The first time I voted in a presidential election I chose my candidate because he'd gone mountain climbing with a friend I made in Oxford. My friend called the candidate a nice climbing partner, and I'd heard he was pro-life. That was enough for me. I penciled in my choices and headed to my parents’ house to show my mom my sticker. I was so excited about voting for the first time that I got pulled over for distracted driving. I told the officer my story and he let me go.
I spent the next big election and the month that preceded it in Uganda. I remember waking up on a Wednesday morning, overwhelmed by life with my new son, wondering when we'd get a visa appointment, and then hearing someone mention who our next president was. I had forgotten the election was happening.
The week before this year’s election, I read Joe Carter’s blog post explaining why he is a single issue voter. His single issue? Human dignity.
I agree with him completely. To be a Christian is to be a respecter of life, and our doctrine has to shape our voting.
I began researching candidates in my state because Carter convinced me I needed to do more politically to support the dignity of the unborn. I wanted my vote to count for the pro-life cause.
But as I began researching candidates, I realized that not every politician who was pro-life supported policies that were pro vulnerable women.
I started wondering why women choose abortion. I thought about women I know who feel like they don’t have the resources to support another child. I wondered about families where one or both parents are in prison. After all, Oklahoma has the highest rate of women incarcerated per capita in the nation, and there are too many fathers, particularly African Americans, behind bars in state prisons for nonviolent offenses.
Are women in our state who abort their babies making that choice primarily because it is legal?
There is no question that taking abortion off the table would be better for women and their children. It would pressure fathers to step up and care for their offspring. It would encourage society to be more supportive of women who are pregnant or parenting. It would benefit our communities across the board, leading us to wiser decisions about euthanasia and immigration and rights for the disabled.
I am adamantly pro-life. Period. Abortion should be illegal. Period.
But have we have taken too simplistic of an approach in the way we confront this issue? Do we focus our attention on voting to make abortion illegal because it’s convenient for us or because better laws about abortion are the most effective way to protect the unborn?
A few years ago, I started praying God would help me be more actively pro-life. I wanted my everyday to better reflect His heart. Over the next few months He put a pregnant fourteen year old in my path; and, eventually, He moved her into my house.
Walking with her through her pregnancy was a privilege. But it was anything but simple. Unplanned pregnancies are always overwhelming. They can be terrifying and hard, hard, hard. It’s hard to be a pregnant teenager. Even harder to be a teenager mother. Or a single mother. Or a mother without a high school education.
On the one hand, the truth here is simple: we affirm the personhood of unborn babies. Every person matters to God, and so every person matters to us. We want every person to matter under our laws too.
But the reasons women have abortions are complex. Their choices, like all of ours, reflect both their sinful hearts and the myriad of ways they have been sinned against- by their families, their partners, their communities, even their churches. Protecting unborn children must begin with caring for their mothers.
If the extent of our fight against abortion is voting for officials with strong pro-life scores, we may not be doing all it takes to end abortion in our state.
I can’t tell you who to vote for in the next election, but I can tell you this. If you move towards vulnerable women in your community, towards pregnant teenagers and struggling single mothers, you will vote more wisely.
When you know your neighbors better, you will love them better with your vote. And you may find that doing justice and loving mercy on election day is more complex than you previously realized.
Written by Miriam Boone
Written by Miriam Boone