Two opening caveats: One, we are all fallen, so none of us have all the truth on anything. Two, the pro-life movement contains passionate people who agree on the evil of abortion but at times can strongly disagree on the means to end it. It is that division I wish to address here. And I do so especially in light of the forthcoming US election.
I have already written about this a number of times in the past month or so, and I hope this will be my last piece on it – at least before the election. I have pointed out my very real disagreement with the purists – those who demand total abolition or nothing. They oppose all forms of incrementalism when it comes to abortion, and want either a perfect and complete end, or nothing.
To allow for anything else in their eyes is to “compromise” and to dirty their hands with “evil”. Thus they utterly refuse to vote for the only person who can make a real dent on abortion: Mitt Romney. Because he is not 100 per cent on side (for example, he thinks exceptions for the so-called hard cases should be allowed), they want absolutely nothing to do with him.
Now I don’t agree with Romney on this, as most prolifers do not. I have written on this elsewhere, eg.: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/08/19/abortion-and-hard-cases/
And I, like probably every prolifer on the planet, want to see the complete end of abortion as soon as is realistically possible. Where I and others differ from the purists is on the notion of reality and what can be done in a fallen world. We believe there are limits as to how much can be done, and how fast.
Sure, I and others want to see abortion ended, but we are happy to see real change as we work toward the complete eradication of abortion. We believe that if there can be, say, 50 per cent fewer abortions this year, then that is a good thing indeed – certainly for all the babies who are saved.
We will keep working to see the others saved as well, but we believe that it is foolish in the extreme to claim that unless 100 per cent are saved right now, then no progress has been made whatsoever, and we are somehow just “compromising” and complicit in “evil”.
I respectfully demur with that line of thinking – big time. I have given my reasons plenty of times already. But let me address this a bit more. While some prolife leaders will adamantly refuse to budge on this, and will not even countenance voting for Romney, there are plenty of other leaders who are endorsing him – as imperfect as he may be. They believe it is their prolife and Christian duty to vote for Romney.
Let me just mention two of them here. The first is the famous abortion survivor, Gianna Jessen. She recently addressed this issue on Facebook saying, “If you are not voting because Romney was not your first choice, or you’re not voting because of his stand on exceptions for abortion: have you forgotten that he has pledged to protect 99% of the unborn? I wish he could see the wisdom in protecting all, and maybe he soon will. But to sit home, insisting on our own way, throwing away a vote that has been dearly paid for, or writing in something akin to ‘Mary Poppins’ might make your point, but you will also help to ensure the slaughter of millions of children, and other innocents.”
The second is prolife activist Randy Alcorn who has penned several important volumes on this, including his masterful Pro Life Answers To Pro Choice Questions (Multnomah Press, 1992, 2000). He has recently written a five-part series on the election.
His last two were on the abortion issue. In the first he said this in part: “People point out that Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on abortion, which he supported in 2002 when running for Massachusetts governor. That’s absolutely true. Some say he put his finger in the political wind and changed his mind. But sometimes people mean it when they change their minds. Converts to a position can earnestly embrace it. And sometimes when they defend a position they come to hold it as a true conviction. Doesn’t it make sense to judge someone by where he landed, not by where he started?
“Many say it makes no difference whether or not the president is prolife, since presidents don’t initiate legislation and vote on it. But presidents do nominate Supreme Court justices. Unfortunately, prolife presidents have made a number of poor choices, leading people to say it makes no difference.
“Mitt Romney says he’s prolife now. Paul Ryan is unmistakably prolife, and will unquestionably do what he can to influence judicial appointments. In contrast, both President Obama and Joe Biden are staunchly in favor of legalized abortion. Romney and Ryan would likely nominate prolife Supreme Court justices. President Obama will not appoint any Supreme Court judge who’s not fully approved by Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion provider.
“Mitt Romney says he believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned. President Obama emphatically states it should not be. Planned Parenthood is so convinced that there will be a huge difference on the abortion issue, that their president, Cecile Richards, says she’s campaigning full-time for Barack Obama!”
