“So you’re okay with killing babies?”
Conservatives who oppose Donald Trump—or, horror of horrors, plan to vote for Joe Biden—are guaranteed to have some version of this accusation hurled at them from fellow pro-lifers. I’ve heard it plenty, especially since I explained publicly why I’ll be voting for Joe Biden. The retired leader of the denomination I belonged to for most of my life recently posted on Facebook, “The Christian has no choice…we must vote for…the Republican Party.” He went on to warn any Christian thinking of voting for a Democrat, “God will hold you accountable for killing human life.” Megachurch Pastor John MacArthur said last month that he personally discussed with President Trump why Christians “could not vote Democratic.” MacArthur went even further, claiming that “any real, true believer” will be voting for Trump. Just before I sat down to write this article, I saw someone on Facebook tell my cousin, “…if you vote for those who will murder babies in or out of the womb, their blood is on your hands.”
No pressure, Christians.
Abortion, more than any other issue, binds conservative Christians to the Republican party. Elected Democrats bear much of the blame for this; their extremist opposition to any form of abortion restriction is wildly out of touch with Americans, a large majority of whom believe abortion ought to be subject to restrictions starting in the second trimester.
To be sure, for anyone like me who believes life begins at conception (not a belief so much as a biological fact), the very idea of abortion is morally repugnant. The argument that a woman ought to be able to choose what to do with “her own body” doesn’t fly with people who understand that one human being can’t have two sets of DNA, four arms, two hearts, two brains. I have personally felt two babies growing inside me, and I assure you they were separate, distinct individuals. I wasn’t kicking my own uterus from the inside—don’t be stupid. The most militant pro-choice people in the world still attend baby showers, not fetus showers, and if they experience the grief of miscarriage, they know that something valuable, irreplaceable, and undeniably human has been lost. “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one,” sounds the same to me as, “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own one.”
And so, in every election of my life (with the exception of president in 2016), I dutifully voted for the candidates with an R after their names. They were the ones who were pro-life, like me. They were the ones who would fight to protect innocent, vulnerable, unborn babies. They said so. It’s in their party platform.
Everyone in Christian subculture knows the term “nominal Christian.” There are loads of them in America: people who call themselves Christians, who say they believe in God, who show up to church on Christmas and Easter, but whose hearts, lives, and actions remain untouched and unchanged by the gospel. They are Christians in name only.
The Republican Party is nominally pro-life. It’s pro-life in name only.
It’s so searingly obvious to me now that I can’t believe it took me so long to see it. Let me show you, my fellow pro-life conservatives.
Roe v. Wade is the super-villain of the pro-life story, the Big Bad that started it all. (For the record, I believe Roe was a terrible decision, a prime example of “legislating from the bench,” and a lot of legal scholars agree—even Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought it was faulty. I think it ought to be overturned and given to the states to decide, as it should have been in the first place.) Christians are told we must vote for Republican presidents, so they can nominate conservative justices, so we can overturn Roe v. Wade. Overturning Roe v. Wade is the Holy Grail of the pro-life movement.
But on the Supreme Court that delivered Roe v. Wade, six of the nine justices were Republican nominees. Five of those six concurred with the ruling. Legal abortion is the law in America thanks to Republican-appointed justices. Only two justices dissented, and one of them was Democrat-appointed.
For 49 of the past 50 years, the majority of the Supreme Court has been made up of Republican nominees. You read that correctly.
Pro-life Catholic William T. Cavanaugh lays out why if overturning Roe v. Wade were possible, it would have happened by now: “By 1992, pro-life presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush had appointed five justices, giving the Republicans an 8-to-1 advantage, and the lone Democratic appointee, Byron White, was one of two justices who voted against the Roe decision. If ever Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned, this was the time. But when Planned Parenthood v. Casey came before the court that year, it not only failed to overturn Roe v. Wade, but also outlawed restrictions that put an ‘undue burden’ on women seeking abortions.”
Republicans have held unified control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency for six out of the past twenty years, including the first two years of Donald Trump’s term. Yet Planned Parenthood is still fully funded—they actually received a record-high total of taxpayer dollars during Trump’s presidency after the passage of his new tax bill. No federal personhood bill has even been attempted during any of the six years Republicans held complete power.
In late February 2019, during debate over the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Bill”, Senate Republicans seized the opportunity to cast Democrats as inhuman monsters who want dying babies left alone and unaided as they gasp for air. Democrats called the bill a “political stunt” and pointed out that it is already a crime to not provide care to infants born alive after an attempted abortion. In the end, the Republican-held Senate didn’t have a filibuster-proof majority, so the bill failed to receive a vote—as predicted.
