Many have asked me about John McCain’s position on abortion, and why I am voting for him. That’s what this blog is about. The issues aren’t easy, and I’m going to be responding to a number of comments and questions, so this will be long. If you’re up for it, get a cup of coffee and set aside fifteen minutes. Otherwise, see you next time! (But I do have some great pictures for you. And just think, the election will soon be over!)
I’ve gotten a tidal wave of comments from Obama and Chuck Baldwin supporters, so many that I’ve had to stop accepting some of these. Sorry, but you have your own blogs and don’t need to use mine; there’s plenty of lobbying for your candidate already posted in my blog comments. Interestingly, the Obama and Baldwin supporters have exactly the same message: Do not vote for John McCain!
(BTW, I also haven’t accepted all comments that agree with me; no offense intended with this either. Wish I had time to explain to everyone the reasons, but I don’t.)
I’ve also been angrily challenged as to why I don’t care about other needy and dying children, only the unborn. Actually, all the royalties from all of my books go to help the needy, including feeding and clothing and relieving the suffering of children all over the world. We give to prolife work, but far more to famine relief and development. By God’s grace, over four million dollars has been distributed for people-helping causes in the last number of years, much of it to children.
It’s curious that because I’m expressing concern about unborn children, people assume I don’t care about children who are already born. I do. But neither of the two major presidential candidates is advocating the legalized killing of already born children. However, one is advocating the legalized killing of unborn children. Since it is already illegal to kill the born, I’m talking about the rights and needs of the unborn.
Okay, now for McCain on abortion. Several people raised the issue of McCain allowing for abortions when the mother’s life is at stake. Like many adamant prolifers, including National Right to Life, I allow for the exception, rare as it is. The mother is a human being of equal value to the child. If only one life can be saved, physicians should save that life. More often than not, e.g. with massive uterine cancer in the earliest stages of pregnancy, that person is the mother. See my treatment of "What about a woman whose life is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth?"
I got an email from Angela, another young woman I greatly respect. (These young women ask the best questions). She said, “I truly appreciate your last blog on abortion and the presidential candidates. I guess I'm still having a problem voting for McCain. Unless I'm wrong, doesn't McCain support embryonic stem cell research and abortion in the case of rape or incest? I realize a vote for him could reduce the amount of abortions, obviously in comparison to Obama, but I think this is a quote from one of your other blogs, ‘voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.’ That's where my problem is. Do you have any thoughts on this?”
Here’s my position on abortion in the case of rape or incest. The bottom line is that children are children, and they shouldn’t be denied the right to live just because their fathers did something terrible to their mothers.
On stem cell research, here’s my friend Scott Klusendorf, who states it well. And although it’s too late to save the lives of aborted babies used in stem cell research, the fact remains it is morally repugnant.
So, yes, I fully concur with Angela’s concerns. To me these are the two most troubling things about John McCain, and I truly wish they were otherwise.
Like several commenters, Angela read my blog from a year ago, about why I would not vote for pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani if he won the Republican nomination. I just reread what I said then, and I still believe it. If John McCain had Giuliani’s position on abortion, I wouldn’t vote for him, for the same reason that I wouldn’t vote for a pro-slavery candidate even if he had better ideas about the economy than his opponent.
However, in an imperfect world I do think there’s a difference between being completely wrong about abortion, like Giuliani, and mostly right but partly wrong about abortion, like John McCain. Nanci and I have wrestled with this, and just as we agreed in the past to vote for a third party candidate, in this case we agreed, though reluctantly, to vote for McCain in light of the only electable alternative.
Let me try an analogy to show you why. Suppose in the town you live in, there’s a lake where, for the last thirty-five years, children have been taken by parents to be drowned. Say that every day 100 children are brought to this lake.
As a town citizen, you are presented with two candidates for mayor. (You can vote for a third party, but clearly one of these two candidates will be elected.) One candidate publicly states that he believes the right thing is that the children not be brought to that lake. They should be allowed to live, except the one or two conceived by rape. By longstanding town law the 100 daily drownings are all legal, and the mayor can’t change the law. However, this mayoral candidate has publicly stated that the law should be changed, and he hopes to appoint judges who help that happen, so that 98 or 99 of the 100 children would live rather than die.
