Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law yesterday a measure prohibiting abortions in Texas as early as six weeks. The governor stated that the bill “ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.” The ban includes cases where the woman was impregnated as a result of rape or incest, but it allows an exception for medical emergencies. It takes effect in September, though pro-abortion activists have promised to challenge it.
A bill is also pending in Texas that would outlaw nearly all abortions if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade. This possibility may have moved closer to reality this week with news that the high court will hear a case many believe could effectively undermine Roe.
The court’s decision to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization continues to dominate the headlines. To explain: women in the US presently have the legal right to choose abortion before the fetus becomes viable, the time when the baby could survive outside its mother’s body. This is typically placed at twenty-two to twenty-four weeks. Dobbs restricts the window for abortion to fifteen weeks after gestation, claiming that the fetus by that time is “likely capable of conscious pain perception.” This restriction directly conflicts with Roe and with Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court ruling that reaffirmed Roe.
The court stated this week that it will consider the question “whether all previability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional.” If it decides that they are not, states could be free to restrict abortion in whatever way they wish; some could enact bills that would effectively make abortion illegal in their state.
Why many evangelicals supported Donald Trump
We will be discussing this issue at great length over the coming months, as there is so much to know about this decision and its significance for our nation. For today, I’d like to focus on one aspect of the abortion controversy: its effect on our political divides and cultural health.
According to Pew Research Center, 56 percent of evangelical Protestants identify as Republicans today, compared with 28 percent who identify as Democrats. Among those who say they believe in God with absolute certainty, 73 percent identify as Republicans.
Now consider this Pew report: 80 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 35 percent of Republicans who agree.
The second report is crucial in explaining the first.
As the Washington Post notes, abortion has connected evangelicals with the Republican Party since the late 1970s. For people like me who believe passionately that life begins at conception, this issue is our preeminent political priority. Protecting the unborn is a biblical and moral imperative. If one political party consistently supports this belief, nominates pro-life judges, and authors pro-life legislation, that party is far more likely to receive the support of pro-life advocates.
Many evangelicals supported Donald Trump primarily for this reason, believing his promise to nominate pro-life judges to the Supreme Court and other judiciary positions. They supported Republicans in Congress and in state and local elections in the hope that they would confirm such nominees and would support pro-life legislation such as the bill signed by Gov. Abbott yesterday.
So far, I’m merely stating the obvious. But there is a less obvious consequence of this political reality we should remember as well.
Two dangers of partisan allegiance
Two consequences of evangelical party affiliations are damaging to our influence in the culture.
One: Biblical priorities transcend individual parties.
With his usual perceptive wisdom, Tim Keller published an op-ed in the New York Times warning of the dangers of single-party identification for evangelical Christians. He noted that some issues associated more typically with the Democratic Party such as racism and poverty are also biblical priorities, as are “Republican” issues such as traditional marriage.
And he warned that identifying with a single party can obligate us to affirm everything that party affirms, including aspects of its platform and legislative agendas that we consider to be unbiblical. This can weaken our witness with those in the culture who also disagree with these agendas and who see Christianity as a political power move.
Two: Allegiance to one party removes our influence from the other.
As their opposition to abortion has driven most evangelical Christians into alliance with the Republican Party, this movement has created a vacuum in the Democratic Party on this issue. The executive director of Democrats for Life states that “we used to have 125 pro-life Democrats” in Congress when abortion was not a wedge issue between the two parties. However, she estimates that there are only two pro-life Democrats left in the House of Representatives today. Sen. Bernie Sanders recently said, “Being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.”
The solution for a “God-sized problem”
Abortion has poisoned our politics by driving a partisan wedge into our country that separates Americans from Americans on a host of other issues as well. As we will see tomorrow, abortion has also poisoned our souls and imperils our future as a democracy.
For today, let’s close by seeking to speak the truth in love to all people, whoever they are and whatever the issue we are facing (Ephesians 4:15). Let’s remember that Jesus chose to die for those who support abortion just as he chose to die for all sinners, including you and me (Romans 5:8). Let’s pray for God to use this issue in the months ahead to draw people to himself (James 4:8), then answer our prayer with our courageous compassion (Colossians 3:12).
I was interviewed on the radio yesterday by Chris Brooks, one of the most brilliant and perceptive pastors and thought leaders in America. (You can hear our conversation here.) Toward the end of our hour together, he made this simple but profound statement: “Sin is a God-sized problem.”
With whom will you share the God-sized solution today?