Can pro-life Christians vote in good faith for a pro-choice candidate? Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary, along with other prominent evangelicals seem to think so since, in their view, socialist policies are (allegedly) pro-human. They raise similar concerns I raised in How the Pro-life Movement is Aborting a Pro-life Era. I’ve argued the conservative movement has lost its way. They’re divided through infighting, over-spiritualizing the issue, and fail to understand the economic aspect, among other things.
In my view, libertarianism is more advantageous in ending the practice of abortion. But some conservatives believe it’s a Christian’s duty to only vote for candidates whose stated belief is that abortion is murder, regardless of other policies they espouse. Mouw’s argument, then, is that it’s a Christian’s duty to vote for pro-human policies that might indirectly reduce abortion, even if that candidate favors legal abortion. But let’s explore this question further.
Can Pro-life Christians Vote for Pro-choice Candidates?
The official stance of the Libertarian Party is pro-choice (with caveats). I address this and other abortion questions in LCI’s newest book, Faith Seeking Freedom: Libertarian Christian Answers To Tough Questions. In it, I explain how pro-life Christians can indeed vote for a pro-choice libertarian. But the argument that pro-lifers can vote for a Biden/Harris ticket is profoundly different.
Unfortunately, Mouw’s statement caused many conservatives to double-down, saying pro-lifers couldn’t even vote for a libertarian candidate for President. In their view, a vote for any pro-choice candidate is tantamount to having unborn blood on your hands, or worse, the guilt of so-called “national sin.” And yet pro-choice Democrats and libertarians couldn’t be more distant from each other in terms of political ideology.
This nonetheless raises a valid question, one that a reader of mine recently asked:
“As a Christian Libertarian, how can I vote for someone who is not dedicated to protecting the right of unborn children who cannot defend themselves?”
To make the case that pro-lifers can vote for pro-choice candidates, one must demonstrate that the policies promoted by that candidate would actually result in women voluntarily choosing life-affirming options for unplanned pregnancies instead of abortion. This means we’re still left to evaluate the policy positions of the candidates, and their consequences. This means understanding economics and the longstanding debate of Mises vs Marx.
So the answer is not as simple as saying pro-lifers can vote for a pro-choice candidate “in good faith.” If a pro-lifer votes for a candidate whose policies have demonstrably negative effects on the unborn (and/or women), then can we really call this a “good faith” vote? Is willful ignorance of economics a valid excuse?
Let’s evaluate the differences between a pro-choice libertarian and a pro-choice Democrat.
Abortion legality and fetal viability
Pro-choice Democrats have made it clear they want abortion on demand; that is, complete access to abortion services up to the birth of the baby. This also hasn’t come out of nowhere. Beverly Wildung Harrison, who is known as the “mother of Christian feminist ethics” wrote about how Roe v Wade was a compromise for feminists. In her view, Roe didn’t go far enough because she believed that women had a God-ordained power to determine who will be born. The Democrats have made it clear, fetal viability should have no bearing on the legality of abortion, and they’re done debating this point.
The abortion plank of the Libertarian Party is written to reflect a lack of consensus on abortion within the party. The fact this issue isn’t fully settled among libertarians means pro-lifers have an opportunity to be persuasive. Furthermore, libertarians aren’t interested in controlling the narrative through technocratic “fact-checkers.” Libertarian principles don’t shut down the debate; they encourage the opportunity to innovate our ideas and improve our arguments.
As with most (all?) policy proposals of the Democrats, they believe the legal jurisdiction of abortion should be decided at the federal level. Joe Biden has said that he would work to pass legislation codifying “abortion on demand” into law, thereby taking away the power the of Supreme Court. Though there is some question about whether such an act would pass, it is nonetheless clear that pro-choice Democrats want to settle the abortion question in a manner not only detrimental to fetal rights, but also would make pro-life efforts to provide life-affirming alternatives much more difficult.
Libertarians agree the matter of abortion should not be decided upon at the federal level. This was the position of Dr. Ron Paul, and the historic position of the pro-life movement. Libertarians believe government should decide the issue at a more local level one way or the other. In fact, the overturn of Roe would not result in a national prohibition of abortion. It would simply kick the decision back to the states.
Because pro-choice Democrats also promote Socialist economic policies, they not only advocate for tax funding of abortion services, but for all of healthcare. This is Mouw’s selling point for the humanity of pro-choice Democratic policies. But the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate that socialized healthcare has the effect they expect, and no universal healthcare system currently established, or established in previous generations, bears out their expectations. Scandinavian countries are not socialist. So they are literally voting on wishful thinking and self-deception. Socialism is both anti-life and anti-choice.
