There is no pro-life candidate in the 2016 race
What's a pro-life conservative to do?
In most presidential elections, it's quite clear which candidate is the pro-life candidate.
This election is different. In Donald Trump, the Republicans have put forward a candidate whose nominal pro-life convictions seem belied by everything else about his history and temperament. This has led some people, including some pro-life Christians, to stroke their chins and argue that the Democratic candidate is the real pro-life candidate. One recent example of this argument comes to us by way of Eric Sapp, writing at The Christian Post that "Hillary Clinton is the best choice for voters against abortion."
In a roundabout way, this piece seems to suggest that Democratic policies might lower the number of abortions by making life better for women in ways beyond actually banning abortions. It does this by suggesting that Republicans aren't really pro-life because they sometimes promote pro-life bills that contain exceptions allowing for abortions in certain circumstances.
This is nonsense.
Trying to end all abortions but nonetheless supporting specific bills that, while falling short of that goal, move the ball toward it, has been the pro-life movement's strategy since the mid-'90s. It's a bit rich to say Christians should reject Republicans for wanting to ban some abortions and not others, but should disregard the fact that Democrats don't want to ban any abortions. This is a classic canard against pro-lifers: If they want to ban all abortions they're extremists. But if they take a meliorist position, they're hypocrites. The only response this deserves is a dramatic eye roll.
Sapp goes on to note that abortions dropped under the Bill Clinton administration. The implication here is that policies pursued by Democratic administrations cause fewer abortions. Again, this is nonsense. The abortion rate correlates for obvious reasons with broader indicators of economic health. And the Clinton administration happened to coincide with a massive stock market bubble that provided a great, but short-lived, financial boost to the country. This has nothing to do with Democrats being in any sense "pro-life."
"I don't think Christians should be single-issue voters since Christ's ministry wasn't single-issue," Sapp writes. Sure, but Christ never voted in an election, either. And there's a difference between not being "single-issue" and emptying an issue of its substance entirely.
At the risk of being tautological, being pro-life means favoring actual legal restrictions on abortions. And the evidence is actually overwhelming, both historically from the United States and from comparable countries with strong abortion restrictions in place, that the best and first way to lower the abortion rate is to enact legal barriers to the practice. Never mind the fact that, morally, if you do sincerely believe that abortion is the unjust taking of a human life, you should want to make it illegal no matter what. At the end of the day, this is what pro-lifers believe: Abortion is so awful that it shouldn't even have to be said that it's illegal.
There's another important point, discreetly hovering behind the smoke and mirrors of Sapp's piece, occasionally flickering into view, which is that the Republican Party has been an extremely imperfect vehicle for the pro-life movement. And that's true. And since the Democrats are so radically in favor of abortion rights, pro-lifers have only the GOP as an alternative, which strips the pro-life movement of its leverage.
But the answer isn't to vote for a pro-choice candidate like Hillary Clinton. No, the answer is to actually exercise your leverage by refusing to vote for Trump, a ridiculous candidate, and by forming a third party or otherwise making it clear that Republicans will not get pro-life votes at any price. Pro-lifers have many options to contemplate in the future. But voting for Hillary Clinton isn't one of them. The simple fact, hard to swallow for pro-lifers, is that for the first time in many decades, there simply isn't a pro-life candidate in this election.