Is it okay for a Christian to vote for a pro-choice candidate for president? This is the question I hear from many evangelical friends. Some say no because one is then complicit in supporting the evil of abortions. They believe that abortion should be the sole issue in voting for a president.

Others who are also against abortion say yes because there are many other pro-life issues at stake. In fact, both Pope Benedict XVI and the Conference of Catholic Bishops permit a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate. So even though the Catholic Church has been the strongest religious voice against abortions, no Catholic is bound to vote on the basis of abortion alone.

But many others are still undecided. Can a Christian in all good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate without feeling they have lost or compromised their convictions and commitments to the sanctity of life? I think such a choice is possible due to the following factors.

The Bible

First, the Bible doesn’t mention abortion at all. Although abortion was common in the ancient world, neither Jesus nor the apostles say anything about it. David, though, had rich insights of how God was intimately involved in “knitting me together in my mother’s womb” (see Psalm 139:13), and Jeremiah records God’s words: “I formed you in the womb” (see Jeremiah 1:5). These verses speak poetically and theologically about God’s sovereign involvement in creating life even if they do not address all of the complex medical and ethical issues regarding abortion.

The Bible is also clear about murder being a sin, a commandment that lies at the heart of the abortion debate. Yet we grapple with perplexing questions: Should all abortions be considered murder or does it depend on the circumstances, such as incest or the life of the mother? Does the stage of pregnancy matter? Why does Ecclesiastes 6:4 describe a stillborn child as one that “comes without meaning and departs in darkness”? Why is the Bible so silent about abortion when we are so vocal?

Religious Convictions

Scripture doesn’t give us answers to these difficult questions, but abortion is such a significant issue that the people of God have wrestled with it for centuries. For instance, the early Church strongly believed in the sanctity of life and was against the killing of any human life through abortion. They cared so much about life that they also resisted serving in the military.  

The ancient priest and scholar, Jerome, however, distinguished between the formed and unformed fetus—a position that echoed early Rabbinic law. Augustine also made this distinction and confessed that he “couldn’t bring myself to either affirm or deny the final state of aborted babies.” These scholars and others wrestled with how human life developed and when the soul becomes alive. Chris Hall provides an extremely helpful commentary on the early Church discussions on abortion in his book, Living Wisely with the Church Fathers.

Today, most Christians are against abortions and especially late-term abortions. But many make exceptions for instances of rape, incest, and the life of the mother, arguing that taking life in these situations is similar to reasons for killing in self-defense.


A complicating factor in the abortion debates is that in recent decades, the passionate cry against abortion has become not just a moral issue but a political one. This has not always been the case.

Abortion became a key strategic issue of the Moral Majority to unify Republicans behind Ronald Reagan (who ironically had passed the most liberal abortion laws in the country when he was governor of California) against Democrat Jimmy Carter. This fault line between Republicans and Democrats over abortion has intensified since then, although there are still pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans. The reality is that a candidate’s position on abortion today may be as much for reasons of political identity and power as it is for deep moral convictions.

We Can Use Our Vote for What Will Actually Make a Difference

A very practical question is whether the next president, whoever he is, will make any real difference in the rate of abortions in the country. Recently David French—a pro-life commentator who is theologically and politically conservative—wrote a provocative blog titled, “Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have ‘Blood on their Hands’?”

This is a significant blog, as French presents statistics and historical facts that suggest that no matter who becomes president, the abortion rate will likely continue its downward slide from a level that now is actually below where it was when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

In fact, history shows that the abortion rate has declined faster under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents. It’s difficult to pinpoint whether that is the result of presidential policies or other influences. But with those numbers in mind, French argues that presidents are inconsequential to the rate of abortions despite the battle over Supreme Court nominations. Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion rates will largely be unaffected.

Michael Gerson is another pro-life, political and theological conservative who recently argued that abortion isn’t the only issue on the ballot to be considered. He believes that “persuasion will matter more than federal legislation” for the pro-life movement. He also asks the question, “Is it really in the long-term interest of the pro-life movement to associate itself with a form of right-wing populism that dehumanizes migrants, alienates minorities and slanders refugees?”

A recent meme quips: “Abortion: The only word that can make followers of Jesus vote against everything Jesus ever talked about because of one issue that Jesus never talked about.” Although this is clearly a generalization, there is truth to it. In voting for a candidate who claims to be pro-life, we could very well be failing to uphold the biblical call to care for the poor, to welcome the refugee, to seek justice and love mercy—all for the sake of the mis-understanding that voting for a pro-life candidate will necessarily reduce the number of abortions in this country.


I can’t decide for other Christians how to vote for president, especially with respect to such a difficult and serious issue like abortion. But I can offer these reflections for consideration.

  1. The Bible affirms the sanctity of life and condemns murder but is silent about abortion.
  2. The people of God have consistently stood against abortion as wrong and we should continue to persuade our culture to honor and preserve the sanctity of all human life.  
  3. Who we choose as president will not affect the rate of abortions in our country. We should feel the freedom to vote for other reasons without condemning ourselves or others.
  4. Who we choose as president, however, will affect other pro-life issues in the country, and the world, such as poverty, racial and economic justice, gun control, immigration reform, controlling the pandemic, and combating climate change.
  5. No matter who we vote for, we can speak to one another out of love, respect, and an understanding that we each have been created in God’s image. This is another way of being truly pro-life in all we do and say.

