Let me begin with a disclaimer. I hate adding to the noise of this election cycle. Everybody’s talking about it and everybody’s mad. A huge part of me would prefer to just stay out of it, but I think there is something in all of us that knows that this election is important, and I have a few thoughts that I think might help a few people who feel stuck right now.
This is not a blog post to tell you that Trump is wicked. The question for most people right now is not whether or not Trump is a virtuous man. You already know that he is not. The big question for a lot of republicans right now (especially Christian ones) is about whether or not Hillary is any better. This is evident by the constant deflection of every new horrific revelation about Trump.
Revelation: Trump is a racist
Response: Well, Hillary is a liar…
Revelation: Trump is a sexual predator
Response: Well, Bill Clinton…
Or, the ever present….
Response: But Hillary is pro-abortion…
This last response is the one I want to focus on for this blog post. Because I think there are a lot of people who feel stuck in their decision on who to vote for because of this issue. I think it’s important for liberals to try to understand this perspective and not just write it off as stupid or bigoted or whatever. In many conservative people’s minds, abortion is murder. So for them, supporting a candidate who is pro-choice is supporting murder. And as bad as racism, misogyny, and attempted rape might be, murdering millions of innocent lives is worse.
Let’s be honest… the murder of millions of innocent lives IS worse than nearly any disgusting behavior and attitude of some eccentric narcissistic billionaire. And for this reason, Donald Trump is right. He could do anything and people wouldn’t leave him. He could walk up to someone and shoot them in public in broad daylight, and he wouldn’t lose many of his voters. Why? For some, it’s because murdering one person in broad daylight is better than murdering millions of babies. So people feel stuck. They hate what Trump represents, but they don’t feel like they could vote for a pro-choice candidate anymore than they feel like they could vote for a pro-Holocaust candidate who wanted to wipe out the Jews.
I understand this tension because I used to feel it myself. I’ve always been a believer that abortion is wrong. I grew up with the understanding that abortion is literally killing a human being. So with that on the table, what other issue even comes close to mattering? Taxes? The economy? Foreign relations? Who cares when there are millions of innocent lives being murdered around us? Sound familiar?
I used to think like that myself until I learned something. And if what I’ve been saying describes your feelings at all about this election, PLEASE pay attention to what I’m about to say.
Pro-choice does not mean the same thing as pro-abortion.
Again, please pause and maybe re-read that last sentence a few times. It’s so important, and something that took me a long time to understand.
Let me give you a thought experiment with a less extreme subject. Do you think adultery is wrong? Most people would say yes. Do you think adultery should be illegal? Most people would say no. But does saying that you don’t think adultery should be illegal mean that you are pro-adultery?
You might respond, “But that’s different! Adultery is not as serious as murder!” And you would be correct. But that’s not the point of that analogy. The point is—the discussion of whether or not adultery should be illegal is not really a discussion for or against the morality of adultery but about the involvement of government in the legality of adultery. It’s an entirely separate conversation.
Now imagine there were two warring factions about whether or not adultery should be made illegal. What would you think the strategy of those who believe that it should be illegal would be? Don’t you think the smart move would be to stress how evil adultery is? How do you think the conversation might end up getting framed? I would guess that you would see two camps emerge that called themselves something like ‘pro-marriage’ and I don’t know…’pro-choice?’
For the ‘pro-marriage’ people, they would be so passionate about how wrong adultery was and probably eventually begin to demonize the ‘pro-choice’ people, maybe calling them ‘pro-adulterers’ or something like that. As effective as that framing might be in gathering troops for each respective side, you could see how the conversation might start getting off track at some point. The ‘pro-choice’ people would be talking about how it’s not the government’s right to interfere in a married person’s life. ‘It’s their choice on who they want to sleep with!’ Some might even start defending adultery as not a bad thing at all in response to the demonization from the ‘pro-marriage’ people, who would probably be very vocal about how wrong and destructive adultery is to human lives and families. And at some point in this fight, the sides stop hearing each other. They aren’t even talking about the same things anymore. Remember, the real conversation is not about whether adultery is wrong or not but about government’s role in deciding that for people.
So back to the abortion debate. When does a human life begin? When the sperm touches the egg? When the sperm embeds itself within the egg? When the baby is born? When the baby is ‘viable’ on it’s own within the womb? Who decides the answer to this question? Religion? Individuals? The government? This is the real debate for pro-choice vs. pro-life. But can you see how even in the naming of these different factions that they aren’t even talking about the same thing? Pro-choice people don’t call themselves pro-abortion because that’s not what they are. The political debate is not whether or not abortion or murder is good or evil but the government's role in philosophically deciding when a human life begins and should be protected legally.
For most Christians, they believe that the human soul is breathed by God into a fetus at conception. That God weaves the baby together in the mother’s womb as a full human being, sacred and beloved. It’s a beautiful idea. But, let’s be clear… it’s a Christian one. It’s not necessarily a scientific one or an objective one. After all, the question of when personhood begins is not a simple answer. Every sperm and egg carries the possibility of human life within it. Yet very few people would cry ‘genocide!’ when a man masturbates.
This is why this issue gets so complicated. The process from sex to birth is a gradual and mysterious process, and where cellular matter becomes human is a matter for philosophy, religion, and ethics—not objective science. And for the pro-choice person, matters of philosophy, religion, and ethics on this level should be determined by the individual, not the government.
I personally disagree with some of Hillary’s positions on this issue. For example, I find partial-birth abortion as abhorrent by any standard I can think of. But, let’s be clear, I have to concede that the issue that I would disagree with Hillary on in the regard is still political. It’s still about government’s involvement with it’s laws in deciding when it should consider cellular matter human. The debate is not whether or not partial-birth abortion is wrong, but whether or not a government should legally protect a life during birth or after birth. Can you see the difference?
