A huge obstacle for many evangelicals considering a vote for Democrats is abortion policy. So a particularly important part of the upheaval now underway within evangelical ranks is a move to redefine “pro-life” to apply to more than fetuses.
“I genuinely wish the Democratic Party would have a greater value for life inside the womb,” Duford said. “Yet I equally wish the Republican Party would place a greater value on life outside the womb. You cannot choose just one and define yourself as pro-life.”
The progressive outreach to evangelical voters also argues that as a practical matter, abortion rates fall more during Democratic administrations than Republican ones, a claim that has some basis but tends to be exaggerated. It is true that one of the most effective strategies to reduce abortion numbers is to provide comprehensive sex education and family planning, to reduce unwanted pregnancies. For example, countries with free, legal abortion, like the Netherlands, have substantially lower abortion rates than the United States.
“A growing number of Christians have realized that their religious beliefs concerning the sanctity of life can be advanced in practical ways other than simply voting for conservative judges to make abortion illegal,” said Deborah Fikes, a former evangelical leader in Texas who became so disillusioned by policies of the American Evangelical Church that she left and joined the Methodist Church. Evangelical churches, she said, have mistakenly pursued a harmful “strategy of political gain in Jesus’s name.”
A similar ferment is apparent among Catholics. “I am voting for Joe Biden because I am pro-life,” a Catholic nun, Sister Mary Traupman, wrote to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Describing family separation at the border, environmental degradation, denial of health care to the poor, she added, “These are not pro-life policies.”
The Rev. Greg Boyle, who runs programs for gang members in Los Angeles, told me something similar. “I have never endorsed a candidate in any race until now,” Father Boyle said, but now he endorses Biden. “This is a vote for the soul of the nation,” he added. “I’ve never seen an existential threat like this in my 66 years of living.”
“This is not about partisan politics,” he said. “It’s about truly choosing life.”
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