Last night’s victory by Senator-elect Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts showed the pragmatism of the pro-life movement. It is well known that Senator-elect Brown is not pro-life. However, he does at least support a ban on taxpayer funded abortions. In this case, the pro-life movement has backed the lesser of two evils. They have elected a man who has the ability to block a vote on a health care bill that would force you and I to pay for elective abortions across the country. We have placed our trust in Scott Brown and now he must come through for us.
There are some in the pro-life movement who disagree with this type of pragmatism. They stand for the ideal and for that I commend them. Those who take an all or nothing approach to candidates and legislation have a place in the movement. They are here to keep the rest of us pragmatists honest. But in the end politics is not religion. Politics is the domain of prudence, as Aristotle taught us so many years ago. When making political decisions, the pro-life movement must take the prudent course. We seek to deal with the political realities as they stand and in today’s political climate we needed someone to block the authorization of taxpayer funded abortions, a piece of legislation which would have cost so many more unborn their lives. We must be prudent because the stakes are so high. We must make political alliances with people who we not always agree with us on other political issues, because we are in the business of saving human lives.
But amidst our pragmatism we must remember that we are pro-lifers first. We must not forget the ideal. We must strive for the day when we no longer have to vote for candidates who are pro-life and against those who are pro-abortion. Until then we will chip away at abortion. We will pass a bill that will allow women to view ultrasounds and in so doing save some lives. We will protect the Hyde Amendment and other restrictions on taxpayer funded abortions and in so doing we will save some more lives. We will elect a Scott Brown who will help us where he agrees with us and we will re-elect a Bart Stupak who will stand in the face of his own party to protect our consciences and those who are weakest. Yet, we will never forget the ideal for which we enter into the public arena, the end of abortion and a society which truly embraces a culture of Life.
In conclusion, John Paul II has provided support for this type of pragmatism on Life issues. As he tells us in his landmark encyclical Evangelium Vitae:
When it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects (No. 72).