The Pro-Life Case for Bernie Sanders or, The One in Which I Anger Everyone

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07:  U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a news conference to announce their proposed legislation to strengthen Social Security March 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are sponsoring the "Keepping Our Social Security Promises Act," which they say will increase payroll taxes on the wealthest and bolster Social Security without raising the retirement age or lowering benefits.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement for Bernie Sanders. It is merely an attempt to show there are multiple ways to approach a pro-life stance without banning abortion.

The American tradition of trying to pick our next president well over a year before the election is in full swing. Still months away from a primary candidates are already coming out of the woodwork and, true to form, appealing to the most extreme in their respective groups (or in the case of Donald Trump, the most extreme are running for president).

Still, the one candidate who has my attention is Bernie Sanders. No other candidate really grabs my attention, makes me think, or – dare I say it – excites me and gives me hope. While I’m not a Democratic Socialist (as I think Socialism is only slightly better than Capitalism), I do think what he offers is vastly closer to my own economic beliefs than any other candidate. His stance on war and diplomacy is a breath of fresh air. While he’s not middle class, he’s also not a millionaire or billionaire, meaning he’s closer to the struggles of the middle class than anyone out there. Essentially, for all intents and purposes, Sanders is kind of my dream candidate, except for one thing:

He’s very pro-choice while I’m very pro-life.

And when it comes to matters of life it’s not exactly a small issue. While I’m not a one-issue voter, voting on life is more important than taxes or even income inequality. And we can’t hide behind the excuse that since Roe v. Wade will most likely never be overturned, it doesn’t matter who we elect; the president can hand out executive orders concerning abortion. A pro-life president can make abortion restrictive while a pro-choice president can loosen restrictions. So it does matter.

How, then, can someone who is pro-life such as myself (rabidly so I might add), support Bernie Sanders without any sense of cognitive dissonance?

Not so long ago I wrote about how because I’m pro-life, I can’t be a conservative. Before that, about three years ago, I even said that Republicans aren’t actually pro-life. The reason I’ve made such arguments is that I find it absolutely absurd to make the claim to be “pro-life,” but then do nothing to support life outside of the womb. After all, overturning Roe v. Wade is a pipe dream and even if it occurred, even if we could wave a magic wand and overturn that case and make abortion illegal, abortions would continue. The reason they would continue is because the conditions that make abortion so prevalent in the US would still exist.

Hence my support for Bernie Sanders: I see his policies as a way to actually reduce the number of abortions. While the abortion rate in the US has declined on and off since 2000, it’s actually increased for poor women. According to the same study, nearly 69% of abortions in the US come from economically disadvantaged women. This means women who can’t afford to take time off work, typically have substandard healthcare, have little to no paid vacation, work 40+ hours a week, and live paycheck to paycheck (or overdraft to overdraft) just to pay for themselves. Adding a child to the mix is a near impossibility. In terms of actual poverty, another study shows that 42% of women who obtain abortions live at or below the poverty line (economically disadvantaged doesn’t always meet the federal definition of poverty). According to the same study, 33% of women who had abortions lacked health insurance with another 31% using Medicaid. Only 30% of the women who had an abortion had health insurance (though the quality isn’t measured).

Compare such statistics to Western Europe, who has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world. Of course, Western Europe is known for its “socialist” approach to healthcare, namely that anyone gets it for free. That means a pregnant woman, even one in poverty, gets paid time off work, typically gets discounted or free daycare, gets free pre and post-natal healthcare, gets family leave, and the list goes on. Many of the issues in the United States that prevent a woman from having a child are eradicated in Western Europe. While one could argue that Western Europe also has restrictive abortion laws, most (88%) allow for abortions in economic circumstances, making such a point moot. Rather, what we can look at is that the infant mortality rate is drastically better than the United States (we’re ranked 27th among “rich” nations, 55th overall). In keeping with a very common theme, the study shows that wealthy mothers in the US have an infant mortality that matches and is, in some cases, better than any other nation. But economically disadvantaged mothers have an infant mortality rate on par with Qatar and Russia. 

