Are evangelicals making a mistake on abortion laws?

Statehouse of Ohio

I’m pro-life. I believe life begins at conception. At the moment of conception, a fertilized ova is genetically distinct from both of the parents.

My home state, Ohio, has a proposed bill that would totally ban abortion.

The nation is roughly evenly split on being pro-life vs pro choice. There is also a lot of nuance within both of those positions. For instance, most people who are pro-choice are not proponents of late term abortions. And most people who are pro-life are not pro-life is an absolute where they think there’s never a circumstance in which an abortion is morally justified.

It’s interesting as I’ve seen my camp (the conservative evangelical camp) approach this issue.

With the question of constitutionality, if Ohio’s bill were passed and signed into law, I am seeing pro-life Christians arguing as to why it would be constitutional. Others are arguing that even if it were unconstitutional, who cares about the courts, and that the state should just ignore it for the sake of protecting life (not saying I disagree with that sentiment).

I think this is the wrong starting place.

It doesn’t matter if it would be constitutional or not. Because no state would pass a law where abortion were legally viewed as tantamount to murder. Even among pro-life people, that view is a minority.

The idea that states can simply ban it, when there is no ban, when most people favor it in certain circumstances, as moral as the suggestion might be, what’s morally right is not always realistically passable.

I think this “all or nothing approach” overlooks the real efforts that lawmakers are working on in states all over the country. 41 states have passed laws where there must be a licensed doctor providing the procedure. 42 states have passed laws that limit when an abortion can happen within a pregnancy.

More work needs to be done. I’m not saying this is ideal. I’m not saying the current laws are good. I’m just saying that as much as Christians (myself included) might want more laws to protect the lives of the unborn, that we also need to be pragmatic in pursuing something that is an uphill battle and that millions of people disagree with. That millions of people see as a right. All victories for the pro-life movement are hard fought.

Even if a total ban were proposed, it would likely be struck down (an Ohio law banning abortions on fetuses with downs syndrome was put on hold last week). And even if the state chose to ignore a court ruling, you would still need to find a jury of 12 people who would convict a doctor or a mother for having an abortion?

We need to keep beating the drum, educating people that life truly does begin at conception. We need to make sure that the necessary programs have the sufficient funding to support a baby that goes up for adoption. We need to keep chipping away at the laws.

To think an all out ban could pass is to be divorced from reality.

Once again, I’m pro-life, I feel that a baby has a right to be born and to live. It’s a child created in the image of God. And it’s tragic.

But it’s a sinful and fallen world, and we can’t always accomplish everything we want in one fell swoop.

I feel like these attempts are trying to sprint a marathon.

Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.