"Choosing Evil" or "Limiting Evil?"
For example, is either of the
candidates willing at least to ban partial-birth abortion? Is either of them
willing to put up some roadblocks to free and easy abortion? Will either support
parental notification, or parental consent, or waiting periods? Has either of
them expressed a desire to ban late-term abortion, or to support pregnancy
assistance centers? How about stricter regulation of abortion facilities? Has
either candidate expressed support for that idea? Nobody is saying that s the
final goal. But ask these questions just to see whether you can see any
benefit of one of the candidates above the other.
One of the two of them will be
elected; there is no question about that. So you are not free right now,
in this race, to really choose the candidate you want. Forces beyond your
control have already limited your choices. Whichever way the election goes, the
one elected will not have the position we want elected officials to have on
In this case, it is
morally acceptable to vote for the candidate who will do less harm. This is
not "choosing the lesser of two evils." We may never choose evil.
But in the case described above, you would not be choosing evil. Why? Because in
choosing to limit an evil, you are choosing a
You can have a clear conscience
in this instance, because you know that no law can legitimize even a single
abortion, ever. If the candidate thinks some abortion is justified,
you don t agree. Moreover, you are doing the most you can to advance the
protection of life.
By your vote, you can keep the
worse person out. And trying to do that is not only legitimate, but good.
Some may think it s not the best strategy. But it is morally permissible.
Cardinal John O’Connor, in a
special booklet on abortion, once wrote about this problem, “Suppose all
candidates support ‘abortion rights’? … One could try to determine whether the
position of one candidate is less supportive of abortion than that of another.
Other things being equal, one might then morally vote for a less supportive
position.” (1990, “Abortion: Questions and Answers”).
What if there’s a third candidate
who does not have a strong base of support but does
have the right position? Of course, we should work like crazy to build up that
person’s base of support to make him or her electable. But that is not done on
Election Day. That takes years of work, which should start now.
Meanwhile, remember that
your vote is not a vote for canonization. It is a transfer of power.
We can vote for a less than perfect candidate because we aren’t using our vote
to make a statement, but to help bring about the most acceptable results under