In 2008 I had a good friend express shock that I was actually considering a vote for Barak Obama.
“How can any Christian possibly vote for a Democrat with that party’s stand on abortion?”
It was an honest question, certainly not one intended as a rhetorical insult, and I tried to phrase an honest answer.
“I understand your question”, I replied, “but sometimes my commitment to follow the heart of Jesus Christ moves me into new places. I have come to accept my “conflictedness” as a cost of my discipleship.”
For many years I have been haunted by my knowledge of past civilizations which would abandon their imperfect or non-preferred-gender babies to the elements as their version of population control. As a matter of personal conviction I am not supportive of abortion as a normal means of birth control.
Furthermore, Democrats are not immune to the weight of this ethical dilemma. While in uptown Charlotte (my hometown) during the final day of the Democratic convention, I visited with a very honest Convention attendant who expressed her sense of conflict about this issue.
Although an unaffiliated (formerly Republican) voter, my answer reflected my own efforts to address this struggle. “Is it not possible to be pro-choice as a matter of principle, yet have a strong bias toward life?”, I suggested. She nodded in agreement.
For virtually all of my adult life (from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush) I used this issue as a justification for always voting Republican. Somehow I equated “saving the unborn” with voting Republican.
Yet when George W’s compassionate conservatism was replaced with the insensitive socio-economic Darwinism of the right wing, I could no longer feel at home.
The Dream Act matters! In addition, the fears felt by the undocumented parents of young American citizens speak to me. The ethical issues around our depending on available and necessary laborers to create a good economy, then treating them as throw-aways because things get tight — this bothers me.
I believe God calls me to a higher standard.
So I am forced to ask myself, just how many unborn have I actually saved by voting for Republican candidates? And what of the millions “already born” that many “values voters” seem not to care about, who have neither voice nor vote? And to what extent have I allowed this concern about abortion to own me, and basically imprison me politically.
Then there is the whole question (addressed somewhat in a previous post) about the propriety of the government to legislate personhood. The Catholic Church, a major force behind much of the anti-abortion sentiment philosophically establishes personhood prior to conception. Many Evangelicals are quite content to place personhood at fertilization, creating a somewhat unequal alliance between themselves and the Catholic Church whose agenda also includes anti-contraception measures.
Interestingly, Roe v Wade, without assigning personhood, focused upon viability (the ability to live outside of the womb) after the first trimester.
The truth is that there is no consensus on “personhood”, and the various approaches, whether religious or secular will only produce a variety of options. This calls for choice, not legislated pre-determination.
Although stated somewhat quaintly, I think Herman Cain got it right:
“I can have an issue on a opinion without it being a directive on the nation. The nation shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decision that they need to make.”