Mario Cuomo was asked how he reconciled his Catholicism with his Pro-Choice stance.
He gave his answer in a speech at Notre Dame University. I accept the Church’s teaching on abortion. Must I insist that you do by denying you Medicaid funding? By a constitutional amendment? And if by a constitutional amendment, which one? Would that be the best way to avoid abortions or to prevent them?
Now, these are only some of the questions for Catholics. People with other religious beliefs face similar problems. Let me try some answers.
As Catholics, my wife and I were enjoined never to use abortion to destroy the life we created, and we never have. We thought Church doctrine was clear on this. And more than that, both of us felt it in full agreement with what our own hearts and our own consciences told us. For me, for Matilda, life or fetal life in the womb should be protected, even if five of nine justices of the Supreme Court and my neighbor disagree with me. A fetus is different from an appendix or a set of tonsils. At the very least, even if the argument is made by some scientists or theologians that in the early stages of fetal development we can’t discern human life, the full potential of human life is indisputably there. That, to my less subtle mind, by itself is enough to demand respect, and caution, indeed reverence.
And so very respectfully, and after careful consideration of the position and the arguments of the bishops for a long time, I’ve concluded that the approach of a constitutional amendment is not the best way for us to seek to deal with abortion.
I believe that the legal interdicting of abortion by either the federal government or the individual states is not a plausible possibility and, even if it could be obtained, it wouldn’t work. Given present attitudes, it would be Prohibition revisited, legislating what couldn’t be enforced and in the process creating a disrespect for law in general. And as much as I admire the bishops’ hope that a constitutional amendment against abortion would be the basis for a full, new bill of rights for mothers and children, I disagree, very respectfully, that that would be the result. I believe that, more likely, a constitutional prohibition – which you can’t get, but if you could – would allow people to ignore the causes of many abortions instead of addressing them, addressing the causes much the way the death penalty is used to escape dealing more fundamentally and more rationally with the problem of violent crime.
There’s more in the speech: my excerpts probably do not do justice to the detailed argument.