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Religious Tolerance logo

Should a pro-life supporter vote Democrat or Republican?

1. Background material: Who is a pro-lifer?
Past pro-life attempts to reduce abortions

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Who is a "pro-lifer?"

A person who describes themselves as pro-life generally believes that human life (in the form of a spermatozoon and ovum) becomes a human person at the instant of conception (or perhaps shortly after when a unique DNA is produced, or when the first cell division occurs). Pre-embryos, embryos and fetuses are all viewed to be full human persons, who should be granted full rights including the right to live.

Within the pro-life movement, there exists a range of beliefs concerning abortion:

  • Some believe that abortions should be totally unavailable, even to save the life of the woman. This is the position taught by the Roman Catholic Church and also believed by a minority of conservative Protestants. It is derived from their belief that an intrinsic sin (killing a fetus) cannot be performed even if it would achieve a good result (saving the life of the woman). Fortunately, this is a very rare situation that should never happen if the woman has quick access to competent health care.
  • Others would make abortions available only to save the life of the woman. This is a common position among fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians. They believe that it is less horrific to kill a fetus and allow the woman to live than it is to stand idly by and watch both die.

  • Still others would also allow a woman to have an abortion to prevent disastrous and/or disabling health problems. This is also a position held held by some pro-life conservative Protestants and others.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who would also allow an abortion:

  • If the pregnancy was caused as a result of rape or incest.
  • If a continued pregnancy would seriously affect the health of the woman.

However, pro-lifers typically feel that abortions should not be made available to women who merely want to end their pregnancy for personal reasons. Most pro-lifers favor compulsory childbirth for all pregnant women, except for women in very unusual circumstances.

Past pro-life attempts to reduce abortions:

One arm of the pro-life movement attempts to reduce the number of abortions by promoting alternatives. They provide pregnancy testing, information, support, referrals, adoption information, and other services to pregnant women to help and encourage them continue their pregnancy. Birthright International, 1 and various Abortion Alternative and Crisis Pregnancy Centers 2 perform these services.

However, it is the political wing of the pro-life movement that receives almost all of the publicity. They have committed enormous and sustained effort to reduce the number of abortions by following a different path. They try to making abortions less available to women by restricting access. 3 They have encouraged the Republicans to promote laws and regulations that:

  • Require pregnant women under the age of 18 to either obtain parental consent for an abortion, or to inform the parents in advance.
  • Would make it illegal to transport a minor across a state line to obtain an abortion if her home state required parental consent. Several federal Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act bills (CIANA) have been introduced. None have passed as of 2008-OCT. 4
  • Require women to go through a "cooling-off" period before being able to have an abortion.
  • Require physicians to read a standard statement to a pregnant woman seeking an abortion that compares the risks of having an abortion with the risks of childbirth. Some of the government-written statements  emphasize that the embryo and fetus are human persons. Some of these statements have been criticized for their alleged lack of objectivity and controversial content.
  • Compel pregnant women to view an ultrasound image of her fetus. This would help a women bond with their fetus and might make them less inclined to seek an abortion. None of these bills have become law as of 2008-OCT.
  • Bar "... the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, except when the woman’s life would be endangered by a full-term pregnancy, or in cases of rape or incest." 5
  • Bar the use of use of state funds for abortions. "... 32 states and the District of Columbia prohibit public funding of abortions, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest." 5

In addition, many groups of pro-lifers, who are often called "sidewalk counselors," have established a presence outside of abortion clinics in order to persuade patients seeking an abortion to continue their pregnancies.


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Birthright International is active in the U.S., Canada, Colombia, and South Africa. See: http://www.birthright.org/
  2. Pastor Matt Trewhella, "Coming home to roost: Fruit of the Ill-conceived Partial-Birth Abortion Strategy," at: www.missionariestopreborn.com
  3. Melody Rose, "Safe, Legal, and Unavailable?: Abortion Politics in the United States," CQ Press (2006). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  4. J. Margaret Datiles, "CIANA: Protecting Minors from Sexual Predators and Fostering Respect for State Laws," Americans United for Life, 2008-JUL-28, at: http://blog.aul.org/
  5. "Get 'In the Know:' Questions About Pregnancy, Contraception and Abortion," Guttmacher Institute, at: http://www.guttmacher.org/

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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