This week’s lesson in my course on bioethics deals with the principles of cooperation with evil. It is a long recognized principle that it is impossible for an individual to do good in the world without having some association with evil. In light of the Anonymous comment to my last post, I want to evaluate the action of voting for a pro-abortion candidate, specifically Obama, using the principles of cooperation with evil.
Let me first state my premises: Abortion is an intrinsic evil. It is never justified. It cannot be tolerated. Barack Obama supports abortion as is evidenced by his past senate votes and 100% NARAL rating, his endorsement by Planned Parenthood, and his promise to sign the radical Freedom Of Choice Act as one of his first official acts as president. An astute and very precise legal analysis of the dire ramifications of the Freedom of Choice Act can be found here. It can also be assumed that Obama will support US funding of abortions as part of foreign aid packages as well as the performance of abortions on military installations. In addition, it can be assumed that he will appoint Supreme Court justices who are sympathetic to Roe v Wade (in spite of the fact that many legal minds have denounced the legal thinking of this ruling). Therefore, the election of Barack Obama will cause the increased vulnerability to abortion of the unborn on a world-wide basis. This is an intrinsic evil.
The question brought up by our oh-so-courageous anonymous commenter is whether or not it is morally licit to vote for Barack Obama. The first step is to decide if a vote for Barack Obama is formal or material cooperation with the intrinsic evil of abortion. If one is voting for Obama specifically because he supports abortion it is formal cooperation. Formal cooperation with an intrinsic evil is always morally illicit. That was easy.
What if you oppose abortion? Does electing Barack Obama contribute an essential component to the increased vulnerability to abortion of the unborn on a world-wide basis even though that is not your intent? I suggest it does, because not electing him would make this dramatic increased vulnerability impossible. This would make your cooperation immediate material cooperation. Immediate material cooperation with an intrinsic evil is also morally illicit.
Let’s just say for the sake of argument, that electing Barack Obama is not an essential requirement for the increased vulnerability to abortion of the unborn. Though this will be the result of Barack Obama’s election, the voter does not intend this result. Therefore, such cooperation by electing Barack Obama would be considered mediate material cooperation. Such cooperation can only be tolerated if all four of the following conditions exist:
1. the cooperators act (voting for Obama) is itself morally good or indifferent
2. the cooperator does not intend the evil (making the unborn more vulnerable to abortion) of the principle agent (Obama)
3. the good effect is not achieved by means of the evil
4. the good effect is proportionate to the bad effect
It is condition 4 that makes the cooperation (voting for Obama) morally illicit. There is no proportionate reason to tolerate the increased vulnerability to abortion. You can see a very long list here of all the bishops who have spoken to this.
Therefore, using well-established principles of moral reasoning, I can confidently say it is morally illicit to vote for Barack Obama.
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I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.
All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.