Legislating Morality: Part 2

Pro-Life Christianity

(Note: this is a continuation of a previous post on conservatism and Christianity. It was originally a single post but in the interests of keeping both posts a readable length, I’ve decided to split the original into two. For the sake of continuity, you may want to read the previous post before moving onto this one)

Missing the point?

A quick note before moving on

(Please note: personally I’m still working out the practical side to my views on abortion. What do we do in cases where the mother’s life is threatened? What about where the baby is conceived in the context of sexual assault? These are not easy questions to answer. I don’t expect I’ll have my position fully worked out even by the time summer rolls around.

As it stands, I’m reading up on the issues as much as I can. For the Christian perspective, I was gifted Dr. Megan Best’s book “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” by a friend just before leaving Melbourne at the end of last year. I have read some of the relevant material already. I think once I have my position fully fleshed out, I’ll probably make a post here – but don’t expect it anytime soon.)

Anyway, back to the discussion.


We now come to the main focus of this pair of posts – abortion. The standard Christian view is that abortion is taking an innocent life (in this case the unborn child in the womb). The view is generally predicated on the idea that life begins at fertilisation (again, probably a post for another time).

As such, Christians (and many others, both religious and non-religious) have been staunch opponents of legislation legalising abortion.

For many I know (including within my own family), abortion has been the single issue that has decided their vote.

However, recently I came across an article by Christian political commentator David French (linked below), who noted that despite the current Republican administration acknowledging their opposition to abortion, very little has actually been done in the way of encouraging women to consider avenues other than abortion.

If this is true, Christians voting conservative on the basis of this argument have a weak stance at best.

The ‘stamp of approval’ argument

At least anecdotally, one view I have heard is “voting for a party that supports abortion is indirectly putting your stamp of approval on the practice”. I’m not sure how popular this argument is among the general Christian population, but it’s not uncommon.

On reflection, I’m not sure if it’s as strong as its proponents might think. Consider many other practices that are at the very least contrary to standard Christian morality: extramarital sex is a great example. Must we only vote for overtly Christian parties, who we’re sure will agree with Christian values on this (i.e. not just conservative, but parties that are established with the intent of being Christian)? I don’t think this holds water.

The issue of unsafe, illegal abortions

Beyond the issue of inaction, one other issue pro-life Christians ought to consider is that criminalising abortion may just mean a return to some of the unsafe methods used prior to abortion becoming legal/affordable (I’ve linked an article from the WHO about unsafe abortions below, and another article from Allure – yes, the beauty magazine – about some of the methods of the past). Furthermore, criminalisation brings with it a stigma that is difficult to shake – will it prevent young women from seeking the help they need if they do conceive a child? Will we return to the days when single parents, and children born out of wedlock are looked down upon and ostracised?

These are just two issues we need to consider before deciding to restrict legal abortion – is that a price pro-life Christians are willing to pay? Beyond that of course, there’s the optics of the whole situation – Christians already have a less-than-stellar reputation in the eyes of the public. Does this risk hampering that reputation more and hindering reach within the community?

What ought we do?

I need to refer to that classic liberal zinger from beforehand in order to illustrate what pro-lifers need to do in order to make it reasonable to support pro-life candidates.

“Conservatives are pro-life when the child is in the womb, but not once the child has been born.”

Of course, the points on healthcare and social security I mentioned previously would help immensely – but in order to be truly pro-life, there actually needs to be support for mothers who choose to keep their baby over choosing to terminate the pregnancy. I’ve put some links below as to what is currently available for young parents (not necessarily teens, but also those in their 20s) who make up many of those seeking abortion.

Supporting mothers

Truth be told, there is support out there, and I applaud the government and the organisations involved for doing their best to help. There’s financial help, social help and psychological help, but for many mothers, this may not be enough.

Not built for mothers

One key problem is that the structures in our society just aren’t set up to accommodate young mothers. It’s incredibly difficult to study, work and maintain a full social life while having to care for another human being who is essentially 100% dependent on you. Heck, even older mothers (say, in their late 20s and moving into the 30s) don’t have an easy time either – many of these mothers choose to have children later so they can establish a career first, but their career progression is still put on hold when children come into the picture.

Social factors

Given the difficulty of raising a child alone (regardless of age or financial/economic status), many mothers do rely on support from relatives and friends in order to handle the load. Yet for some, this support isn’t readily available, and they have to rely on social support in the community in order to manage.

But consider also for a moment that the Guttmacher Institute estimates around 75% of all women who had abortions in the US in 2014 were classified as either poor or low income (article linked below – deals with data from 2014 as these are the most up-to-date figures I could find from a reputable source). For these women, even the government support that is available may not be enough to help deal with the financial strain of caring for a baby.

Furthermore, those who live in regional and remote areas (or even places that are poorly serviced by public transport for example) are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing community assistance.

A call to action

Given the unique challenges surrounding motherhood, I don’t think a meaningful pro-life stance can be as simple as restricting access to abortion and expecting women to be able to fall back and raise children on community support. Ultimately, our desire should be for these mothers and children to thrive and excel, not merely scrape by.

As Christians, we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We are also called to be those who are willing to care for the disadvantaged around us (innumerable Scripture references, Matthew 25:31-46 chief among them). A pro-life response to the abortion debate doesn’t necessarily entail voting conservative because they purport to uphold a pro-life perspective. Rather, I think the principles of Matthew 5 and 25 ought to underlie a Christian pro-life position. As such, Christian pro-lifers ought to shift their focus from the bitterness of the ideological debate, and turn to actually supporting the women who choose to continue their pregnancies despite the challenges involved. Protests (à la the March for Life) aren’t going to do this, donating to pro-life think tanks isn’t going to do it, and realistically, voting for ‘pro-life parties’ isn’t going to do it either. I think the best course of action for pro-life Christians is to build on the community support that is already available and actually make it possible for these women and children to thrive.

Before I close I would like to reiterate that I am not taking a side on this issue – either politically or with regard to the abortion debate. These posts are just my observations, as a Christian, on the relationship between Christianity and politics, with a focus on the issue of abortion in particular. I know that these are controversial topics, but I think in order to make a meaningful difference in our society, it’s important to engage with these issues.









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