Donald Trump’s kind words for Planned Parenthood at the February 13 and 25 debates hit pro-life Americans like a cubic yard of Lake Superior. His support seems like an absolute deal-breaker to many values voters, who couldn’t see any future remaining in his bid once he kept reiterating support for the nation’s largest abortion provider even though many other non-abortion-providing organizations are able to provide Planned Parenthood’s health services to lower-income women.
But polls and the South Carolina primary show there’s a blind spot somewhere in the pro-life field of vision. Some number of pro-life people are voting for Trump despite his open support of our country’s biggest abortion provider. Why?
Immigration. But why? Abortion is an unimaginable evil. Immigration is merely a mess.
The difference is that individual citizens are able to oppose abortion without political means. But individual citizens only have political recourse to doing anything about immigration.
We Can Live Out Our Pro-Life Stance
In the status quo, being pro-life means campaigning and voting on that basis. It means marching, picketing, bumper stickers, and t-shirts. It means official statements, synodical resolutions, and encyclicals. It means running crisis pregnancy centers and holding diaper drives. It means voluntarily being part of a sub-culture where the sanctity of human life is in the conversations, the parades, the hymns, and the air. It means having real relationships with young people and helping them through whatever problems they encounter in life.
If “campaigning and voting on that basis” went away, pro-life advocates would still be able to do all those other things. No pro-life person is limited to voting for the Republican. Pro-lifers will still be putting “Smile! Your mom chose life!” decals on our cars, turning in baby bottles full of quarters at church, and volunteering at the home for young ladies who need one. We will still be ready with words of voice of love, comfort, and help when a panicking niece calls (and that means making a habit of being the kind of person a niece would call when she’s panicking).
Being on the right team, saying pro-life things, and voting for the good guys is only one aspect of being pro-life, and it is the one that demands the least of us personally. Even if there were no right political team, and no good guy for whom to vote, a person who loves people would still be able to do a lot of things to save people from abortion.
Immigration Requires Higher Authorities to Act
But the same can’t be said of immigration. If a citizen of this country has a neighbor who is an illegal immigrant, the citizen cannot grant the immigrant legal status to correct the offense. The citizen cannot deport his illegal neighbor to keep the law. The citizen cannot legally employ his illegal neighbor to give the neighbor what he needs to support his body and life. All the citizen can do is call the police, see if they come, hope they have the resources to deal with the situation, and see if the same is true of the local judiciary.
Of course, immigrants do not move into neighborhoods or buildings where law-abiding citizens live. They hide in plain sight where there are no neighbors who would call the authorities on them, because many neighbors are also living in the fear- and want-ridden misery of being illegal.
The only thing a citizen can legally do is help an illegal immigrant toward legal status, if a citizen knows an illegal immigrant, and if they are able to communicate with each other, and if the immigrant is willing to have the relationship and pursue this complex and demanding goal, and if the citizen considers this course of action the best use of his personal time. That’s a lot of ifs to get through on both sides.
In the meantime, citizens have their personal means effectively extorted from them by hospitals obliged by law and human sympathy to treat every sick person in the emergency room, and educators who don’t have the heart to turn away any sweet little person who arrives at school in the morning, hungry and liking to hear stories.
Federal Policies Differ in Effectiveness on These Two Issues
So let us return to our pro-life Trump voter. He looks at the abortion question and thinks, “I can still support life without a pro-life president. I’ve been doing it for the last seven years, in my town and at my church and in my family. And I’ve been doing it for years before that, when presidents I thought I could trust didn’t come through with reliable SCOTUS appointments. But I can’t do anything about all the guys my boss at the gravel pit hired because he doesn’t have to pay them anything. Only the government can stop that.”
He’s not a jerk. He doesn’t not love life enough. He is simply able to see where his hands are tied, and where they aren’t. He has noticed that federal politics is where the pro-life cause has been least successful, even when the elected officials in place looked like the right ones.
But if there were nine pro-Roe justices on the court and no hope of more legal restrictions upon abortion, pro-life Americans would still be giving all their extra energy to saving babies. The question is how much extra energy we can expect to have when demands upon public and private services used by all people in this country, legal or not, keep on growing.
I think that might be why pro-life people are voting for Trump.