With abortion emerging as an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, a Florida pastor involved in pro-life ministries is urging believers to vote for pro-life candidates while not pinning their ultimate hope for protecting unborn children on either major political party.
“As we condemn the Democrats for their views, we can’t pretend that Republicans are the champions for” the pro-life cause, Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., said. “We can’t put our hopes into a party.”
On the Democratic side, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told the Women in the World Summit “religious beliefs” are among the obstacles to “reproductive healthcare” that “have to be changed.” Pro-life groups, including LifeNews.com, interpreted her remarks as an attack against evangelicals and others who oppose abortion on religious grounds.
“Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive healthcare and safe childbirth,” Clinton said April 23 according to a video of her speech posted on YouTube. “All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”
Photos from Flickr. Rand Paul photo by Gage Skidmore
Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton
Elsewhere in her speech, Clinton criticized Hobby Lobby for having “taken away” the “healthcare choices” of female employees, an apparent reference to the Christian-owned retail chain’s decision not to pay for health insurance that provides abortion-causing forms of contraception. Clinton also criticized those “who offer themselves as leaders who would defund the country’s leading provider of family planning,” an apparent reference to Planned Parenthood.
It was not clear whether Clinton’s remark about the need to change religious beliefs referred only to “reproductive healthcare” or also to a range of issues she listed before her apparent reference to abortion.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to Baptist Press’ requests for clarification prior its publication deadline.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League told LifeNews, “It was not surprising that Hillary Clinton, who strongly opposes a ban on partial-birth abortion, would tell her feminist audience that she supports Planned Parenthood. What was surprising was her comment on the need to change religious beliefs on abortion. In others words, Hillary has a problem with the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion – they must be changed.”
Donohue continued, “Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion. It’s time for Hillary to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”
Presumed Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush tweeted April 26, “Americans’ religious beliefs should be respected and protected not changed @HillaryClinton.” Bush encouraged his Twitter followers to sign an online petition advocating the protection of religious liberty.
Inserra, a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s advisory committee, said Clinton’s comments suggest her ultimate concern is neither “reproductive healthcare” nor “choice.”
“If you’re asking someone to change their religious beliefs, you’re not very pro-choice, in my opinion,” Inserra said. “You’re pro-abortion.”
If the political left “were really concerned about women’s health and reproductive health, then they would be honest about the entire conversation of abortion,” Inserra said, “about the psychological effects, about the physical effects – things that are actually very harmful for women. They don’t seem concerned about those things.”
Inserra’s wife Krissie established a ministry at Florida State University for students who experience unplanned pregnancies, he said. That ministry routinely deals with women who experience shame, fear and regret regarding their abortions.
Two weeks prior to Clinton’s remarks, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul publicly challenged Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to state “if she’s OK with killing a 7-pound baby that’s just not born yet,” according to the Associated Press.
Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, responded, “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story.”
Paul’s public challenge came amid an exchange with reporters in which they pressed him for seemingly avoiding the question of what, if any, exceptions should be included in legislation banning abortion.
In an interview with AP, Paul said he is willing to support pro-life legislation with or without exceptions.
“I’ve supported bills with and without [exceptions], you know,” Paul, a senator from Kentucky, said. “So I will support legislation that advances and shows life is special and deserves protection.”
Inserra said Wasserman Schultz’s refusal to state that aborting a 7-pound baby is wrong illustrates the radical nature of many so-called progressive Democrats’ positions on abortion.
“It’s not about choice. It’s about abortion,” Inserra said. “If you think that it’s OK to take the life of a 7-pound baby, then you’re not pro-choice. You’re pro-abortion.”
Paul’s challenge to Wasserman Schultz “finally let us [pro-lifers] be on the offensive rather than the defensive,” Inserra said.
The 2012 Democratic Party Platform states, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”
Democrats for Life, a pro-life group within the Democratic Party, lists on its website three pro-life Democratic U.S. senators and four pro-life House members. The list is dated Oct. 25, 2013, however, and two of the Congressmen listed are no longer in office. Democrats for Life did not respond to Baptist Press’ request for an updated list prior to its publication deadline.
The 2012 Republican Party Platform states, “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
The 2016 platforms for both major parties will be adopted at their national conventions next year.
Inserra said Christians should both vote for pro-life candidates and work to change people’s minds on abortion through discussion and ministering to women with unplanned pregnancies. When it comes to elections though, Inserra has no qualms about advocating “one-issue voting.”
“I don’t know how a Christian can justify voting for someone who thinks it’s OK to take a life of an unborn child,” Inserra said. “… I can think of no justification whatsoever for a Christian who claims to believe the Scriptures to vote for someone who thinks that little of an unborn child and, I would say, that little of women.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)