Libertarians agree that no tax dollars should fund abortions. Left-libertarian and pro-choice advocate Roderick Long points out that unaffordable healthcare was created by government intervention in order to increase the profits of doctors through the licensure process and health insurance. Libertarians are interested in making healthcare affordable and accessible to the poor through the freed market, but that government should step out of the way and this means not funding it, abortion included. This is the pro-human effect Mouw is looking for, but will never achieve through socialism.
Economics of Reproductive Health
Democrats have demonstrated (and Kamala Harris is their golden girl) that they want to use regulation to protect abortion clinics and shutdown crisis pregnancy center (CPCs) – even prosecute those who’d speak out against Planned Parenthood.
Libertarians want a mostly or completely unregulated market. The benefit for pro-lifers is that CPCs would be free to compete with unsubsidized abortion clinics. CPCs already outnumber abortion clinics in America, and the rates of abortion are down to pre-Roe v Wade levels causing abortion clinics to close. If a relatively free market can lift the world out of poverty, we can also leverage those same market forces to put the abortion industry out of business. How? Through innovation and expansions of life-affirming options that are less expensive and more accessible to women. Austrian economic theory has demonstrated, that this is the likely outcome.
This is not an exhaustive comparison, but you may begin to see the wide chasm between these two ideologies.
But let’s address this question more directly, because who we vote for is a less important question. “As a Christian Libertarian, how can I vote for someone who is not dedicated to protecting the right of unborn children who cannot defend themselves?”
Who is responsible for protecting the rights of the unborn?
There is one person standing between the fetus and the rest of the world …
… not the state.
… not the President.
… not the Supreme Court.
… not even the baby’s father.
It’s the woman … and she matters!
The tragedy of abortion (in part) is when a woman is unwilling to defend the rights of her unborn because she is the one who stands in between her fetus and the rest of the world. And yet, she’s still a human being with rights and agency as well. We can’t just compromise the real rights of all women in order to prevent pro-abortive decisions by some women. Just as it’s immoral and unjust to compromise the rights of the fetus, it’s immoral and unjust to compromise the rights of women.
Conflict on this issue still exists because our society is persuaded that we must compromise the rights of either the woman or the fetus. This creates a contradiction; that only men have absolute rights and women and children do not. If women and children have relative rights, then perhaps men do also. But if all human rights our relative then they are ultimately nothing, so they must be absolute or they must be nothing. The rights of both the fetus and the woman must be absolute which means we must still work out how they can legitimately coexist as such.
But, even under abortion prohibition, civil governance can only adjudicate situations where a woman has already had the abortion. As with every single case of rights violations, civil adjudication can only come after the fact. The pro-life movement has made matters worse by trying to use civil governance to prevent abortion. It’s can’t be done that way. You wind up with injustice, a “minority report;” a justice system driven by fear and suspicion. Abortion prevention is best achieved through voluntary persuasion and this is facilitated by freed market options, not socialism.
What Christian libertarians need to do
Restore guaranteed protections of the accused through criminal justice reform
This is something pro-choice and pro-life libertarians can agree on. We aren’t willing to accept the collateral damage of an unjust punitive system simply to satisfy our desire for justice. A future legal prohibition of abortion must uphold the basic human rights of women, including the presumption of innocence, the right to be secure in her person and property, the right to not self-incriminate, and others. This means repealing the policies which stem from Joe Biden’s contributions to the “War on Drugs” and “Tough on Crime” policies.
Expand the market with more life-affirming options
This allows pro-lifers to compete with abortion providers in such a way that abortion looks less and less like the “only best option.” Those who support women in enabling them to choose life-affirming options are being creative and innovative, and they need to be unencumbered by state regulations which only serves to stifle progress.
If we understand that most women seek abortion for poverty and bad relationships, we can see where pro-lifers can act to influence those choices. And if the freed market can lift the world out of poverty, it can positively affect women with unplanned pregnancies as well … even if abortion is legal.
But in a Biden/Harris administration, the market will not be free to compete, and the life-affirming options currently available will be in danger. Their socialist economic policies will result with more people … more women … in poverty! That means more abortions, that is, if we’re taking women seriously about why they abort. This is ultimately a recycled version of the “safe, legal, and rare” argument of the Clinton Administration. Here, I explain why that’s a self-defeating argument for anyone advocating for marginalized groups.
As a libertarian anarchist I don’t advocate voting for anyone. However, I do understand that some believe they need to cast a vote and would like guidance in navigating the wretched choice they face in Trump vs Biden. A pro-life libertarian view of abortion offers those Christians tempted by socialism a better alternative to the tried and failed Republican scheme. That may mean voting for Jorgenson/Cohen, it may be abstaining from voting altogether. Regardless, pro-lifers can rest easy knowing that by adopting libertarianism as their political philosophy they haven’t compromised their values.
Posted with permission from the Libertarian Christian Institute.