Let me begin by saying that my desire is for every baby conceived to be born healthy.
Growing up and throughout the first half of my twenties, I believed that anti-abortion legislation was the best and only significant way to do accomplish this. I also believed it was my duty as a Christian to advocate for those lives above all others. In the last six or so years, I have changed my mind on both counts.
First, let’s talk about the effectiveness of anti-abortion legislation.
I want to thank everyone who responded to last week’s post, including those who corrected some of my errors. Your comments encouraged me to research further for this week’s post. One of the things I have learned is that the year before Roe V. Wade was passed, there were over 600,000 legal abortions in the US (not accounting for those performed by unlicensed doctors or attempted by the women themselves). The Supreme Court has had a majority of Republican justices for 49 of the past 50 years, including when Roe was decided, yet Roe has not been overturned during this time. Even if Roe was overturned, it’s estimated that it would only reduce abortions by 14% or so, and there’s no guarantee that even a full bench of Republican justices would ever choose to do this. Now, 14% of abortions is still a lot of lives. But at 14% efficacy, Roe V. Wade is not the lynchpin piece of legislation that both Republicans and Democrats portray it to be, and I also portrayed it to be last week.
Data tells us that fewer abortions are occurring now than at any point since 1973. A combination of factors are responsible, including comprehensive sex education, affordable contraceptives, widespread affordable healthcare, affordable childcare, paid maternity leave, reduced cost of adoptions, and other economic policies. These factors help reduce the number of abortions because women either don’t have an unplanned pregnancy (due to eduction and affordable contraception) or they feel financially and socially supported enough to care for the child they unexpectedly conceived (affordable healthcare and childcare, paid maternity leave). All of these factors help to significantly reduce the number of abortions, no “what ifs” of Supreme Court seats required. Yet most of these factors are not part of conservative platforms, which means a big piece of the puzzle to promoting life is left out of their anti-abortion strategies.
If you’d like to see how such factors reduced the number of abortions in 2 states, watch this clip from Skye Jethani:
Next, let’s talk about our responsibility to unborn lives.
A few years ago, my aunt and I were talking about the 2016 election over lunch. When I told her who I had voted for, she said “What about abortion?” I told her an abbreviated version of the above, and that I believed the Democratic party does more to reduce the number of abortions through their holistic approach than anti-abortion legislation from the Republican party. She shook her head and said, “I can’t do that. I just feel like God’s going to hold me accountable for all those unborn babies.”
I asked her to clarify: “You personally?” She said yes, then she said, “I believe God is going to hold me accountable for all those little babies who don’t have a voice.”
After a moment, I asked her, “What about the other children who don’t have a voice?” When she didn’t answer me, I said, “What about the children on a schoolbus in Yemen who were killed by a missile purchased from the US? Are you responsible for their deaths?”
She shook her head, bewildered. “I haven’t heard about that,” she said.
“Whether or not you’ve heard of it, your voting choices led to their deaths at least as directly as to the abortion of a fetus,” I said. “What about the children being kept in cages, separated from their parents, and not provided clean diapers or regular food or vaccinations? Some of them have died, and others are so traumatized that they don’t recognize their parents when they’re returned to them—are you responsible for that? They don’t have a voice, and neither do their parents because they’re in cages too.”
“Cages?” she asked, looking at me again.
“Yes,” I answered. “Cages. It’s been all over the news.” When she didn’t react, I said, “There was a little girl who was shot in the head by police officers while she was asleep on the couch in her living room. And Sandy Hook was full of children who were murdered in their classrooms. Do you believe God is going to hold you personally accountable for their deaths?”
After a minute, my aunt, a little lost sounding, said, “I haven’t thought about that.” She considered a few seconds longer, then repeated, “I’ve never thought about that.”
Maybe you haven’t either.
Growing up, I was taught in my church that abortion is so heinous that is supersedes all other issues, which means that there was only one Christlike way to vote: for conservative candidates (Republicans) who support anti-abortion legislation. Also while I was growing up, I asked God to break my heart for what breaks God’s heart. In the years since I asked that of God, I have learned that yes, abortion breaks God’s heart, but much more breaks God’s heart than abortion alone. Many more people suffer and die than unborn children. So why would I vote as if those are the only lives God cares about?
I’m not saying that we Christians as a whole or individually are not responsible for those unborn children who might be aborted in a clinic that remains open because of how we vote. I’m saying there are many other effective avenues for keeping a child from being aborted—more effective than what overturning Roe V. Wade (as uncertain as that possibility is) would maybe accomplish. I’m also saying that we are responsible for many other children’s deaths and traumas, too. I voted for Obama in 2012, and so I am responsible for the families harmed by the forced separation policy he enacted among immigrants. The cages and neglect, however, are new.
We as the Christian community in the United States are responsible for the children who will never be born because their mothers were forcibly sterilized while detained. We’re responsible for the children whose records were erased and their parents can no longer be found. We responsible for the children poisoned by the water in their taps. We’re responsible for the children in NYC who have lost a parent to COVID-19 (there are now more of them than there were who lost a parent on 9/11). We’re responsible for the children who have died in mass shootings. We’re responsible for children who face wildfires and rising oceans and food scarcity.
Let’s recap. A single issue vote is intended to help elect a Republican president who may have the opportunity to appoint Supreme Court Justices, who might have a case come up which challenges Roe, and who may eventually be part of a majority that chooses to go against SCOTUS’s previous ruling to overturn Roe. As controversial as the law is, it has been federal law for 50 years. That’s a lot of “ifs” required to justify a vote based on the single issue of anti-abortion legislation. Meanwhile, a lot more can be done immediately to reduce the number of abortions through widespread access to healthcare, comprehensive sex education, and community support for crisis pregnancy centers and domestic violence shelters. Additionally, many more lives are at stake than the unborn who might be aborted. A lot more people are voiceless than just those children.
If you, like my aunt, have never considered how far your responsibility to love your neighbor as yourself reaches—how many lives you bear responsibility for—I hope you will before Nov. 3.
Is your choice the best and wisest choice to promote life, mercy, and justice, and to act out your love for God and for others? If you believe the answer is yes, go with God and vote in that way. But please, don’t cast your vote based on only one issue, on only one set of lives possibly being affected out of all those who are at risk.