Less than five weeks later, those same Senate Republicans used the “nuclear option” to kill the filibuster, in order to speed up confirmation of President Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees.
So I have to ask my fellow pro-lifers: Why was filling government positions more important to the Republicans they elected than protecting the lives of babies? Why did Republicans fight harder and dirtier to confirm judges than to prevent infanticide? They had the power to overrule the Democrats during the Born-Alive fight if they really wanted to—they proved it just weeks later. But they chose not to use that power in the fight for life. Why?
During the recent Vice-Presidential debate, Mike Pence was asked directly about that pro-life dream-come-true: a world where Roe v. Wade has been overturned. “If Roe v Wade is overturned, what would you want Indiana to do? Would you want your home state to ban all abortions?” What an opportunity for the pro-life VP to make a passionate, eloquent statement about the value of all human life! To argue convincingly before millions of Americans why we ought to turn our backs on the barbarity of abortion!
He used half his allotted time to talk about General Quasem Soleimani. He never answered the question at all.
Because the Republican Party is only nominally pro-life.
I’m not talking about Republican voters; I know firsthand that so many of them fervently believe in protecting unborn babies—indeed, it is the one thread that has kept some of them connected to a president they would otherwise disapprove of. I’m talking about Republican politicians, who are keenly aware of this dynamic.
When the GOP knows that abortion will keep evangelicals voting for them en masse year after year, why wouldn’t they keep using it to court us? When wielding abortion as a club has been so effective at beating otherwise dissatisfied Christian voters into submission, why would they want to surrender it? When their leader, the most immoral, offensive, un-Christlike man imaginable, can do and say as many indefensible things as he wants because a huge portion of their base will always say, “But abortion!” and vote for them anyway, why would they ever voluntarily lose that advantage?
In his recent book, Pastor Patrick Kahnke bottom lines it for us: “Most Republican politicians have no real interest in seeing meaningful progress on the abortion issue, because once that happens, they will lose the hold they have on their evangelical base.”
My entire life, I’ve been told I must vote Republican to save babies’ lives. But for almost 50 years, electing Republicans has not ended abortion. They’ve done precious little to even curb it. They did pass a partial-birth abortion ban in 2003; I’ll give them that. But abortion providers simply get around this law by killing the baby in the womb before it is delivered. The ban has made no real impact. The overall rate of abortions has dropped steadily since Roe—but it has dropped slightly faster under Democrat presidents.
At the state level, yes, Republicans have made real attempts to restrict abortion (most of which have so far been struck down by the majority Republican-nominated Supreme Court.) But at the federal level, their track record is clear. The GOP doesn’t really want to end abortion.
Some of you may wonder if I’m being too cynical. Is the party well-meaning but just inept and unable to enact its agenda when in power? No, clearly not. Republicans have seen great success at cutting taxes, rolling back environmental protections, defending gun rights, lavishly funding the military, and keeping health care largely run by the private sector. They know how to get wins when they’re in the majority.
And they know how to keep their base in line. Casting themselves as righteous crusaders for life against the forces of evil is a very powerful weapon. Powerful enough to keep “pro-life” people voting for them while they mock Americans for trying to protect their fellow citizens’ lives by wearing masks. While saying older people should be willing to die to keep the economy running smoothly. While slashing the number of refugees we welcome by over 80%—to hell with your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. While responding with shrugs when a whistleblower nurse reported forced hysterectomies on immigrant women at ICE facilities—it’s probably best if those women don’t have babies, anyway. While saying COVID-19 “affects virtually nobody” as 200,000 Americans lay dead from the virus. While refusing to even answer whether they’ve ever impregnated a woman who then had an abortion.
The Republican Party is pro-life in name only.
My pro-life friends, I don’t expect you all to vote for a Democrat. I understand why some of you can’t bring yourselves to do it—though perhaps you’ll be encouraged, as I was, to learn of the group, Democrats For Life of America, who recently took out a full page ad in the New York Times urging their party to moderate on the issue of abortion.
But I hope you can see now that being single-issue voters has gotten us nothing. For half a century, it has gotten us nothing. Worse than nothing: we have handcuffed ourselves to a party that is cynically using us. I will not be lectured any longer by fellow pro-lifers who tell me I must vote Republican. The blinders are off.
I’m pro-life, and I’m voting for Joe Biden even though he’s wrong about abortion, because the GOP needs chemo. In the meantime, as we have done for years, my family will continue donating to pro-life organizations that help women choose life by providing real, practical support for them and their babies.
It’s clearly a better use of our efforts than voting for Republicans.