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Will 2020 mark the turning point on abortion?

The scene for 2020 presidential abortion politics was set in 2019 concerning the issue of infanticide in the new abortion legislation codifying Roe/Bolton and enacted in the state of New York and strongly promoted in Virginia.

March for Life participants and counter-protesters hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, in 2018. (CNS photo/Peter Lockley)

In the last two years, abortion as a public issue has changed in at least four ways. First, the formerly abortion-should-be-safe-and-rare Democratic party culminated recent years of expanding its abortion advocacy by establishing abortion as fundamental and declaring that Roe v. Wade should be codified into federal law, Second, Catholic Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, and, thus, the current leader of the Party, likewise became aggressive in his support of abortion. Third, an American Catholic cardinal criticized one-issue voting and said that it was morally acceptable for Catholics to vote for Joe Biden. Fourth, the actions of Virginia Governor Northam and especially New York Catholic Governor Cuomo caused abortion-as-infanticide to be publicly discussed for the first time.

All or almost all of the twelve or so Democratic candidates for president were strongly supportive of essentially unrestricted abortion. According to its 2020 party platform, the Democratic Party believes “unequivocally” in “safe and legal abortion.” Democrats will “overturn federal and state laws” that limit abortion, and will “respect and enforce” Roe v. Wadeas a “foundational precedent.”  Joe Biden has said that he will support codifying Roe into federal law and repealing the forty-year-old Hyde Amendment prohibiting federal funding of abortion.  On August 9, Biden released a campaign promotion celebrating his Catholic upbringing and featuring his meeting with Pope Francis together with a video of him with Francis.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, a Francis appointment who has downplayed abortion as a decisive issue, stated recently: “I think that a person in good conscience could vote for Mr. Biden,” adding, “I, frankly, in my own way of thinking have a more difficult time with the other option.” Tobin later insisted he was not endorsing Biden, but he also wouldn’t state that a Catholic in good conscience could vote for Mr. Trump.

In an important way, the scene for 2020 presidential abortion politics was set in 2019 concerning the issue of infanticide in the new abortion legislation codifying Roe/Bolton and enacted in the state of New York and strongly promoted in Virginia.  Governor Cuomo, describing himself as a person with “Roman Catholic values” and a “former altar boy,” could not have been further away from the old-style Catholic politicians’ soft-pedaling of their position on abortion.  He was an open, aggressive, and unapologetic proponent of the bill of the new state law law legalizing abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy.  In a New York Times op-ed on February 6, 2019, he criticized Cardinal Dolan by name and the Catholic Church as “anti-choice” and pointed out that recent polls in New York showed that “59 percent” of Catholic New Yorkers support abortion.  While saying that his “Roman Catholic values” are his “personal values,” he did not say that he was personally opposed to abortion.

The next day in the Wall Street Journal, Dolan, in an op-ed that was mostly about the Dred Scott decision, did describe the “grisly” details of the new legislation but mentioned Cuomo only once by name and did not criticize him personally.  Instead, in a conciliatory manner, he talked about how “left and right” can “work together” about adoption and alternatives to abortion. His office also issued a statement specifically rejecting excommunication as “not an appropriate response.” So, who had the greater public impact, Cuomo or Dolan?

In his acts and words, Andrew Cuomo has now broadened the legacy and consequences of the speech of his father, former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, delivered at Notre Dame University on September 13, 1984.  That high-profile speech — attended and promoted by Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh — established the moral basis for being personally opposed to abortion and justified past Catholic politicians’ stances while establishing the talking points for future Catholic politicians.  Mario Cuomo said that Catholics should not regard abortion as of “preemptive significance” or as an “exclusive litmus test” in public advocacy and in the law.

Indeed, beginning in 1983, Cardinal Bernardin, taking over the phrases “consistent ethic of life” and “seamless garment” that had initially been proposed by others, expropriated the word “life” to mean anything human.  He later authored a book entitled The Seamless Garment. Bernardin established the more or less predominant Catholic position continuing to this day using the term “life” as an abstract technique of labeling nearly any preferred issue as a pro-life issue. Its primary effect has allowed for the ignoring or downplaying of abortion. Now, four decades later and continuing to the present day, many Catholic politicians have justified themselves as Catholics and as pro-life by mentioning every issue but abortion.

We are now well beyond that. Catholic Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, third in the line of succession to the Presidency and the most powerful woman in America, declared in August that the House of Representatives will no longer agree to the Hyde Amendment  prohibiting federal funding for abortion. And one year ago, she spoke of her “privilege” to deliver a speech to the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, passed by the Congress in 1994, prohibits the use of physical force and threats at abortion clinics.  With federal prosecutions and their criminal penalties, it effectively ended what had been a growing “civil disobedience” and “direct action” movement at the clinics themselves.  If the nine-months-of-abortion of Roe/Bolton is enacted into a federal statute, as the Democrats have promised to do, it will not only cause the overturning of all state laws not in compliance, it will also make “sidewalk counseling” a federal matter to be investigated by federal agents.

