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Abortion in the Vice-Presidential Debate: Catholics Are Still More Concerned about the Economy

October 12, 2012

Last night’s vice-presidential debate concluded with a brief, five-minute discussion about abortion and religion. Both candidates expressed their party’s position, their own personal perspective and how it related to their Catholic faith.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, responded: “The candidates are right that women and men do consider their faith when they are facing a decision about abortion, but neither candidate stood back and looked at the bigger picture.

“In this election, as in previous elections, Catholics are simply not voting on the abortion issue.

“A poll released yesterday showed what Catholics are concerned about:

‘A strong majority of Catholic voters (79 percent) wants the next president to make jobs his highest priority. Only 28 percent of Catholic voters believe abortion should be the highest priority of the next administration. Gay marriage is even less of a priority than abortion among Catholics, with only 16 percent prioritizing the issue as the most important.

‘In addition, majorities of Catholics disagree with criminalizing abortion and do not want priests to withhold communion from those Catholics who support legal abortion. Those who strongly agree that abortion should be legal outnumber those who strongly disagree by a 2:1 margin.’

“Rightfully a good portion of the debate was focused on the economy. However, to listen to the US Catholic bishops, one would think that abortion, marriage equality and religious freedom are the biggest issues facing the country. Again, however, Catholics are not listening to the bishops:

‘More than four out of five Catholic voters (83 percent) feel no obligation to vote the way bishops recommend and three-quarters of Catholic voters (76 percent) do not believe Catholic politicians are obligated to vote the way bishops desire.’

“The Catholic tradition has the utmost respect for individual conscience and religious freedom. It appears that the bishops are trying to usurp both—by imposing their consciences on all Catholics and by implying that their religious freedom should trump everybody else’s. Catholics are having none of this, as the poll shows.”