Earlier this month, Facebook prevented the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List from running several ads. The Dispatch, one of Facebook’s fact-checkers and a Never Trump publication started by Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, had flagged the ads as false.
Susan B. Anthony List’s ads said Joe Biden and Kamala Harris supported late-term abortion. The Dispatch’s convoluted fact check said this was incorrect. Yet the ads were correct, and The Dispatch was forced to offer a retraction. The damage to Susan B. Anthony List and their pro-life ad campaign, however, was already done.
Then, last week, Phil Vischer — creator of the children’s cartoon Veggie Tales — took to his videocast to talk about abortion, and introduced pastor Skye Jethani. In the video, Jethani makes several claims, some of which are highly misleading.
First, Jethani says appointing pro-life justices won’t overturn Roe v. Wade because Republicans have appointed justices in the past who have turned out to be supporters of Roe on the bench. He then correctly says that reversing Roe would not make abortion illegal nationwide. He says that since about 600,000 abortions happened in the United States in the year before Roe, overturning the decision shouldn’t be the sole focus of American Christians.
“Overturning Roe wouldn’t be a decisive win,” says Jethani, backing up his claim by quoting Dispatch senior editor David French. “Even if Roe is overturned, abortion will be mostly unchanged in the U.S.,” French says.
Jethani then claims that Christians are “ignoring every other issue” by voting for pro-life politicians, arguing the politicians we elect don’t affect abortion and that Democrats — because they pass social programs — may do more to reduce abortions than Republicans. To back up this assertion, Jethani says during a period in the 2010s, while Texas passed abortion restrictions and Delaware “improved healthcare access for its poorest residents,” it was Delaware that saw a bigger decrease in abortions.
Jethani then says people shouldn’t only look at party platforms because abortions are falling in America after peaking in the 1980s, even falling the most under Barack Obama. Correctly, Jethani says that this has nothing to do with who was in the White House. Instead, abortions have been declining since the 1980s because fewer women are facing unplanned pregnancies.
“None of the [reasons for the decline in abortion] had anything to do with Roe being overturned,” he says. Jethani finishes by pointing out that pro-lifers can do the most good in their local communities and should be active there.
Jethani is correct about that. He’s also correct that broad trends have been pushing down the number of abortions in the United States since the 1980s. Ultimately, however, he’s either mostly incorrect or flat-out dishonest about everything else.
The Truth About Delaware and Texas
First, Jethani cherry-picks two states — Delaware and Texas — to imply that Democrats reduce abortions more than Republicans by expanding social programs. This ignores the fact that abortions are down nationally, and when all states are examined there is no pattern in which red states that passed abortion restrictions have seen a smaller decline in abortion than blue states. Texas and Delaware have different demographics, and Jethani’s comparison is uninformed at best.
Jethani’s analysis falls apart further when you dig into the details. He implies that Delaware’s “improving health-care access” targeted mothers. Jethani is talking about Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion to able-bodied childless adults. Since its inception decades ago, Medicaid has catered to expecting mothers. But Obamacare did nothing to enhance this.
In fact, because Obamacare caused the federal government to foot a higher portion of the bill for expanding taxpayer-provided health care to able-bodied and childless adults, relative to Medicaid’s historic recipients such as the disabled and mothers, the disabled and mothers experienced a crowding-out effect. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion thus harmed them. In addition, there is a direct relationship between Medicaid expansion and increased opioid deaths.
On top of this, many of the “social programs” touted by Democrats increase demand for abortion because they fuel family breakdown, which fuels poverty and fatherlessness. The Medicaid expansion that Jethani so glowingly references has huge marriage penalties, which hurts family formation, as does the rest of the welfare state largely defended by the Democratic Party.
Certainly, these penalties increase abortion, as plenty of abortions are caused by men who don’t want the mother to have the baby so they don’t have to provide child support. The young woman who is poor and desperate, pressured by the father of the child, and already receiving a host of government assistance, is sadly still a reality.
The group of Americans originally targeted for these welfare programs — black Americans — experience both the highest rate of family breakdown and the highest abortion rates. The high abortion rate among black Americans is not explained by poverty. Rather, black American women who are receiving government health care touted by Jethani uniquely suffer from a lack of access to good health care. They disproportionately depend on Planned Parenthood, which has a profit motive to provide substandard care.
Likewise, Texas’s restrictions weren’t all meant to necessarily reduce the number of abortions in Texas. Many were meant to put moral and monetary pressure on the providers of abortion. One stopped the ability to have an abortion after the baby is viable outside the womb (subject to some exceptions). Another required abortion facilities to be subjected to the same rules as other outpatient surgical centers. These weren’t draconian restrictions on abortion, they were carefully tailored laws to attempt to pass muster in the courts. That brings us to the next point.
Why Roe and its Progeny Matter
Jethani is utterly wrong to imply that Roe isn’t that big of a deal. Texas couldn’t pass bigger restrictions because of Roe. Indeed, Roe is so extreme that before a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Roe meant that abortion facilities couldn’t be regulated at all.
Before Casey, fetal remains were run down disposals, buildings weren’t up to code, and facilities were often dirty and dangerous. Heard of Kermit Gosnell? The sorry state of his facility was entirely a remnant of what the Supreme Court did with Roe, which took away the right of the people in each state and throughout the country to decide their own abortion laws. Jethani admits that there is “wide support for common-sense limits on abortion.” Roe completely preempts states passing these limits.
As for Jethani’s critique of Republican presidents not appointing pro-life justices, he misses the point that President Trump is the most pro-life president in a lifetime, and not just according to his Supreme Court appointments. It’s true, reversing Roe wouldn’t make abortion illegal nationwide, but the point is that the states and the people would finally have agency. To imply such an outcome as inconsequential is flat-out wrong.
Christians: Stop Running Cover for Democrats
No, Christians shouldn’t tie themselves to the Republican Party. And no, Republicans aren’t God’s gift to America. But to equivocate the Republicans and Trump’s record to that of Democrats on the subject of abortion is farcical. Too often, self-described Christians use Christianity as a shield for leftist political arguments. Too often, Christians like French, Jethani, and Vischer minimize how awful the Democrat Party is on abortion.
The most charitable explanation is that Jethani and Vischer are uninformed. Before Christians spout off on policy and politics regarding so-called “child separation” at the border, abortion, immigration, or welfare, they should try to be informed.
Blasting Trump for child separation when the alternative is children being trafficked and used as tickets into America should be disqualifying. Claiming Medicaid expansion helped mothers and stopped abortion when Medicaid pre-expansion already reduced the care available for poor mothers is embarrassing.