Is the Cuomo family, including son and brother Chris (“reproductive rights”), the first family of Catholic public officials and persons? And have they had more influence on the Catholic response to abortion than the American bishops?

The fundamental problem here is that there is no Catholic “position” on abortion. Nor is there any such position by evangelical Christians and several Protestant churches. Instead, it is simply the Fifth Commandment, which formerly was the norm in public law and constitutions. “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the Catechism states, “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (par 2270). For the United States Constitution, as well as all state constitutions, guarantees a public and political right to “life.”  And those constitutions are secular, not religious, documents.

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About Thomas R. Ascik 20 Articles
Thomas R. Ascik is a retired attorney who has written on a variety of legal and constitutional issues.


  1. America democratic republic, unlike despotic regimes, reflects the mind of the nation. Her Constitution now contested by Origionalist and Activist who represent an approx equal share of the general population. Abortion, author Ascik rightly suggests is the popular dividing line issue. We might add what else but the value held for human life at its presentation from womb to the world can more definitively divide a people. Wiemar Germany began its popular division from the later stages of human life in the 1920 medical eugenics classic The Authorization to End Life Unworthy of Life Karl Binding legal scholar Alfred Hoche psychiatrist [later adopted as a manual by Nazi Theorist Philosopher Alfred Rosenberg]. Catholicism was the primary opponent before and during the War, as it is now in Am. Argument for abortion began here although from a lesser credentialed source Margaret Sanger [nee Higgins] Corning New York on similar medical grounds as a social health issue affecting the marginalized in NYC. What changed the value of human life in both nations, the cause that underlies the medical argument was and remains finances and quality of life, the latter negatively for the German handicapped the unborn American positively for the survivors, that is enhancement of lifestyle for the adults who make the decision to end life. Sanger who perceived abortion a tool for diminishing undesirable ethnics has been disavowed by Planned Parenthood with the loftier premise of protecting a woman’s rights over her own body. A rationale that wholly convinces Catholic politicians and to degrees Catholic hierarchy. Nevertheless the actual argument remains the moral equivalent of ending undesirable human life. If the Supreme Court rules Roe wrongly adjudicated abortion will return to the States. It won’t disappear. Our Nation requires conversion. Catholics require conversion back to Christ and renewal of their Baptismal vows rejecting Satan, his pomps and his allure. Catholicism must find a worthy leader. At this moment in its history he is found exclusively in Christ.

    • I can not get a answer to this question; Why would any Catholic or Jew Democrat vote for a Pro-Choice candidate??

    • We are witnessing human tragedy.
      Whichever way I look at the current situation, I find that both presidential candidates are greatly flawed. I WOULD argue that both presidential candidates are creating a world that does not follow the 6th Commandment:
      “You shall not kill.”

      Should a political leader who has witnessed the death of more than 200 000 fellow Americans not show any shred of compassion? What of the current behaviour of refusing to reduce the risk of infecting others by following public health measures such as wearing a face mask and to self isolate for 14 days? We read in the Bible that:
      “Anyone, then who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits sin.” James 4:17

      We don’t know how many people he has deliberately infected. Even if they survive, the outcome could be long term post COVID-19 complications, for some of them.
      Moreover, our Christian values requires us to preserve all human lives. “There is no favouritism with God (Galatians 2:6).
      Those in political power should not prioritise the economy over human life.

      The Democrat candidate has been open about his dark side even though he still sees himself as a Catholic. Even if you are close to God, satan comes to you (Job 1:6). Fr Peter Morello, you raised a very important issue about the need for Conversion of many people who now fail to see the sanctity of human life. I am going to hang on to that point because it gives me hope. St Paul never stopped talking about his dark past. What I am struggling with, is some Catholics who refuse to see flawed leadership, evidenced by openly taking precedence on risking the lives of others. Evil thoughts are not permitted by God:

      ” You who used to think to yourself: I will ascend to Heaven, I will raise my throne above the stars of God, I will sit on the Mount of Assembly far away to the north. I shall climb high above the clouds, I shall rival the Most High.Now you have been flung down to Sheol–”
      (Isaiah 14:12-15).
      This is a reminderthat Lucifer was thrown out of Heaven because of pride.

      We should guard ourselves against mounting pressure to conform to false ethical arguments that are not supported by the Scriptures.

      We read in 1Peter 5:8:

      ” Disciple yourself, keep alert, like a roaring lion, your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”

      Catholics are now divided and the
      problems will be the same if we do not pray for conversion of those who are hungry for political leadership at any cost. Prayer is our only weapon. Our Mother Mary knew she would experience great suffering and when it came, she embraced it with great strength of character because she had Faith. Prayerful people are not afraid. By praying, we are not asking God to change His mind, but we are offering our problems on the Alter. For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). We should therefore face the challenges that come as Mother Mary did, at the foot of the Cross.

