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5 Reasons We Should Focus on Poverty Instead of Abortion

800px-TWO_YOUTHS_IN_UPTOWN,_CHICAGO,_ILLINOIS,_A_NEIGHBORHOOD_OF_POOR_WHITE_SOUTHERNERS._THE_INNER_CITY_TODAY_IS_AN..._-_NARA_-_555950Abortion tops a short list of angst-inducing moral issues generating a great deal of fervor and passion for a lot American evangelicals. For many, it’s the sole issue dictating how they’ll vote in any election.

While you’d never find me arguing for the validity of abortion (I wouldn’t), I think it’s time for Christians to focus their energy on poverty issues instead.

Here are five reasons the church would gain more by advocating for the poor than by fighting abortion.

1. 22% of children live below the federal poverty line

If a family of four makes less than $23,550 a year, they fall below the federal poverty level. Think about that a second. If a family of four brings in $24,000 annually, they receive very little assistance whatsoever. But there’s no way $24,000 is a livable wage for four people!

That’s why there are now 20.2 million Americans spending more than half of their incomes on housing. This is a 46% increase from only 12 years ago.

If Christians focus on abortion because they care about children, it’s time to start thinking about those children trapped in poverty.

2. Women in poverty made up 42% of all abortions in 2008

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of abortions fell for most groups of women—except the poor. Abortions among women making less than the federal poverty level rose 18%.

We have no right to demand these women listen to us when we don’t care about the issues leading them to feel abortion is their only solution. It’s a sad state of affairs when many right-leaning Christians want to end abortion while resenting those who rely on government subsidies.

If we stop a woman from having an abortion but don’t care what happens to her after she’s had a child, we have failed—plain and simple.

What if Christians could have a positive affect on the number of abortions performed by simply advocating on behalf of the poor?

3. Restrictive laws do not lower abortion rates

In the United States, the average abortion rate for 2008 was 19.6 per 1,000 women. In Africa, where abortion is more strictly regulated than in most countries, the rate was 28 per 1,000. Latin America, whose countries boast some of the world’s strictest laws against abortion, the average was 32 out of 1,000.

Where in the world are the lowest abortion rates found? The Netherlands. “Wait a second,” you say. “How can that be? The Netherlands are crazy liberal!”

Yeah that may be true, but their abortion rates are 12 per 1,000. Most attribute these extremely low rates to aggressive sex education programs, open discussion of sex in the media, and greater access to birth control. (They also have the lowest rate of teen pregnancy.)

What if restrictive and tighter abortion laws aren’t the answer? Is cutting down the number of abortions worth it to Christians if they have to make concessions in the areas of openness to sexual discussion and access to birth control? I’m not so sure. We’re not known for our willingness to make compromises.

4. Focusing on the poor would cut down on political polarization

Abortion is one of the main reasons that evangelicals are so aligned to the Republican party. But Republicans don’t seem to be doing a lot to put an end to abortion. It’s a political carrot used to lead Christians to the polls.

If Christians were to focus on the issue of poverty, not only could we have a positive effect (for once) on abortion rates, we could also remove ourselves from being so closely associated to Republicans.

Can you imagine if those who also care passionately for the poor (generally those on the left) saw Christians as people who worked with them instead of simply opposing them? We might eventually build a relationship which allowed us to speak wisdom into both parties.

Christians need to long for influence more than they desire power.

5. God makes it clear that poverty is important to him

God talks about the issue of poverty over 2,000 times in Scripture. If the poor was important to him, I honestly don’t know how he could make it more clear.

God talks to Jeremiah about Shallum, the son of King Josiah, and says, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?”

If one is honest about what Scripture says regarding the poor, then the answer to God’s rhetorical question would be, YES! This is what it means to know him.

It’s time to become advocates for the poor

The church does not have the resources to take care of the poor on our own. We need to advocate on their behalf. I find it hard to believe that when the world sees how much we care for the weakest in our society, they’ll not listen to us on many more issues.

It’s time for each of us to speak up for those who have the least.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. It’s interesting Jayson that many Christians don’t have any problem with government action, when it comes to preventing abortions. Yet, when it comes to poverty and hunger, a lot of these same Christians become libertarians, and advocate against “big government.” It’s a little crazy and a lot inconsistent.

    In Texas, when their legislature recently passed restrictive abortion laws, some responded by trying to expand social services, since theoretically this might mean more children born into poverty. Nevertheless, the Texas legislature shot it down.

    September 29, 2013
    • Not a lot inconsistent. Laws protecting unborn children are entirely consistent with a government policy of protecting citizens. Abortion should be illegal for the same reason that murder is illegal.

