Republicans say that they’re proud to be pro-life. They believe in the sanctity of life, that all of life is precious. But while they do value human life in general, their greatest emphasis is on the most defenseless among us: babies, especially the unborn.
The unborn child(ren) are lives too, Republicans say, and every life is important and sacred. Of course, many Republicans are evangelical Christians who believe that their faith mandates they defend unborn babies from heartless abandon and slaughtering. And in their view, abortions are being committed in the US and worldwide by clinics due to pregnant mothers who don’t want to carry their child to term and raise him or her — whatever the reason. Though in some cases, women don’t want to handle the financial responsibilities that come with motherhood, and men who don’t want to bear responsibility sometimes pressure women into abortions, there are other reasons for abortion as well. Republicans say that, once a life is created, God has plans for that life and if God wills the baby to be conceived, God wills the baby to come to term. Unless something goes awry in-vitro where the child dies suddenly, there should be no man-caused death of the baby. In other words, any procedure that seeks to terminate the child once it is conceived is an abortion and, in the eyes of Republican evangelical Christians, is murder. And God is clear: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13, NKJV).
So the question before us today is, “Are Republicans absolutely pro-life?” Pay attention to the word “absolutely.”
What is “Pro-Life”?
To be pro-life means to be for all human life, including the unborn. It means to promote the idea that every baby in the womb be carried to term. Of course, there are in-vitro deaths that are medical mysteries. Children die in the womb for all sorts of reasons. I remember with my sister’s first miscarriage that the child formed in the womb but just never started breathing. The baby never took its first breath, my sister and brother-in-law were told.
But pro-life is opposed to pro-choice: that is, Republicans say that life is from God, life belongs to the Lord, and life is ultimately, God’s choice. Humans have no say in whether or not a child is born; that is up to God. So if humans can’t determine when life is born into this world, humans cannot give life, then they have no right to take life. Whether or not a baby emerges from the womb at birth or dies in-vitro (or isn’t formed at all) is the divine prerogative. It’s up to God, not man. So it’s not surprising to see Republicans take a very vehement stance against abortion clinics and abortion in general.
But there is a problem with the Republican stance that so many evangelical Christians support: it isn’t “absolutely pro-life,” but rather, “pro-life with conditions.”
Pro-Life With Conditions: Planned Pregnancy
Have you ever sat down and talked with your spouse about a planned pregnancy, or when you want to have a child? A lot of evangelical Christian spouses have had the conversation with each other and with a doctor or two before conceiving a child. This is done, Christians say, so that the couple is financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to bring a life into this world. Christians believe it’s the responsible thing to do when bringing a life into the world. One shouldn’t just have a child “willy-nilly” without any preparation. Even God prepared water and vegetation before bringing human life into the world (Genesis 1:9-12, 26-28). God created light before making man so that man wouldn’t stumble all over the place and injure himself. God is a planner, and He planned for life before creating it; shouldn’t Christians follow this example?
And so, Republican Christians oppose abortion (think surgical procedure here) because to them, it is a result of surprise. Who would seek to terminate a pregnancy if they planned it in advance? No one would terminate a pregnancy if it’s something expected and wanted. The only women who terminate pregnancies, they believe, are those who were 1) surprised by the pregnancy and 2) didn’t want a pregnancy to begin with. So those who abort their children are those who don’t want children at all. And when they’re surprised to discover they’re pregnant, they seek to immediately “put an end” to it.
And then, there are evangelical Christians who go and discover through Planned Parenthood what times are ripe for conception. These women keep ovulation planners and calendars. With the smartphone revolution today, women now have ovulation apps and calendars on their phones. A calendar, a notification, informs them as to when they’re ovulating and thus, when the time is ripe to have sexual intercourse. Now, no ovulation calendar or app can make someone have a child (God determines when a life is created), but having sexual intercourse when a woman is ovulating increases the chances of conceiving.
There is some social responsibility in planning for a pregnancy, and there is good principle for it. And yet, at the same time, if God is the Giver of Life, and a couple is married, why not allow God to determine when the couple conceives? Why go through all the trouble of planning ovulation dates and carrying an ovulation calendar? Why not be surprised by one’s conception date, rather than plan it around a woman’s ovulation cycle? All the planning involved shows that many Christian couples in particular believe planning is smart, wise, and sound.
But, if one believes planning to be a wise strategy for parenthood, then “Planned Parenthood” (think the term here, not the organization) is a good thing. And yet, to plan parenthood is to exert choice over the process itself. When one plans parenthood, the individual exerts some measure of determination over when a child comes. For example, ovulation calendars are used to determine when a woman is conceiving. These are also used by women who, after having children, no longer want to continue conceiving and determine to “not” have sexual intercourse on certain weeks and dates. This is done to increase a woman’s chances of not getting pregnant.
