congressman Ryan, the Catholic Church, and the Republican Party all believe that life begins at conception, and they oppose abortion in all circumstances—rape, incest, and even if the mother will die from complications of pregnancy.

In response to the Bishop, I ask the question: how much further behind would we be in civil rights and the understanding of a woman’s dignity if the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade had not decided that a woman’s right to privacy extends to her decision to have an abortion?

If our country is governed by men like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who have vowed to make abortion a criminal act, American women, Catholic and non-Catholic, will be made slaves to unwanted pregnancies even if the pregnancy will result in the woman’s death.

Bishop Burns states, “The attack against the very essence of human life, such as abortion, constitutes an intrinsic evil.”

Is not “the very essence of human life” the woman who bears the child? How then does Bishop Burns justify prohibiting an abortion that would save the life of the mother?

There are many questions relating to how “…believers and non-believers decide how we should uphold the common good and a natural moral order by exercising our right to vote,” in the Bishop’s words. I will cast my ballot for President Obama and Vice President Biden who share my beliefs.

I believe the common good and natural moral order are better served when a woman can make her own private medical decisions and not become a slave and perhaps even die because of conditions imposed by others.

• Metcalfe is Alaska’s Democratic National Committeewoman. She is a former Catholic who left the church in the 1960s because of its positions against women.

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