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Pope Francis wouldn't have to call for ending the death penalty in most developed nations

Pope Francis, in his speech to Congress on Thursday, renewed his call for the US to end its use of the death penalty.

"The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," Francis said in his prepared remarks. "This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes."

But if Francis were in almost any other developed country, he wouldn't need to make this call — because the US is the only developed nation, with the exception of a few in Asia, that still allows and actively uses the death penalty.

The death penalty is abolished in most of the developed world.

Click to enlarge.

Wikimedia Commons

In fact, it is the rest of the developed world's opposition to the death penalty that is now making it more difficult to carry out executions in the US: Over the past several years, states have had trouble obtaining drugs used for lethal injections in large part due to a European ban on exporting the drugs and abolitionists' work in European countries to get companies to stop selling the drugs for execution purposes.

But states continue pushing on with the death penalty, sometimes relying on untried drugs like midazolam, and resulting in several botched executions over the past couple of years.

So Francis is left calling for the abolition of the death penalty in the US through a moral argument — one that sounds a lot like the reasoning conservative lawmakers in the US use to speak out against abortion rights. Of course, these same conservative lawmakers are more likely to support the death penalty in the first place — so it's clear whom the pope was trying to appeal to in his speech.