Three Ways Christians Rationalize Voting for Pro-Abortion Candidates
I’ve been engaged in a number of conversations lately with Christians—some of them well known orthodox Anglican thinkers and leaders—trying to justify their support for pro-abortion politicians and candidates. In almost every exchange I’ve run into slightly different forms of the same three arguments
The first goes something like this: “I agree that abortion is wrong but we cannot legislate moral choices. Instead, why don’t we simply focus on preaching the gospel. Only changed hearts will bring about a changed culture.”
The logic behind this rationalization is stunningly bad—so bad it’s hard to answer without a tinge of incredulity and exasperation. But here’s a paraphrased summary of my most common response: Right you are about changed hearts. But why the false dichotomy? One might as well say: “I agree that killing toddlers is wrong, but we cannot legislate moral choices.” Sure we can and we must. Not only do we proclaim the gospel and pray that God’s grace will change hearts and change the culture but we also put laws on the books that prevent people from killing their children.
Both/and not either/or.
The second rationalization employs logic every bit as bad if not worse than the first but a little more subtle. It goes something like this: “Yes, abortion is a great evil and yet it is merely one great evil alongside poverty, injustice, inadequate health-care and preemptive war. Why take this one great evil and elevate it above the others? I vote for the candidate who will, overall, do the most good. Every once in a while, that will mean voting for a pro-choice politician.”
The trick to this justification is to make abortion “just like” an ineffective economic policy or the failure of a particular party to resolve the health-care crisis or engaging in what some consider an unjust war. While all of these things do indeed result in destructive consequences for many people, the radical difference between abortion and any of them is that abortion is the purposeful killing of a human being. The others might result in death for many innocent people but such a result is accidental not purposeful. No free-world politician sets out purposefully to design an economic policy to kill people. Abortion has only that purpose and only that end. Comparing abortion to bad economic policy is like comparing the inept driver who accidentally swerves into oncoming traffic and kills another driver to the very good driver who purposefully drives into a crowd on the sidewalk at full speed.
In an article posted on the Christian Research Institute website Scott Klusendorf writes:
“Are pro-life advocates focused too narrowly on abortion? After all, informed voters consider many issues, not just one.
Of course abortion isn’t the only issue-any more than the treatment of slaves wasn’t the only issue in the 1860s or the treatment of Jews the only issue in the 1940s. But both were the dominant issues of their day. Thoughtful Christians attribute different importance to different issues, and give greater weight to fundamental moral questions. For example, if a man running for president told us that men had a right to beat their wives, most people would see that as reason enough to reject him, despite his expertise on foreign policy or economic reforms. The foundational principle of our republic is that all humans are equal in their fundamental dignity. What issue could be more important than that? You might as well blame politicians like Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt for focusing too narrowly on defeating the Nazis, to the neglect of other issues.”
The truth is that the ongoing , purposeful, legalized killing of innumerable unborn infants in the United States is a moral crime of such depravity that genocide, slavery, and mass murder provide the only the only legitimate comparisons.
The third rationalization involves a kind of paradigm shift. “The question is not,” some will say, “whether abortion is right or wrong. It is manifestly wrong. The question is who gets to decide? Is it right to give such power to the national government. Shouldn’t these kinds of decisions be left to the mother, the one who carries the greatest burden in caring for the unborn child? A one month old ‘fetus’ can’t survive after all unless the mother sacrifices her body to care for it? Shouldn’t she be the one who ultimately decides whether she can “
On the one hand the argument is an attempt to piggy-back on the increasingly prominent libertarian sentiment among conservatives. “Hey, if you really support less government why would you want the state getting involved in a woman’s womb?” On the other hand the argument suggests that the right to live ought to be determined by the measure of a human being’s independence.
The “libertarian” justification betrays an implicit denial of the unborn baby’s humanity. If, in fact, the unborn baby is “a baby”, then whether or not to kill it cannot be a decision left to the mother or father or both. Not even Ron Paul, I hope, would want to allow parents to kill toddlers or infants or retarded children. All these rightly enjoy the protection of the national government and the law. It should not be different for an unborn baby since “baby” it is. To argue otherwise is to implicitly accept the secularist position that a newly conceived human is somehow less human than than we are—a position both genetically and biblically repugnant.
Likewise, if we are going to define the right to live using independence or autonomy as the measure, then we will be opening a very dangerous door. There are many people who cannot survive apart from the care of another. Do they have less right to live than the more autonomous among us? Such reasoning is not very far from the “useless eater” ethics employed by health professionals in early mid-twentieth century central Europe. We are all, in fact, on some level “dependent.” Where do we draw the line? A toddler is more autonomous than a one month old unborn baby but the toddler is far less autonomous than I am. So why draw the line at the unborn month old baby? Why not the toddler? Why not the homebound grandmother? Morally, it makes very little difference. Once you tie human life to autonomy, life becomes very cheap indeed.
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