Now, the deaths of those one or two children conceived by rape should rightly disturb you. And if until now zero children had been killed at the lake, it would be evil to vote for a man willing for one or two to be legally drowned. But for thirty-five years, 100 children have been killed there each day. This man is trying to move the town in the right direction, even though he has stopped just short of a 100% reversal. No additional children will be killed if his position were in place, because those one or two children would have been killed anyway under existing law. But 98 or 99 a day would be rescued from the death they will face if his position isn’t put in place.
The other mayoral candidate believes that not one of those 100 children chosen for drowning by their parents should be rescued. He believes that the doctors holding them under the water should be allowed to do this. He is prochoice about the drowning of children. In the last twenty years there have been some limited prolife measures voted in by townspeople that have made it more difficult to drown children, saving some lives. But this candidate has promised to sign a bill that would remove all those restrictions. He would invalidate the requirement that doctors explain to parents what it means to drown a child. He would invalidate the law that requires grandparents to be notified if their children are going to drown their grandchildren.
In fact, this man has said of his own daughters, “If they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” He would support their right to hire a doctor to drown their babies, his grandchildren, in the lake. And he promises the town’s legal drowning organization, which makes considerable money by drowning children, that he will only appoint town judges who are in favor of the legalized-child-drowning laws.
Now here is our moral dilemma. Our next mayor will either be the 98%-don’t-drown-the-children candidate OR the 100%-drown-all-children-whose-parents-don’t-want-them candidate.
We could write in someone who has no chance of winning. It would be a protest vote, showing we don’t totally agree with either candidate. However, if others who believe all babies deserve to live do this same thing, the result will be that the 98% prolife candidate can’t win, and the 0% prolife candidate will be our mayor.
If you vote for the candidate in favor of saving 98 babies, it could be argued that you would be voting for the lesser of evils, since killing one or two children is evil. But after all these years of child-killing, you see the opportunity—if the 98% prolife mayor takes office and makes those prolife court appointments, countless future children’s lives could be saved. It’s not certain, but it’s a real possibility. And what is certain is this: if the candidate in favor of legalized child-killing wins the election, due to his agreement to remove any of the town’s existing child-killing restrictions, more children will die who wouldn’t have if the other candidate takes office.
As we’ve pondered this, Nanci and I have decided, for better or worse, that what we’re voting for is not the lesser of evils—like voting for Giuliani would have been—but the greatest possible good available to us under the circumstances. The only electable alternative is the worst possible evil toward a people group—a 100% commitment to the legalized killing of unborn children whose parents don’t want them.
Rather than voting for McCain’s regrettable exceptions, we are voting for his predominantly prolife position, just as we are voting against Obama’s exclusively pro-legal-abortion position.
One of the commenters on my last blog said, “God didn't call us to win. He called us to do what is right.” Well, to me this has never been about us winning. I don’t even know who us is. To me, it’s certainly not about Republicans winning, or John McCain winning. My concern is whether unborn babies will be protected. Sure, I want to be able to sleep at night because I did the right thing. But I also want millions of babies to sleep (or cry) at night, because my vote actually helped them live. That, I believe, is the right thing for me to do—not to vote for an ideal unelectable candidate, but to do what I can to help children live even if I have to vote for a flawed candidate to do so.
To me, this is very different than the Rudy Giuliani situation I was addressing a year ago when I said:
As for Rudy Giuliani, try as I might, I just can't believe that followers of Jesus who stand for the cause of unborn children and family values are supposed to vote for a man who will not 1) defend the rights of the unborn, 2) define marriage as between a man and a woman; 3) keep his vows to his wife and 4) refrain from betraying and abandoning his own children. This is a man who publicly appeared with his mistress all over New York while still married.
I also said in that article:
I don't see casting a vote on the level of unqualified absolute endorsement… All of us become pragmatic (choosing one imperfect candidate over a more imperfect one) at some point or we never vote at all, which some of my prolife friends never do. I give them consistency, but I wonder if they ever choose a less than perfect pastor, insurance program, or loaf of bread.
Consider Abraham Lincoln, who was mostly right about slavery, but partly wrong. In a land where slavery had embedded itself in the culture, he saw its wrongs, but made statements that showed in certain respects he “didn’t get it.” But compared to his opponent, Douglas, who defended the continuance of slavery, Lincoln did indeed “get it.”
