Can a Pro-Life Conservative Vote for a Pro-Choice Candidate?

What should social conservatives do if Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination for President?  The major issue here is abortion.  Giuliani is pro-choice, but I am emphatically pro-life.  Here is how I have thought through the dilemma.

Government’s primary responsibility is to protect the people it serves.  Without protection from threats to our lives and property, society would not be possible.  Everything else government does is subordinate to this end.  That is one reason among many that I trust Republicans to lead us better than Democrats.  Republicans take terrorism seriously.  Democrats (like John Edwards, for example) call the war on terror a “bumper sticker.” 

One way that our government has failed miserably to protect the weakest among us has been by allowing the barbaric practice of abortion on demand to go on for over thirty years now.  Abortion is the second most common surgical procedure in the country, behind circumcision.  Every day, thousands of innocent lives are taken.  This kind of bloodshed is the greatest moral blight on our nation throughout its history, even worse than the slave trade.  Abortion is not one political issue among many.  It is the greatest moral battle of our time.

But what should we do when faced with one pro-choice candidate versus another pro-choice candidate?  Should we stay home on election day?  Should we vote for a pro-life, third-party candidate?  Should we bite the bullet and vote for the lesser of two evils?  I think we should begin by understanding that there are not just two positions on abortion.  There is a whole spectrum of positions.  I have invented a labeling system A1 through A7 to describe what I perceive to be various approaches to the issue of abortion.

A1–Abortion is a moral good for society.  It should be celebrated, promoted, and funded through tax dollars.  Abortionists are heroes who help women in crisis.  In some cases (such as a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome), the only morally acceptable choice for a pregnant woman is to end her pregnancy.   

A2–Abortion is morally acceptable.  It is a private choice between a woman and her doctor.  Government should make no restrictions on it, but neither should government fund it through tax dollars.

A3–Abortion is morally wrong.  However, government should not restrict it, just as government does not restrict other activities normally considered immoral (adultery, for example).  However, certain practices (like partial birth abortion) should be outlawed by the federal government. 

A4–Abortion is morally wrong.  Any government restrictions on it should be decided on a state-by-state basis. 

A5–Abortion is morally wrong.  The federal government should outlaw it except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.

A6–Abortion is morally wrong.  The federal government should outlaw it all cases except when the mother’s life is at risk. 

A7–Abortion is morally wrong under absolutely all circumstances.  The federal government should outlaw it completely.

My own position is A6.  If I understand Giuliani correctly, his position is A3.  Personally, he considers abortion to be an immoral practice, but he does not believe the government should outlaw it.  Giuliani is wrong on this.  The government should protect the lives of the unborn every bit as much as it protects the lives of the born.  On what basis does the government decide that some human beings are worthy of protection, whereas others are not?  Abortion is not a private decision between a woman and her doctor.  There are three parties involved, and the one scheduled to get his skull crushed has no say in the matter. 

Having said that, I believe we are in a political battle in which we must expect incremental progress.  We have seen it during Bush’s presidency.  President Clinton vetoed two bills that would have outlawed partial-birth abortion in the 1990’s.  President Bush signed a similar bill into law, and the Roberts court (which Bush shaped by nominating Roberts and Alito) upheld the law.  As of now, partial birth abortion has been ended.  That is progress. 

I believe that, given where we are now, a Giuliani presidency would be likely to bring progress to the pro-life cause.  And if not progress, it would at least hold us where we are now and keep us from losing ground.  Giuliani says he will appoint strict constructionist judges to the courts.  At this point in history, the courts are the primary battlefield in the war over life.  The next President will likely have the opportunity to swing the Supreme Court decisively in one direction or another through his/her judicial appointments.  If we have another Clinton (or an Obama, or an Edwards) in office, then we can expect more left-wing extremists like Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be nominated to the Court.  If we have Giuliani in office, then we can be hopeful for more people like Roberts and Alito. 

I doubt that any of the Democratic candidates for President would openly proclaim the A1 position.  They know that it is a hot-button issue, and they want to remain comfortably pro-choice without sounding like they are crazy about abortion.  But the Democratic Party is in league with left-wing groups that do openly proclaim the A1 position.  Planned Parenthood is just one example.  And if any Democrat gets into the White House, you can be sure that groups like Planned Parenthood will exert political pressure to push their agenda.  Giuliani is not in league with Planned Parenthood or any group like that.  He is on record as having contributed to the organization, but one of his former wives did that without his knowledge, if I understand correctly (of course, that is just one more example of how poor a family man he has been; if your wife is giving money to organizations that you find morally suspect, something is wrong with your marriage).  I believe that, if Giuliani gets the nomination, the pro-life cause should tolerate him for eight years.  That will be much better for the unborn than four-to-eight years of another Clinton presidency. 

