The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Mr. Biden’s uncomplicated and very American position on abortion

President Biden departs from St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church after Mass in Wilmington, Del., on Feb. 7.
President Biden departs from St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church after Mass in Wilmington, Del., on Feb. 7. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Though some Christians may think abortion is murder, people of other religions and many nonreligious Americans disagree. Because we are supposed to have religious freedom in the United States, the government should stay out of making this decision. Abortion should be legal. 

But Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert P. George’s position in their Feb. 19 op-ed, “Biden’s position on abortion contradicts his Catholicism,” was worse. A core group that ensured Republican dominance these past four years were Christians who prioritized abortion over everything else. So separating children at the border, encouraging corruption and lies, damaging the environment, and so many unnecessary deaths from the coronavirus thanks to former president Donald Trump all came about because some religious fundamentalists thought they needed the government to force women to do their bidding. Sad.

Richard Dine, Silver Spring

It is disturbing that President Biden’s religion is ever mentioned as an issue. The U.S. government is religion-free , according to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. If you don’t believe in abortion, that is a religious decision, so don’t get one. If you believe that women should have control over their own bodies, then you are within the law and honoring the separation of church and state. 

It is troubling enough that there is a huge majority of Catholic members on the Supreme Court, theoretically representing a country wherein the majority of the population does not correspond to that religion and approximately 25 percent of Americans don’t associate with any religion. Who represents them?

Marcia Hoogstra, Washington

Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert P. George asserted that “it is science, not any catechism, that teaches us that at conception a new and distinct member of the species Homo sapiens comes to be.”

In the 1860s, science first realized that union of chromosomes from egg and sperm form the genetic inheritance of the future individual. This is such a unique defining moment that, according to Catholic and fundamentalist thinking, it must also be the occasion for union of soul with physical being. The church and many countries soon passed antiabortion laws from the time of fertilization, not because of moral change but because of change in perception of what there is to protect. The new being is dual physical plus theological.

But since the 1990s, fertility clinics have realized that on average most fertilized eggs do not survive and that viable ovulation is just as critical an event as fertilization.

So if there can be any scientific proof of something theologic, it is that life does not begin at conception.

In Catholic terminology, a way to say this is the question: Would God endow souls early just to have to turn around and rescue most of them from Limbo?

A big problem in the big fight is that a major thing being fought about remains unspoken. Pro-lifers such as Mr. Ponnuru and Mr. George do not say what they mean by “new life,” leaving pro-choicers confused. And they misstate science.

Ed Takken, Alexandria

I must ask, have Catholic laypersons and clergy alike forgotten the church’s teachings on the primacy of conscience? I understood that as a Catholic high school student in a small Montana town in the 1960s. It was very clear, and it is still on the Vatican website: We must follow our consciences and respect everyone else’s as a matter of charity. Yes, we must inform our consciences and seek the church’s counsel, but that does not mean that we must be dictated to. Additionally, the bishops tell us that we must always vote for the common good, presumably on all issues, political, economic and social.

As a cradle Catholic, I pray and hope for an end to abortion through social justice, through an impermeable safety net and laws that protect all vulnerable children and women. Meanwhile, I have to respect the consciences of President Biden and all those whose consciences he respects.

Lynn Kearney, Arlington

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