[Adapted from a personal letter, which I wrote to a fellow pro-life Catholic (and long-time friend).]
This will probably be a difficult read.
I had hoped I could write this all out for you easily in a few days, but this has proven difficult. I find that I am literally writing a short book, because after a lifetime in the pro-life movement, I am bewildered and heartbroken.
There is so much I want to try to explain.
Here is the best I can do for now.
For me, abortion is personal
I am never going to stop working to save children from abortion. It’s personal. My parents weren’t married when my 28-year-old father got my mother pregnant at age 19. They seriously considered aborting me. I found this out, by accident, around age 10.
I understand the existential dread at the prospect of voting for a pro-abortion candidate like Biden. It’s visceral; I’ve felt it too.
A mortal sin?
I was taught in Catholic high school that any time you had the choice between two candidates, and only one was pro-life, to vote for the pro-abortion candidate would be a mortal sin. No matter what other reasons there were that the “pro-life” candidate might be a disaster, or what the rational chances were of said candidate actually reducing abortions.
Today, a voting guide on EWTN is still making the same claim. But the current official voting guide from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops makes clear that this is false. For example, paragraph 35:
There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.
In this fraught election, both candidates openly support at least one grave moral evil condemned by the Church. We can’t claim as Catholics that one or the other is automatically disqualified on those grounds.
This means we are morally free to consider Joe Biden as a possible alternative.
I have also been trying to document how Trump’s public record demonstrates that he is a unique, existential threat. This is not a normal situation; he is not a normal politician, at least not in a democratic republic.
But this, too, is proving frankly overwhelming.
Let’s start with Trump’s lies. The Washington Post Fact Checker Team began tracking his “false or misleading claims” on the day he took office, and as of July 9, 2020, the total was… over 20,000.
Here is their complete database:
Yes, the Post editors are probably Democrats. But this team has been around since Obama, and they didn’t shy away from fact-checking him too. These editors are the first to admit that all politicians sometimes lie.
In fact, this Fact Checker team has even called out Planned Parenthood for spreading fake statistics. So their evidence isn’t easily dismissed as “liberal bias”.
And they have shown that, compared to Obama, and to every preceding president of both parties, the sheer scale of Trump’s lies is monstrous and relentless. He has proven himself beyond untrustworthy; his public speech is a daily attack on reality.
This record alone should be enough to disqualify him. You wouldn’t trust hiring an intern with this pathological addiction to lying to your face.
No More Voting?
Another instant disqualification: his escalating refusals to leave office, ever.
He is openly calling for a third term… or more…
And he incessantly attacks mail-in ballots, during a pandemic.
He has literally refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power, to the point where the Senate actually had to pass a resolution trying to reassure us he would accept the election.
This is unprecedented. This is surreal.
At this point, to vote for Trump is to vote against voting, against our core American freedom to choose our own leaders. That’s not hyperbole. It is a sober willingness to hear the man’s actual words.
You and I have not inherited our democracy and our mission to save children from abortion just so some lying, former Democrat, real estate developer and reality TV star from New York, with a history of multiple bankruptcies and sexual assault, can think he owns our vote and deserves to stay in power for life because he claims he’s the “most pro-life president ever”.
Have you watched the footage of peaceful D.C. protesters getting tear-gassed so he could do his Bible photo op?
Or the Axios interview where he defended, not only deploying federal troops to cities where the local government didn’t want them, but why those troops should hide their badge numbers?
It’s not 2016 anymore. It was one thing to take a chance on Trump as an unknown, especially when the alternative was Hillary Clinton.
But he’s had four years to show us exactly how he’ll behave in office.
Now, has that behavior included “pro-life” action? Yes, it has. Most dramatically, his Administration will most likely end with a 6–3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court. However, whether this will actually lead to overturning Roe v. Wade, much less reducing abortions in the long term, is a very different question.
Even if it will, would this success with the Supreme Court justify re-electing this man as President?
For one thing, he (and a Republican Senate) have already delivered this conservative majority. A clear-eyed pro-life pragmatist has to ask: what more can he do? His usefulness (if any) to the pro-life movement has dramatically peaked.
I say “if any” because I would argue that, after nearly 50 years of mostly failure, culminating in an apparent willingness to enable and even celebrate Trump no matter what he says or does, we in the pro-life movement need to radically rethink our whole strategy for saving children.
For instance, there is even evidence that the Mexico City Policy has actually increased abortions in sub-Saharan Africa… by 40 percent. I don’t mean we should be paying for abortions, but rather that the tools and strategies we think are so crucial to saving children may, in fact, cause more harm than good. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and fixated on “solutions” without counting the cost.
The cost of Trump has been catastrophic.
I found an article that lays out the pro-life case against Trump better than I can. It’s short; please take a few (more) minutes now and read it:
Even that article does not begin to do justice to the breadth and scope of Trump’s offenses.