Let me reiterate: Giuliani is wrong about abortion, but he is not as wrong as the Democrats and the left-wing groups that support them.  If it comes down to Giuliani vs. Clinton, Obama, or Edwards, I will vote for Giuliani rather than staying home or voting for a third-party candidate.  In politics we must compromise, and I would rather compromise in order to gain some ground than lose elections and set the country back.

I know this is a controversial issue, and all voters must act in accord with conscience.  If you cannot vote in good conscience for Giuliani, then please don’t.  But I hope these considerations will help you sort out the issues. 

But don’t lump me in with Pat Robertson on this.  I am by no means endorsing Giuliani.  In fact, I think this ethical dilemma should only motivate us to give more support to Mike Huckabee.  If you don’t want to have to face this ethical quandary next November, then make a donation to the Huckabee campaign, tell all your friends to do so, and vote for him in the primary.      


14 Responses to “Can a Pro-Life Conservative Vote for a Pro-Choice Candidate?”

  1. Dr. Clockwork Says:

    The A 1-7 scale is very helpful. Did you come up with it?

    I’m somewhere between A4 and A7. Since I can sometimes be a pushover when it comes to nailing down hardline opinions, I’d say practically speaking I tend more to the former end (and, honestly, I don’t even know myself quite what I mean by that except to say that I am openly sympathetic to that perspective), and, in my heart (moral center), I tend toward the latter. I know, I know…what is a moral center if you can’t put your weight on it in day-to-day living and if you’re not willing to fight for it. This is all wrapped up, for me, in a dilemma in which I feel admittedly a bit numb and confused on how to let it affect me. I say that because, ultimately, I know I’ll vote for Barack Obama because I stand with him on a host of other social-ethical issues. I wouldn’t mind dialoguing further about some of this at some point, since it would be helpful for me in getting my mind around the in’s and out’s of the candidates’ platforms before things really get heated up on the campaign trail.

  2. fenderpooh Says:


    Yes, I came up with the scale. There are probably some holes in it, but I think it can help us with tough decisions.

    Here’s how I evaluate your situation: even if your personal convictions are at A4, Barack Obama is not the person to vote for on this issue. Maybe you could vote for him on other issues, but if abortion is at the top of the list, don’t count on Obama to move public policy toward the A4 position.

    Personally, even though I don’t hold to A4, I would be thrilled if government went that way. That would be major progress for the pro-life movement. Many states would implement A5 or A6 laws, and even the more liberal states would probably make at least some restrictions. That would be light years ahead of where we are now, which is basically abortion on demand in all states all the time.

    A4 is the next logical step for public policy. The only way to get to A4 is if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. That would free up the states to make their own laws restricting abortion. The only way the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade is if at least one more strict constructionist judge replaces a moderate or liberal one.

    I don’t know where Obama personally falls on the spectrum, but I do know that no Democrat will nominate a strict constructionist judge. The Democratic Party is indebted too much to the far left to do anything else. That’s why Bill Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It doesn’t matter who it might be; any Democrat will set the pro-life cause back if given the opportunity to appoint judges.

    This is the main reason why I will not vote for any Democrat for the foreseeable future. The issue of abortion is too important to me to do anything that would help set us back in that regard. Granted, on most other issues I line up with the Republicans also, but abortion is by far the most important issue to me.

  3. brotherhank Says:

    As an “emphatically pro-life” Christian myself, I’m interested in your moral argument for being an A-6 rather than an A-7, and how you would support that belief from Scripture. Along the same train of thought, have you considered the fact that the very same doctors that deny that life begins at conception are the ones who an A-6 will want to make the decision between the life of the mother and the “life” of the child?

    W. Hank Balch

  4. fenderpooh Says:


    Scripture simply does not address the issue of A6 v. A7, to my knowledge. I am by no means saying that one life is more valuable than another. It seems to me, though, that it is better in some cases to try to save one life than to put two lives at a high risk of being lost. So it is a practical argument.

    These situations can vary in many ways, but here is one example. If a woman, early on in her pregnancy, discovers that she has an agressive form of cancer that will likely kill her before she carries the baby to term unless she receives immediate radiation treatment, then I am not going to say that such a woman is under obligation to forego treatment. If one of the unintended consequences of her receiving treatment is the death of the baby, then she cannot be held morally responsible for that baby’s death.

    In such a case, it would not be that the woman deliberately chose to kill her baby. It would be, rather, that she chose to receive treatment in an attempt to save both herself and the baby (because if she dies before the baby is viable outside the womb, the baby dies too). The difficulty of the situation, however, is that receiving treatment likewise poses a threat to the baby, but that is an unintended consequence.

    These kinds of situations are very rare. I am not saying that any person is obligated to go one way or the other. I’m just saying that I don’t believe the law should force a woman in one direction or another in this kind of situation, though I am open to dialogue and might be convinced otherwise by better arguments than the ones I have offered.

