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What Biden Just Got Wrong About Abortion

When Joe Biden rushed to the podium to defend Roe v. Wade and abortion, the Catholic president stumbled on a few important points.

On Monday night, Politico reported that it had obtained a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion overruling the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions, which put major hurdles in front of states that want to pass laws protecting unborn children. The next morning, President Joe Biden, the second Catholic to be elected to the presidency in the United States’ history, issued a statement, which concluded:

If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.

So much for Catholics who said Joe Biden is “personally pro-life,” and so it would be licit to vote for him because he isn’t directly advocating for abortion. Here he is promising to use the power of the federal government to make it legal to kill unborn children.

If this isn’t an act worthy of censure by Biden’s pastor, then nothing is. In fact, in a press conference, Biden defended Roe v. Wade:

Roe says what all basic, mainstream religions have historically concluded, that right, the existence of a human life and being is a question. Is it at the moment of conception? Is it six months? Is it six weeks? Is it “quickening” like Aquinas argued?

Well, everyone agrees that questions like “what is a human being” and “when does life begin” are indeed questions. I’m sure that what the president means is that people disagree about the answers to those questions. But when has he or other like-minded politicians cared about what people think concerning the deepest questions of life? “All basic, mainstream religions have historically concluded” that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, but that didn’t stop the government from enforcing the view that marriage can be any two people, or maybe more!

Then there’s the matter of St. Thomas Aquinas. Can Biden (and Nancy Pelosi) just leave him alone? Human sperm and eggs and the genetic code weren’t discovered until centuries after Thomas lived, and so he did his best with the knowledge of biology he had at the time. But even if he thought a rational soul entered the body at a later time in pregnancy, he—and others, like St. Augustine, also occasionally abused by Nancy Pelosi—always believed that abortion is a grave evil. The Catechism bluntly states, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable” (2271).

Also, far from thinking that the soul enters the body at quickening (when an unborn baby’s movements can be felt by the mother), Aquinas believed that the soul entered the human body around forty days after conception. This is around the time many states have said abortion should be outlawed because the unborn child has a detectable heartbeat.

It’s true that religions disagree about religious questions, like when the soul enters the body. However, it is not the job of the government to arbitrate religious disputes. The scientific question of when a human being comes into existence is not in dispute. It’s at fertilization, also known as conception, which I’ve noted before and was recently shown to be the view of ninety-five percent of biologists.

In any case, Biden’s reply is disingenuous because he acts as if no one has the right answer. “Six days? Six weeks? Six months? Who can say when life begins?” he asks.

I ask in reply: “What about sixteen months, Mr. President? Or six years?”

The truth is that Biden and others like him don’t really think the law should let everyone decide when he thinks life begins. If the law actually did that, then the State would be powerless to punish infanticide, since a person guilty of this crime could always say his child’s life had not “begun yet” in any “meaningful” way. Heck, how could we know that anyone’s life has ever begun?

No, pro-choice politicians already decided that life begins at birth—at least for now, until they decide it begins later than that—and they want to impose that view on everyone else. They want to prevent communities from protecting children who are simply waiting to be born.

Catholics and other people of good faith (who often have to make up for the number of Catholics acting in bad faith on this question) must defend the right to life of every human being. They must show that the question of when life begins is not a puzzle with no answer. Rather, it’s a puzzle as to why it has taken this long for people who should know better to recognize the dignity of millions of helpless human beings.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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