I believe abortion should be grieved, not celebrated; discouraged not promoted. I was glad to see the recent statement of Democrats for Life urging the Democratic Party to be more welcoming of them. Decades ago, I wrote a book called COMPLETELY PRO-LIFE and I recently published an Op Ed in USA Today criticizing Joe Biden and the Democratic Party's current position on abortion.
But does abortion trump (sorry, but that is the shortest way to ask my question) , does abortion trump all other issues? Some Evangelicals and Catholics think so. (I’m getting responses to my blogs from them!)
I disagree and here is why.
Over the course of my life, I have had good Christian friends who said: The overriding political issue is nuclear weapons. Or global poverty. Or marriage. Or abortion. I have always said, "I care about that issue. But what does the Bible say God cares about?”
When we ask that question, it quickly becomes clear that God cares both about the sanctity of human life and economic justice for all, especially the poor. God cares both about marriage and racial justice. God cares both about sexual integrity and peacemaking and care for creation.
That is why the National Association of Evangelicals (the largest evangelical network in the United States) says in its official public policy document (FOR THE HEALTH OF THE NATION) that "faithful evangelical civic engagement and witness must champion a biblically balanced agenda” (page 12). And this official document goes on to illustrate what a "biblically balanced agenda” includes. The document has eight major sections: 1), protecting religious freedom and liberty of conscience; 2) safeguarding the nature and sanctity of human life; 3) strengthening marriage, families and children ; 4)seeking justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable; 5) preserving human rights; 6)pursuing racial justice and reconciliation; 7) promoting just peace and restraining violence; 8) caring for God's creation.
This official evangelical document clearly says all these issues are important. It does not say one issue is more important than all the others. They are all crucial parts of a "biblically balanced” political agenda.
One wag (unkindly) suggested that some “pro-life” people seem to care about the sanctity of human life only from "conception to birth.” But if one is truly pro-life, one must care about the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. There are many things that public policy shapes that kill persons created in the image of God. That includes global poverty, lack of health insurance, racism, smoking, climate change and capital punishment.
Global poverty. About 9 million people die every year of hunger and hunger related illnesses. Poor nutrition and hunger kill 3.1 million children every year. Bread for the World reports that over 800 million people suffer inadequate nourishment because of hunger. And because of inadequate nourishment, 200 million children under five are stunted – – which produces permanent damage to body and brain. The World Food Program estimates that by the end of 2020, 265 million people around the world could be pushed to the brink of starvation.
In our rich world, there is no need for millions of people to die of hunger. There are many effective programs that Americans contribute to -– both private and government programs –– that are effective in reducing global poverty. But the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to cut government programs to combat global poverty. That is a pro -life issue.
Healthcare. The US is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee health coverage to everyone. Studies have shown that people without health insurance are less likely to visit a doctor, more likely to have poor health, and die younger than persons with health insurance. But the Trump administration has tried repeatedly to abolish the Affordable Care Act ( which provided health insurance to about 20 million more Americans)—without offering a different program to provide health insurance to everyone. The is a pro-life issue.
Also a part of healthcare is President George W. Bush's Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) that has continued for three administrations. In 2018, Secretary of State Pompeo announced that this US program had saved the lives of more than 17 million people around the world. But in his proposed budgets, Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to cut this program. He proposed cuts in 2017 that would have led to 1 million deaths worldwide. And in his proposed 2020 budget, Trump called for even more drastic cuts in PEPFAR. That too is a pro-life issue.
Racism. For centuries, American racism has killed persons created in God’s image. Slavery not only dehumanized but also killed many African-Americans. In the hundred years after Lincoln ended slavery, racist ( often evangelical) white Americans lynched thousands of African-Americans. The widespread outrage over the murder of George Floyd by a white policeman has called attention in a new way to the fact that African-Americans are far more likely than white Americans to be killed by the police. And one tragic fact about the current pandemic is that African-Americans are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as white Americans. Tragically, President Trump continues to stoke racism rather than lead the nation to end it. Combating and ending racism is a pro-life issue.
Smoking. Cigarette smoking causes 480,000 American deaths every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than half the number of American abortions in a year reported by the CDC (623,471 in 2016 ). Globally, tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. That is a pro-life issue.
Senator Jesse Helms (who used to be one of the most visible pro-life, antiabortion, senators) supported government subsidies to tobacco growers. He even supported shipping American tobacco to poor countries under our Food for Peace program! Hardly completely pro-life! Using government to discourage smoking is a pro-life issue.
Climate change. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is happening and unless we drastically reduce the emission of global warming gases, the result will be devastating changes: more terrible storms, expanding deserts, increasing starvation and death. And the poor will suffer and die the most.
Bread for the World ( 2020 Hunger Report) says the effects of climate change already each year push tens of millions of people into hunger. That will only get much worse and millions will die unless we act now. Tragically, the Trump administration rejects the nearly unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and has implemented numerous substantial policies that reverse previous government decisions designed to combat global warming. Combating global warming is a pro-life issue.
Capital punishment. Capital punishment kills a person created in the image of God and loved immeasurably by God. Not even committing some horrendous crime changes that. There are of course some people whose evil actions indicate that they must remain in prison – – even for life. But surely it is more in keeping with respect for the sanctity of every human life for society to imprison such people, even for life, rather than kill them.
It is true that the Old Testament prescribed capital punishment for many things – – including adultery, lighting a fire on the Sabbath and stubborn or lazy children. But in the only case where Jesus dealt with a situation where the Old Testament explicitly prescribed capital punishment, Jesus did not follow the Old Testament prescription. To the adulterous woman, he said, "Neither do I condemn you… Go and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
The official CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH says the death penalty is "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” In 2019, the Trump administration announced that it would again reinstate federal executions after a 16 year hiatus. That is also a pro-life issue.
It is clear that abortion is by no means the only pro-life issue in 2020.
It is also true that there are important economic programs that can help reduce abortion. One of the primary reasons women give for having an abortion is financial hardship if they have another child. A variety of programs – – including health insurance for all, financial help before and after giving birth, affordable child care, etc. – – can make abortion to avoid financial hardship less attractive. Unlike Donald Trump, Democrats are more likely to support such programs.
Unfortunate, Joe Biden now seems to oppose any restrictions on abortion and wants the government to pay for abortion. That ignores the long-standing pattern discovered over decades in Gallup polls: about 70% of the American people want some restrictions on abortion! Only 29% of Americans want abortion to be legal in all circumstances.
20% of Americans want abortion to be always illegal. And 50% want it to be legal but with some restrictions. To ignore that 70% of all Americans who want at least some restrictions on abortion is both morally wrong and politically foolish.
But let's suppose that Donald Trump wins in November 3, appoints one or two more “pro-life” persons to the Supreme Court and the high court proceeds to overturn Roe vs Wade. Would that end abortion in America? Not a chance! The 79% of Americans who want abortion to be legal will vote to make that happen. So if the law about abortion were suddenly written by the states, the vast majority of Americans would still be living in places where abortion is legal. There would probably be some restrictions on things like late term abortions, but abortions would still be widely legal. That means that on the basis of the most realistic projection of what Trump’s reelection would mean on abortion, not a lot would substantially change. In spite of the current political rhetoric, major change in this area is not in play in the 2020 elections.
But other pro-life issues certainly are! Poverty reduction, racial justice, avoiding disastrous climate change, and healthcare for all certainly are in play this year. I grieve abortion. But it does not trump everything else! As the National Association of Evangelical says in its official public policy document, biblical people must support a "biblically balanced agenda,” not one-issue politics.
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