Is Abortion a Non-Negotiable Factor in a Christian's Voting?

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Is abortion a non-negotiable factor in a Christian's voting?

When faced with important decisions, it’s good practice to think of all the relevant factors involved and then decide if there are any non-negotiable factors. The list of what constitutes a non-negotiable could vary, but, morally speaking, Christians have typically argued that murder (unjust killing), lying (unjust deception), and stealing (unjust taking) are non-negotiable as such.

But while moral principles are fairly clear, the application of moral principles to the ever-changing particulars of the world is less so. Murder is wrong, but what counts as murder? Abortion is a case in point. Some medieval Christians—including one saint—argued, using the best science of his day, that a fetus only attains the status of human after either the 40th day (boys) or 80th day (girls), and so aborting a fetus before then would be bad insofar as it disobeys God’s commandment to “go forth and multiply,” but it wouldn’t be murder—a non-negotiable.

The CRC’s position (using the best science of our day) is that a fetus, upon conception, is a human, but it denies that all abortion is murder. For example, letting the baby die to save the mother’s life might be considered just killing since when two innocent lives are in tension, we need to consider additional moral factors in order to make the right decision. For instance, to let the mother die might be to indirectly harm her husband or other children and so these factors, though secondary things, would still rule in favor of the mother over the baby when considering all the moral factors. Here the right decision isn’t what we call an ideal situation, but God only calls us to do what is right—we can do no more.

So Christians must decide if non-mother-saving abortion is a non-negotiable or simply a very important moral factor to consider when voting. Non-mother-saving abortions are likely murder, and so in its directness, seriousness, and widespreadness should probably be a non-negotiable for Christian support. But even if not, this issue, when pitted against capital punishment, for example, should be seen as more important, since murdering innocent babies is worse than killing an adult criminal; or again, supporting the direct murder of babies is worse than supporting, in the case of climate change, the (probable) indirect killing of innocents through pollution and coastal flooding.

About the Author

Adam Barkman is a professor of philosophy at Redeemer University College.

See comments (13)


        Thanks, Adam, for your take on abortion as a likely non negotiable factor, especially when it comes to voting. In the U.S. that leaves only one candidate to vote for and there are so many factors to consider, as to the top leader of our country. Personally, I see abortion as quite negotiable.

       You refer to abortion as an unjust killing, but using the qualifier “unjust” is not how the commandment reads in the Bible. Who or what qualifies whether a killing is just or unjust? We might all see a killing in a different light or from a different vantage point than someone else. Beyond that, people, including Christians, make a variety of exceptions to the law of killing. Killing in the situation of self defense or the defense of another person may be permitted, capital punishment by death is allowable, as well as killing in war time situations is allowable. We do make exceptions to the law, “you shall not kill.” Abortion for justifiable reasons may well be another situation in which the taking of a life may be reasonable. And consider this: How many unborn babies get aborted by God through miscarriage every year? Just as God has his reasons for bringing a infant’s (fetus) life to an end, so do parents who are faced with difficult decisions. So common sense demonstrates clearly there are exceptions to the law of killing, whether for God or humans. Thanks again, Adam, for giving us an occasion to think through this important issue at this important time of choosing national leaders.

There are no justifiable reasons to kill a child in the womb. There are no medical reasons to take the life of child in the womb. Adoption is always a viable option for all circumstances including cases of rape and incest. 

The democratic candidate running for office is ok with abortion categorically to include live birth of a child as is now the case in the State of Virginia. It is beyond me how anyone can justify abortion from a faith based, biblical perspective. I can fully understand that a woman will chose to abort a child. Life is hard and we all struggle with fear and shame. However, understanding and ultimately accepting that a frightened, lonely person has made such a decision is not the same as condoning the decision. 

I prefer to rephrase the question, from the negative to the positive, to ask instead, "What policies do you believe to be valuable enough to allow the murder of babies to continue?"

Or rather, what policy is worth sacrificing babies in order to get?

