Let’s suppose you support a political candidate or party because of tradition, self-interest, or a genuine belief that the person or party will implement policies that affect your neighbor for the good. None of these motivations for voting the way you do is necessarily negative. Democrats, Republicans, and third party voters each offer such justifications for voting the way they do. Of course other factors come into play. For example, how intolerable is the opposition? But this post will focus on the positive justifications provided for voting the way one does, hashed out in terms of the possibility of a Christian voting for a ‘pro-choice’ political candidate.
Currently, the Democratic Party in the United States of America openly advocates for abortion in its political platform under the heading of “Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice” to “Ensure the Health and Safety of All Americans.”
Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.
To my knowledge, the Democratic Party is the only major political party in the US that openly advocates for abortion in this way. The other major party, the Republican Party, under the heading of “Protecting Individual Conscience in Healthcare” in its platform, goes so far as to argue for protecting the consciences of those opposed to the practice of abortion, whether they are healthcare professionals or tax payers, although some have rightly questioned the apparent inefficiency of Republicans to implement such policies while in office. In any event, since the Republican Party differs from the Democratic Party in that it does not explicitly advocate for abortion in its platform, and since third parties which do advocate for abortion are unlikely to be major players in American politics, this post will focus on the Democratic Party in relation to support for abortion.
Recall the positive reasons a person might support a political candidate or party and apply those reasons to the Democratic Party and its candidates. A person might vote Democrat because of tradition, self-interest, or a genuine belief that the person or party will implement policies that affect his or her neighbor for the good. None of these reasons for voting is necessarily wrong. One might even argue these motives are morally good.
By way of push back with regard to the issue of abortion in particular, consider tradition in light of the current state of the Democratic Party. Much has changed since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For that matter, much has changed since the time of William Jefferson Clinton. So we won’t consider this point any further. Now consider self-interest. Using self-interest as a reason for voting Democrat (“this party does X, Y, or Z for me“) seems less than appropriate when one thinks through the abhorrence of abortion. That leaves the third motivation of voting for the love of neighbor. What might that look like when it comes to abortion?
Decreased Abortions Under Democrats
This brings me to what I consider the best argument for voting in favor of pro-abortion parties and people. The argument goes something like this: while the Democratic Party states, in its platform, a number of pro-abortion positions, it’s actually the case that when Democrats are in office, the number of abortions decreases. Any number of socioeconomic realities of implementing Democratic policies or principles might account for this disparity between the number of abortions under Republican versus Democrat controlled civil governments, but what’s most important to see is how this state of affairs plays right into the pro-life voter’s plan to slow or end abortion. And so, while Republicans or other ‘pro-life’ parties and persons might intend to end abortion, they’re actually very bad at it, and Democrats become the better choice for the Christian voter. This argument seems particularly appealing in such a frustrating political climate. However, the argument doesn’t work.
Problems with the Decreased Abortions Argument
First, the argument fallaciously rests on cum hoc ergo propter hoc, which is to say, people are conflating correlation with causation. Even if the number of abortions decreases under Democrats, there’s no way to establish that the Democrats in any way, shape, or form actually caused that decrease. Plenty of other factors are in play.
Second, one might argue that Democratic policies are not the socioeconomic savior people think. This counter gets into the weeds of what economic policies are most conducive to human flourishing. It could be the case that particular policies actually function to keep poor people away from access to healthcare, especially when implemented over lengthy periods of time. It’s not just a given, in other words, that Democratic policies are better for the poor or provision for mothers who might be considering abortion for financial reasons (a problem we need to think a bit more about, even if that’s still an awful, and unjustifiable reason, to end the life of a child).
Third, regardless of the practical outcome of putting Democrats in office, pro-abortion politicians actively and actually oppose any legislation which might limit abortion. The examples of common sense pro-life legislation being rejected by pro-abortion politicians are so numerous they need not be named. We cannot overlook this reality.
If it’s true that the number of abortions decreases under Democrat control, Christians could argue that love for neighbor is the motivating factor in their nevertheless supporting a pro-abortion candidate or party, even though they personally disagree with the pro-abortion position. However, as we’ve seen here, that argument won’t work, because it conflates correlation with causation, begs the question regarding the benefits of certain socioeconomic policies, and conveniently overlooks the fact that pro-abortion principles ensure that pro-life legislation gets voted down. But it’s not true that the number of abortions decreases under Democratic control anyway. Consider, for example, this article from Snopes.
Other arguments could be made for Christians to support pro-abortion parties and politicians (I am not saying they are good arguments, or that we should make such arguments). Some Christians believe, with John Piper, that “the endorsement of the right to kill unborn children disqualifies a person from any position of public office. It’s simply the same as saying that the endorsement of racism, fraud, or bribery would disqualify him—except that child-killing is more serious than those.” Thus, studying supposed difficulties associated with ‘single issue voting’ may be of some interest. Others see support for pro-abortion candidates as necessary due to its assumed relation to the issue of racial reconcilation. But that reasoning appears to be based on faulty and possibly racist assumptions. Either way, we will not examine such arguments in this post.
Nevertheless, when it comes to Christians supporting the Democratic Party (or other similarly pro-abortion political movements), they must attempt to mitigate the moral evil of state-sponsored abortion or abortion itself. My concern with that is moral, rather than political. The Southern Baptist Convention once sought to mitigate the evil of abortion through its 1971 Resolution on Abortion. The resolution argues that “Christians in the American society today are faced with difficult decisions about abortion,” describes abortion as possibly “a purely private matter between a woman and her doctor,” and calls upon “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” One would hope that we, as a convention, would not find ourselves in such a situation again, particularly for poorly thought-out political reasons.