So Many Reasons to Impeach
Here is a summary of Trump’s offenses, with a short paragraph on each topic. Although the triumphant liberal tone may at first be a bit triggering, this was actually one of the more readable summaries I could find. To be clear, I don’t necessarily agree that every offense on this list would deserve impeachment. But many are extremely severe... and if you have spent the last four years consuming only conservative media, these are facts of public record that you may have barely heard about.
Please take a few minutes to read this now:
Please also at least skim this report on Trump’s 3,400 conflicts of interest.
We have a billionaire president abusing his office to suck hundreds of millions of dollars, including tax dollars, into his private real estate empire — while keeping his personal income tax down to $750. Here’s a salient quote from that piece:
The [Chinese President] Xi visit was an “unparalleled money maker” for Mar-a-Lago — so much so that it was “the most successful promotional event in the club’s history.”
If you have the stomach for it, you can also read this summary of every accusation against Trump of sexual misconduct. I had trouble getting through the entire list.
Yet even that list of impeachable offenses is now out of date, from all the way back in 2019.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the pandemic.
I’m writing this in early October, soon after Trump has announced his own infection, in a moment when we are all still struggling with maximum uncertainty. Although he now appears to be on the road to recovery, he could still have major long-term health effects. We don’t know.
But we do know how he has treated this national health crisis.
This article lays out the case for Trump’s culpability in this pandemic with both more detail than usual, and also a willingness to consider the hypothesis that he should not bear much blame. Please read this, it is very important:
Why is this so important? Because this attitude is going to get more Americans killed.
Even while he himself is publicly infected with this virus, Trump has already gone back to having rallies. He continues to endanger thousands of his own supporters in packed events that are largely maskless.
He couldn’t even get through his “debate” with Biden without attacking him for wearing a mask, as if the sane, moral act of protecting yourself and others during a worsening pandemic should be judged a badge of shame and cowardice.
And now we know that he might literally have been spewing the virus as he spoke.
Can you imagine St. Joseph mocking wearing a mask? Or Ronald Reagan? Or any other man you admire? How did we get here?
As long as pro-lifers keep refusing to call Trump out on this, we are doing damage that might be irreparable.
For one thing, more people will die.
This crisis has already killed more Americans than in all our last five wars combined. Over 200,000 American dead so far, with no end yet in sight.
(And, to be clear, that is 200,000+ more deaths than usual in a year, not COVID-19 finishing off sick people who were dying anyway from other causes.)
This number is unimaginable. It’s more Americans than live in Alexandria. Imagine driving up to Alexandria, and every single car and house and street had only corpses.
We’re living this crisis now, but we’re going to be talking about it for the rest of our lives. This year has been the 1918 flu, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights movement all rolled into one… plus the unprecedented crisis of a president who threatens to refuse to leave.
Did you ever ask your grandparents about the Depression? I did. And our grandchildren are going to ask us.
What were you doing in 2020?
What were you saying?
Whose side were you on?
It’s Not Too Late
In my dream world, in these last few weeks before the election, pro-life leaders would have a radical change of heart.
For almost fifty years, we’ve stood against the tide of public opinion. Now, it’s time to stand against this betrayal.
No one can predict the election, but there’s a very good chance that Donald J. Trump will lose. By a lot. As of this writing, he’s polling several points behind Biden, and he’s hospitalized from the pandemic he’s denied.
The time for us to condemn his crimes is now, before he loses. While he is still in power.
Otherwise, the rest of the world is never going to forget.
Trump has imprinted his face, his voice, and all his failures and crimes into every American’s psyche.
Do we really want the phrase “pro-life” entwined there with him?
The backlash against Trump, and all he’s perceived to stand for, is looking to be titanic.
If pro-life leaders insist on going down with him, how is that going to impact abortion?
How many more years… or decades… of abortions are we looking at, because of the fallout of Trump for our cause? How many thousands or millions of deaths?
Do we really imagine we can ever persuade any undecided mother or lawmaker again, if we refuse to hold this man to the barest minimums of decency?
By contrast, imagine if we did condemn his crimes.
I want to close with one last link, and it’s only a few pages. Please take a look:
What do you think?
I imagine at least some parts were irksome for you, whether it was an item or two that you disagreed was a problem, or perhaps even the citing of Pope Francis as a moral authority.
But my final thought is: what might everyone else think?
Isn’t that list, as a whole, a bit overwhelming? Weren’t there some issues in there that tugged at your gut, with a sickening certainty that Trump’s stance on this point was, in the end, reprehensible? Alienating? Even catastrophic?
We can disavow Trump. We must. We have to let this man go.
He was never one of us to begin with.
The pro-life movement was here back when he was a registered Democrat and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic politicians, and it will still be here long after he’s gone, and possibly in jail (for fraud).
But if we keep clinging to him long after the rest of the world hounds him as a criminal, as a man directly responsible for so much death and suffering, then the long-term harm will be a horror. Harm to us, to our movement, and to the women and children we hope to save.
Please let him go.