Can a Christian really be against abortion and vote pro-choice? Psychologist Carolyn Yoder’s post — “Blood on Our Hands: 7 Reasons Why I’m a Christian Against Abortion Who Doesn’t Vote Pro-Life” — is again making the rounds and many Christians are favorably sharing it. They should take a closer look.
For Yoder, “pro-life” means you oppose all killing — not just abortion, but also all war and capital punishment. Later in the piece, she applies “pro-life” to opposing reductions in foreign-aid spending, opposing increased defense spending, opposing restrictive immigration policy, opposing gun rights, opposing policies that increase our carbon footprint, and the list goes on and on — a complete catalogue of leftist agenda items.
In short, she tosses all these items into a stew of moral equivalency and concludes that no one is completely pro-life, thus, no matter how you vote, you will have blood on your hands.
‘No One Is Really Pro-Life’
According to Yoder, single-issue voting just makes things worse and allows “foxy politicians” to play us while they support policies that kill in other ways. Abortion is going to happen anyway, so instead of criminalizing it and making it unsafe for women, let’s work to reduce it. Christians don’t have to vote against abortion.
Throughout the piece, Yoder couches her argument with appeals to Christian charity, but she isn’t charitable with pro-life arguments. What we get instead is a depressing mix of strawman arguments, false moral equivalency, ad-hominem attacks, and question-begging statements.
On one hand, Yoder’s piece feels like old news. Every election year, a handful of “concerned Christians” treat us to a series of op-eds with the same warnings: If we vote pro-life, we’ll harm our Christian witness and do little to stop abortion. For the most part, these are not thoughtful critics who genuinely care about unborn humans. Rather, they’re abortion supporters out to siphon pro-life votes from candidates who pledge to stand for unborn lives.
At times, the break from reality is breathtaking. The late Rachel Held Evans, for example, insisted in 2016 that voting for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats was truly “pro-life” — despite the fact that both were sworn to the proposition that an entire class of human beings could be set aside to be killed and both were firmly committed to trampling on conscience rights of medical professionals opposed to abortion.
On the other hand, Yoder claims to oppose abortion, but is troubled no one truly lives pro-life. Whatever her motivation, pro-abortionists are using Yoder’s post — and others like it — to shrink the pro-life vote.
Make the Main Thing the Main Thing
You can unpack a piece like Yoder’s and spot problems by formally stating the pro-life argument:
Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Premise 2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore,
Conclusion: Abortion is morally wrong.
Stating your case in a syllogism prevents critics from distorting it and keeps the main thing the main thing. Simply ask, Does anything Yoder writes refute my pro-life argument? It allows you to narrate the exchange with your critics — reminding them (often) of the case you presented and why their points are either irrelevant to your case or fail to substantially refute it. Against a formal pro-life argument, Yoder’s own case collapses in at least five fatal ways.
1. She attacks a strawman.
She doesn’t even try to engage the pro-life syllogism above. Instead, she projects onto pro-lifers an argument they aren’t making. Pro-lifers do not argue that all killing is wrong, a position only strict pacifists would hold. Rather, we argue it is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Abortion does that: therefore, it’s wrong. Yoder makes no attempt to defeat that argument. She ignores it for one she likes better.
Moreover, pro-lifers are not inconsistent with their own principles for not opposing all killing. A general in a just war can foresee the deaths of innocent civilians, but he does not intend them. An abortionist not only foresees the death of an innocent human being; he intends it. But even if pro-lifers are wrong to oppose abortion while supporting a just war, that does not prove their argument against abortion is wrong. Nor does it justify withholding votes to legally protect unborn humans.
2. Why is she opposed to abortion at all?
If it doesn’t intentionally kill an innocent human being, why care about reducing it? However, if it does intentionally kill an innocent human being, isn’t that reason enough to vote against it?
Suppose a political candidate penned an op-ed piece insisting that though he was a Christian opposed to spousal abuse, he didn’t vote “pro-woman” when it comes to criminalizing wife-beatings. Imagine he justified his case exactly as Yoder justifies hers: “The issue is complex.”
“If abortion intentionally kill an innocent human being, isn’t that reason enough to vote against it?”
Though I oppose wife-beatings, they will happen anyway. No one is truly “pro-woman” in a complete sense. After all, so-called “pro-woman” politicians are against spousal abuse, but cut spending programs aimed at reducing it. They are “anti-abuse,” not “pro-woman.” They all have blood on their hands. They support executing women for capital crimes. They oppose open borders for abused women. They support wars that kill and injure women. Thus, although I oppose spousal abuse, I won’t vote pro-woman. I’ll work to reduce beatings instead.
