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The veepstakes and the sanctity of life

Sens. Vance and Rubio betray their strong pro-life record to get the attention of Trump


Sens. J.D. Vance (left) and Marco Rubio Associated Press

The veepstakes and the sanctity of life
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If you are anything like me, you were deeply disheartened over the weekend at hearing Sens. J.D. Vance and Marco Rubio concede significant ground on the subject of abortion during various news interviews. This comes on the heels of the possibility of the Republican Party taking steps to weaken its pro-life stance in its 2024 platform.

Both Vance and Rubio have strong pro-life records. Yet both are vying to be Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee and have found themselves needing to adjust to the realities of their party’s nominee for president. I doubt that Vance and Rubio’s personal views have changed.

While Vance is new to the stage, Rubio has long been a heroic advocate for the unborn. Sadly, it is more likely the case that both are uttering the words they need to say to bolster their standing in Trump’s eyes. While I can understand that, I do not accept it. They did not have to take the bait and come out and offer the explanations they did over the weekend, explanations that more or less accept certain allowances for abortion. That was a choice both senators made and I think they got it wrong. They deserve to hear from pro-life allies and they need to know our disappointment. Pro-life elected officials should not make what are effectively pro-abortion arguments. It is one thing to acknowledge political realities, but it is a whole other thing to surrender moral principles—especially when your whole career suggests otherwise.

What should they have said when asked about abortion and what candidates and a party platform should rally around? This: “The right to life is first a moral issue grounded in the self-evident truth that human beings are made in the image of their Creator. The Republican Party champions the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, which means we champion the dignity of every human being, born or unborn. Until the pre-born are protected under the 14th Amendment, we have to act shrewdly within constitutional parameters to save as many lives as possible. We should do whatever is electorally possible at whatever federal or state levels to limit abortion and work with whatever majorities we can achieve. But we cannot give up the most important principle: Life is precious and belongs to God, so we dare not take it ourselves.”

Surrendering the moral principle will never win you a long-term victory if what you have surrendered strikes at the heart of the American experiment: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

My advice to Vance, Rubio, and the GOP: Never surrender the moral principle. Understand the culture we are in but understand the teachable influence that officials and platforms offer. We must understand that we are all incrementalists now and must work as much as possible to ameliorate America’s abortion grip.

What is sad is that most of America is moderately pro-abortion. That’s not strictly a social conservatism problem or a Republican problem—that’s primarily an American culture problem reflected in electoral patterns. On the one hand, you cannot blame the GOP for “adjusting” its platform in light of electoral losses when it comes to abortion. That’s what parties want to do—win. On the other hand, to do so would be a tragic concession to a worldview that yields American weakness, not “greatness.” Americans catechized by the sexual revolution are trying to “conserve” the only thing many know, which is based on the America in which they grew up: unfettered sexual autonomy. Trump is, without a doubt, an emblem of that cultural compromise.

At the same time, I think the Republican waffling on abortion is less about Trump and more about the party losing races nationwide after Roe’s fall. The realities of the GOP would be what they are even if Donald Trump were not at the top of the ticket. I have heard highly respected political experts privately say that, for example, if Florida’s abortion referendum fails in November, that could very well be the end of the Republican Party paying anymore attention to abortion. Even still, that does not mean you concede. It means you make better arguments in defense of life. Surrendering the moral principle will never win you a long-term victory if what you have surrendered strikes at the heart of the American experiment: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Where does that leave conservative Christians? Where we should always be: witnessing to the truth. Human lives possess full worth and dignity at all stages of their development. America’s record of making conditions on personhood and citizenship based on some arbitrary criteria (say, for example, skin color) did not end well in the history of the American experiment. Making life eligible to be lived based on one’s stage of development is deeply subversive of human dignity. We should keep being insistent that the GOP be the party of Lincoln—not a party that betrays its own principles.


Andrew T. Walker

Andrew is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.


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