I am a Christian, a 30-year registered Republican Pro-Lifer. I believe life begins at conception.
At 16, still in high school, I had an unplanned pregnancy – the results of which continues to be one of my greatest joys.
I wasn’t promiscuous, just uneducated, madly “in love,” and convinced I would marry this person right after high school. Contraceptives weren’t easy for everyone to come by in the 80s, especially if you were teenagers as clueless as we. Should we have waited for marriage? Sure. But practicing abstinence is hardly in the front of most teenagers’ minds in the heat of the moment.
When I first suspected a pregnancy, I needed to know for sure before I upset and disappointed my mom. I went to the only place I could find to get a real pregnancy test for free without parental consent – Planned Parenthood. I’m sure most people equate Planned Parenthood with abortion or pushing abortion, but my personal experience was completely opposite. I saw a doctor, had my first ever female exam (gasp!!), and sat down in a cozy living room-like space to discuss options over a cup of tea with a sweet lady counselor.
We talked a lot about me, my goals for college and career, my home life, school, my boyfriend. She said I had a couple of options, and I do remember her saying “terminate the pregnancy” was one of them. Most of the time, however, she talked about resources that were available to me should I decide to keep the baby or give him up for adoption. I was relieved she didn’t push me in any direction or the other. She gave me some pre-natal vitamins, a folder full of literature, and some phone numbers. She also told me I could come to Planned Parenthood for contraceptives and female exams and gave me a few cards in case I wanted to share with any of my not-yet-pregnant friends.
Obviously, I chose to keep the baby, and his sister who came along 2 ½ years later. I also finished high school, went to college and graduate school, and have had a long successful career. I have to give credit, in part, to that Planned Parenthood counselor. She helped me feel the weighty importance of my decision without making me more terrified than when I walked in the door. I felt like no matter which option I chose, even had it been abortion, I would have one person on this planet who wouldn’t judge me badly either way.
I feel terrible for women who don’t believe they have viable options. I don’t judge them, though. It’s not my place to judge anyone else. Everyone sins. If we spent half the energy on empathy and understanding that we spend on judging people, we’d all have enough energy to run marathons. I think, though, that empathy and understanding is a learned behavior that, unfortunately, isn’t taught much anymore.
When I taught composition at the University of Tennessee, my favorite assignment I gave my students involved writing an argument essay on whichever topic interested them the most – no matter how controversial – including gun control, abortion, gay rights, whatever – they simply had to be passionate about it. This assignment came immediately after a series of assignments on appropriate sources to help prove their arguments. Unlike most of my teacher collogues, I allowed my students to cite the Bible (and any other religious text), but they could not use more than one of any type of resource. Part of winning arguments is providing evidence that resonates with your audience.
Once they chose their topics, I told them the actual writing assignment was to write a paper arguing the other side. I remember an upset girl in one class who threatened to withdraw saying writing about pro-choice would be against her religion. This same girl, at the end of the semester, wrote me the sweetest card about how well a pro-life conversation had gone with a friend, simply because she better understood why her friend thought the way she did in the first place.
So now, when I’m asked how a pro-life Republican Christian could possibly vote for Biden instead of Trump, I can also give a solid, well-rounded, educated answer. Biden, a practicing Catholic, is pro-life, and his support in upholding Roe vs. Wade proves it.
Stick with me, here – I can hear the Right and the Left both freaking out.
One of the most common misconceptions about abortion is Roe vs. Wade. Most people believe that overturning that decision would make abortion illegal, but that’s simply not the case. The decision has more to do with rights to privacy and due process.
Abortion has never been illegal nationally. In fact, abortion was not banned in 17 of the 37 states when the 14th Amendment of the constitution was ratified. By the 1950s, most, but not all, states banned abortion. This lasted only a decade or so, however, and by the 1960s and early 1970s, 13 states allowed abortions, and many had few or no restrictions. In the 31 states where abortion was allowed only to save a woman’s life, unscrupulous doctors wildly stretched that criteria. Across the nation, dangerous and deadly back room and self-induced abortions killed and maimed without regard to trimesters. And even in states where abortion was illegal, they were routinely conducted on military bases because the states do not have jurisdiction on military (federal) property.