      Expanding social services, on the other hand, is often ineffective. And not only does it not work well, it can often create resentment (exploited by politicians in a never-ending cycle). “Why is my money being given to people who won’t support themselves?” “Why can’t those rich people pay more in taxes to help me out?” Leaving more charity to private hands not only helps the money and effort go to where it can be used best, it inspires real compassion.

      Passing or supporting a law that says the government is allowed to redistribute other people’s money inefficiently is not serving the poor. Service is serving the poor.

      November 30, 2013
  2. Amen and amen. I could not have said it better myself. Thanks for bringing this issue to light

    September 29, 2013
  3. For me, being a Christian means bringing goodwill to “the least of our brothers” as Scripture tells us. It’s easy to stand at the pulpit and shame women about destroying the natural fabric of the family, but the real challenge is to stand by those families struggling daily through poverty. Thanks for putting together this list!

    September 29, 2013
  4. cosmologicallyconstant #

    It’s not an either-or situation. If children are truly being killed en-masse intentionally, I cannot think of a more important political issue. Poverty is another extremely important issue, and the two are related, as you noted. But to say we need to focus on one instead of or over another is misguided.

    September 30, 2013
    • Thanks for your comment. Obviously it doesn’t need to be an either/or issue, but you wouldn’t know that from our current emphasis.

      I definitely get (and appreciate) your point. But I would still argue that it seems, right now, that the church only has the capacity to champion one cause. I strongly think she’s chosen the wrong one.

      She can continue to focus on abortion and make the marginal headway she’s making and ignore an issue we KNOW God is passionate about, or we can focus on poverty and thereby have an affect on abortion statistics AND engender the sort of cultural influence that woild enable us to have more influence in the area of abortion.

      September 30, 2013
  5. So true and well-written. It is true that we will be serving more people especially children when we focus more on eradicating poverty or at the very least alleviating it.

    September 30, 2013
  6. Josh #

    “If a family of four brings in $24,000 annually, they receive very little assistance whatsoever.” That comment is so completely wrong. A family of 4 with that income will receive an income tax refund of at least $7,000 (above and beyond any money they paid in), free health insurance through Obamacare, food stamps, nearly free daycare through DSHS (if both parents are working or in school) , they may qualify for subsidized housing, free cell phones, subsidized internet, free college education, the list goes on and on.

    September 30, 2013
    • I was primarily thinking about SNAP subsidies, but I appreciate your point.

      September 30, 2013
      • I typed a huge response to your above commenter about the family of four on an income of $24,000 per year, because currently with our second baby due in January, DSHS considers us to be just that. And we made less than $24,000 last year. And my phone ate it. Suffice to say, we do not qualify for ANY of the programs that commenter mentioned, and the idea that the government gives a family $7,000 above and beyond what they’ve paid in taxes is ludicrous. I own a small business, and provide 6 jobs for my local economy, besides my own. I pay taxes for myself at a Federal level, and for my business on a municipal, state, and federal level, as well as 4 different kinds of taxes on my employees. The amount my business paid in taxes last year more than tripled the amount of money I personally took home. I would gladly pay those taxes and higher, if it meant a family of four, on two full time incomes, could go to school, have healthcare, have food benefits and daycare for their children, and allow them to improve their economic status from “barely able to eat” to perhaps “owning a home” or “paying for a college education for their children” because I believe in a social contract, where when the poorest in society are cared for, they become productive, and society, as a whole, becomes more prosperous and benefits.

        October 2, 2013
        • Josh #

          With an adjusted gross income of $24,000, a family of four qualifies for an Earned Income Credit (EIC) of $4,873. You would then qualify for an additional child tax credit of $2,000. After deductions, your taxable income is $0. Just those two items gets you to a refund of $6,873. I just went on the health insurance exchange and a family of 4 with that income qualifies for medicaid. I have 11 years experience as a tax accountant, I see these scenarios every day.

          October 2, 2013
          • Josh #

            I also agree that that the government giving a family $7,000 above and beyond what they’ve paid in taxes is ludicrous. It is just another form of welfare.

            October 2, 2013
            • Wow, not only is that a fairly heartless comment, but seems to speak exactly to the problem that Jayson is addressing: Part of living a real faith in Christ is supposed to be being “Christlike,” and caring for “the least of those among you.” Right? Way to perpetuate a stereotype of just another middle class American hating on welfare programs because it’s somehow convenient to hate the poor.

              Having a taxable income of $0 and getting the income tax you paid BACK isn’t the same as having a $0 income tax burden and THEN getting $7000 back, which is what you’re suggesting. I’m telling you, I’m living it. It doesn’t happen. Neither does free daycare (both my husband and I work at the business we own and pay childcare out of our pockets) or free college tuition ($900 in Pell grants a quarter, which is about 1/4 of tuition per quarter at an average Washington State University and the rest is made up with student loans,) free cell phones (we pay for our own) or SNAP benefits.

