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Editorial columns

Associated Press
Vice President Biden, a Catholic, was mistaken in his debate, according to a local diocese official.

Biden wrong on Catholics and abortion

In last Thursday’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Biden made a number of false statements with regard to abortion and the Catholic Church that stand in need of correction.

First, with regard to the Obama administration’s ongoing attempt to force virtually all employers – including Catholic ones – to include certain abortifacients and contraceptives in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees, the vice president asserted that “no religious institution – Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital – none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The administration’s current mandate contains only a very narrow exemption for certain “religious employers” that primarily function to inculcate their own faith with their own adherents. This exemption does not extend to Catholic Social Services, Catholic hospitals or Catholic universities or any other religious organization that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served. It is for this very reason that the Diocese of Fort Wayne–South Bend and dozens of other Catholic organizations, including the University of Notre Dame, have brought suit against the administration. While the administration announced some sort of accommodation eight months ago, nothing has yet to be formally proposed and it will very likely prove inadequate in protecting our religious freedom.

Secondly, with regard to the church’s teaching on the dignity of every human being, the vice president asserted that “I accept my church’s position on abortion as a – what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the Church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it … on others.” Actually, what the church teaches is that every human being should be treated as a person with fundamental human rights – the first of which is the right to life. The question of when a human being comes into existence is a question of science, not of faith. On this, there is no question that a unique being that is human comes into existence when the human pronuclei of sperm and egg fuse. This is textbook biology, not esoteric theology.

Finally, with regard to the question of what would happen if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, the vice president questioned whether a Republican appointee would be “someone like (Justice Antonin) Scalia … that would … outlaw abortion.”

The fact is that Scalia has consistently asserted that it would be just as wrong for the court to outlaw abortion as it was for the court to establish it as a fundamental right. The Constitution is silent on the question of abortion, and not a single member of the court, in fact, has even indicated a desire to judicially outlaw abortion. Scalia believes that this issue should be left to the democratic process to decide – not to nine justices on the highest court of the land.

Frederick Everett is director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Fort Wayne–South Bend. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.