Some women rely heavily on ovulation calendars and dates. Some, however, resort to contraception. Contraception is the means by which someone chooses not to have a child. Some would say that abstinence is the first form of contraception, which I agree with. But married couples cannot live by this mandate for a few reasons. First, for married couples, sex is permissible within marriage, and married couples engage in it. Next, the Bible tells married couples not to “deprive one another except with consent” (that means, not to deny sexual intimacy) but for a limited time, and then to return to normal sexual intercourse to not leave room for infidelity (1 Corinthians 7:5, NKJV). Self-control exists within marriage, but married couples are charged by Scripture not to remain “forever celibate.”
But if married couples will engage in sexual intercourse for the sake of pleasure and intimacy, then they can have children. Any time a man and woman engage in sexual intercourse, there is a chance that a child will result. And so, if married couples can’t remain celibate and abstinent within marriage, how do they prevent pregnancy (conception)? Through the use of contraception.
“Contraception,” “Contra” being “against” conception or pregnancy, comes in various forms. There’s birth control, which the name (“birth control”) shows choice in the matter: that a woman can control the number of births she has. But contraception also comes in the form of pills, patches, and yes, even condoms. Condoms, worn by men, are a form of contraception and birth control. Of course, there is a men’s birth control pill on the market today, but condoms are more readily available.
There are evangelical Christians who are pro-life, yes, but with this condition: they want children until they don’t want them. They want to be pregnant until they don’t want to be pregnant. And so, they may have 3 or 4 children and plan for those pregnancies, but they get to a point where the pregnancy ship, for them, has sailed. They may be able to conceive more children but they don’t want more children. They want to have more sexual intercourse with their husband (and the husband the same), but they don’t want children resulting from it. And so, they use contraception (meaning “against conception”) because they don’t want unwanted pregnancies.
Unwanted Pregnancies and the Pro-Life Tension
But to use contraception implies there is a such thing as unwanted pregnancies. And yet, to be absolutely pro-life is to acknowledge God’s choice to bring a life into the world. Christians would tell a pregnant teenage mother, “God wills for this child to be.” And yet, when it comes to children within their marriage, these same Christian wives and mothers (and Christian husbands and fathers) use contraception because they don’t want certain pregnancies.
And yet, if God is the Giver of Life, then He knows no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy. No pregnancy is unwanted in God’s eyes. God creates that which He wants. If He allows a life to be conceived in the womb, then He desires that life to live. And so, in the mind of God, there is no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy. And yet, Christian couples, who believe that the will of God supercedes all else, find themselves using contraception. Contraception goes “against conception,” which goes against the will of God. So Christian couples who use birth control, in theory, are going against the will of God in sexual intercourse (that is, to conceive life) when they use contraception to prevent what, to them, is an “unwanted pregnancy.”
When Christian couples go against God’s intended desire for man and woman in intercourse to conceive by using contraception, they are exerting a choice that goes against God’s design for marriage. God designed marriage for family when he said “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God designed the biological processes of the body so that, when male and female meet in intercourse, life can be produced. And so, to use contraception to block that is to oppose God’s will. And when one opposes the divine design, he or she is exerting their own ungodly choice in the matter.
I’m not trying to demonize contraception. I believe that contraception serves a social purpose and is a matter of social responsibility. It is ungodly to bring life into the world and fail to take care of it. But it also is a drawback in that it opposes God’s biological design. And when Christians use contraception, they are, themselves, no longer just pro-life. In using contraception Christian couples are also “pro-choice.”
From the discussion above, it’s clear: evangelical Christians who vote Republican say that they’re pro-life. However, they’re not absolutely pro-life; if they were, they would oppose contraception in all its forms, including condoms, and would simply become pregnant and carry every child to term. Evangelical Christians, though, exercise control over not only when they want to have children (ovulation calendars and apps, doctors’ appointments) but also when they no longer want to continue having children (unwanted pregnancies). And so, they continue engaging in sexual intercourse with their spouse while using contraception to deny surprise pregnancies. This shows some measure of choice in the process.
Though Republican, evangelical Christians hate to admit it, it turns out they are not absolutely pro-life. Rather, they are pro-life until they are pro-choice. And while many have demonized Democrats for being pro-choice, it turns out that Republicans and Democrats have something in common: both believe in the use of contraception (some measure of choice) to oppose unwanted pregnancies. They disagree, however, over what forms of contraception to use. That is the subject of another post. Stay tuned.