Vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine is in a difficult position. As a Democratic politician, he maintains a political support for legal abortion. But as a practicing Catholic, he says he is personally opposed to it.
Beyond that, Sen. Kaine seems like a decent and respectable public servant who seek to do what he feels is best for this country. That is admirable. But his position on abortion is untenable and contradictory to virtually everything else he has said about his faith.
In the vice presidential debate, the discussion turned to how the candidates’ faith intersects with their responsibilities in government. After back-and-forth with Republican nominee Mike Pence, Kaine summed up his argument for being personally opposed, but politically supportive of abortion:
Governor, why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves? We can encourage people to support life. Of course we can. But why don’t you trust women? Why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?
That’s what we ought to be doing in public life. Living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day, but on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.
Kaine ostensibly wants to encourage women to choose not to have an abortion, but to make sure they keep the legal right to end their pregnancy.
Again, I respect Sen. Kaine, but I do not respect his attempt to hide behind rhetoric and semantics when discussing abortion and the role his faith plays.
He spoke about the struggle he had as someone opposed to the death penalty who still had to enforce it when he served as governor of Virginia. That is an unenviable position, but it is not comparable to the abortion discussion.
Sen. Kaine upheld the law of his state by allowing death penalties to go forward, but the more appropriate question in relation to his stance on abortion would be: “If you could, would you outlaw the death penalty? Does your faith lead you to support its abolishment?”
Numerous pro-life governors and elected officials uphold the law of the land in terms of abortion, but they are also actively trying to change them because they believe they are bad laws.
In Indiana, Gov. Pence allowed abortion to continue in his state, but he worked within the legal process to limit it. That’s what you do when you feel a law is wrong, you seek to challenge it.
But you may say Sen. Kaine simply believes differently than Gov. Pence about the role of faith in public policy. That may be true, but that still doesn’t help his position.
I doubt the senator would say he had problems with the stated religious motivations of William Wilberforce in outlawing the slave trade in England, Abraham Lincoln in the signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. in fighting for civil rights, and Lyndon Johnson in signing the Civil Rights Act.
In addition to those individuals pointing to faith as a justification for the government changes they supported, Sen. Kaine would also have to dispute the role of faith in government with someone very close to him—himself.
He told CSPAN: “I do what I do for spiritual reasons. I’m always thinking about the momentary reality but also how it connects with bigger matters of what’s important in life.”
Even more telling to this discussion, however, is the statement he gave about climate change. In speaking before Pope Francis released his encyclical, he said the pope’s position should say to those with the power to make changes:
You know, you guys and everybody in power these days, you’ve got the next generation’s future in your hands, and you don’t want to have to face that question later in life: With the science what it was, and with you having the opportunity to do something about it, why did you choose not to?
So because those in power are face to face with the science of the situation and they have the future of the next generation in their hands, they should choose to do something with the opportunity they have?
Explain how that is not directly applicable to abortion. How is it right in once instance to be motivated by your Catholic faith to act on the issue of climate change, but simply say the law is the law on abortion?
Sen. Kaine and others can see the science that says life in the womb is a distinct human life. He actually believes that to be the case.
He and other members of the government have the power to protect millions of lives from the next generation (according to his own personal understanding of abortion).
Does he want to face that question later in life? I had all this information. I knew abortion was wrong, but I chose not to act. Why did I make that choice?
In another interview, Sen. Kaine said, “My faith is central to everything I do.” I do not doubt or question that. What I do question is whether or not he applies that sentiment consistently.
You cannot point to your faith as a motivation for action on climate change, poverty, health care, immigration and numerous other political issues, but then suddenly demur when the discussion turns to abortion.
Sen. Kaine should listen to Sen. Kaine’s advice and act on what he believes.