Abortion Is Only One Moral Issue Involved in the Upcoming Election

The upcoming national, state, and local elections are about much more than abortion. The best elected leaders are those who can bring conscience, character, and reverence for life to every issue they influence. The defense of the lives of unborn children is important, but if we choose candidates based solely on their positions on abortion, we may end up voting for candidates who will have little or no influence over that issue but who could have important influence over other moral issues. Further, that single-issue vote may result in the election of candidates who are affiliated with the “pro-life party” (perhaps for tactical rather than moral reasons) but who are of lower character and have less respect for the U.S. Constitution than candidates affiliated with the other major party.

Moral issues influence the way government and laws affect the poor, needy, and otherwise vulnerable, including children born and unborn. They influence the manner in which those with minority status are respected or disrespected in our society. They influence the level of violence, outrage, and polarization in our cultural conversations. They influence the ethics of government and are examples of the way those in public life should conduct themselves. 

Presently, when people of differing beliefs are figuratively at war with one another over abortion, we can emphasize what is lost when advocates discuss only the individual rights of women, as though there were no other lives involved in the decision to have an abortion. But we can also avoid the hypocrisy that the unborn child is the only life involved, as though the mother is not also important. Those who support the right to abortion sometimes protest that people who call themselves “pro-life” are concerned about children only before they are born, pointing to the large number of children and adults who live in poverty and other severe difficulties. Gracy Olmstead writes: “A 2005 Guttmacher Institute study found that approximately one-quarter of women who had an abortion said they did so because they could not afford to have a baby.  . . . This might be an issue fought best not just through anti-abortion policy but also through efforts, at both the local and national levels, to empower and support women who need better health care access, better wages and better community supports.”[1]

The middle ground in the abortion debate, between legally allowing abortion in all cases at all times during pregnancy and never allowing abortion in any case at any time during pregnancy—a middle ground where most Americans’ beliefs lie, according to a 2019 PBS Newshour/NPR/Marist poll[2]—can be difficult to navigate. Caitlin Flanagan writes movingly that viewing the 3D ultrasound of a 12-week-old fetus was a “Rorschach test,” as some people see only “the possibility of a developed baby,” but she sees a living human being who would suddenly cease to live if aborted. Equally terrible to Flanagan, though, are the dreadful and deadly consequences for women of botched illegal abortions—which women can be desperately willing to get.[3]

Columnist Michael Gerson maintains that pro-life Americans are going to convince others in the abortion debate only “if we persuade enough people to join our side of the argument,” not by “gaining power and imposing our view,” and that to have our arguments associated with immoral political candidates is likely to hurt rather than help the Christian cause.[4] One way to persuade people to re-think their views about abortion is to elect leaders with the morality, wisdom, and compassion to consider the implications for human lives of every decision they face.

[1] Gracy Olmstead, “How Abortion Warps Our Politics,” New York Times, February 5, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/opinion/abortion-trump.html

[2] Gretchen Frazee, “New Abortion Laws Are Too Extreme for Most Americans, Poll Shows,” NPR, June 7, 2019, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/new-abortion-laws-are-too-extreme-for-most-americans-poll-shows

[3] Caitlin Flanagan, “The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate,” The Atlantic, December 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/the-things-we-cant-face/600769/

[4] Michael Gerson, “It’s Difficult for Pro-Lifers to Vote Democrat. But It’s Better Than Trump.” Washington Post, February 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/yes-christians-can-be-both-anti-abortion-and-anti-trump/2020/02/13/9afd9654-4e97-11ea-9b5c-eac5b16dafaa_story.html

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