    I just recently heard of a situation in the Louisville area where a pregnant woman was diagnosed with an agressive form of cancer. Thankfully, she was far enough along in her pregnancy that it was possible to induce labor and deliver the baby before treatment began. In those kinds of situations, where the safe delivery of the baby is possible, I believe it should be done before starting treatment.

  5. brotherhank Says:


    your argument is practical, but i do feel that it is ultimately flawed. i would agree that Scripture may not address the A6 v A7 distinction, but it does address A7 often and loudly – and there is little (if any) distinction made between active and passive death of the unborn child (that distinction btw, is the same argument that the Romans used to support the “exposure” of their unwanted children back then – arguing that there is a difference in killing and allowing to die. That argument didn’t fly with the Church back then, and I don’t think it should fly with us now.) Rare situations may tug on the heart strings, but they are no foundation to base a theology of life on. If we truly believe that the unborn are living human beings, then we have no place to make ‘exceptions’ to one of God’s commandments prohibiting us from committing murder – even more so since we would be approving of a mother murdering her very own child. God knew about rare situations when he gave us the commandments, and when he gave us a child in the womb – and he intends us to “keep them both”.

  6. reformedninja Says:

    i think that you are missing the point that is being made here. it is the better of a situation for only one to die instead of two. if the life of the baby has already been decided by the sovereignty of God to not extend into the realm of “outerwomb”, for whatever reason that our great God who works all things to his glory may see fit, then it is reasonable to save the mother from death. i myself am extremely pro-life, but i am also pro-common sense, which was given by God. If there is the choice of one death or two deaths, murder would be to commit the two deaths.

  7. brotherhank Says:


    sweet name btw.

    i think we are on a different page on this issue. the “better one to die than two” philosophy is true – ONLY if the one who is dying consents. For a quick example, imagine that your foot is caught under a boulder and a grizzly bear suddenly comes charging toward us out of the forest. If instead of wresting your foot free from the rock, I immediately turn to run – but you grab my foot and refuse to let go, screaming for me to help you. Assuming that I had the right to do it, I pulled out my gun and shot you in the head. Now free from your grip, I run to safety. Was I just? Could I just chalk it up to God’s sovereignty that he wanted me to run away rather than try to save you, because after all, I was pretty sure that either one of both of us was going to die?

    On the other hand, if the same thing happened, but as the bear charged towards us, you yell, “Run away brother! Save yourself.” Then it brings us at best to a case of moral ambiguity.

    In terms of “high risk pregnancies” however, we cannot assume that because there is imminent danger for one or both parties, that the mother has the moral prerogative to murder her child to save herself. The only party that can give consent for one to give up their life for the other is the mother for the child. Since the child can not give consent, any action taken that would cause the death of the child is clearly murder.

    Doctors are wrong about these diagnosis all the time, and if you want to debate God’s sovereignty and common sense – babies are made to be born, and mothers are ‘made’ to give birth.

    Think of where your logic would take us if Rachel was giving birth to Benjamin today (Gen 35:17-18). Having only 11 tribes of Israel would only be the beginning of our troubles…

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Huckabee reveals an enduring weakness as glaring as that other Arkansas governor’s fondness for women. Huckabee seems to love loot and has a dismissive attitude toward ethics, campaign finance rules and propriety in general. Since that first, failed campaign, the ethical questions have multiplied.

    In the 1992 contest with Bumpers, Huckabee used campaign funds to pay himself as his own media consultant. Other payments went to the family babysitter.

    In his successful 1994 run for lieutenant governor, he set up a nonprofit curtain known as Action America so he could give speeches for money without having to disclose the names of his benefactors. He failed to report that campaign travel payments were for the use of his own personal plane.

    After he became governor in 1996, he raked in tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, including gifts from people he later appointed to prestigious state commissions.

    In the governor’s office, his grasp never exceeded his reach. Furniture he’d received to doll up his office was carted out with him when he left, after he’d crushed computer hard drives so nobody could ever get a peek behind the curtain of the Huckabee administration.

    Until the Arkansas Times blew the whistle he converted a governor’s mansion operating account into a personal expense account, claiming public money for a doghouse, dry-cleaning bills, panty hose and meals at Taco Bell. He tried to claim $70,000 in furnishings provided by a wealthy cotton grower for the private part of the residence as his own, until he learned ethics rules prevented it. When a disgruntled former employee disclosed memos revealing all this, the Huckabee camp shut her up by repeatedly suggesting she might be vulnerable to prosecution for theft because she’d shared documents generated by the state’s highest official.

