Is it possible to be pro-life and vote for a pro-choice candidate? That is a question that will surely get me into trouble with a lot of folks. The issue came up because of a recent email conversation with a friend about the upcoming election. He has essentially boiled down the entire decision-making process to one issue – abortion. If a candidate is pro-life he gives them his vote, if pro-choice then no vote.
This type of reductionist thinking is way too simplistic. To select a President simply because he supports the repeal of a Supreme Court decision is a failure to look at the big picture and resign our country to very little change. This will not help. We have been expecting our President to eliminate abortion ever since Ronald Reagan was elected and it has not happened. It is a thirty-year-old strategy that does not work so it is time to come up with a new plan.
Before I begin, let me reassure you that I am pro-life, anti-abortion, or whatever you want to call it. The purpose of this article is not to defend that position or to move you or me to another belief on this issue. My purpose is simply to address the possibility of voting for a candidate who is pro-choice. Like any good preacher, I want to make three simple points.
It is Possible to be Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion
Remember Prohibition? Of course you don’t unless you are well over a hundred years old. But, you do remember what it was and how it affected this country. A constitutional amendment was passed in 1919 that prohibited the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol. It didn’t go real well and was ultimately repealed in 1933. A group of folks were able to organize, become influential enough, and pass a law that made it illegal to use alcohol.
I’m not a drinker. Never have been and probably never will be. But, I don’t support the return of Prohibition. I think the world would be better off if we did not have drunk drivers, abusive husbands, unruly fans at the ballgame, and obnoxious people on the street corners but I don’t think those problems can be solved by banning alcohol. I am not a fan of drinking but I do support you having the choice to drink.
If I may head off an argument, let me quickly agree with you that abortion is much worse than drinking. Although between drunk driving and alcohol related deaths it is realistic to conclude that drinking can be quite deadly. Some claim that abortion is equivalent to murder, but unless you are an extremist, you don’t really believe that. If you did then you have to say that women who have abortions and doctors who perform abortions should be put in prisons and perhaps executed – even husbands/boyfriends who supported them would be accomplices. Some might say this about doctors but I don’t know of anyone who advocates this for women who have abortions. It is killing but it is not the same as gunning down a child in the streets.
Although abortion is much worse than alcohol consumption, I still think there is a lesson to be learned from Prohibition. Although I am pro-sobriety I am still pro-choice. In other words, even though I choose to remain sober and would encourage you to do so as well, I am unwilling to take the choice away from you. The primary reason is because Prohibition taught us we cannot take away that choice without serious consequences. It is the price we pay for living in a free society.
In a similar way (I realize they are not exact comparisons), I think it is possible to be anti-abortion and pro-choice. I always choose life over abortion and would hope and pray you do the same, but I don’t think it is reasonable to force you to do so as well. To put it another way, simply because a person is pro-choice does not necessarily mean they want to encourage women to have abortions. They might be very anti-abortion, always encouraging women to keep the baby, even working to help make it an easier choice. However, they are unwilling to impose their will on another person.
Not everyone who is pro-choice is operating an abortion clinic or counseling pregnant women to end their pregnancy. Perhaps they are strong advocates for freedom and responsibility. It is only possible to live in a free society if we are willing to allow others to make mistakes with their freedom.
At this point, you might want to accuse me of not standing up for the unborn who have no voice of their own. If my argument stopped here then you might have a point. However, before you take that position, listen to my other two reasons.
The President can do very little to solve the problem politically
The most commonly sought intervention that pro-life advocates desire from the President is to appoint Supreme Court Judges who will reverse the Roe v. Wade decision that allows abortions. This plan is so fraught with political maneuverings that it has not happened in thirty years in spite of numerous opportunities to nominate judges by pro-life Presidents. Whoever serves as President for the next four years may or may not have the opportunity to nominate anyone. It is unlikely he will have the ability to totally reshape the court significantly, given the requirement for Senate approval.
Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, the issue of abortion must be decided by each state. Some will allow abortions and some will not. Once laws are passed by state legislatures they will once again be tested in courts. In other words, a legislative solution to the issue of abortion is very tenuous at best. Even if abortion is disallowed by law it will not be eliminated just like Prohibition did not eliminate alcohol consumption.
Therefore, if you make your decision about which Presidential candidate to support based solely on this issue you are essentially wasting your vote. There is much the President can do to make this a better country but this is not one of those areas where he has much impact.
We must get to the real reasons women have abortions
I don’t think we need to just throw up our arms and give up on the issue of abortion. As I have already indicated, it is time for a change of strategy. Rather than simply hoping for a President who will resolve the problem, we need to begin by looking at the reasons women have abortions. Several surveys and studies have been conducted to identify the reasons and these seem to be the three main ones:
- Negative impact on the mother’s life – she has other things she wants to be doing other than having a baby. It might be a career, educational pursuit, already has a large enough family or a number of other reasons that simply make it “inconvenient” to have a baby.
- Financial instability – poverty is a big contributor to the number of abortions. Women who cannot afford the cost of a birth much less the cost of raising a child are often tempted to end the pregnancy. Relationship problems – these are women who might be single or have a husband who is very adamant about not having a child.
- Because they do not have the family support necessary for raising a child they choose abortion.
Electing a pro-life candidate who promises to help overturn a Supreme Court decision does not address any of these issues.
There are many other factors we should consider when marking our ballots. How will the candidate help with the problem of poverty, lack of health care and insurance, the cost of education, the necessity of mom’s working, the availability of child care, making adoptions easier, strengthening families, and numerous other issues. It might be that the pro-life candidate is stronger on these matters as well but it is not as simple as getting his response on only one issue.