A candidate who wrote such things would be run out of town that afternoon. Laws against spousal abuse don’t stop all abuse, but we still legislate against it. Indeed, a society that reduced spousal abuse, but left it legal for men to beat their wives, would still be a deeply immoral society.
3. Her leveling attempts defy moral reasoning.
To cite just one example, are we to conclude that restricting border access is morally equivalent to intentionally killing an innocent human being? If you think that, your moral compass is broken and your alleged “pro-life” credentials are suspect. It is one thing to deny entrance to our nation. It is quite another to dismember those waiting for clearance.
4. She attacks pro-lifers rather than refuting their arguments.
She gives no reason why pro-lifers must do more than protect the unborn. Instead, she equivocates. She twists “pro-life” to mean quality of life for those outside the womb, instead of protection of life for those still in. Then, she attacks pro-life voters for not exhausting their scarce resources fighting every injustice under the sun. This is slanderous. Set aside for the moment that pro-lifers do care about kids after they are born and that religious conservatives give generously to charity. Why should anyone believe that because you oppose the intentional killing of an innocent human being, you must therefore take responsibility for other societal ills?
The whole objection is a sham. Suppose the pro-life movement spends every dollar caring for children after birth. Will Yoder finally vote to protect them before? Meanwhile, when pro-abortion advocates in New York and Washington, D.C. scuttle legislation designed to protect babies who survive abortion, we know conclusively that it’s pro-abortionists who don’t care about babies once they are born, not pro-lifers.
Abortion intentionally kills a million innocent human beings every year. Given that brutal reality, pro-lifers are right to treat abortion as the dominant moral issue of our day. Demanding they take on other issues is like telling an abolitionist in 1860, “You can’t vote against slavery unless you address its underlying causes.” There are always underlying causes to evil. Rape, theft, and sex-trafficking all have sociological roots, but that hardly justifies keeping them legal.
5. She repeatedly assumes the unborn are not human.
She speaks of clients who wished they’d never been born. Tragic, for sure. But is it okay to kill 2-year-olds to spare them hardship at age 30, especially if government programs won’t be there to support them? Her argument only works if the unborn are not human, a point she assumes but does not argue.
Her pitch for safe and legal abortion fares no better. She writes, “I value the lives of women having abortions and want them to be safe.” Safe for whom? True, any woman that dies from an abortion — legal or illegal — is a tragedy. But again, Yoder’s appeal to pity only works if you assume the unborn are not human. Otherwise, she is arguing that because some people die attempting to intentionally kill innocent human beings, the state should make it safe and legal to do so. But why should the law be faulted for making it more risky to kill others?
We Have a Responsibility
In a constitutional republic like ours, the people are the sovereign. God holds human sovereigns responsible for upholding justice for the weak and vulnerable (Psalm 82:1–4; 58:1–11; Romans 13:1–7). Therefore, God holds us responsible to protect the weak and vulnerable, including the unborn.
Yoder is not blind to the poor, and her humanitarian work in developing nations proves it. “I want the babies and children in those far-off places, created in the image of God just like my own, to live and thrive, too.” That’s a laudable goal, but it’s no excuse for failing to protect children here at home.
“While poverty and the sex trade are evil, no one in America proposes legalizing them. Abortion is different.”
The U.S. government is not going to solve injustice in developing countries the way it can solve abortion here. Even with foreign aid, our government can’t ban poverty or stop the sex trade of young girls in Thailand (without enormous cooperation from the citizens and government of that nation). However, the U.S. government can and should ban the killing of unborn humans within its own borders. That is why prudent pro-lifers have always sought both moral and political solutions to that problem. While poverty and the sex trade are evil, no one in America proposes legalizing them. Abortion is different. At times, our government not only tolerates the practice; it intentionally promotes it here and abroad.
Vote Like No One Else Will
As pro-life Christians, we’re not voting to acquire raw political power. We’re voting to protect innocent human beings from the dumpster. Contra Yoder, pro-life legislation saves lives. In every election cycle, our vote should promote the good and limit the evil insofar as possible. That is our God-given duty.
Yoder takes a pass on that duty. She wants the controversy to just go away. “It’s easy to forget that Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and each other. I wish we loved enough to stop demonizing.” Fair enough. But does “we” and “other” include the unborn? And if so, does “love” stand aside politically while he’s legally butchered?
Muddying the political waters might salve Yoder’s troubled conscience, but it’s cold comfort to dead children. Critics never demand that other organizations broaden their humanitarian efforts; they only demand pro-lifers do so. How many of these other organizations reciprocate by diluting their personnel and funds to help pregnancy resource centers save children?
Pro-lifers stand alone in our calling to save children. How can we not vote like it?