    He ran the State Police airplane into the ground, many of the miles in pursuit of political ends. Inauguration funds were used to buy clothing for his wife. He once took control of the state Republican Party’s campaign account — then swore the account had been somebody else’s responsibility when it ran afoul of federal election laws. He repeated the pattern when he claimed in a newspaper story that his staff controlled the account to stage his second inauguration. When a formal ethics complaint was filed over what appeared to be an improper appropriation of donated money, he told a different story, disavowing responsibility for the money. He thus avoided another punishment from an Ethics Commission, which had sanctioned him on five other occasions. He dodged nine other complaints (though none, despite his counter-complaints, was held to be frivolous). In one case, he was saved by the swing vote of a woman who left the chairmanship of the Ethics Commission days later to take a state job. She listed the governor as a reference on the job application. Finally, unbelievably, Huckabee once sued to overturn the ban on gifts to him.

    If you think he left a well of warm feelings in Arkansas, note that Hillary Clinton had raised more money in Arkansas at last report and that a recent University of Arkansas Poll showed her a 35 to 8 percent leader over Huckabee in the presidential preferences of Arkansas residents. Only one-third of 33 Republican legislators have said they will support him for president.

  9. Luke A. Says:

    Hey Anonymous, do you work for the Thompson campaign? Seems like anything I’ve heard that was negative, especially towards Huckabee, stems from that camp?

    Aaron, one thing I think is missing is…what is abortion? How do you define it for your scale?

    If you termed abortion as termination after the child is “viable outside the womb” then some people would slide upwards (upwards being towards A7) on the scale.

    If you said terminating the pregnancy immediately after conception is abortion, some would slide downwards?

    I think there’s another variable that must be accounted for.

  10. fenderpooh Says:

    I define abortion as any willfull termination of a pregnancy after conception. I think this is a fairly standard definition, even among those who disagree with my view on the morality of the practice.

    The only place where some might disagree would be with the so-called “morning after pill,” which aims to prevent implantation of an embryo that has already been created through sexual intercourse. I believe those kinds of pills are abortifacients and that the practice of taking them is a form of abortion. Some might disagree, but I think even on this issue the term “abortafacient” is widely accepted.

  11. Luke A. Says:


    There is a LOT of grey area in there beyond just the ‘morning after’ pill. A much higher pecentage of people feel that partial-birth abortions should be banned as compared to abortion in general. A higher percentage of people feel that abortions early on are less heinous than at later periods.

    I’ll have to apologize; I’m in Germany right now and don’t have all my sources with me (and no, I do not have a photographic memory), but I read in the UK they held a study that defined ‘abortion’ as involving a viable embryo/fetus. The conlusion was 14 weeks and after was ‘viable’ (I think…maybe it was days, maybe it was 24…can’t remember…but it is well within the first trimester) and was a sort of “cut off” point, because up until then, the embryo itself may never attach to the uterus wall. (In otherwords the woman’s body may naturally abort the fetus). A very high percentage of pregnancy’s end this way…completely unknown to the woman (again, I can’t give you an exact figure and am not an expert, but it was alarmingly high to me…something like 50%). An abortionist at this point would not actually know whether he was ending a viable pregnancy or just speeding up the inevitable…safely.

    So there’s a lot more grey area than your scale can cover. I’m rambling now, but let’s say you take the stance of A6. What about the case where the mother’s body is trying to naturally abort the fetus/embryo, but the doctor could possibly prevent it from doing so. Should he do so?

    I’m not saying that any of these positions are mine, but simply pointing out that, depending on your stance for how you view abortion at different stages of gestation will directly effect which position you choose, A1-A7. Two people may both say that they are A3 but one in fact may be A2 because he/she doesn’t consider it a true “abortion” until after the fetus attaches itself. This person would have no place on your scale because he/she would feel abortion to be morally OK before, say 10 weeks, and morally wrong after that point.

    Make sense?

  12. fenderpooh Says:

    Yes, that makes sense. I know there are limitations to my scale, but I hope it provides a little bit more nuance than is normally considered in these discussions.

    It would probably help, however, for us to define “abortion” across the board as any deliberate ending of a pregnancy. Some people think abortions at certain stages are acceptable and others are not. I don’t make a distinction there. See my post on the Incarnation and abortion.

    As you point out, abortions do occur naturally (“miscarriages”). If by chance a doctor discovers that a miscarriage is “in process,” then I would say that the Hippocratic Oath obligates the doctor to do whatever he can within reason to save the life of the child while keeping the mother’s health in mind. I would think it would be unreasonable to do significant harm to a mother to prevent a miscarriage, so that is why I say “within reason.”

  13. Cars Says:

    just passing thru….

    Gotta love yahoo, very neat website. Thanks alot….

  14. Mohler: More Bloggers, Please -Roundup for 11-16 | Said at Southern Says:

    […] Aaron O’Kelley gives an intelligent discourse on whether pro-life conservatives can vote for a pro-choice candidate. […]

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