The Rationalist Papers (6): Why pro-life voters should dump Trump for Biden

If you are ardently pro-life and anti-abortion, you vote Republican. But maybe, in this presidential election, it’s time to reconsider.

If you are pro-choice, this post is not for you. And you may be offended by what you read here. The purpose of this post is not to rehash the abortion debate, about which no one is likely to change their mind, and I have little patience for folks trashing each other over their views on this topic. The only question I have is: based on your views, who is the best choice for President in this election?

Just a reminder: these Rationalist Papers posts are for the group I call the deciders: conservative, moderate, undecided, and third-party voters considering their choices in the 2020 US Presidential election.

The latest Supreme Court nomination has changed the outlook for abortion laws

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a fierce defender of abortion rights. Now that she’s gone, Donald Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative jurist and former clerk to Antonin Scalia, to the Supreme Court.

It’s very likely that the Senate will confirm Barrett. Her hearing in the Judiciary Committee will start on October 12. It’s likely that she’ll be confirmed by the end of October. If the hearings don’t conclude in time, she may be confirmed during the lame duck session of the current Senate, after the election, later in November.

All the Republican senators except two are likely to vote to confirm Barrett. Two Republicans, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, are on record saying that this nomination should not go forward this close to the election and will vote against it. As a result, she will likely be confirmed with 51 votes — assuming no Democrats vote for her.

While Democrats will complain and delay, it is unlikely that they can stop this nomination.

If you are pro-life, this is what you were hoping Donald Trump would deliver. There will soon be six of nine justices sympathetic to abortion restrictions on the court. There are already hundreds of conservative judges in lower courts nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate.

This is the most conservative possible federal judiciary.

It’s possible that the Supreme Court will now reverse itself on the decision that prohibited abortion bans: Roe v. Wade. Once there is no federal judicial mandate on abortion, many states will make it illegal.

Even if the court keeps with precedent and does not fully reverse Roe v. Wade, it may be sympathetic towards far more restrictions on abortion. It may approve restrictions that vastly reduce the number of abortion clinics, as in Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, and Kentucky. It may support bans on abortions that start when there is a fetal heartbeat, an approach that has been tried in many states; such a ban that would start at about six weeks of pregnancy, a time when many women do not even realize they are pregnant. Or it may be sympathetic to parental consent rules for minors, or laws that require notifying and getting permission from the father.

The net effect of many of these changes would be, if not to outlaw abortion in many places, to make it far more difficult.

These changes would happen in a nation that has fewer abortions than it has had in a long time. Abortions in America reached a historic low in 2017 of 13.5 per 1,000 women of reproductive age.


If you are pro-life, this is what winning looks like.

And it may give you an opportunity to think a little bit more deeply about your choice in the presidential election.

Think about what “pro-life” means

Why are you pro-life?

Is it because you feel a fetus is a baby, and it is wrong to take the life of a baby?

Is it because your religious leaders are opposed to abortion, and you feel that abortion is morally incompatible with your religion?

Let’s assume that one or both of these reasons are behind your position on this topic.

Start with children — and now let’s consider the ones that have already been born. President Trump’s policy has separated over 2,000 children from their parents at the Mexican border. Most of them are in families of migrants traveling under great hardship to escape violence and famine in countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. According to testimony from Clara Long of Human Rights Watch, who has visited camps where the children are held:

Our in-depth interviews with children revealed that the US Border Patrol is holding many children, including some who are much too young to take care of themselves, in jail-like border facilities for weeks at a time without contact with family members, or regular access to showers, clean clothes, toothbrushes, or proper beds. Many were sick. Many, including children as young as 2 or 3, were separated from adult caretakers without any provisions for their care besides that provided by unrelated older children also being held in detention. 

If you care about children, this should concern you.

In the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has also vigorously encouraged schools to reopen, threatening to cut off funding to schools that don’t. It’s quite difficult to keep children safe, maintain social distancing, and require masks for school children — and anyone who’s ever been involved with schools has seen how other infections, from colds to flu to measles, spread quickly in schools. While children are apparently more resilient in recovering from COVID-19, some do get sick and die, and many others can spread the infection to teachers and parents.

