OK, so you've heard all the exhortations about how you have to vote, and how a candidate's position on abortion is the primary issue in deciding whether to vote for him or her. You know that the wrong position on abortion can never be balanced by having great positions on lots of other issues. You accept all that.
But then when you look at the candidates, you find one worse than the other in accepting and promoting child-killing. Then you see some pro-life organizations endorsing one of the two miserable choices, and other pro-life groups saying that neither one is pro-life, and neither deserves our endorsement.
Then you are confused about whether it is OK to vote for any of them, or perhaps not vote at all.
This may help to clarify the confusion: Forget about putting any labels or endorsements on anyone. Don't call them anything. In your mind, don't give any endorsements. Or, if you prefer, call them both pro-abortion.
Then just ask a simple question: Which of the two candidates will do less harm to unborn children if elected?
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. And if you can, then what is your choice?
One of the two of them will be elected; there is no question about that. (You, and many who think like you, could run for office yourself and have the perfect position on abortion, but you don't have the political base needed to get elected…at least not right now.) 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 abortion.
But acknowledging this, it is morally acceptable to vote for the candidate who will do less harm.
Because in choosing to limit an evil, you are choosing a good.
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. You oppose the evil of abortion, in every circumstance, no matter what. You know that no law can legitimize even a single abortion, ever. If the candidate thinks some abortion is OK, you don't agree.
But 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 if your question is whether it is morally permissible to vote for the better of two bad candidates, the answer -- in the case described above -- is yes.
For more information, see:
A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters (from the EWTN website)
For a statement by Catholic leaders on this topic, click here.
For a more detailed moral analysis, based on an analogous situation described in the Pope's encyclical The Gospel of Life, click here.