Editor Note: For a response, see "Hillary Clinton Is a Dangerous Choice for Voters Against Abortion (A Response to Eric Sapp)."
In my recent op-ed on how there was no Biblically-consistent way for evangelicals to justify voting for Trump, I touched on the false promises Republicans — and Trump in particular — have been making around abortion. A number of people asked that I expand on that point, and given the importance of abortion to many evangelicals, it's worth a closer and more honest look.
I'll start by saying that I don't think Christians should be single-issue voters since Christ's ministry wasn't single-issue. But if your concern for the unborn determines your vote, Hillary Clinton should be your candidate.
I imagine there might be a reader or two right about now saying, "But Hillary Clinton is pro-choice!"
That's true. She has never promised to overturn Roe. She even famously said that "abortion should be safe, legal, and rare." But all of that is largely immaterial to the question of saving unborn babies.
Here's the question pro-life Christians must ask: do we care more about talking about the unborn, or do we actually want to do something to prevent abortions?
Now some might argue that words matter — that we need leaders willing to take a stand, even if they never deliver. I'll get to the "delivering" part shortly, but let's start with what they say.
Donald Trump and Republican leaders say they are "pro-life," proclaiming from every street corner their unwavering belief that life begins at conception … and then those politicians turn around and say it's ok to murder those precious unborn children if they were conceived through rape or incest.
What does it say about politicians who proudly proclaim life begins at conception and then advocate murdering some children because that position polls better? And lest we excuse this hypocrisy as merely a realpolitik compromise required to get something done, the bills Republicans write that include these exemptions are message bills, supported only by fellow Republicans, that no one expects to pass.
Even the House Republican late-term abortion bill that passed the House and failed in the Senate on a party-line vote included exceptions allowing late-term abortion if the child was conceived through rape or incest or the woman's life was in danger. When Hillary Clinton allows for those exceptions, evangelicals are told she "supports late-term abortion," but when Republicans make those exact same exceptions, they are awarded 100% Pro-Life voting records?
I want to be clear, and we all need to be honest. No presidential candidate or party leadership advocates for protecting all unborn children. But at least "pro-choice" politicians who believe the fetus is not a child are being morally consistent.
As I said originally though, talk is cheap. That is why Jesus warned that when judging leaders and looking out for false prophets, it is by their fruits that we'll know them. So let's look at the fruits.
Abortions rose steadily during the tenure of the first "pro-life" Republican President, Ronald Reagan. They reached their highest level under President H. W. Bush. Abortions then dropped dramatically under President Clinton, falling to 60% of the high under his pro-life Republican predecessor. That downward trend stalled during most of President W. Bush's tenure, and remained basically flat until the final two years of his term when Democrats retook Congress. And then abortions plunged again under Obama, falling to their lowest point in 40 years.
Compelling data for sure, but Presidents often have to deal with Congress and the Supreme Court … which is why President George W. Bush's tenure is so informative. Under Bush, Republicans controlled the House and Senate, and 2/3 of the Supreme Court. Bush had sky-high public approval following 9-11, and he and Congressional Republicans owed their 2004 re-election to the overwhelming support from church-going evangelicals and Catholics. And what did Republicans do to overturn Roe or in any meaningful way limit abortion? Nothing.
It's no coincidence that abortions go up when Republicans are in charge and down when Democrats are. The two biggest indicators a woman will have an abortion are that she is poor (75% of women who have abortions make less than $23,000 and half make less than $11,000), and had an unintended pregnancy (half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, and 43% end in abortion).
Want to guess which political party is more effective at reducing poverty and unwanted pregnancies? I'll give you a hint. It's not the "pro-life" Party that in this last Congressional session alone fought to cut medical care for poor mothers and children, food programs for kids, and contraception coverage and access for women.
One final point. Let's assume the impossible happened and Roe is overturned — leaving each state to decide if they'll allow abortions. Only about 10% of abortions take place in states with legislatures that have seriously tried to limit abortion. So if abortion was outlawed in all those states, and no woman crossed state lines to get one, the most overturning Roe would achieve is a 10% reduction in abortions. Compare that to nearly 40 years of data showing that we would save more than three times as many unborn children by cutting the number of poor women in half. Increase contraception access, family leave, and improve pre- and post- natal healthcare, and we'd cut abortions by 50% or more.
So if you really care about protecting the unborn, where should you put your time and how should you vote?
Elections matter, but there is something deeper at stake here. When the woman was caught in adultery, Jesus didn't buy a "go and sin no more" bumper sticker. He put himself between the woman and the righteous and angry crowd.
Seven out of 10 women who have an abortion already have kids. They are desperate, alone, scared, probably ashamed, and without options. Pro-life slogans won't change that reality. Being duped yet again into voting Republican will only create more women like that. What those women — and their unborn children — need are Christians with the courage and faith not to repeat the political folly of the last forty years.