The number 1 question I’ve been asked since declaring my support for Biden for President is how can I, in good conscience, vote for a pro-choice Democrat?
I’ve heard the question in a wide variety of not-always-repeatable forms, all variations on, “How can you vote for a baby-killer?!” or “The Dems are the party of death!”
Let me state my positions on pro-life and politics and religion very clearly: I am a lifelong Republican. I am strongly anti-abortion. I am anti-abortion because of my Christian commitments.
Yet, because of my Christian commitments, I seek to be thoroughly pro-life, not just anti-abortion.
And, because of my Christian commitments, I cannot endorse Trump. In addition to his obvious character defects, Trump does more harm than good (including even the good of appointing conservative, pro-life judges).
So, I will vote for Biden for President. And I have thrown my support behind Republicans & Independents for Biden.
How can I, as a pro-lifer, justify my vote given Democrat support for choice?
FIRST, a true Democracy should protect liberty of belief and practice. That means that most people must put up with some beliefs and practices they disagree with and even find repugnant. Liberty, of course, creates the space for the free expression of religion; I thank God that I live in a country founded on liberty. As a consequence, though, some people have to put up with my (perhaps repugnant to them) religious beliefs just as I have to put up with their beliefs and practices with which I disagree.
The chief threat to liberty is when the group in power forces their beliefs and practices on everyone.
Take China. China’s fear of religion hurts both Christians and Muslims. In the past few years, the Chinese government has crushed Christian churches and imprisoned Christian leaders, and it is dragging Muslims off into “reeducation” camps. Better to have liberty for all than one group in ideological control.
Take Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, Shia Muslims, atheists and Christians are persecuted. If the Saudi government finds out that a Muslim has become an atheist or converted to Christianity, it can and sometimes does chop off their head. Better to have liberty for all than one group in ideological control.
Liberty with no group in ideological control is best for everyone. Better for Christians in China and Saudi Arabia. And better for every American if Christians are not in control of everyone’s beliefs and practices.
But if Christians are not in control of everyone’s beliefs and practices, then Christians must put up with some beliefs and practices they find repugnant. Living with such compromises is the price we pay for the benefits of living in a free and democratic society. And the vast majority of Americans is clearly on the side of pro-choice with restrictions. It’s not a price I always like paying (as I said, I am deeply anti-abortion), but it’s a price I’m willing pay to enjoy the liberty to follow my own religious beliefs and practices.
Moreover, because Christians, like everyone else, are at their core sinful, they—like the Chinese and the Saudi governments—should not be in control of everyone else’s belief and practice, either. It is prideful to believe that we, above all people, have everything just right while everyone else is wrong or even wicked (and then impose our beliefs on everyone). And yet, in a healthy Democracy, Christians should engage in the public square—courageously and wisely and always with humility—to promote what they see as contributing to the common good.
SECOND, the world is too complicated to focus exclusively on any single issue. While I think the abortion issue is extremely important, I think there is a host of other life and death issues that require careful judgment. Pro-life cannot and should not be restricted to being anti-abortion. There are many ways to be pro-life.
Let me mention other pro-life issues that merit our consideration.
For example, automotive regulations, from seat belts to stop signs, are life and death. What if each person freely decided how fast they wanted to drive? Pro-life considerations guided the setting of speed limits and the imposition of airbags.
Let’s be more pointed.
Environmental protections are pro-life. Just over one hundred years ago, companies poured untreated chemicals into our water systems and belched untreated air into the atmosphere; industrial cities were death-traps. In 1900, pollution was implicated in 60% of deaths in industrial cities. Yet Trump would roll back some life-sustaining environmental protections.
Poverty relief is pro-life. Poverty negatively affects infant mortality, health, life-expectancy and quality of life. Yet as child poverty rates have declined, Trump has assaulted poverty relief. Most viciously, Trump’s suggested redefinition of “poverty” would eliminate food, housing and health assistance for millions of needy children.
Social distancing and wearing masks in times of pandemic are pro-life. Trump’s inaction, outright lies, and bad example have set the stage for 215,000 and counting official deaths from COVID. While Trump tries to blame China and insists that his response was impeccable, his poor response made the US death rate worse than that of, to name just a few, Panama, Myanmar and China.
War is a pro-life issue. Trump’s insistence on bombing extensively in Syria—which sometimes hit marketplaces, schools, mosques and hospitals—wiped out entire civilian families and communities; you can fact-check that one. As US involvement waned, Trump callously abandoned the Kurdish forces who fought side-by-side US troops against ISIS. And US-supported Saudi forces in Yemen have created the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world; the vast majority of Yemenis, over 12 million, are suffering from starvation and cholera. Every six minutes a Yemini child dies of starvation.
Why do “pro-lifers” count unborn babies but not living Syrian or Yemeni babies?
These four pro-life issues—environmental protections, poverty, pandemic precautions, and war and peace—are just the tip of the pro-life iceberg. Consider also human rights, gender equality, factory farming, racism, liveable wages, health care, bigotry, social security, euthanasia, education, liberty, childcare, keeping immigrant children in cages, and the immigration of political refugees.
Since there are so many ways to be pro-life, casting one’s vote based on just one of those ways, without consideration of countless others, is not a wise way to be pro-life. Suppose someone had said, “I’m pro-life—I vote only for candidates that support food stamps” but ignored, for example, abortion or war. You’d think them silly.
I don’t presume to know the best way to be pro-life. I think being pro-life, like life, is complicated.
And I think that both parties at their best (though they aren’t always at their best) strive to be pro-life. So, I think it disingenuous and self-righteous to claim that Republicans are for life and Democrats are for death; that Republicans are good, and Democrats are evil.
For this election, I’ve determined that—overall and all things considered and taking everything into account—pro-life favors Biden.
That’s how, in this election at least, I, a lifelong pro-life Republican, will in good conscience vote for a pro-choice Democrat.