      • Well it is easy to point a finger at the president, no matter who he/she is. COVID is a virus and does not discriminate. Wearing masks or not wearing masks was no guarantee that the virus would not spread. Sure you can say “lead by example”, but that wouldn’t have stopped the virus from spreading and killing people. Every time something like this happens, the finger pointing begins. Even if the country would have totally shut down like what Biden proposes, how long does one think this country could survive? I think tearing a baby apart piece by piece while still in the womb, or after it is born, discarding it while still alive, doesn’t compare. You are wrong by trying to impose guilt on the president for all the deaths by COVID. Sorry!

  2. Life begins at conception. That which is conceived is, at the instant of conception, so small that it cannot be seen even by the most powerful microscope in the world, but – it begins to grow, and if it’s growing – it’s ALIVE.

    If it’s growing – it’s alive.

    • Actually any ordinary optical microscope can see a human being at his first stage of existence as a single cell (zygote). It is a relatively large cell. Electron microscopes can see things down to less than one thousandth of the size of a human zygote.

  3. The US bishops are turning a blind eye to the abortion issue. Here in the UK, our bishops are enthusiastically promoting a school sex education programme which includes contraceptive training, guidance on obtaining an abortion, and promoting the value of same sex relationships.
    Truly we are being tested.

    • Richard Catholics worldwide need to brace themselves spiritually. What you detailed is occurring elsewhere, and that including astronomical abortion rates portends chastisement. Pray for conversions because the majority are unprepared.

      • We are living through a tremendous burst of evil around the world. Those who are behind this wickedness are headed for a chastisement. The people who are leading good lives need to keep saying the rosary every day. Even if they are caught accidentally in the chastisement, nothing too terrible will happen to them. They will just see God sooner.

  4. I agree w Fr Morello, PhD,
    Abortion will not go away that easily simply because Roe V Wade is overturned, if it is overturned. I think that’s a pretty big IF.
    I would expect restrictions to be allowed in place-possibly a 20- week limit, maybe greater regulations on abortion clinics to drive up costs that drive some clinics to shut down.
    Abortion exists because contraception fails. (Abortion is sometimes used as “contraception”.) Contraception is hugely popular because people want sex but not a baby. This is true of Christians of all denominations, including Catholics, not just practical atheists and Satanists.
    The country must be converted to the reality of what sex is, not the recreation we pretend it is.

  5. The woman cannot be entirely to blame in this murder; there needs to be more warning to the men involved that this is murder. When I was growing up they used to say, ” He ‘knocked up’ so and so.” (aka ‘got her pregnant)

    Pressure on her to terminate the pregnancy needs to be discussed and condemned loud and high –

    • Women are often, indeed the victim. Pressured by a boy friend, spouse, family, or brainwashed by a secular society and mainstream news media, many women choose abortion. However, the vast majority of abortionists know exactly what they are doing, and, as such, are guilty of first-degree murder.

  6. Silence from the bishops and priests supports the Bidens, Pelosis, the Cuomos and other Catholic betrayers to maintain their pretense of being Catholics. True, they give lip service to the abortion issue but I cannot recall when I last heard it mentioned from the pulpit (if ever) that abortion is a mortal sin and that Catholics need to know that before they approach the Communion rail.

    • There are lots of clergy who don’t preach on deadly sins anymore. If you offend someone, they sometimes contact the Diocese and complain about you, so it’s not surprising.

  7. Cardinal Tobin and all Bishops and higher Churchmen of his ilk should be removed from office.They are failing their flocks by failing to explain clearly church teaching on these issues, indeed many issues of sexuality in a world gone crazier and crazier on the subject. Church law could not be clearer as regards to life, murder and abortion. He is failing in his leadership role to pretend one can support the Democrat party, who have now indeed taken the slippery slope even further in their defense of infanticide. And he can NOT support Trump because ( Oh, he’s so MEAN!!!????) Well, “mean” or murder, which is more important to consider? A child could figure out which is the lesser evil. Well, I recall the Nazi party during WWII emptying out their mental institution and nursing homes of other “undesirable” and “imperfect” beings who did not meet their standards. God’s standards did not enter into their calculation. Evidently God’s standards also do not enter into the POLITICAL calculations of Bishops/clergy who are ok with schools teaching sexual amorality and the like. They lack the spine to chasten public officials who attempt to trade on their Catholic affiliation as if it were a country club whose rules they could bend and use at will.Its about time the Bishops take charge in a meaningful way. Some more might leave the church, yes. But we might be left with a better, stronger and MORE FAITHFUL congregation.That does not seem like a bad alternative to me.

  8. Only if God wills it to be and I pray that He does. I would like it to be that easy but I think it will need a lot of prayers and people to be defenders of life. The bishops can’t do it by themselves and they need God fearing people to back them and maybe a little push also.

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