So what, then, did Roe vs Wade actually do? Literalists will shoot me for over simplifying it, but I’ll take the risk. Take the emotionally charged word “abortion” away and consider this:
If you lived in a state where something is illegal, and you travel to a state where that something is not illegal, prosecuting you for it requires a complete invasion of your privacy.
Problem #1 solved. You can’t prosecute someone for something done in another state if it isn’t illegal in that state.
But wait! Roe didn’t go to another state. She couldn’t afford to go to another state and tried to get one in Texas.
The case argued that the Texas anti-abortion laws denied women due process given in the 14th Amendment and violated a woman’s rights to personal, marital, familial, and sexual privacy. This was built on similar Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment arguments were made almost 10 years prior to regarding contraceptives. The Supreme Court decided it was no one’s business if a couple chose to use contraceptives. I won’t go into the details about the laws prior, but oh my goodness, take the time and read about it sometime. The ban on contraceptives was purely religious, (not a clear separation of church and state) and was an invasion of privacy for the state to poke its nose in your bedroom.
Back to abortion. What a woman and her doctor discuss about her health, including if a pregnancy is a risk to a woman’s life is private. It is also widely open to interpretation, since no pregnancy is risk-free. The court wants to protect everyone’s right to privacy and equal rights under the law, but they sure don’t want to make all abortion legal. Here’s the tricky part. Late term abortions were rampant. Some states tried to restrict, other states didn’t. The Court made a constitutionally appropriate decision to protect privacy and due process, but leaving it there alone would allow unrestricted, late term, or dangerous abortions to continue.
Without a constitutional amendment ratified by the states (the people) giving a fetus full rights, the Court can only work within the existing constitution and established precedents. This means that the government does not have a compelling interest in being involved in a decision between a woman and her doctor while the fetus is not viable for surviving outside of the womb. It’s between her and her doctor, privately. The youngest surviving baby was 21 weeks gestation, which is why states can restrict abortion after 20 weeks. Even the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would only allow a nationwide-ban on abortions after 20 weeks, not before.
Do I personally believe that a person isn’t a person until 20 weeks? Of course not. But unless we invent some type of incubator to replicate the uterus, or we amend the constitution, that unborn baby does not have the rights granted by the constitution. Overturning Roe vs. Wade does not change this fact. All that overturning Roe vs. Wade does is give the power back to the states to return to an abortion free-for-all. Plus a whole lot of other implications regarding due process and privacy. Overturning Roe vs. Wade also removes the foundation for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which seeks to punish people who perform disallowed abortions, not women who receive them. Before Roe vs. Wade, women were criminals in some states, even if the abortion was forced by a boyfriend/spouse.
So why don’t we see an actual effort to amend the constitution? To my pro-life ear, that sounds great on the surface, but I can see why people would be wary of the inevitable laws and punishments for things like spontaneous miscarriages. Neglect for not taking prenatal vitamins. Lawsuits for birth defects. Despite the risks, I believe a well-crafted amendment would get my vote, if it ever comes to fruition.
See, basically people are barking up the wrong tree. The Supreme Court does not have the power to change the constitution – this must be proposed in Congress, passed by 2/3 majority in both the Senate and the House, and then ratified by 3/4 of the states.
Pushing to overturn Roe vs. Wade will not do what people think. The ruling allows states to restrict abortions after 20 weeks, implicitly forcing states to restrict abortions. Biden’s voting record and statements made over the years show he understands this. He does not support abortion after 20 weeks. His platform is actually to codify Roe vs. Wade so that it cannot be overturned based on the whims of a president or the religious and political leanings of the Court. While we all wait for people to realize a fetus is a human being, It is better to have some restrictions in all states than no restrictions in some states.
Being a practicing Catholic, Biden also supports the “consistent life ethic,” which includes things like opposing capital punishment, humane treatment of immigrants, and doing things to protect others from COVID (like wearing a mask).