Lambert is right. There is no justifiable reason to kill a baby in the womb or to allow the killing of babies to continue. Even when the mother's life is at stake, you don't abort the baby. It's possible that the baby needs to be removed from the mother so that the mother can survive, but then you put the baby on life-support and try as hard as possible to enable the baby to live. Not all will survive, but you try.

From Politifact:

  • In Virginia, abortions are allowed at this late point if three physicians certify that a continued pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman. The author of the bill, which was unsuccessful, said her proposed changes would not allow an abortion to be performed on a woman during a live birth.
  • Any attempt at aborting or killing an infant after birth is illegal

You don't have to agree with abortion, but please don't post half-truths.

My point was the governor was "ok" with the proposed legislation...Mercifully the bill did not pass. 

The point still is, God has overseen 10 - 15% percent of pregnancies culminating in aborted live births or miscarriages.  If God didn’t initiate such miscarriages, he at least allowed them.  If not a bird falls to the ground apart from God’s care and will certainly not a single miscarriage (abortion) happens apart from God’s involvement.  If God, as our example, can make exceptions to the principle of life, certainly we can make exception to such principle, when the situation, in our judgement, warrants making such a difficult choice.  No one takes lightly the choice to abort (probably, not even God), but life is not so simplistic as to say there are no exceptions to the rule.  So choose wisely.

Wow! Is Roger Gelwicks honestly suggesting that because God ordains the early death of some babies, that this is an example to justify us sinful human beings killing some babies ourselves?!

Where does that logic stop? God ordained some fatal car accidents so we have permission to drive our cars headfirst into oncoming traffic? Pushing people off cliffs?

Absolutely disgusting.

We are not the sovereign God of the universe. We MUST submit to God's moral law. You shall not murder.

So, by Roger's logic God is an abortionist, a murderer, a sex-offender, etc. etc. Truly astonishing. 

Mr. Gelwicks,

I think you are really out on a limb here, and not in a good way.  I would urge you to reconsider what you have written.  God does not abort babies.  The death of all human beings is death's (temporary) victory.  Death is the final enemy that Jesus and defeated and will put and end to.  Justifying it, blurring its harshness with exceptions created in our own minds, smugging out its starkness and its jagged edges, is dangerous.  And needs to be resisted.  Think about what I've said here.

Trevor, Lambert and Kenneth, thanks for your comments.  I know it is difficult for the Christian to think God can be involved in any kind of evil. But that is the risk of being a Reformed Christian and recognizing God’s sovereignty in all of life and living, not just the good things that happen in life and history.  Whether God’s involvement in evil was by his decretive (intentional) will or his permissive will, one cannot dismiss his involvement.  Do you not recognize, with Scripture, that the crucifixion of Jesus happened according to the plan and purpose of God, that the most heinous crime and sin of history was purposed by God?  Do you really think that a miscarriage (a form of abortion) does not fulfill a purpose by God and happen according to his will?  So, as I stated in a previous comment, there are several exceptions to the command not to take a human life (you shall not kill), by which even Christians will follow the exception rather than the rule.  The law of our land (Canada and the U.S.) allows for abortion to be one of those exceptions under unusual or difficult circumstances.  And such judgement is left to parents, not the church.  So in answer to this article’s question, is abortion a non negotiable factor in voting, I would say it is negotiable.

I stand far apart from Mr. Gelwicks and his view on this topic, and only say to the rest of those who might be inclined to further engage:

"Never slap a man who is chewing toboacco."

Sorry, Kenneth. I'm a glutton for punishment...

Roger, no one is taking issue with God's ordaining evil in this world.

We're taking issue with your blasphemous statement that you think this fact somehow gives permission for people to break God's Law.

I'm sorry, but I just don't read Professor Barkman as unequivocally making abortion(euphemism for murder) as a non-negotiable. "Likely murder" and "more important" is not the most condemning language. He ends his waffling with a comparison to climate change killing innocents. If he was making it a non-negotiable, then the choices for leaders in Canada and the U.S. would be really, not pretty, clear.