              I LITERALLY just returned from an appointment at DSHS today, because I needed help with our insurance. Even with our income that puts us on the poverty line, we still don’t qualify for any of the other programs you mentioned. To be frank, a family making less than we do is much more in need of those programs, and I really hope that as a country, we will continue to provide for them.

              With an average housing cost for a family of 4 in Whatcom County being $1400 per month, on an income of $24,000 per year, that leaves $7200 per year for all other expenses: Utiilities, Insurance, food, gas, car payments, clothing, etc. That’s $600 a month. Have you ever tried to pay electricity, gas, garbage, car insurance, (not even a car payment, assuming the family is driving an older car, much like my styling and still working 1996 Nissan Sentra,) a basic phone plan, internet, health insurance, and food for two adults and one toddler? It’s nearly impossible. We are lucky, in that we’re able to flex our schedules to allow us to run our business while one of us is there and the other is home with our daughter on many of our shifts, and that we live simply enough to allow for us to pay childcare for the days we need it. We don’t have entertainment expenses. We don’t have cable. We eat on the cheap and don’t eat out much. These are necessities of our situation, and we still consider ourselves lucky to have shelter, food, and a place in our community.

              Two adults, both working full time, at minimum wage, would bring home roughly $35,000 before ANY taxes are removed, including the payments to Social Security and Medicaid, unemployment, and the federal tax that we are assuming they will be refunded at the end of the year. Even at $35,000, before any taxes are removed, that would put that household at 70% of the median family income for Whatcom County. A family making $24,000 per year makes roughly HALF of the median family income. I do not begrudge that family ANY help, or think they are less worthy of opportunity than myself.

              Then again, what do I know? I’m just a business owning Agnostic who believes in the social contract, and sees myself as equal to any other human being, regardless of socioeconomic status. We’ve had decades of “I have mine, so screw you if you don’t have yours” economics. And it’s not working. It hasn’t worked since Reagan implemented it, and it’s brought our country to the absolutely polarized and dire state we’re in now.

              When we help the poor, we help ourselves. Everyone benefits from increased prosperity. Everyone.

              October 2, 2013
            • Well said, Stephanie.

              October 2, 2013
    • Uhhhh, check the Us Department of Human Resources poverty guideline. You have to be under 24,000 to qualify as in poverty.

      August 16, 2014
      • Stephenie, I’m bipolar. By the grace of God I was adopted as a baby by a much older man (40s) and his wife. My Daddy has worked hard nearly all his life. Because of that work, when I became mentally I’ll and couldn’t continue college, I drew Disability under him. I lived on it, with a medical card provided by the state, for seven or so years.

        Anyone who says I had no need or didn’t deserve that is completely and and utterly heartless. I’m sorry. But as I learned to control my illness, learned to live on my own with it, and even worked (but could make very little) and been in and out of the hospital, therapists, and taking meds… if I had no assistance… I would easily be in 100,000 in debt, if not more. But all I have is about 10 grand in student loans, which is very good considering the hours and living on campus for two years. And with the very small debt my husband has, it was a decent financial opening for our marriage.

        I enrolled in the PASS program, which is a work incentive designed to help you get a job or whatever you need to be self-suffient. It is really strict, but it helped me get three more semesters of education for free under my belt.

        I enrolled in the program (when thousands in WV qualify, only two used it that year, I was one) because I don’t want to live off the system. We are not all moochers, some of us NEED it. And please, everyone, don’t let those taking advantage make you bitter for paying taxes… because they DO make a difference. You will have those who take advantage in ANYTHING that is given (or redistributed). It’s a fact of life. I am no longer on Social Security, as we don’t qualify with as little money as we make. As little as we make, when we checked our eligibility on Obama Care, our monthly payment came out to a whopping 300 dollars. No it’s not affordable, and it’s poorly constructed.

        I know you have no choice in paying taxes, but I really appreciate it. It has helped me get the treatment I needed without losing my shirt. Please, next time you think of those who mooch, think of me and all the others who just need it, only long enough to put our lives back together. Thank you and God bless.

        August 16, 2014
    • What is this free college you speak of? I no longer qualify for the PASS, but if I can get on in this, that’d be great. ^.^ I love to learn.

      August 16, 2014
  7. Focusing on abortion and homosexuality allows us to condemn other people’s sin and ignore our own. If we focused on poverty then we might have to think of our own greed – ooh that is scary. While we’re at it, maybe we should also remember that there are sins like sloth, gluttony, gossip, envy and other stuff that I might personally struggle with. Those darn planks in my eyes…

    June 17, 2014

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