He concludes, “I am no great fan of the Republican Party, but it does have a platform unequivocally committed to the protection of unborn children. In contrast, the Democratic platform is emphatically in favor of legalized abortion. The Democratic National Convention featured speaker after speaker celebrating the unqualified right to abortion. It sounded exactly like a Planned Parenthood convention. (If any organization openly celebrated the killing of three-year-olds, what would we think? If we are less offended by celebrating legalized killing of the unborn, it demonstrates a simple fact—we don’t really view the unborn as human beings. But a true Christian must ask, how does God their Creator view them?)
“If you are grateful your parents didn’t choose to take your life, I would encourage you to vote for a candidate who will defend the right to life of an unborn child. And don’t vote for a candidate who celebrates the right to kill what he once was and you once were. (And who your parents, friends, spouse, children and grandchildren all once were—unborn children.)”
In his second piece on abortion he also weighs in on the “lesser of two evils” arguments and similar themes: “Probably a dozen commenters wrote, ‘Voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.’ I understand the logic. I’ve used it. But there is another way to look at it: To vote for the lesser of evils is to vote for less evil.
“Think about it. Don’t we want less evil? Doesn’t less evil mean more good? I’m voting for the greater good my children and grandchildren and this country will experience than if the only other viable choice were elected. (Please don’t write saying others were far better candidates and Christians should have supported them. The only point I’m making is, regardless of the reasons, none of them will win the election.)
“Yes, I don’t like either candidate. But, for instance, let’s say I believe only one single claim Governor Romney has made. A few blog posters have claimed everything Romney has ever said is a lie, which is quite a trick if you think about it, but I’m 99.9% sure this one is true: If elected, he will reinstate the Mexico City Policy, so that American taxes no longer pay for abortions overseas. If he failed to follow through on appointing prolife justices, and everything else, that one single thing is compelling, isn’t it? What makes me think he would keep that promise? Because every Republican since Ronald Reagan has implemented it, and every Democrat has rescinded it. Even if you believe Romney cares about nothing but trying to make himself look good (as one person commented), he would look very bad to break his promise to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. Does it matter to you that your taxes are paying for abortions around the world? It matters to me.
“So this is one clear demonstration of how a vote for ‘the lesser of evils’ is a vote for less evil. By voting for the third party, and not voting for the only person who can and will reinstate the Mexico City Policy, isn’t the voter in effect making more likely the greater of evils?
“If there are two men and I’m choosing between them, unless their degree of good and evil is exactly the same, and their commitment to religious liberty, human rights, morality, sanctity of marriage and financial responsibility is identical, then righteousness is at stake in my vote.
“‘But by definition, the lesser of evils is still evil.’ Yes, and also by definition, the lesser of evils is less evil. We all know that the ideal is no evil. If we lived in Eden or on the New Earth, as all who know Christ one day will, there would be no evil. But that’s not where we live. And no party, candidate or vote will get rid of all evil. The best we can do is vote for less evil and more justice than the other electable candidate offers.
“But that’s just thinking pragmatically.’ Or is it simply thinking logically, and trying to make a positive difference with the only power now left to me? Is voting my individualized expression of ideals? Or is it bringing my ideals to bear on the messy choice between two very flawed alternatives?”
He goes on to look at the unhelpful strategy of voting third party or for an independent, and offers further Biblical consideration. I encourage you to read both of his excellent articles. They deserve a wide hearing given all the mental and moral fogginess that seems to be surrounding these issues.
In sum, I cannot go along with the purists who demand all or nothing when it comes to abortion. It is a nice theory, but an idiotic reality. Imagine the plight of the Jews during WWII. Suppose only 99 per cent could be rescued by the Allies, at least initially. These purists would immediately pull out, claiming it was “compromise” and “evil”. So they would let all of them suffer and die – all in the name of their misplaced purism.
In the same way they will stand by and allow abortion to go ahead unchecked, because perfection is not on offer in this election. They will refuse to vote for someone who can reduce abortion, someone whose position on abortion – while not perfect – is light-years ahead of Obama’s. And they will sit around feeling really smug and proud about themselves as they promote their “purity”. Sorry, but I just can’t buy it.