So who do I think a Christian should have voted for in terms of the dominant human rights issue of his culture? Lincoln. His position on slavery wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to make a huge difference.
Many years ago, abortion began to embed itself into our own culture. I would rather McCain be exactly right, but I would rather have him be 98% there than not at all. (Yes, I realize McCain’s powers with abortion and Lincoln’s with slavery are different, and I realize McCain is no Lincoln; the analogy is to their imperfect beliefs about human rights that were nonetheless far better than the prevailing law of the land.)
Years ago I had long discussions with Christian friends who voted against an Oregon ballot measure that attempted to restrict abortion to cases involving rape, incest and threat to the mother’s life. (A John McCain type of position.) Nanci and I voted for the measure. Why? Because it would save the vast majority of babies who would have been aborted in a state that wouldn’t begin to agree to a measure saving 100% of lives. The idea is, if you can start by saving some, eventually you might save more. And in this case, saving 98% would have been a bold start!
But my no-compromising prolife friends were “unwilling to sacrifice the 2% for the 98%.” So they voted against the measure. It sounded noble. (Never mind that still today their vote is remembered in Oregon politics as a pro-abortion vote.)
Certainly I would never kill two babies to save one hundred. But shouldn’t I jump in and try to save 98 babies even if I couldn’t save two, if those two would have died along with the 98 if I did nothing? My point is this: every single child who would die if John McCain’s beliefs were law is already dying under present law and would die if Obama’s beliefs were law. (Of course beliefs are not the same as law, but that’s not the point.) And many children, through Supreme Court appointments, could ultimately be saved.
If I were at the beach and four children were drowning and I could save only one or two of them, I would be grieved at those I couldn’t save. But I would not stay out of the water on the principle that if I can’t save them all, I shouldn’t try to save any. How are those not saved helped by the drowning of others? What’s pragmatic is sometimes immoral and sometimes moral, and we have to weigh it. Believe me, I understand the difficulty. That’s why I greatly sympathize with Angela’s question, which I have wrestled with nearly every election cycle. If my vote for McCain meant saying that children conceived by rape should be allowed to die, this would be evil. But I don’t see it as that—I see it as the best possible chance for many future children to live.
Notice that pro-abortion forces do not celebrate McCain because of his exceptions with children conceived by rape. On the contrary, they see him as threatening the future of legal abortions because of the judges they think he’d appoint. And they see an Obama victory as the single greatest advancement of the abortion cause since Roe v. Wade. Doesn’t that tell you something?
I am not beholden to the Republican Party, nor am I on a McCain bandwagon. As I said in the last blog, I’m not voting for Republicanism or McCain, I’m voting for generations of innocent children. I’m not speaking up for McCain; I’m speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9). Other special interest groups speak up for themselves—we are the only voice for God’s unborn children.
Yes, I’d rather help elect the candidate I voted for in the primaries. But now there’s only one candidate who by his judicial appointments could help save millions of babies over the next decades, long after he’s out of office. Like it or not, that’s John McCain. So Nanci’s and my votes for McCain and Palin are proxy votes for innocent unborn children.
One commenter on my last blog said, “For those of us who voted for George Bush solely based on abortion, he did NOTHING during his 8 years to end it. He wanted the Pro-life vote, but did NOT honor it with action. So, how can I believe McCain will not do the SAME thing??”
This is an argument I hear all the time. My response? It’s simply untrue. A president can’t just change laws. He doesn’t have that power. He can’t say, “Okay, abortion is no longer legal.” It doesn’t work that way. He can’t pass legislation; he can only sign or veto it.
What can he do that makes a big prolife difference? Appoint prolife judges. And that’s exactly what George Bush did. He appointed prolife federal judges, and above all he successfully nominated Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, the two youngest members of the court. They both have clear prolife convictions.
So, as popular as it is to blame George Bush for nearly everything, he actually did follow through on being a prolife president in the most important way—court appointments. If John McCain did the same, it could ultimately result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, allowing states to decide for themselves about the legality of abortion. And it would guarantee that the Freedom of Choice Act, which Obama promises to sign, would not be signed by our president. That would not be NOTHING—it would be SOMETHING very significant.
So don’t believe the myth, reflected in a number of the comments that have come in, that McCain could do nothing to further the prolife cause anyway. He could do one thing, exactly what Bush did—appoint prolife justices. And it could ultimately have a profound effect on future law.
Pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is 88 years old. Pro-abortion Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75. Stalwart prolifer Antonin Scalia is 72. In this court, there is only a one vote difference on abortion right now. Stevens will be in his nineties two years before the next president’s first term is over. Ginsburg will be close to 80. If one or two of these pro-abortion judges retires, and they are replaced with prolife judges, the legal cause of unborn babies could be dramatically enhanced, poising the court to revisit and overturn Roe v. Wade.
If a prolife judge, e.g. Scalia, retires and is replaced by a pro-abortion judge—which will certainly happen under Obama and Biden—it could set back the civil rights of unborn children for generations, with untold deaths as a result. But if Roe v. Wade were overturned and the states could once again decide for themselves about abortion, it would open up a debate which could lead to saving the lives of countless children. Not all of them, no, but many.
Could McCain appoint a judge who isn’t prolife? Yes. But I do know this—there is a 0% chance that any prolife Supreme Court justice would be deliberately nominated by Obama and Biden.
McCain chose an outspoken prolife running mate, Sarah Palin. Now, I’m not a big Cindy McCain fan, but Palin may be the most determined and uncompromising prolife candidate ever nominated for an executive position in our country. This is a main reason she is so hated and mocked, in a way that has stunned even some secular commentators.
It is possible that the passionate prolife position of Sarah Palin, for which McCain has come to her defense, could help move him from 98% to 100% prolife. But even if it doesn’t, it could certainly be an inescapable in-house (White House) reminder that he shouldn’t consider compromising an inch in the appointment of federal and Supreme Court judges.
Another comment: “Please help me understand something. I voted for George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, twice, and there is still abortion. If they were so pro-life and the government could still not overturn Roe v. Wade then why should we continue to base our votes on this issue? I am feeling used and manipulated by my, possibly former, political party. I am prayerfully considering altering my means of selecting a candidate.”
Thanks for the question. I’ve just addressed the first part of it above. As for the rest, I sympathize with your feelings. But please don’t give up voting for prolife presidents. If John McCain did what George Bush did with judges it could make a huge difference.
If your “means of selecting a candidate” has been voting for people because of their party, I strongly suggest you forget the party, and look at the moral positions of the candidate. Not just economic policies that may or may not work, but what they believe and plan to do about the weakest and most vulnerable people in our culture. Yes, I am concerned for the poor and minorities. If John McCain advocated legalized killing of the poor and minorities I wouldn’t consider voting for him. But it is Barack Obama who advocates legalized killing of the poorest most vulnerable people in our culture, the unborn.
What will the prolife protest votes and protest abstentions against McCain accomplish? It will assure that the most radical pro-legal-abortion candidate in our history is elected. And who will pay the price? Bush? McCain? Republicans? No. Unborn children. How many we can’t be sure, but all those who might have been saved from death because abortion was less available.
Just like this commenter, many Christians feel mistreated or taken for granted by the Republican Party. Others who are enjoying the new flattery from the Democratic Party are where many were decades ago with the Republican Party, enjoying the sweet talk and thinking they weren’t being used. One day the new Democrat evangelicals will likely be disillusioned also when they count up the unkept promises and realize it was just about getting their votes. Meanwhile, any disillusionment with the Republican Party some of us are feeling pales in comparison to the suffering of unborn children. Let’s not punish politicians and parties by punishing children.
Yes, I too am a skeptic when it comes to political promises. But aren’t we all going to vote for a candidate at least partially based on what they claim to be core convictions?
I’m not voting for a candidate, I’m voting for children by proxy. If McCain were elected and children weren’t helped, I’d be truly sorry. But what’s the alternative? Helping elect someone who has promised to do what he can to make legal abortion permanent and utterly unrestricted at the state level? If John McCain didn’t keep his promises and chose judges poorly, he still would not do as much damage to the cause of unborn children as Obama has promised to do with the Freedom of Choice Act.
Nothing I have just said has anything whatsoever to do with choosing according to a political party or believing the kingdom of God rides on the shoulder of politics. It doesn’t. Certainly McCain is flawed and is no cure-all. He simply has the potential for reducing the number of children killed in our country, while his opponent—despite his words about abortion reduction—by signing FOCA would increase them.
Am I suggesting child-killing is more important than any other issue in America? Yes, I am.