The whole point in all of this is to show a direct correlation between what’s available to economically disadvantaged women and who chooses to get an abortion. It’s no accident that nearly 70% of abortions come from women who believe they can’t afford to have a child or to have another child. Even for women who choose to have a child, being pregnant in the United States is a risky proposition if you’re poor; if you lack healthcare then it’s a near impossibility. Even women with healthcare often can’t take time off work, or if they do they rarely get paid.

What, then, is a more pro-life position: To support banning abortions without creating a safety net for mothers, which will lead to an even higher infant mortality rate and greater loss of life, or to begrudgingly allow abortions, but create an environment in which any mother can feasibly and economically care for her child?

If the goal is truly to protect life then I’m obligated to vote for the candidate who will best protect life. Among all the candidates running, Bernie Sanders is the only one who is offering:

  • A single-payer healthcare system that would help economically disadvantaged mothers acquire the needed treatment to make it through a pregnancy
  • Mandator 12 weeks paid family leave for anyone, specifically for mothers, who would need that time to recover from giving birth
  • An increase in wages in addition to help in paying for daycare, which would mean a women wouldn’t need to give up eating in order to support a child
  • Free college tuition at public colleges and universities – meaning a woman could achieve a higher education without worrying about paying for a child and school
  • While his foreign policy – especially with war and the military industrial complex – isn’t ideal, he at least supports diplomacy and only wants military action as a last resort (a truly pro-life position)

Now, detractors might argue that we can’t afford such things (if we can pay $1.2 trillion for a war, we can pay a few billion to drastically improve our broken system) or that we ought not pay for such things, regardless of if we have the money. But I’m not writing to such people. Such people are nominally pro-life and only use it as an excuse when choosing to vote against or for someone. If your pro-life convictions dissolve at your pocketbook, or at the possibility taxes will increase (especially if you’re wealthy), then don’t claim to be pro-life. Or at least admit you like money more than humans.

Regardless, of all the candidates out there, Sanders is the only one who has policies that could actually reduce the number of abortions in the US. This isn’t a numbers game either, these are actual human lives we’re discussing. My choice is to follow “pro-life” Republicans who toss out the idea to attract voters, but ultimately do little to reduce abortions, or to vote for a man who will actually reduce the number of abortions in America by making it easier on women to be pregnant.

At this point, I want to save human lives. If that means I have to pay more in taxes then so be it. If my tax dollars result in reducing abortions then it’s a worthy sacrifice. To be pro-life means one must be wholly for life. Such a position is incompatible with empty rhetoric and ideas that would ultimately harm life, not help it. As such, I must look to the candidate that I feel will protect human lives the best, and that candidate is Bernie Sanders.


14 thoughts on “The Pro-Life Case for Bernie Sanders or, The One in Which I Anger Everyone

  1. I’m in exactly the same boat. It’s especially difficult because he is radically pro-choice and hostile to any hint of abortion restriction. If he supported European style restrictions along with European style social aid I’d be hung ho for him.

    1. Wanting to insure that the poor and working class have affordable health coverage by creating a single payer system is pro-life,being against the death penalty is pro-life,making sure that the poor and working class have access to a affordable college education in order to better their economic situation is pro-life.Supporting a living wage to lift workers out of poverty is pro-life.I am with Bernie!!

  2. The perfect candidate would be a Bernie Sanders who is pro-life inside and outside the womb. Unfortunately, that is rare these days in America. Jimmy Carter may have been the closest politician who followed that ideal, as he supported restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortions yet made adoptions easier and created WIC. And as the article mentioned, a majority of abortions happen for economic reasons, so it stands to reason that if you make abortion an unattractive choice by making economic conditions easier for mothers, then the abortion rate will go down.