Now back to this election. When you see what the debate between pro-life and pro-choice actually is, you can see how voting for a pro-choice candidate is not actually voting for abortion. For most pro-choice people (to my knowledge), their desire is actually to reduce the amount of abortions in America. They just happen to think that going about it through health care, empowering women..etc is a better road to minimizing abortions than by simply making it illegal and forcing women to have the abortions that they are going to have regardless of the law through the black market rather than a proper medical facility. Again, can you see difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion here? It’s important.
So to summarize all of that, if the abortion issue is very important to you in this presidential race, it should not be because you simply think that abortion is wrong, but because you think that the best way to minimize abortion is to make it illegal.
There are a couple of other factors worth considering if you are a person who strongly believes not only that abortion is wrong but that making abortion illegal is the answer to minimizing abortion:
The President of the United States can’t make abortion illegal.
Yes, she or he could appoint a Supreme Court Justice that might be more pro-life or not, but this, of course, is really starting to be a stretch. Even with a hardcore conservative, pro-life Justice, there’s really no reasonable chance of Roe vs. Wade being overturned anytime in the foreseeable future. Some would disagree with that, but I think the evidence would state otherwise. But let’s not get caught up in that right now. There are other important points to consider as well.
Trump is not pro-life.
Even if a President could change the law or appoint such a fiercely conservative Justice that could somehow shift abortion laws in this country, do you really think Donald Trump will do that? Trump isn’t really a conservative. Hoping that he would appoint a Justice that would overturn Roe vs. Wade is sort of like hoping Richard Dawkins writes a new youth group curriculum about Creationism being the best scientific theory. I personally don’t see it in the cards.
With all of this in mind, can you see how voting for Trump is not actually voting against abortion? And conversely, can you see how voting for someone who has a pro-choice political stance is not actually a vote for abortion? I personally think it’s a good argument that the best way to actually minimize the abortion rate is to vote for whoever will take care of women and empower them to feel like they don’t have to have an abortion. And can anybody actually say with a straight face that Donald Trump is the best person to empower and take care of women in this country?
This election is an important one. While voting for a pro-choice candidate is not voting for abortion, the same does not actually apply for Trump’s positions and worldviews. Voting for a racist, for instance, is actually voting for racism in a way because the ‘debate’ on racism in this country is not whether or not the government should make it illegal to be racist. If the debate were about whether or not it should be illegal to be racist, then it would be comparing apples and apples to compare the abortion issue to his racism issue. But that’s not what’s happening with Trump’s racism. The issue is that Trump seems to see white people as superior to people of color. Men as superior to women. Americans superior to all other nations. Etc. This means that by voting for him, you are in some ways actually becoming complicit in that viewpoint. You are using your power as a citizen to elevate that viewpoint to become the most powerful viewpoint in the world. Again, please hear this argument and do not merely avoid thinking about it by deflecting this point to Hillary. Doing so will be missing the point entirely because it is not comparing apples with apples. (Unless of course you are arguing that Hillary is racist…but again, can anyone say that Hillary is more racist than Trump with a straight face?)
One more thing—aside from her being a woman, I don’t totally love the idea of Hillary as President. Not many people do. She has a history of dishonesty, less than exemplary judgement…etc But, to me, comparing her faults to Trump is like comparing bland food to poison. It’s not even a comparison within the same league. With this blog post, I’m not saying Hillary is the savior of the world or claiming that voting for her is the only right thing a person can do in this election. For some people, voting third party or not voting may feel like the right decision, and who am I to judge that? I do personally think either of those decisions is irresponsible in light of the potential evil we are facing as a nation, but I can’t say that voting for Hillary is the objective right thing to do. But I can and will say that I believe that voting for Trump is the wrong thing to do.
I hope that those who know that in their hearts but have been afraid of crossing party lines will be able to slow down, take a breath in all of this chaos and listen to what they really do already know in their hearts to be right. A vote for Trump is a vote against women, and therefore against the babies that will decide to carry or not carry in their bellies. It is a vote against people of color. And therefore a vote against the America that we all strive for—where all people are created equal. So it is also a vote against humanity, and against what I understand to be the Kingdom of God. I think you know this in your heart already. So I’d encourage you to not be afraid. Trump has built his platform entirely on fear. And my guess is that most people are only planning on voting for him because they are afraid to vote for someone outside of their tribe. For a lot of us, we have a hard time separating our tribe from right and wrong. But I hope that you’ve heard some of the things I’ve been saying here—voting for Hillary is not voting for abortion. It’s not voting for her lies anymore than voting for Donald Trump would be voting for his lies.
In November, I will be voting for Hillary, because when the vote comes down between ‘racism’ and ‘racism is wrong’, I’ll take the latter. When the choice is ‘let’s elect a man who thinks women are nothing but sex objects’ or ‘let’s elect our first woman President’, I’ll, once again, take the latter. I will be voting for Hillary not because Hillary is my ideal or perfect candidate or because I think she’ll fix the world, but because I agree that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. Voting for Hillary might not be your ideal scenario, but it’s at least not nothing. For me, it’s an imperfect but necessary way of standing against the wickedness of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all of the other dangerous views for the most powerful leader in the world to have. I hope you’ll be able to triumph over your fear that the Republican candidate has constantly spewed and join me in proving him wrong. America is not ‘great’ when it swims in systemic oppression, sexism, greed, selfishness, narcissism and racism. This is a country founded on genocide and built with slavery. We don’t need more of what America used to be. We need more of what America strives to be—a place of liberty and justice for all.