“There’s no way I will vote for Joe Biden. I’ll never vote for anyone who supports abortion.”
This is the oft repeated phrase of many voters. Even if they don’t like the actions or leadership of Donald Trump, they will still vote for him in the upcoming election because, from their perspective, to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate is to vote for a candidate that supports killing babies – and that is unacceptable.
It’s also wrong.
I write this post with a good deal of hesitance, concerned with how it might impact certain readers, concerned about yet another man speaking to an issue that far more directly impacts women, concerned that an issue of such profound importance will just be divided up along partisan lines like always.
Nevertheless, as someone who grew up as a deeply pro-life Republican and who is now a deeply pro-life Democrat, there are things worth saying as we near this election. And the most important of those things is this…
If you oppose abortion, the strategy of electing Republican presidents to nominate conservative Supreme Court justices won’t work.
It is likely that in the coming weeks the Senate will approve a 6th conservative justice to the Supreme Court. Of course, that does not mean that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. After all, it was in the term of a Republican president with a court that had six Republican nominated justices that Roe v. Wade was made law in the first place.
But EVEN IF Roe v. Wade were overturned, that doesn’t end abortion or make it illegal, it simply returns the decision about abortion to the states. Some states will restrict access to abortion, just as they do now. But other states, including states with large populations like California, will not only continue giving access to abortion, they will actively work to make those services available to people who live in states where abortion rights are restricted.
Organizations will raise money to provide transportation and treatment funding for women who need to travel out of state for abortion services. Doctors who believe deeply in a woman’s right to choose will make their services available and affordable to women who need them.
The ultimate result of a Supreme Court reversal on Roe v. Wade won’t be the end of abortion, it will just restructure the way that abortion services are provided and accessed by women in this country. Therefore, if you are a pro-life advocate that seriously wants to end abortions in the United States, you don’t do it by changing the courts – you do it by changing the country.
The only way to end abortion is to:
- make every pregnancy a wanted pregnancy
- come to a place in technology and medicine where every wanted pregnancy ends with a healthy baby born into this world.
We cannot accomplish the second point above in the near term. There are devastating realities that we are not yet able to fix or change.
We CAN make extraordinary progress on the first point. This is where I believe pro-life advocates must focus their attention and energy, not on nominating judges that won’t actually bring about the change they desire. Here are a few ideas on where to start:
Sex Education… needs to start young, be incredibly clear and well communicated, and be done in partnership between parents, schools and faith communities. We cannot ignore or fear the subject because a lack of education about sex and reproduction leads to unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions.
Contraceptives… must be available and affordable to everyone that is at an age of reproductive capacity. Make contraceptives free as a part of health care so that anyone who needs them has access to them – this alone will significantly reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Republicans might struggle with this data but while abortion rates have been declining consistently over the last 30 years, their fastest rate of decline was in the Obama presidency. This is likely due, in part, to passage of the Affordable Care Act that made birth control more accessible.
This is particularly relevant right now as a Supreme Court justice that could vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act has been nominated. The very kind of justice that pro-life advocates hope will end abortion may, in fact, make related decisions that lead to more abortions.
Provide Financial Support… because financial hardship is a significant reason that women get abortions. This means alleviating poverty, increasing the child tax credit, providing more resources for food, childcare, and health coverage for parents who need it. How many pregnancies would be kept if the expecting mother knew that her financial needs would be met and taken care of?
This also means making the process for adoptive parents affordable or free, so there are enough parents/families lined up ready to adopt that any woman who is pregnant knows that there is an alternative to abortion that is free and an incredible gift to the adoptive family (I know this gift first-hand).
If pro-life advocates actually want to see an end to abortion, it will take these initiatives and many more that work to bring meaningful change in this country. And if you look at the examples just given, there are two things that jump out immediately:
- The need for every sexually active person to have healthcare that prioritizes access to contraceptives
- The need for every woman that becomes pregnant to know that she will be able to financially afford a new child
What’s the best way to make sure every sexually active person has the healthcare they need to access contraceptives?
What’s the best way to ensure that every pregnant woman knows she can afford this child?
Government provided financial resources for any parent that needs it.
Which party platform better aligns with those two priorities?
The Democratic platform.
Abortion rates in the U.S. increased in the 7 years after Roe v. Wade, but then, beginning in the early 80’s the numbers stabilized and began to fall. Rates have fallen under every U.S. president starting with Reagan, but notably have fallen fastest under Presidents Clinton and Obama.
We don’t know to what extent the reduction in abortion rates is due to these two presidents. All we know is this – rates have fallen fastest in the last 30 years under Democratic presidential leadership.
A couple brave souls have approached me and asked me directly, “How can you be pro-life and be a Democrat?” Here is my simple answer:
- Since Roe v. Wade, Democratic presidencies have seen a greater rate of abortion decline than Republican presidencies have.
- Democratic policy positions on many issues, but most especially on healthcare and income inequality, more closely align with a vision where every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy and every wanted pregnancy ends with a baby born into this world.
To be clear, Democratic positions still fall woefully short of what a real pro-life advocate would hope to see. But they have a better track record and are better positioned moving forward.
If you are a Republican reading this, thank you. I think it says something about you that you were even willing to read through all of this. I would also ask you to take seriously what has been presented. I know that it is hard to seriously consider something that you have so strongly opposed for so long – but I think the issue at hand is worth the effort of our serious consideration.