Abortion 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.