Yesterday I received the following question from a reader which was prompted by my critique of Roy Moore:
I am pretty sure you support politicians who are pro-abortion. Now, maybe you are not pro-life. Fair enough. But if you are, how can one get angry at politicians who exhibit sexual predatory behaviour and not be at least equally angry, if not more so, at politicians who support the killing of the unborn in the womb?”
Let’s go through this point by point.
First, yes, I’m prolife. For my defense of one prolife strategy see this article.
Second, I assure you that while I am angry with politicians who engage in sexually predatory behavior, I am equally angry with any politician “who supports the killing of the unborn in the womb.” However, those who are prochoice (by which I mean those who support legal access to elective abortion) do not thereby support the killing of the unborn in the womb. Or to put it another way, that is a deeply misleading description for the prochoice position.
Consider Hillary Clinton as a case in point. While she is prochoice, her position is not accurately reflected by that description. See her new book What Happened, pp. 130-32. Also see this excellent article in The Atlantic discussing her views on abortion and her Methodist commitments.
And if we want to make progress on this deeply complex ethical issue, we need to begin by steelmanning those with whom we disagree. I suspect if we consistently did that, we might be able to make some real progress on this contentious issue.
Finally, let’s address what is arguably the underlying question: if you’re against abortion, how can you support prochoice politicians?
The answer is that abortion is one of many complex and critically important issues. And voting for a politician is often a very messy and ambiguous process of discernment.
So imagine, for example, two politicians: Singh and Chang. Singh supports elective access to abortion, development of renewable energy in light of the threat of climate change, and more restrictions on access to firearms. Chang rejects elective access to abortion, denies the existence of climate change and instead supports investment in coal, and advocates for fewer restrictions on firearm access.
I agree with Singh on two policies and I agree with Change on one policy. All of these topics are very important and I don’t see any obvious way to say that in complex moral evaluations like this that one topic is automatically the trump card for others.
Twenty years ago Pope John Paul II published his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” in which he outlines his vision for the culture of life toward which Catholics (and Christians generally) ought to strive. It’s my favorite JPII encyclical and it rightly places a prolife attitude toward the fetus within a broader prolife framework. I believe that Christians ought to vote for prolife candidates. But discerning which candidate is prolife on balance is more complicated than discerning which rejects access to elective abortion.