  3. I agree. I think the pro-life effort should focus reducing abortion demand by addressing the needs of mothers, families and children. I have never supported an candidate solely because they claim to be pro-life because – as you said – the probability of overturning Roe v Wade is practically non-existent, nor does it address the core issues that bring women to place of considering abortion. On the other hand, I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to support a professed pro-choice candidate yet either. To me, acknowledging the personhood and rights of every human being is so fundamental that I can’t wrap my mind around NOT speak in defense of it. I feel like we’re stuck having to chose between candidates with the moral conviction but no practical answers and those with the good answers but willingness to take the unpopular position.

  4. I am a registered Green and I am pro-life. While Bernie is not my candidate ( I support Jill Stein) I would sooner vote for someone who is pro-choice but whose policies I view, will save more lives than vote for a person who is pro-life but wants to cut the safety net.

  5. Suppose a candidate was for repealing the laws against child abuse and was for government funding of child abuse but was for a robust safety net to assist people so they would be less likely to abuse children, would you even consider voting for such a candidate?

  6. Would you support a person who was for the repeal of civil rights laws but supported sound economic policies that would increase employment and economic opportunities among minorities?

  7. The author and others may indeed be for banning abortion but I can’t help but think that there are efforts to misuse Catholic Social teaching (which I love) etc in order to water down the Catholic vote and elect pro-choice of dismembering babies elected. Not saying it is the authors intention but I think there are those who may not be all that pro-life who just want to get pro-choice of burning babies candidates elected.

  8. Like this is a real choice! There’s no way in hell Bernie Saunders could deliver on those promises. Is socialism working in Europe now? Our economy is so damaged, so distorted, there’s no way to recovery UNLESS abortion is made illegal–and contraception, and homosexuality, and even masturbation. And China is going to do just that, eventually, as they find that women don’t want the second child, or even the first child. China is going to force reproduction. And eventually so will we. That’s how serious the moral issues are–since, being natural law, they affect the economy even more than wages or interest rates. Capitalism has eaten the seed corn and we can’t even afford socialism, even if Saunders were to initiate a radical seizure of wealth from our rich. It would only push the crisis down the road.

    If we continue to ignore the greatest issue nothing will save us. It’s a whole package we need. It’s the economy and culture we had before the sixteenth century when our decline began, at the very beginning of capitalism. What was that package? Common humane Christian ethics (yes, they were! Especially toward women! it was protestantism took the Merry out of England!), 100% enfranchisement, and broadly distributed ownership of capital maintained by law. No usury, no speculation with land. It’s the same package in modern times. First, formally put the Christian God and His morals at the center of society. Hungary just performed this restoration–they got that impossible 2/3 vote. Second, totally family friendly social and economic policies–Hungary made a start there, too, and there’s so much we could do (I recommend Last’s What to Do When No One’s Expecting!). Third, begin a non-revolutionary redistribution of ownership (not income!) through gradual policies that break up concentrations of capital and put people back on arable land with tools and technical assistance. South Korea is doing the latter, and has had 10,000 applicants for their Back To the Land program since January. I have not met a single kid standing on a single corner in Chicago this year who, when asked, did not express interest and enthusiasm in the idea that they could own land and work it. (And I do ask them.) And last, make provisions for the distribution of ownership of new wealth–there’s no lack of secular programs recommending and detailing this, which won’t work unless we at the same time restore the family, restore the birth rate, restore sacred marriage, restore the Church! Begin with admitting our dependence on God, that will heal our spiritual wounds.

    Who convinced us that politics and religion and economics are distinct entities? We need a third party that embraces the natural economy of all times, neither socialism nor capitalism, but not only that, embraces a way of life that includes reproduction. Considering voting for Bernie Saunders is even sillier-sounding than re-converting our nation. It will not make a particle of difference, socialism is played and it is played because it refused to make abortion and contraception illegal, and other ungreen sexual behaviors taboo. Economics IS morality.

    I have a phi sci fi novel, Run, set on Earth’s first space colony, that applies these steps on an asteroid. I hope I do the ideas justice.

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