Perplexing Pro-life Political Problems

What does it mean to be consistently pro-life? Some things I think obviously fall short of consistency (e.g. exceptions for rape). But some problems are far more vexing and complicated. Not everything is clear.

Recently I’ve been dealing with this issue for the 2016 election. I don’t like one single candidate enough to actually vote for them so far. But thinking about my options has led to a curious and difficult question. Who do you do when you think a pro-life candidate will lead to more killings if elected, and a pro-choice one will lead to less?

For example, say candidate A is pro-life, but otherwise is an awful candidate. You suspect both that he will not do anything about abortion, and that in fact his policies are so bad that many more people will be driven into poverty and despair, and thus seek abortions. On the other hand, candidate B is pro-choice, but otherwise is an excellent candidate. You suspect that he also will do nothing about abortion, for or against, and that in fact his policies are so good that many people are lifted out of poverty and despair, and thus many fewer will seek abortions.

My first instinct is to go with candidate A. After all, I can’t know for sure what will happen, and I wouldn’t want my vote in any way to go behind a pro-choice policy, even if it doesn’t actually do anything. How can I compromise on human life?

But imagine this scenario is tweaked. This time, the Doctor comes from the future and gives you access to statistical data at the end of the next Presidency for each option. As it turns out, you were right. If pro-life candidate A wins, his awful policies will lead to twice as many abortions as candidate B’s. Twice as many children will be brutally murdered if candidate A becomes President.

Back in the present, does this affect your vote? If you know that twice as many children will be aborted if the pro-life candidate A wins the election, will you instead vote for pro-choice candidate B, even if that means in some sense compromising your values? Will you put your vote behind someone who supports the right to kill infants if it will save the lives of many infants?

I don’t know about you, but if I had such future knowledge settled I would vote for candidate B in a heartbeat. Not only are most of his policies good, but even though he supports a pro-choice policy I could still help save hundreds, even thousands, of children. But this becomes much more difficult when brought back to the real world, where such foreknowledge is hidden. We don’t know what effects any given President will have on abortion rates, assuming that none of them will/can do anything about abortion itself (which is probably true of all the candidates running right now). We can only guess. But how certain or uncertain must we be to decide? Maybe you don’t know that candidate B will lead to way less abortions, but you’re pretty convinced. Maybe you’re 80% certain, or even 90%. Then how do you vote?

This is the problem I’ve been wrestling with. Right now there is no resolution in sight. I don’t like anyone in the running right now, but abortion could swing me if I had good reason to believe children might benefit from any particular candidate’s Presidency. So I don’t know what I will do.

How about you? What do you think about this dilemma? Would you vote for A or B? If you had that hypothetical future knowledge, would you vote for A or B? What is the right way to handle this?

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4 Thoughts to “Perplexing Pro-life Political Problems

  1. Why do you assume that the so called Pro Life issue is a defining one? I would argue that it is more important to be anti death. Against the Death Penalty, against the retention of Nuclear arms, against a situation where so many children die early, where there is a lack of affordable medical care. I can argue theologically far more clearly on these ones than on simply abortion. I am always amazed how people claim to be pro life, until a baby comes to term, and singularly uncaring about the life opportunities of that Baby.
    Unless you are tied into Theological ideas lifted from the fairly modern Roman Catholics there is no good theological justification for a complete ban on Abortion. Historically the Church (and the Bible) talk in terms of when a baby quickens in the womb. If you happen to believe that every sperm is potentially a person, and that every act of sexual intercourse should have the possibility of producing children, and that every implanted sperm is then blessed with person hood, of course your position is logical. However if you draw a distinction of when Person hood happens – historically when the baby moves in the womb, then you are in a different situation Personally I don’t like abortion and I see it at the best as the least bad answer, what I do also know is that I would prefer a woman to have an early, ideally medically induced termination than there be a return to the horrors of the back street abortionist which happened before the Abortion Act 1970 or whenever it was here.
    What you are asking is really the situation where you believe that an ethical situation is more important than any others in the manifesto of a politician, Do you support a Politician who is over all a poor candidate, but who is sound on your key issue, or a politician who will make a better officeholder but who does not share your ethical position. How glad I am that I don’t live in a country where that is a real issue, We vote for MPs who in turn elect a Prime Minister, and as we live in a parliamentary democracy, and matters like Abortion are matters of conscience, and would never be part of a party political programme. However we still have issues – like the renewal of the so called deterrent which are both political and ethical questions. I am lucky that living in Scotland I can vote against Trident and have a reasonable choice of getting a member who thinks as I do. If I lived in RUK might not be as easy.
    Personally I would argue that in what you write you are arguing a rather simplistic continuum. If you want a piatistical situation that is all right, if on the other hand you have to live in a nasty world, you have to go for the better candidate.
    The People of America have my deepest sympathy as there isn’t a single candidate who I would be really happy with. Good luck, or God Bless.

  2. I suppose, Caleb, in that theoretical situation I’d vote for candidate B, but I don’t think we are anywhere close to that kind of situation. Are you talking about Bern Saunders as candidate B and all of the Republican hopefuls as candidate A? Or just talking generally? I suppose, though it’s not going to happen, if Donald Trump got the Republican nomination and Bernie Saunders got the Democrat nomination that would be a correct characterization. More because almost anyone would make a better president than Trump and that would probably throw the country into chaos. And Donald Trump wants to nominate his in favor of abortion (who voted against banning partial-birth abortion) sister to the Supreme Court. Talk about nepotism. So in that case Bernie Saunders would probably do less to hinder pro-life laws. Do you really think Bernie Saunders has a better economic policy than any of the Republicans?

    1. This is more general ruminations rather than any actual candidates. While this was originally inspired by a conversation about Bernie Sanders vs. the Republican candidates, I’m not particularly persuaded that anyone in the real world actually fits this hypothetical.

  3. I do agree how frustrating it is that not many Republicans in Washington and virtually no Democrats anywhere care about defunding Planned Parenthood. Which why I think it is so important to get involved in the pro-life movement at a grassroots level. That is really where the most work can be done right now with laws and also with helping others and changing the social culture.

So what do you think?