For all of the elections I have been old enough to vote in, I have used this conviction as a major and main factor in choosing my president. Thus, I have always voted Republican, and have felt a duty to do so as a defender of the unborn.
Earlier this year, though, Jad and I decided for multiple reasons to become unaffiliated. We mostly did it so we wouldn’t feel boxed into a party and so we could be more well-rounded and free-thinking. It has felt amazing because without guilt we can consider all parties equally and choose candidates who at this time fit our needs and desires, and the needs of our country, the most.
Because I am unaffiliated, but mostly because I have been unsure of who to vote for this election, I have taken the time to really learn about each of the four main candidates. I even prayed about the election before watching my church’s General Conference the first weekend in October. I heard so many profound and recurring themes to help me ponder on exactly what our country needs right now to thrive.
After really studying Conference in this way, I realized for the first time that to be pro-life, I must truly think about ALL life, including those in our country who are suffering for any reason, be it racism, inequality, poverty, etc. That means that in my research for the best presidential candidate, I can’t just look at each candidate’s abortion stances, but also at their stances for all living people who need a voice for positive change.
On October 6, I wrote this post on Facebook:
I want to make something incredibly clear, and this is coming from a person who is unequivocally Pro-life: It is unfair, unkind, and incredibly judgmental to say that people who are Pro-choice and/or Democrats are hateful, evil, baby-killers who are going to rot in Hell. It makes me cringe when I hear people be so hateful to the living while professing to be Pro-life. A Pro-life person should love all human life! It doesn’t make sense to defend the unborn and then make vicious accusations to the living – people who are all around you trying to do the best they can. If you are really Pro-life you will consider the BEST ways to prevent abortions. And you will make sure ALL babies, once born and throughout their whole lives, are treated with love, respect, equality, and dignity. It’s not just about the right to be born – it’s about the right to live your best life. God commanded us to love one another. He never said to only love those who agree with everything we do. I truly believe that most of us want what is best for humanity, but we just have different ways of fighting for it. But let us stand tall and set good examples rather than fan flames of anger and hatred. That will never help any good cause, no matter how passionate we are about it. Please, please, if you profess to be Pro-life, be Pro-life for all – the unborn and born, the young and the old, the male and the female, the gay and the straight, the black and the white, the poor and the rich, the healthy and the sick, the educated and the uneducated, the natural-born citizen and the immigrant, the Christian and the Atheist, and everybody in between. We are all worthy of God’s love because we are all His children. Let us spread His love.
Does this new conviction mean that my goal is now to forget the unborn and only think of the living? Not at all, but I have realized that in order to choose my presidential candidate wisely, I have to better balance my conviction to protect the unborn with my conviction to make life better for every living human being, even if that balance means possibly choosing a pro-choice candidate.
This isn’t easy to do since, though I’m ashamed to admit it, I have often felt uncomfortable with Christians, especially members of my church, voting Democrat.
This is a clear point of concern and confusion for many people in my church, as was made evident as I read the comments on the letter our First Presidency wrote regarding its political neutrality and how there is good in each party. Sadly, for as many positive comments I saw, just as many were unkind and divisive. I saw too many people angrily accuse people voting Democrat as being un-Christlike and wicked, and that bothered me a lot. These reactions were the opposite of our leaders’ counsel to be kind in political discourse.
For all of these reasons, I have decided to take the time to research abortion – why women get abortions; what is Roe V. Wade really about and what has been done in the past to overturn it; what is the truth about pro-choice candidate’s views on partial-birth and late-term abortions; what do Joe Biden’s plans for Women’s Reproductive Health mean for abortion; and has the abortion rate gone down in recent years and why?
This research has greatly informed me and given me comfort and hope.
Firstly, why do women have abortions?
I read many articles about this, citing studies from multiple years, but the patterns remain overall the same:
- The vast majority of women who get abortions are living in poverty and cannot afford a child (About 70-75%)
- The vast majority of women having abortions are single mothers (about 65-70%).
- Almost half of women who have abortions have already had an abortion previously.
- The most common reason provided for having an abortion is that pregnancy would interfere with education, work or ability to care for dependents. Normally 2-3 reasons are chosen, though.
- Most women who have had an abortion are already mothers.
- Most women who have abortions are in their 20s.
- About half of women who get an abortion had an unintended pregnancy, most often from not taking contraception or not taking it consistently.
- Less than 1% of abortions occur because of rape, health of the mother, or incest.
