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.