Based on Scripture, show me one single thing that either candidate stands for or against that is more important than whether or not the killing of innocent children should be legal. And please, don’t start by saying, as many have, “I’m prolife, but…” and then end up with a justification for not voting in favor of saving the lives of unborn children.
If seventy years ago I were a German citizen and given a vote, imagine me saying “I’m pro-Jew, but I’m voting for the candidate who is committed to keep legal the killing of Jews; after all, I am not a single issue voter, and I think the pro-legalized-Jew-killing candidate has some good ideas and he’s cooler and more appealing than the candidate who wants Jew-killing to be illegal.”
Some object to this analogy because in Germany Jews were forcibly killed by the government, not just allowed to be killed. I don’t get that one—would it have been more noble if the German government would’ve given citizens permission to kill Jews themselves? Would it be okay for our president to say it should be legal for husbands to kill their wives, as long as the government didn’t do the actual killing, but husbands hired doctors or assassins to do it? The shedding of innocent blood is what it is, whether the government actually does it or simply says to its citizens it is their legal right to do it.
What comfort is it to people wiped out in a holocaust to be told that the government actually isn’t killing them; it’s just allowing doctors, neighbors or family members to kill them? Does the scalpel or the saline poison hurt the unborn child less because their parents weren’t forced to kill them, but were simply allowed to?
A holocaust isn’t primarily measured in terms of the motives of those who do the killing. It is measured in terms of large numbers of innocent human beings killed. I am not including here pictures of the holocaust of the unborn, but should you choose to look you’ll see they are remarkably similar to this picture of the Jewish Holocaust.
I do not want to vote for a president committed to the ongoing legal killing of the unborn for the simple reason that I don’t want to vote for a holocaust. I want to vote against a holocaust.
Some are offended by the use of the term holocaust. But if you are prolife, if you believe the unborn are precious children, full-fledged members of the human race (and if you don’t believe this, then you’re not prolife in its historic sense), then why would you balk at the term? Isn’t over forty million deaths of innocent and helpless human beings cut to pieces and burned alive sufficient to earn the label?
The words “I’m prolife” do not magically compensate for helping elect a candidate who has vowed to defend the legalized killing of children, which is in fact to perpetuate a holocaust. And as for the single issue, doesn’t it depend on what that issue is? Offshore drilling, immigration or tax reform may be important, but they are not the same as whether it should be legal to kill innocent people. Shouldn’t all holocausts outweigh all non-holocausts? I confess to being a single issue voter when it comes to holocausts.
I wish McCain were 100% prolife instead of 98%. But he is not Rudy Giuliani, Joe Biden or Barack Obama. McCain has openly stated that he favors the overturning of Roe v. Wade, while these others have adamantly defended Roe v. Wade. This is why McCain and Palin are not merely disliked, but hated by the pro-abortion lobby. Doesn’t that tell you something? When the enemies of life are committed to defeating someone, isn’t that a good test of whether they are—at least for the most part—advocates of life?
By voting for McCain am I compromising? Yes. But I don’t hold a presidential candidate to the same standards I would hold a pastor of my church. Is there pragmatism involved? Sure. Some compromise and some pragmatism is wrong, some is right. I believe that in these circumstances, with what’s at stake in this election, it’s right. As James 1 says, we should ask God for wisdom to know his mind on this. But when you do, please don’t neglect what he has already said about the shedding of innocent blood.
Is there a time when it is possible to use your vote not so much for a person, but against an issue that you believe to be unbridled evil? If so, isn’t legalized child-killing such an issue? In this case is it possible to say, “Lord, I am voting against the candidate who supports the legalized killing of the 100% of those whose parents elect abortion; the only way I can do that effectively is to vote for a man who on this sacred issue is 98% right and two percent wrong. I grieve the two percent, but I am voting for the 98%; you know my heart, please bless this vote as an expression of my desire to honor you.”
This is what I’m doing. I’m not voting for a man, I’m voting for the best possible outcome for those who are the Jews and slaves of our day. And I am voting against the worst possible outcome.
On election day I wish I could do more. And I am deeply grateful there’s much I can do in life, outside the voting booth, to help the cause of the unborn.
May God have mercy on us. And may we, in our hearts and actions—including our votes—have mercy on the smallest and weakest of God’s precious children.
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, "But we knew nothing about this,"
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:11-12)
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.