Trump, on the other hand, is not pro-life, or at minimum, he doesn’t understand what “pro-life” means. I’m thrilled he has, as he states “evolved” his position on abortion – in 1999 he stated he is “very, very pro-choice in every respect,” but in 2011 said he changed to pro-life after a friend and his wife did not have a planned abortion and the baby became the apple of his friends eye. While that may make him anti-abortion, it does not make him pro-life.
- He continually repeats the misconception regarding overturning Roe vs. Wade – a far-right justice overturning this ruling would not only result in a much worse situation regarding abortions (see essay above), but also places other rulings at risk, such as privacy for contraceptives and the ability for women to have their own money and property without a man’s signature
- In 2016, Trump stated “there has to be some form of punishment should be in place for women who have abortions”
- He barred family planning dollars from going to places that even refer patients to abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood – which only serves to restrict certain populations from contraceptives, early pregnancy care, cervical cancer prevention, and information about adoption and low-income parenting resources
- As recently as the first 2020 presidential debate he repeated his ardent support of the death penalty
- Trump’s antibody treatment he received for COVID-19 was tested using cells from an abortion
- Trump has yet to provide a documented plan to replace the Affordable Care Act that, despite its many many flaws (in my opinion), gives people access to basic health care – even the well-meaning but defective Medicaid expansion for the most at-risk uninsured adults is better than unhealthy people left untreated while treatable, then massive uninsured major medical expenses with costs passed on to the rest of us, then early death
- His continued stance that COVID only affects older people with health problems (even if this were true, the lives of older people matter)
I could make more bullet points, but it risks straying from the topic at hand. I don’t approve of a lot of things Trump as done so far, and even though I can point out a few good things, there aren’t enough to outweigh the bad for me. I’ve heard many people say they hate everything about Trump but have to vote for him because they are pro-life, but I just don’t see how he is pro-life. If Trump were running against a true Liberal Democrat, I could see arguments for voting Trump. However, most of the people in this country are not radical left. Most of the people in this country aren’t radical right, either. I must vote my religion and my conscience and vote pro-life.
Addendum – a couple of thoughts on some other major issues. My husband calls me an “extreme moderate,” but I lean Reagan and Bush Sr. conservative.
Racism and Nationalism – Systemic racism is well documented in this country, but I don’t believe Trump is racist. He support far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy – which is completely against my Christian views, let alone my political ones. It feeds systemic racism, albeit somewhat indirectly, and survives only through creating fear of “the other.” Fear of people from other countries, fear of people with different political views, fear of other cultures, fear that only power can create peace. Us against them is ugly and dangerous, and it’s tearing our country to pieces. It is also more of a direct threat to our beloved capitalism than the fledgling and largely misunderstood moderate Democratic Socialism movement. I repeat. Most of the people in this country are not radical left. Most of the people in this country aren’t radical right, either.
Gun Control – No the “Dems” aren’t going to take your guns. It’s a pretty big part of the Constitution. I own guns. I support the right to bear arms. I also think if you have to have a license to drive a car and a permit to hunt a deer, you can have an application process to buy a gun, you can wait a few days, and you shouldn’t get a gun if you’re a felon or you’re mentally ill.
Police Brutality – “Defund the police” is one of the dumbest names I’ve ever heard. It’s too easy to think it means abolish the police. It doesn’t. Those mentally ill people who shouldn’t have guns? They need someone who can help them because the police can’t. Police aren’t trained to be social workers! Nurses and social workers and counselors go to school for years, must pass hard tests to be licensed, and must complete continuing education to maintain their licenses. There is no consistent bar for police officers. In a world suffering from systemic racism, that lack of consistency causes real problems. If a nurse walks into the wrong hospital room and gives someone medicine that kills them, there’s no protests. That nurse loses her job and license, and is sued, jailed, or both. There is a certain standard and expectation already established for that nurse, but not for cops. Most police are brave, amazing people (including several close, dear friends), some are really bad apples, and many are undertrained and overworked.