Bridget Phetasy, a podcaster who self-identifies as “politically homeless” is quoted in the Dispatch Weekly as saying, “If Trump wins, I reckon America will burn. If Trump loses, America will burn. Either way, I’m preparing for America to burn.”

Confirming these feelings, President Trump says that he “is the only thing standing between the American dream and total anarchy, madness and chaos.” He says that if he loses, “America is gone forever.” Not to be outdone, Democrats are fearful of losing our democracy if Trump wins. They also fear right-wing militias that threaten “we’re a trigger-pull away” from resisting government controls like mask mandates.

Looking at the election itself, President Trump stokes fears by claiming that millions of mail-in ballots will be fraudulent while Democrats fear that millions of mail-in ballots will be disqualified because of Republican interference.

Politicians, commentators, and Americans across the political spectrum are increasingly fearful for our country. It is a fear not only of the consequences of our presidential election but tragically it is also a fear of one another. We have become a tribalized society of identity politics. Some of us fear those who use their racial or sexual identity for political power while we don’t understand the inherent power of centuries of white and male privilege. Some of us fear the political influence of those who aren’t Christians while others fear the influence of those who are.

On top of all of these political fears are the continuing fears of the pandemic and our economic crisis. We have a low-grade fever of uncertainty and of fear that spikes with every new death projection from COVID 19 or when there is another police shooting of a black man with subsequent protests. If we are black, we fear constantly for our lives and if we are a small business owner we fear for our livelihood. And after months of COVID trauma and drama, we’ve come to fear even our fears.

Coping with Fears

It is tempting to dismiss these fears as just temporary or pre-election hype that will somehow go away like the virus is supposed to according to the president. But in our heart of hearts, we know that like the virus, our deep fears are real and will have lasting consequences.

We could deal with our fears by trying to be impervious to them, channeling the extreme confidence of those like Franklin Roosevelt who famously said, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Courage and fortitude are great characteristics in the face of danger and fear, but they in themselves do not eliminate the reasons for fear. Without action, positive thinking can quickly become denial with debilitating results.

There is also the temptation to spiritualize our fears and “just trust God,” but that is likely the right answer to a different question. The different question is “Who do we trust?” as if there is any doubt of whether we should put our trust in God or in politicians. There is no contest! The Psalmist says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (see Psalm 118:9). Our faith in God is our ultimate security and should not be second to any earthly competition.

A right question in this situation, though, is, “How do we trust God?” in a democracy where we have the freedom not only to vote but to use our votes and political involvement to be “salt and light” in the world. Do we trust God by dismissing our responsibilities as citizens and not voting because there isn’t a perfect candidate? Do we trust God by avoiding biblical issues of justice? Or, do we trust God to give us spiritual discernment to make political choices that would best reflect Christian values and most benefit the common good?

Election Fears

It is commonplace to say that this election is a great inflection point in American history. In a highly polarized electorate, it is also true that Christians are right at that inflection point of influencing which way the country goes. Many evangelicals lean toward reelecting a deeply flawed president in order to maintain their cultural influence on issues like abortion, human sexuality, and religious freedom. Their fear of losing power is greater than their fear of compromising their moral convictions.

Many other Christians lean toward choosing Biden as a compassionate leader who seeks to bring people together. They see him as someone who cares deeply about biblical issues like immigration, racial and economic justice, and environmental stewardship. They are willing to take the risk that the number of abortions and matters of religious liberty would not change much, if at all, with a change of administrations.

In the next eight weeks before the election, it is vitally important that Christians wrestle with these competing convictions in a thoughtful and humble way. Someone who does this well is Ron Sider, who is a pro-life theological conservative. Ron recently posted “Why I Will Vote for Joe Biden,” which sets a high bar for careful reasoning and spiritual discernment that is worth reading and considering. You can read his post here.

But how does thoughtful reasoning like Sider’s help us deal with our fears for our country? It doesn’t take away the reasons for our fears but it does provide careful and knowledgeable insights into the issues we are facing. We often are more afraid of what we don’t know than what we do. We like doctors to give us an accurate diagnosis. We want to know the risks associated with certain occupations or travel decisions. Naming our fears helps us cope with them and Sider helps us to articulate the issues at stake. I highly encourage you to read his words as you wrestle with your own fears and decisions for the upcoming election.

An Antidote to Fear

Finally, I want to point to the words of the Apostle John, who says that “perfect love casts out fear” (see 1 John 4:18). Unfortunately, a biblical love that is “patient and kind, not boastful and not proud, that doesn’t dishonor others or is self-seeking, or easily angered…but rejoices with the truth” (see 1 Corinthians 13) is a rare commodity in contemporary political discussions. Anger, deceit, and ridicule are more often the weapons of political debate.

However, if we as Christians would speak and vote out of love for others rather than out of fear of others or fear of losing what we consider to be power, we would be a winsome witness to a very fearful nation and world. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Because we love something else more than this world, we love even this world better than those who know no other.”