CAMPAIGN 2008: The Life Issues

Published September 10, 2008

Thirty-five years after Roe v. Wade struck down the abortion law of all 50 states, the life issues remain the most sharply contested in American public life. They are also signature issues of Catholic concern, not for any “sectarian” reason but because the life issues engage first principles of justice, principles that form the moral foundations of the free and virtuous society. That has been the case for decades. But things are different this year, in two respects.

First, the biotech revolution is gaining momentum. Human-animal hybrids created for research purposes are now legal in Britain; “savior-siblings” artificially created to provide spare parts for a sick brother or sister are openly discussed throughout Europe; the pressure to provide public funding for such practices in the U.S. will inevitably intensify. Then there is what some consider the overriding strategic consideration in this election cycle: the real possibility that the next presidential term could produce a Supreme Court majority willing to return the abortion issue to the people and their legislators, where the Constitution leaves it.

Thoughtful Catholic voters will thus want both to pose serious questions to both the principal presidential candidates.


1) Do you believe that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided? Is there a constitutional right-to-abortion in the U.S. Constitution?
2) How does Roe v. Wade, which declared unborn human beings outside the protection of the law, differ substantively from Dred Scott, which declared Americans of African descent outside the protection of the law?
3) Would you work to promote, or would you resist, the definition of a “right-to-abortion” in international law?
4) Do you favor the continuation of the Hyde amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions?
5) Would you continue the “Mexico City policy,” a presidential order that bans U.S. foreign aid to organizations that promote or perform abortions as a matter of family planning?
6) Under current Supreme Court jurisprudence, what restrictions, if any, would you seek to place on the “right-to-abortion,” and what regulation of abortion clinics would you support?
7) What is your position on the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), by which federal authority would be used to overturn state partial-birth abortion bans, state parental notification requirements, state informed consent laws, and restrictions on state funding of abortions?
8) Has the successful creation of pluripotent stem cells from adult cells ended the debate over embryo-destructive stem-cell research? Or, despite this scientific advance, would you press for federal funding of stem cell research that destroys human embryos?
9) How would you vote in the upcoming Washington state referendum to legalize physician-assisted suicide?


1) Do you regret your vote against a partial-birth abortion ban when you were an Illinois state senator?
2) During your service in Springfield, you opposed a bill that would give legal protection to infants who survive an abortion. Was that a choice you would like to revisit? If so, why? If not, why not?
3) What precisely did you mean when you said you wouldn’t want one of your daughters “punished with a baby,” should they find themselves in the dilemma of unwanted pregnancy?
4) You have a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. Is there any matter of public policy on which you and NARAL differ?
5) Would support for Roe v. Wade be a litmus test for candidates you would nominate to the Supreme Court?

1) You have a strong pro-life voting record during your congressional service, yet some pro-lifers are nervous about you. Why? Where do the life issues rank in your list of priorities for America’s future?
2) You and Mrs. McCain adopted an infant at the request of Mother Teresa; has that experience shaped your views on the life issues?
3) Would you favor Supreme Court nominees who believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided?
4) As you know, many pro-life groups opposed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, arguing that it unduly burdened issue advocacy organizations. Have you re-thought your approach to campaign finance reform in light of those criticisms?

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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