I have issues with Rachel Held Evans’s doctrineless brand of Christianity, which I think is a result of her unwillingness to present the hard parts of faith for fear she’ll be rejected, and of a fear of the truth that the Way is narrow (Matthew 7:14), meaning many will not have eternal life. So, she fashions a less “judgy” faith that doesn’t alienate the liberal zeitgeist. At her blog she argues that a pro-life person should vote for Hillary Clinton, pro-choice candidate for president, for “pragmatic” reasons. Here’s the crux of her argument:
In the eight years since we’ve had a pro-choice president, the abortion rate in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest since 1973. I believe the best way to keep this trend going is not to simply make it harder for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies but to create a culture with fewer unwanted pregnancies to begin with. Data suggests progressive social policies that make healthcare and childcare more affordable, make contraception more accessible, alleviate poverty, and support a living wage do the most to create such a culture, while countries where abortion is simply illegal see no change in the abortion rate.
First, the good. Evans is right that there should be more to being pro-life than outlawing abortion. I pointed this out to Ezra Klein years ago. The pro-life movement is grounded in an overarching ethos that honors conservative sexual ethics and family life, views that sync with man’s fundamental nature. Extolling any means of reducing abortions without recognizing man’s fundamental nature, or that doesn’t address man’s fallenness, misses the point.
Now the bad. Evans’s use of the term “unwanted pregnancies” is telling. This is a term of our promiscuous culture that takes for granted that people will have sex heedless of the reproductive consequences. It’s hypocritical to call a pregnancy “unwanted” when the sex act that foreseeably led to it was very much wanted. The most direct cure for pregnancy is to not have sex. But the cool kids laugh at you when you say this, and Evans wants to be one of the cool kids.
Evans presents “progressive social policies” that the data presumably show practically reduces abortions. The problem is big government policies like Obamacare have made healthcare more costly, not less. Poverty-fighting programs like the Great Society wasted trillions of dollars and cultured a permanent disaffected, dislocated underclass. Minimum wage laws kill jobs. Big government makes families weaker, not stronger.
The worst part of her policy prescription is “making contraception more accessible.” Disregarding for a moment that contraceptives are cheap, how is incentivizing licentiousness a legitimate venture of government, especially in a society shared with abstinent people. Contraceptives proliferation furthers the fantasy of heedless sex, while at the same time leading to suicidally low reproductive rates. Evans’s pro-life views are unmoored from a procreative model couched in chastity and marriage. If she finds that model unrealistic, fine. But Jesus’ punishment for our sins is an enormous power that transforms lives. It would be a shame to undervalue it.
All of this ignores the fact that there were far fewer abortions before 1973, the year the Supreme Court struck down state abortion bans. If Evans was really interested in reducing the number of abortions, she’d call for less availability to abortion, like in the ’50s. But to the cool kids, the ’50s are irredeemable.
Finally, if you’re genuinely pro-life, how can you reconcile with a candidate whose philosophy enshrines the pregnant woman as the arbiter of life? This has always been the two movements’ irreconcilable difference. One believes in the universality and sanctity of life, the other in the universality and sanctity of choice. To one side, choice is illegitimate; to the other, it is primary. If abortions spiked to 3 million per year, pro-choicers like Clinton who believe their own arguments wouldn’t bat an eye.
Evans believes in “sacred personhood” but it doesn’t translate into a coherent argument about why choice is illegitimate. Evans is saying abortion is a choice dictated by the mother’s circumstances, so let’s improve the circumstances. But, if a woman, no matter her circumstances, wants to kill her unborn child, what will Evans say? Rather, what will her vote for pro-choice candidates say?