A Christian author is making the case that the pro-life movement’s focus on presidential elections and the U.S. Supreme Court is misguided and that the person in the White House is not the key to reducing abortions.
Skye Jethani, a pastor and author who co-hosts the “Holy Post” podcast with “Veggie Tales” creator Phil Vischer, released a video, titled “What About Abortion? Should this one issue determine how Christians vote?”
“For almost 50 years, Christians have been told that who you support for president will either save or sacrifice the lives of unborn babies,” he began. “This has led a lot of pro-life Christians to become ‘single issue voters,’ willing to overlook everything else about a candidate as long as they’re against abortion.”
According to Jethani, the aforementioned pro-life Christians subscribe to the argument that “my vote determines the president, the president nominates justices to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court can overturn Roe v. Wade and overturning Roe will make abortion illegal and save babies.”
He went on to explain “why your vote for president might not impact abortion the way you think.”
Jethani shared three assumptions about abortion, the first being that “a Republican president will appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court to end abortion.” He noted that Republicans have made most of the Supreme Court appointments in the last half-century and that the court has only affirmed Roe during that time.
The 7-2 Roe v. Wade decision was made when six out of the nine justices were appointed by a Republican president. And among the two who dissented, one was Democrat-appointed Justice Byron White.
White, appointed by President John F. Kennedy, also dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which five Republican-appointed justices agreed to uphold Roe.
Jethani pointed to the more recent decision this year by Chief Justice John Roberts to strike down a Louisiana law, that some say could have forced most of the state's abortion clinics to close, as evidence that it's unlikely that “the court will ever overturn Roe no matter how many conservatives are on it.”
Addressing the assumption that “overturning Roe is the key to ending abortion,” Jethani argued that “the Roe decision in 1973 did not legalize abortion” and that “simply reversing Roe wouldn’t make it illegal.” He contended that in 1972, the year before Roe, nearly 600,000 abortions were performed legally in the U.S. and “that number doesn’t account for the number of abortions that were unreported or performed by unlicensed doctors.”
He also pushed back on the idea that “because biblical values were commonplace at America’s founding, that abortion must have been illegal and super rare until recently.”
“Abortion was so widespread in America in the 19th century that one doctor in Missouri said ‘the evidence will bear out the assertion, that in no age of the world has there been a more reckless disregard for the lives of unborn human beings than in this present age, and among the civilized and professedly Christianized nations of the earth,’” he noted.
“Significant restrictions on abortion didn’t start appearing in some states until the late 19th and early 20th century,” Jethani said. “Even after those laws were passed in the 1930s, doctors still performed an estimated 800,000 abortions every year. That’s about the same number that’s happening today.”
“Overturning Roe wouldn’t be a decisive win. Instead, we would just return to the state-by-state patchwork of laws that existed before 1973. And just like before 1973, women living in a state without abortion could still cross state lines to see a doctor or just order an abortion-inducing drug over the internet,” he said.
In a statement to The Christian Post, Penny Young Nance of the pro-life group Concerned Women for America, told The Christian Post that the video “failed to tell the whole story.”
While she acknowledged that “abortion has existed even back to Ancient Rome,” Nance explained that “more liberal laws and public funding for abortion increased abortion to its peak of about 2 million per year in the early '90s.”
“Since that time, pro-life Americans worked diligently to change the law, putting into place common-sense limits like parental notification, funding prohibitions (Hyde Amendment), [and] late-term limits,” she said. “Those policy changes, together with thousands of private pregnancy care centers and public community health centers, have offered women real alternatives. As a result, we saw numbers decrease.”
According to Jethani, “the most optimistic outcome” of overturning Roe “would be a nationwide reduction of 12%.” While he acknowledged that “overturning Roe would help,” he urged pro-lifers to focus on “what will help the most.”
Instead of “ignoring every other issue to elect a pro-life president to appoint pro-life justices to overturn one case to maybe someday, hopefully, reduce abortions by 12%,” pro-lifers should embrace “a better way to tackle this problem right now that has nothing to do with who’s president,” he contended.
He proceeded to make the case that state-level policies could have more of an impact on reducing abortion than overturning Roe.
Specifically, he referenced how Texas’ passage of several abortion restrictions in the early 2010s led to a 28% reduction in abortions while Delaware’s “improved access to healthcare for its poorest residents” resulted in a 37% decline in abortions. Jethani emphasized that both of those states' policies led to a higher decline in abortions than the hypothetical overturning of Roe.
"The person sitting in the Oval Office is not what matters most when it comes to reducing abortions, their Supreme Court appointments haven’t mattered, their party platforms haven’t mattered and their rhetoric hasn’t mattered,” he concluded.
Jethani suggested that “better adoption laws, waiting periods, crisis pregnancy centers, churches and support groups who are actually on the ground helping women and walking with them through their pregnancies” are “effective” ways to reduce abortions.
“If we really care about solving this problem, then we need to stop being manipulated by parties and candidates and get our focus off the presidential election. Instead, we should focus on what’s happening right in front of us, in our states, our communities and in our neighborhoods.”
Nance disagreed with the video’s conclusion that the pro-life movement should not focus as much on Supreme Court appointments. “The Supreme Court and lower courts matter greatly,” she said. “The Supreme Court has prohibited states from setting their own limits reflective of their citizens’ views on the morality of abortion.”
She lamented that “even with the changes to policy, the United States is one of only seven countries in the world to allow abortion after 20 weeks gestation.”
“At this late point in pregnancy,” Nance added, “babies have a fully intact nervous system, fingernails, eyebrows, can hear and respond to their mother’s voice and can feel pain.”
“The law must change because it is unjust that an activist court has stopped progress. In 1973, there was no sonogram, but now we as a people can literally see into the womb and the old mantra that ‘it’s not a baby’ has been proven wrong by science. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she died said that Roe was wrongly decided, not on the principle but because it took away the states’ ability to contend for the truth,” she added.
Nance also rejected the idea that the results of the presidential election have little bearing on abortion law in the U.S. She noted that “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the radical position that abortion should be legal any time for any reason, all paid for by the taxpayer.”
Describing the Biden-Harris ticket’s position as “both immoral and unpopular,” Nance warned that policies enacted by a Biden administration would “increase the number of abortions and double down on a culture of death.”