Neither of these policies could reasonably be considered “pro-life.” They are more along the lines of “we can put children’s lives and health at risk because we have other priorities.” If this reasoning is inappropriate for ending a pregnancy, is it not also offensive to treat children this way in other settings?

What about Joe Biden? His task force guidelines are full of policies intended to help children — for example, by replacing dangerous lead water pipes that lead to developmental problems and brain damage, by increasing family leave time so parents can bond with young children, and by helping to fund child care.

The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that health of all — including pregnant women and children — depends fundamentally on access to health care. If the family next door to you cannot get treatment because they are unemployed, they’re at higher risk of sending a sick child to school, putting your own children at risk. Health care is a societal need — when some of us are sick, we all suffer.

Moving on to the other reason to restrict abortion, religious faith, consider that Donald Trump belongs to no church. He says the bible is his favorite book (neck and neck with The Art of the Deal) but has no idea what is in it. Biden, on the other hand, attends Catholic Mass every Sunday.

What’s the point? The point is that Trump is using faith to gather support from believers although he has no belief of his own, while Biden actually thinks about religion as a participant.

Pro-life voters talk about their vote for Biden

Some pro-life voters have made the switch to Biden. For example, Mona Charen wrote:

I have been pro-life my entire adult life. I haven’t changed. I continue to find the practice of abortion abhorrent and will persist in trying to persuade others. While I would prefer to vote for someone who upholds the right to life, I’ve never believed that electing presidents who agree with me will lead to dramatic changes in abortion law, nor is the law itself the only way to discourage abortion. The number of abortions has been declining steadily since 1981. It dropped during Republican presidencies and during Democratic presidencies, and now stands below the rate in 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided and when abortion was illegal in 44 states.

It’s wrong to take innocent life. But other things are immoral too. It’s also wrong to swindle people, to degrade and demonize, to incite violence, to bully, and while we’re at it, to steal, to bear false witness, to commit adultery and to covet.

Donald Trump is a daily, even hourly, assault on the very idea of morality, even as he obliterates truth. His influence is like sulfuric acid on our civic bonds. 

If you are a single-issue voter on abortion, perhaps it is time to expand your view of the world. Gallup says that 30% of pro-life voters would vote only for a pro-life candidate. Are you ready to join the 70% who look at the candidates more broadly?

Abortions are down. The Supreme Court is as anti-abortion as it’s going to get. Another four years of Trump won’t make things any more hostile for abortion than they are now.

Remember, the president doesn’t make abortion laws — states and localities create them. The president’s only influence is to nominate judges who make decisions about what is or is not in line with the Constitution and legal precedents. Those judges are already in place. The president is far less important in the abortion question now than he was before this latest opening on the Supreme Court.

But if morality is important to you, the candidates’ morality matters, too.

Another four years of Trump will change America, and not in a way that is better for children. If you are pro-life, consider whether this election is one in which you can vote for a Democrat with a platform of pro-child policies. Your other choice is a Republican who has no platform — but whose policies have caused, and will cause, many children to continue to suffer.

Our children — born and unborn — are counting on you to see the bigger picture. Can you see it?

Feel free to post comments. However, I will delete comments that insult or demean me, other commenters, or groups, or state supposed facts without evidence. Vacuous cheerleading and catcalling is also prohibited; this is not a sporting event. No one persuades anyone by creating a hostile environment.

For the origin of the Rationalist Papers, see this. All Rationalist Papers posts available here.

5 responses to “The Rationalist Papers (6): Why pro-life voters should dump Trump for Biden

  1. Re the closing comments: ” Republican who has no platform — but whose policies have caused, and will cause, many children to continue to suffer.
    Our children — born and unborn — are counting on you to see the bigger picture. ”

    In the case of “already-here children — these are not “just” migrant children — the past years of Republican policy have continued to slash away at our own people’s safety nets. Once a child is born — good luck. No one will help you now! Pro-life needs to commit to the bigger picture just as forcefully as on abortion. Then I could agree with them.

  2. I’d want to test your assumption that there truly is such a thing as a single issue voter.
    I have been told there is such a thing and I am sure many would claim that they are single issue voters. And yet I suspect that these kinds of issues are much more like a catchall for a bundle of related opinions and values.

  3. “The point is that Trump is faith to gather support from believers although he has no belief of his own” What does this mean Trump is faith????

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