There has been much news recently about the new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration. President Obama has condemned it and vowed to have the Justice Department investigate, signaling a legal showdown with the state of Arizona. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were also quick to condemn the measure.
But President Obama has another reason to go after the state of Arizona. Less than 24 hours after Governor Jan Brewer signed the controversial immigration bill into law, she signed into law another bill that made Arizona the first state in the nation to opt out of the government funding for abortion mandated by Obama's new health care legislation (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - PPACA).
A quick "google" of the terms "USCCB" and "Arizona" turns up several pages dealing with the Catholic bishops condemnation of the immigration bill, but nothing about Arizona's extremely brave and brazen legislation to opt out of federal abortion funding. In being the first state to do this, Arizona lawmakers have not only thumbed their collective nose at Obamacare, but have exposed, through legislation, the massive abortion funding present in the PPACA that Obama promised would not be there. (He made the promise on national television before a Joint Session of Congress and further backed up the supposed promise with an 11th hour Executive Order.)
In short, Arizona's opting out of abortion coverage is the first shot fired across the bow of Obama's flagship issue: Health Care Reform. By now, most of us are well aware that "Health Care Reform" was really just a tool to bypass the Hyde Amendment (amongst other things) and massively fund the abortion industry. Because there are some instances where the federal government cannot intrude on states' rights, states can opt out of certain parts of the legislation. One of those parts is the state run health care exchanges through which most, but not all, of the abortion funding was to be funneled. Arizona's actions in this regard amount to a very public slap in the face to President Obama, especially since as many as 20 other states are waiting in the wings to do exactly as Arizona has done.
There are many questions that arise out of this incredibly coincidental signing of these two laws within 24 hours of each other including serious questions about the true Catholic teaching on immigration and specifically illegal immigration. But eventually all questions lead to how should a Catholic respond at the polls? (The governor seat is up for election this year.) The Catholic Church, has strong moral teachings regarding both abortion and immigration. We all know the Church's teaching on abortion. Immigration is more complicated but essentially falls under the overarching "preferential option for the poor". In short, the Church sees migration as a right, though that right is limited by various circumstances including the right of sovereign states to protect their borders. See Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America (The Church in America) (January 22, 1999) (Washington, D.C.: USCCB, 1999), no. 65, citing Propositio 20.
Arizona provides all Catholics an important learning opportunity but especially here on Guam where abortion has never been a front burner political issue as it is in the states every election. As you know from previous posts, Guam has an extremely serious abortion problem, being the easiest place in the United States to obtain an abortion and with a heavy majority of those abortions being Chamorro children (i.e. most likely children of Catholic mothers). It is hoped that in our own upcoming election, we will place abortion at the top of the list when choosing between the candidates.
In short, abortion trumps all other evils, including war, racisim, poverty, nuclear proliferation, etc. It trumps the other evils simply because of the degree of innocence and defenselessness of the victim. A quick comparison between victims will help. The Arizona immigration bill is thought to be controversial because it opens the door to "racial profiling". If someone looks Mexican, he or she could be stopped by law enforcement and asked for documents. Thus a Mexican-looking person could be a possible victim. However, the "victim" has many choices. He could move to another state. If he's illegal he could go back to Mexico or seek naturalization. If nothing else, he could go into hiding. These are not happy choices, but they are still choices.
Compare the person in Arizona with Mexican features to a baby in its mother's womb. There is no way to escape the abortionist's knife. There is no scream that he or she can make that will be heard. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. This is why the Church has constantly taught that abortion is the most grievous of evils. One who obtains an abortion or assists in any way is automatically excommunicated.
These two Arizona laws highlight two moral issues: racisim (potentially) and abortion (for sure). If Governor Jan Brewer is opposed by a candidate who rejects Arizona's immigration policy but supports abortion, the Catholic would be obliged to vote for Brewer. I'll provide more documentation for these teachings in the near future. But just wanted to get this out there since it is so current. I do find it curious that our bishops are not celebrating Arizona's law to opt-out of federal abortion coverage. Maybe they'll get around to it.