I read this analysis from one study that I thought was very well-rounded and addressed these issues well:
“Identifying one single approach that will address every woman’s concerns and change her mind is difficult, given the multiplicity of the reasons and rationales given by women for seeking abortion. Some will be benefited by being connected to better support systems, while others need practical economic assistance. Anything making men more responsible for the children they father will go a long way towards helping many of these women care for their children. Yet abortion’s legality and the implied social sanction that comes with it is clearly a major part of the cultural machinery that forces these cruel choices on women, that lets men off the hook, that leaves women to care for households of children all alone, and that makes society less accommodating to the demands of motherhood. Collectively such factors may conspire to force many of these women to consider an option that goes totally against their nurturing natures and pit the needs of one or more of their children against another. If we believe the survey, most of the women seeking to abort here did so, not because they were triumphantly exercising their “power to choose,” but because they felt like–given the circumstances–they had no other realistic choice.”
Secondly, what is Roe vs Wade about, and can it be overturned?
History.com explains, “On Jan 22, 1973, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, struck down the Texas law banning abortion, effectively legalizing the procedure nationwide. In a majority opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, the court declared that a woman’s right to an abortion was implicit in the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. The court divided pregnancy into three trimesters, and declared that the choice to end a pregnancy in the first trimester was solely up to the woman. In the second trimester, the government could regulate abortion, although not ban it, in order to protect the mother’s health. In the third trimester, the state could prohibit abortion to protect a fetus that could survive on its own outside the womb, except when a woman’s health was in danger.”
The decision for Roe V. Wade centered around the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy:
The 14th Amendment‘s Due Process clause states: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Overturning Roe v. Wade has been a hope of people like me (pro-lifers) for a long time, and many hope that President Trump will be the one to do it. I did quite a bit of research, and here is what I found out:
- For 49 of the last 50 years, there has been a Republican majority on the Supreme Court. Even when Roe V. Wade was passed, there was a Republican majority on the Supreme Court. Five out of the six Republican justices were for it.
- One perfect time presented to overturn Roe V Wade was in 1992 with the Planned Parenthood V. Casey case, but it did not happen. In fact, this case ended up outlawing restrictions putting an undue burden on women seeking abortions. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, and Anthony Kennedy, all nominated by Republican presidents, supported this action.
- Another perfect time to overturn Roe V Wade was in 2005 with The Sanctity of Life Act. The Republicans were in the majority in both houses of Congress and many of these Republicans were endorsed by pro-life groups, as was the president. Yet this bill never passed.
- In 2018, when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, many wondered if he would help overturn Roe V. Wade. But, instead, during his confirmation hearings, Justice Kavanaugh reportedly told Senator Susan Collins that the Supreme Court’s decisions “become part of our legal framework with the passage of time.” He also said honoring prior Supreme Court decisions is essential to maintaining public confidence in the Court.
- Even with all this past evidence of it not being overturned, if Roe V Wade is somehow overturned, abortion will not be illegal. The purpose of RVW was to prohibit states from banning abortion completely. Without it, some states could potentially ban abortion completely, but it would not end abortion in our country. Read what some states have done already here.
Thirdly, do Democrats and other pro-choice parties encourage and champion partial-birth and late-term abortion?
Firstly, it’s important to know how often these types of abortions happen. Based on the studies I read, over 90% of abortions occur during the first trimester. About 1% of abortions happen after 21 weeks.
Also, only 1% of pregnancies end in abortion. It’s still too many, but it’s comforting to know it isn’t as common a practice as some people think.
Joe Biden recently said, in response to the possible appointment of Amy Coney Barrett as the new Supreme Court justice: “The only responsible response to that would be to pass legislation making Roe the law of the land. That’s what I would do.”
President Trump’s response to this statement was, “Biden and Democrats just clarified the fact that they are fully in favor of (very) LATE TERM ABORTION, right up until the time of birth, and beyond – which would be execution.”
Biden also said, “It’s a woman’s right to do that. Period.”
Biden has made many points about Roe V. Wade and abortion over the years that may be helpful to review.
Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian candidate says this about abortion: “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I am unwilling to vote to use the power of the state to impose my views on other women.” She has also said, “Keep the government out of it, no subsidies, no regulations.”
And this is what Howie Hawkins’ view is: “I support the legal framework established in the Roe v. Wade decision. During the first trimester, it is up to the pregnant woman to decide whether to get an abortion. During the second trimester laws can only regulate abortion to protect the health of the mother. During the third trimester, or after fetal viability pursuant to Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), laws can restrict or prohibit abortions except in cases where it was necessary to protect the mother’s health. This framework should be codified into federal law by an act of Congress. I oppose targeted regulation of abortion clinics and providers through laws or policies that go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety. I support laws that allow physicians as well as non-physician health professionals, including physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives, to perform abortion procedures.”
Hawkins also believes that providing birth control, sex education, and more social services will help reduce the number of abortions.
