Catholic voters are the crystal ball of presidential elections and, when it comes to reproductive and sexual health care issues, they aren’t who you think they are.
In the last eight out of nine presidential elections, Catholic voters have picked the winning candidate. But it would be wrong to think Catholics can be counted on to vote one particular way – even when it comes to the political can of worms known as "social issues." In fact, despite anecdotal articles that tell one story, they seem to steer clear of values issues when making decisions about a candidate, preferring to focus on such issues as the war in Iraq and the economy.
And if you’re talking about abortion, contraception and comprehensive sex ed, don’t assume Catholic voters automatically swing to the right. Almost half of all Catholics believe that abortion should be available with some restrictions. Ninety-seven percent of Catholic women are just as likely to have used some form of contraception banned by the church as women from the general population in this country. The majority of Catholics (88%) support public schools providing sex-education to students.
In a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll taken in 2005, 78% of adults surveyed believe that the pope should allow Catholics to use birth control.
Doesn’t sound like the Catholic voters we generally envision when religious voters are discussed in the mainstream media.
In fact, many progressive Catholics are lobbying for an expansion of the conversation that moves beyond abortion to an examination of where the candidates stand on the economy, the war and the environment. And when the conversation does turn to sexual and reproductive health issues, they see an opportunity relate it to what’s truly important: the policy positions of each of the candidates and how rhetoric and stump speeches are – or aren’t – accurate reflections of how the candidates will lead the country.
As Dana Goldstein reports on TAPPED today, Catholics United, a non-partisan organization "dedicated to promoting the message of justice and the common good found at the heart of the Catholic Social Tradition" just released a television ad [see below] that will begin running Friday, September 19th in key markets around the country. And while it’s true that Catholics United is no supporter of abortion access, they are strong supporters of reducing the abortion rate by embracing solid public policy that increases economic support for women, children and families, opposes overturning Roe v. Wade, and promoting common ground in the debate.
It’s all part of the argument we’ve been making on RH Reality Check throughout this campaign season. If you want to talk about life, talk about how politician’s policies affect the lives of Americans. If you want to talk about teen pregnancy, discuss how your policies help reduce the number of teen pregnancies, assist young mothers with crucial access to social services, and give teens the education and information they need to make the best decisions possible for their health and lives. If you want to talk about helping babies and children, then support legislation that expands health care access for low income children, provides universal access to pre-K programs, and paid family leave to ensure a stronger family unit from the start.
In other words, actions speak louder than words.
Watch the ad: