The Republican voter base is teeming with white, evangelical Christians from the south, and the GOP knows it. In the last four decades, abortion has come to the forefront of Christian beliefs and politics. Nowadays, religious and political beliefs regarding abortion have become so conflated for the majority of white evangelicals that it is hard to see where the line is drawn. The single-issue voter has never been more prevalent, and most of the time, that issue is decidedly abortion. However, the pro-life voter may not fully realize the actual ramifications of their vote.
For most white evangelicals, pro-life politics go hand-in-hand with their Christian faith, and the the Republican party has undoubtedly benefitted from this cultural shift. Although the United States was founded on the separation of church and state, one does not have to look much further than the pro-life rhetoric of the GOP to prove that this separation doesn’t fully exist in our modern government. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, for example, commented on his pro-life stance, saying, “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.” This sentiment is echoed among nearly all Republican leaders and elected officials. In fact, nearly all of the Republican candidates in the 2016 primary went so far as to publicly cite their faith as their motivation to denounce abortion. Where the problem in American politics lays, however, is not within individual religious beliefs but how one applies them to their government and those around them.
It’s clear that the pro-life versus pro-choice policy debate has been championed as the great moral battleground of the emerging 21st century, with the Republican party framing themselves as the “moral” party. But just how effective are the Republican policies at lowering rates of abortion? Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that the GOPs anti-choice policies actually increase rates of abortion in America. For example, for years the GOP has vilified Planned Parenthood–which provides contraceptive, health care, and yes, abortion services to low-income men and women–and attempted to defund the organization. However, since Planned Parenthood provides the majority of contraceptive services to impoverished areas, it actually prevents more abortions than it performs.
This is obviously contrary to the Republican standpoint, but there is another component to the GOP’s argument for its crusade against Planned Parenthood. The Republican Party and its respective members often claim that it’s morally wrong for the federal government to fund abortion, and that Planned Parenthood is not the problem but rather its source of funding. However, the party has chosen to conveniently overlook the 1997 Hyde Amendment, which specifies that the federal government cannot fund abortion, even through funds allocated for Planned Parenthood. Ultimately, the GOP has no valid argument against the federal funding of this service, since it only serves to decrease the prevalence of the medical procedure they so loathe and the government does not even fund abortion except in rare exceptions.
Beyond their vendetta against Planned Parenthood, the Republican Party has consistently fought against sex education in public schools and mandatory coverage of contraception by insurers. The party claims that these restrictions are both to discourage sexual promiscuity and to allow Christian educators and employers to follow their own moral leanings. Once again, however, both sexual education and affordable access to contraception have been shown to lower rates of abortion because they lower the rate of unintended pregnancy. Regarding insurance, it is worth noting that no insurance coverage policy which aids men in their quest for sexual health or family planning, such as viagra or vasectomies, is up for debate. The world stops for a moment, and wonders why this might be. Then the world moves on.
There is no definitively correct moral standpoint on abortion–after all, it is a subjective ethical opinion. There is, however, a definitive flaw in the pro-life ideology and how its supporters seek to further it. Using the legal system to reduce rates of abortion is a great idea. In fact, members of both parties support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy rates. However, the methodology for achieving this in the United States needs to be more focused on what leads to abortion in the first place. The fact of the matter is that women who have access to sex education, affordable contraception, and medical services are far less likely to ever have an unintended pregnancy and seek out an abortion. Whether or not the pro-life camp will ever decide to adopt this as their policy strategy, though, is another matter for debate.