Major elections and modern politics seem too often to bring out the worst in our society. Despite the controversy and negative aspects that are characteristic of these events, we as Catholics have to remember the responsibility we have as citizens to prudently participate in the political process. We have an obligation to vote and to vote in such way so as to foster the most good. Today, we have to approach the election, not as a Republican or as a Democrat, but rather fundamentally as a Catholic.

We acknowledge that we live with a governmental structure that is a far cry from perfect, but this does not excuse us from participation. For us as Catholics in health care, the upcoming elections represent a turning point.

The reality is that we live with a two-party system, and neither party broadly represents ideal Catholic values and social teaching. We have a responsibility to discern the better of the two options and vote accordingly. Faithful Catholics may struggle with how to approach the process and make the prudent choice. Alternatively, out of idealistic intentions they may consider options such as abstaining from voting, or voting for a third party, or writing in a vote for someone seemingly more in line with his or her views and Catholic values. Unfortunately, in today’s politics, these latter options for federal elections and, particularly, for the presidential election, only serve to lessen votes for what would have been the better of the two options in play. We must evaluate the issues at stake and prioritize them to guide our decisions.

While many issues are important, those that most fundamentally address the value of the human person should take highest priority. Among those that are highly politicized are life issues and issues of religious freedom. All Catholics should consider these a priority, but they are also the issues that are particularly relevant to those of us in health care.

Two life issues stand out as the most immediate threats to the human person: legalized abortion is a tragedy that has continued for many years in our country, and physician assisted suicide has quickly gained support in recent years. As physicians, we have an obligation to protect life at all stages, and legalized abortion and physician-assisted suicide are evils we must take a strong stance against. We cannot be silent or equivocal on these.

Issues of religious freedom are also critically important. Our right to identify as religious and to live out our faith within society must be protected. We must protect the rights of all those in health care to practice according to their consciences. Protecting religious freedom and protecting conscience in health care should mean that we are able to continue to practice fully and do so according to our convictions of right and wrong.

It cannot mean that a religious medical professional is forced out of a position or an area of health care when conscience prevents the facilitation of certain legal interventions. Catholics should not be forced to close their clinics or have funds revoked if they are unwilling to provide currently legal but morally objectionable measures such as abortion, contraception or physician assisted suicide. That is religious persecution, and yet there are political leaders that insist that if any  practitioner is unwilling to facilitate any legal measure due to religious beliefs than that practitioner is unfit to serve in that role. There are some that would make this claim while also reporting they want to increase access to health care for all. However, in light of dramatic physician and nursing shortages, how can one claim a desire to expand health care access and at the same time demand the removal of or limit Catholics in health care because of their religious beliefs?

Other increasingly prominent issues regarding the human person in health care is gender dysphoria. Physicians must stand up for patients struggling with gender dysphoria and treat them with dignity. To treat these patients with dignity, we must treat them as a whole person. We cannot deny their biology. We must protect our patients from physicians who would violate their oath to “first do no harm” and abuse children with therapies meant to counter their healthy physiology and prescribe medications with destructive side effects for the purpose of stopping their normal development.

Catholics cannot be silent on the issues at stake in our country today. We acknowledge that we live with a governmental structure that is a far cry from perfect, but this does not excuse us from participation. For us as Catholics in health care, the upcoming elections represent a turning point. Certain individual politicians and a party have clearly articulated a position that is contrary to Catholic moral and social teaching. Prudence and good conscience must guide us to prioritize human dignity and vote accordingly this November.

Dr. Wells is a Congenital Cardiac Surgery Fellow at the Heart Institute of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He has been an active board member of the Greater Cincinnati Guild of the CMA since its inception and has been a member of the national CMA since 2012. He served three years on CMA’s National Resident Board and currently serves on the CMA’s Young Member Advisory Committee.