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A friendly question for pro-life Romney enthusiasts

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 31, 2012

If you were already so certain that Mitt Romney is a great champion of the pro-life cause, why are you exulting over a single sentence in his speech?

“As president, I will protect the sanctity of life.” That was it. One sentence—9 words—in the course of a 38-minute speech. Not a developed thought but a throwaway line. Not a concrete promise, not a plan of action or proposed legislation, but a stock phrase.

Is that really all it takes to make pro-lifers happy? Are we really so desperate that when a presidential candidate makes a polite nod in our direction, we swoon—like the smitten high-school sophomore who is so excited that the star quarterback smiled at her, and doesn’t notice that he already has a steady girl?

Look: Romney’s pro-life credentials are shaky. His campaign now says that his latest gaffe--a virtual acceptance of the Roe decision—was a misstatement of his real beliefs. But it’s the sort of misstatement that could only be made by someone who has not devoted enough attention to the issue to recognize the pitfalls in the language.

There are reasons for pro-lifers to choose Romney in this year’s election. He is not a hardcore ideologue, not a sworn proponent of legal, accessible, taxpayer-funded abortion on demand. He is not Barack Obama. That might be reason enough to vote for him.

But it’s no reason to ignore his shortcomings. It’s no reason to pretend, when he tosses you a bone, that he’s treated you to a steak dinner. On the contrary, it’s reason to ask him to heighten the contradictions between himself and Obama, to take a stronger stand.

Romney promises to protect the sanctity of life. Good. What does that mean to him? What does he plan to do about it? Those are the questions that pro-lifers should be asking on the day after the convention. He gave us a polite nod, and we should respond with polite applause—not with rapturous joy. He said he would do something and we should ask for specifics, demanding more, rather than wasting our time trying to convince each other that he is the answer to all our prayers.

In politics as in the repair shop, the squeaky wheel gets oiled. If pro-lifers are satisfied with a throwaway line in a candidate’s speech, that’s all we’re ever likely to get.

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  • Posted by: impossible - Sep. 01, 2012 4:10 PM ET USA

    Whether it be about pro-life or simply about being a true political conservative, Romney needs to clearly and forcefully convince the American voters that he intends to implement and advance conservative principles. Romney needs to ignore the "expert Republican establishment types" who want him to be lukewarm as a to appeal to "moderates" and "independents." That is best done by emphasizing the real differences between himself and Obama.

  • Posted by: mkvh1980 - Sep. 01, 2012 2:48 PM ET USA

    There is a clear distinction between candidates this year--the platforms & candidates are polar opposites on life issues. While I vote for as many pro-life candidates as possible, I also see the economy's dysfunction as a reality that undercuts all pro-life efforts in the public square. When people make decisions about having a child or not based on whether they can afford it, then a scary economic climate becomes anti-life. Fix the economy, aid the pro-life effort. It's Romney-Ryan in 2012.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 01, 2012 8:06 AM ET USA

    You're right. Especially in light of the recent death of Nellie Gray, one might reasonably expect a bit more discussion to ensue from the mouth of an avid pro-lifer. Is Romney the kind of man- a man of conviction- who can give America something to believe in? He needs to believe himself in order to lead others to do so. There is little doubt about the conviction of his opponent.

  • Posted by: Duns Scotus - Aug. 31, 2012 10:52 PM ET USA

    Phil, usually, I'm with you, but squeaky pro-life wheels will get Obama reelected. Romney will move the country in the right direction. In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II said it was okay to vote for a candidate who, though not the pro-life ideal, moves things in the right direction.

  • Posted by: nipper - Aug. 31, 2012 5:37 PM ET USA

    We should be praying to God that Mitt Romney is elected. At least he loves America, respects the Constitution and the principles on which this country was founded, supports the traditional definition of marriage, is a man of integrity when it comes to business and family, and has picked for his running mate one of the most conservative, orthodox, Catholic, intelligent, pro-life, young men in American. We should thank God for that and give Romney-Ryan our strong support.

  • Posted by: mdepietro - Aug. 31, 2012 3:24 PM ET USA

    Romeny has not been a big pro-lifer. From a pro-life view there are several reasons to support him. Some times you just have to play defense, and the onslaught of Obama against the Church and the pro-life movement needs to be stopped. 2) Romney has selected an authentic pro-lifer for VP in Paul Ryan. A win for Romney-Ryan may ultimately mean a Ryan presidency. A serious Catholic and a big win. So Romney's pick of Ryan is a gift. We must first slow the train down before we can head in reverse.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 31, 2012 11:59 AM ET USA

    I agree with stevebrock. I did not swoon over the pro-life sentence, but I know that an acceptance speech is more than anything else an invitation to the undecided voter who is not concerned at this time about life issues, but economic ones. I do think that we need to work harder on a constant basis to hold ELECTED officials to their commitments to life issues.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Aug. 31, 2012 11:36 AM ET USA

    I think the most important thing to focus on in this election is that Romney - despite obvious flaws - will not try to restrict the practice of our faith. His comment about roe v wade is probably what he really thinks. We still have to continue our efforts to repeal it. But we must first get rid of the active, deliberate, threats to our faith...

  • Posted by: stevebrock8157 - Aug. 31, 2012 8:36 AM ET USA

    I guess this question is not directed to me, since I am not an enthusiast. However, I am grateful that, even though Romney is not PRO-life, he is not PRO-death in the manner Obama is. The enthusiasm might be compared to a farmer getting a five minute rain shower after three months of summer drought...

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