The rhetoric surrounding supporting partial birth abortions and late-term abortions seems to be more a reaction and interpretation rather than a reality for pro-choicers, especially since there is already a federal law in place to outlaw partial-birth abortions, called the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.
Regarding late-term abortion, it is a term for abortions happening at 21 weeks gestation or more. As mentioned above, thankfully only 1% of abortions happen during this time span.
Dr. Barbara Levy explained, “Abortions later in pregnancy typically occur because of two general indications: lethal fetal anomalies or threats to the health of the mother.”
You can fact-check here.
Fourthly, what do Joe Biden’s platforms for Women’s Reproductive Health mean for abortion?
Here is what his website states:
The Affordable Care Act made historic progress ensuring access to free preventive care, including contraception. The Biden Plan will build on that progress. Vice President Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment because health care is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income. And, the public option will cover contraception and a woman’s constitutional right under Roe v. Wade. Biden will also:
- Stop state laws violating Roe v. Wade. Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate Roe v. Wade.
- Restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The Obama-Biden Administration fought Republican attacks on funding for Planned Parenthood again and again. As President, Biden will reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers and reverse the Trump Administration’s rule preventing these organizations from obtaining Title X funds.
- Just as the Obama-Biden Administration did, rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded. This rule currently bars the U.S. federal government from supporting important global health efforts — including for malaria and HIV/AIDS — in developing countries simply because the organizations providing that aid also offer information on abortion services.
- Restore the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate in place before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision makes it easier for the Trump-Pence Administration to continue to strip health care from women — attempting to carve out broad exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to giving all women free access to recommended contraception. Biden will restore the Obama-Biden policy that existed before the Hobby Lobby ruling: providing an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for nonprofit organizations with religious missions. The accommodation will allow women at these organizations to access contraceptive coverage, not through their employer-provided plan, but instead through their insurance company or a third-party administrator.
Let’s talk about each of these:
- Repealing of the Hyde Amendment: The Hyde Amendment does not allow Medicaid federal funding to pay for abortions except in instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Biden supported the amendment for a long time, but has just recently changed his viewpoint because “I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability … to exercise their constitutional protected right.” Biden had always been for this amendment until he started running for president and felt pressure from other Democratic runners. It remains to be seen if he will change his mind again. I personally am in favor of the Hyde amendment, as a pro-lifer, but also understand why someone who was concerned with women’s rights would disagree with my sentiment.
- Codifying Roe V Wade: The goal is to create congressional legislation protecting a woman’s right to choose an abortion in each state, even if RVW is overturned. We already learned that overturning RVW would not make abortion illegal, and states would have their say on abortion laws. Based on this proposal, no state could flat-out ban abortion, but it does not specify the regulations that each state could make.
- Reinstating federal funding for Planned Parenthood: Perfactcheck.org, Planned Parenthood “provides reproductive health care to women nationwide. It offers a variety of services, including abortions, birth control, emergency contraception, general health testing and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases.” I remember when Trump stopped funding Planned Parenthood, I was so happy. I remember as well many of my friends being horrified by it because they chose to focus on the life-saving good that Planned Parenthood does for women and men, especially those in poverty. I had seen charts back then regarding the very small percentage of PP’s work that goes towards abortions, but didn’t want to think about that. It remains true, however, that PP’s abortion services account only a small percentage of their health services, though the exact percentage has been up for debate (they say 3%, but by some it has been interpreted differently based on the costs surrounding each service). You can read this document and this document that help explain more of what they do. There are good, Christian people on both sides of this argument.
- Rescinding the Mexico City Policy : The Mexico City Policy was introduced in 1985 and has been rescinded and reinstated multiple times (rescinded by Democrats and reinstated by Republicans). We must decide if supporting global health efforts for developing countries is worth it, even if such health efforts also sometimes include abortion.
- Reinstating the ACA Contraception Mandate: Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores in 2014 ruled that a for-profit company can refuse to provide free contraceptives to their employees based on their religious beliefs. Biden wants to go back to the original ACA policy that only churches and non-profit religious organizations can say no to providing free contraceptives based on their beliefs. We must decide what is most important to us: reducing abortions through access to free contraceptives, or religious liberty for for-profit organizations. It’s not an easy thing to weigh, but it must be weighed. *Note: a friend of mine reminded me that millions of women use birth control for non-contraceptive reasons, but rather for health-related reasons. With this ruling, women working for for-profit organizations who are against birth control, are unable to get the care they need at the cost the need – something else to consider.
Finally, has the abortion rate gone down in recent years, and why?
The best news that I found in my research is that yes, abortion rates have been in steady decline, which is wonderful! The CDC reported in 2018 that the national abortion rate declined 26% between 2006 and 2015, reaching a historic low.
