A couple of weeks ago in a men's Bible study I attend, the leader of the group that week shared about a line he was not willing to cross. He said that a “line-in-the-sand” political issue for him was whether a politician opposed abortion or not and stated that he could not vote for one who did. I can respect that, even though in the context of the passage we were discussing that week (Esther 3), I felt it was rather a stretch to tie this topic into the conversation. At one point in my life I would have adamantly said the same thing. A politician's views on abortion became the single issue on which I would cast my ballot for or against him or her.
I no longer think that way. I no longer believe that one can make a single issue THE deciding factor in supporting or opposing a politician. The world is much too complex for that and the political arena has too many factors involved to make one issue the ultimate criteria. Am I being more godly or ethical to support a politician who opposes abortion but pursues wars which kill thousands of non-combatants? Is a politician more moral if she or he opposes abortion but supports policies that deprive the poor of support? Morality involves a wide range of issues and concerns and cannot be reduced to a single topic. Judging a politician simply by his or her views on abortion is simplistic and naïve.
Interestingly, someone pointed out to me that the Republican party, which has made a big point of their opposition to abortion, has in fact done very little to act on that plank in their platform. As evidence, this person pointed to the period in the Bush era when the Republicans had clear control of Congress and the White House and could have pushed through just about any anti-abortion bill they wanted. In the end they did little, despite their claims to be against abortion. The person who called this to my attention suggested that the Republicans recognize that having this plank in their platform works to their political advantage by attracting the single-issue anti-abortion voters, but if they were to actually achieve their goal, they would no longer have the uncritical support of that group of voters. It is to their political advantage to say there are opposed to abortion but to do little to work against it.
Unfortunately I think that lately this has been less the case, at least in many state legislatures. We see an increasing number of bills that seek to limit access to abortion as a means to eliminate it. We see waiting periods and forced “counseling” sessions and even had the possibility of a woman being forced to have a vaginal ultrasound. I think most of these measures are ridiculous and coercive. They do not respect a woman's individual rights, but treat her like an imbecile who is incapable of making an informed, personal decision. For this reason I oppose such measures.
Despite what the reader may think at this point, I do not favor abortion. I think it should be eliminated, but not by legal restriction. I think it should be eliminated by providing an environment in which women have better choices. This may include better adoption support, better support during pregnancy and after delivery for all women but particularly for those who find themselves in difficult circumstances, unable to adequately care for this new baby. I support the use of contraceptives so that women (and men with them) have more control over the timing of pregnancies. I want to see a culture in which women are not threatened, coerced or forced in any manner – psychologically, physically or otherwise – into sexual activity. Let's do all we can to eliminate “unwanted” pregnancies so that abortion becomes essentially a procedure used only in rare cases. We need to affirm the value of life holistically, including the lives of women.
I want to vote based on a broader ethical platform, one that recognizes that the Kingdom of God encompasses a wide range of issues and choices. For example, I'm not going to automatically support a politician who opposes abortion but promotes the exploitation of our environment. I'm not going to support a pair of candidates who oppose abortion but push for a budgetary policy that guts support to society's weakest and most vulnerable while cutting taxes for the wealthiest. These are also moral issues and I can no longer say that abortion trumps them all. The issues are too complex for that.
Abortion is certainly a political topic and if it is significant to you, then you should factor that into your voting decisions. However, I encourage you to think about other important issues as well and recognize that by supporting an anti-abortion politician (call them pro-life if you prefer), you may at the same time be lending your support to other issues that are also of significance to a voter who wants to see the values of the Kingdom furthered in our society.