As we talked about earlier, most abortions have been due to unwanted pregnancies. In the same study, the CDC reported that the number of unintended pregnancies decreased from 51% in 2008 to 45% between 2011 and 2013, noting that more women using contraception and more effective forms of contraception like intrauterine devices, might be factors.
Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said, “If your priority is to reduce abortions, one of the best things you can do is make sure that women have access to high-quality, affordable and effective methods of birth control.”
The CDC also reported that the availability of abortion providers and regulations such as mandatory waiting periods and parental consent could also be contributing to fewer women having abortions.
Per the CDC, between 2006 and 2015, the abortion rate for girls between 15 and 19 plummeted 54%. Some reasons for that are more teens being abstinent, as well as teens who are sexually active more likely to use birth control. Some experts have also said that better sex education has reduced teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy rates are also down, reaching a record low in 2017.
Colorado has been very successful at reducing teen pregnancy. You can read about what they have done here.
The Guttmacher Institute also reported on the decline in abortion rates last year, focusing on 2011-2017. Their research correlates well with that of the CDC, and they also reported: “While 32 states enacted 394 restrictions between 2011 and 2017, nearly every state had a lower abortion rate in 2017 than in 2011, regardless of whether it had restricted abortion access. Several states with new restrictions actually had abortion rate increases.”
To be fair, the Guttmacher Institute is a pro-choice institute, so I looked for a study/analysis of the abortion decrease from an educated. Christian pro-lifer named Joe Carter from 2018. He had some skepticism about both the CDC’s and Guttmacher Institute’s studies, but at the conclusion of his analysis on why abortion rates have decreased, he said,
“There seems to be no clear answer. If we had to hazard a guess, though, we could say that it’s likely a combination of fewer teens having sex, increased contraceptive use, lower rates of unintended pregnancies, increased opposition to abortion by the young, and a greater willingness to have a child after an unintended pregnancy.”
So, even with his initial skepticism, his findings match that of the CDC and Guttmacher Institute very well.
There are people in both major political parties that claim that their party has been better at helping the abortion rate decline based on their chosen approaches. What I hear a lot right now is that Republicans want to make abortion illegal and Democrats want to make it unnecessary.
Here is what Snopes has verified regarding the claim that abortion rates go down more under Democrat presidents:
“The abortion rate has steadily declined since the 1980s throughout both Democratic and Republican administrations, with a greater rate of decline during the former.”
“The reasons behind differing rates of decline in the abortion rate cannot be definitively tied to actions undertaken by the administrations of different political parties.”
So, yes, it is true that abortion rates decline more during Democratic presidents, but there is no clear reason why.
I think my favorite quote I found about reducing abortions is this: “The one strategy for reducing abortions that has been proven to work runs through love, not power: support for women who may not feel able to carry a pregnancy to term. This requires not blind allegiance to a political party but the promotion of a culture of life.”
So, what have I learned from all this research?
- Women who choose to have an abortion most often do so because they don’t think there is another, better option. It isn’t because they are evil or heartless. They just need help. We must each responsibly research which candidates are addressing poverty, education, and easy access to contraceptives to help reduce the perceived need for abortions. Getting rid of the root causes for abortion will take away the need for them.
- Republican presidents have been unable to overturn Roe V. Wade for the last almost 50 years, even though they tried multiple times and had a Republican majority in the Supreme Court. Supreme Court judges are supposed to be impartial in their rulings, though, which is likely why it has not been overturned. Even if somehow Roe V. Wade is overturned, the states would have power to make their own laws which could potentially be better than the current regulations, but could in other cases be less humane.
- Partial-birth abortion is illegal in the United States. Late-term abortion is a term used for abortions over 21 weeks gestation, and only 1% of abortions happen beyond that time. It isn’t good, but it is not as huge of an issue as suggested.
- Joe Biden’s platforms for Women’s Reproductive Health are food for thought as there is potential good in nearly all of them. We must just personally all weigh what is most important to us.
- The abortion rate is decreasing every year, and it has many contributing factors. Democratic administrations have actually brought more decrease in abortions, but the reasons are unclear.
I didn’t know hardly any of this information before I started researching. I hope this analysis can help ease the minds of pro-lifers like myself who have held negative views about Christians who vote any other way than Republican. It has certainly helped me, and I hope that any pro-lifer who is unsure how to vote this election, or in any election, can feel at peace considering many candidates rather than just one.
I also want to say that I greatly respect Republican presidents for their devotion in protecting the lives of the unborn. They are using their convictions in the way they feel is best. This post was in no way meant to suggest otherwise.
No matter what stance you take on abortion rights, or who you choose to vote for, know that you have my respect and love. I hope we can all respect each other in the choices we make and convictions we hold.
I am pro-life and I am pro-living, and I’m proud of that!