Voting for Life (in Australia)

While the issue of abortion became live this week in Queensland, due to Rob Pyne’s private members bill (which in its current form, simply repeals everything in the Criminal Code that relates to intentionally procuring a miscarriage: i.e. doing something to cause an abortion), we also find ourselves in the opening days of a long federal election campaign.

STOP_sign
Passage of this bill is something we must stop [1]
Irrespective of whether the law changes or not, the Queensland government’s wafer thin margin in parliament means that we could also go to the polls in a state election within the next 12 months as well. That means, at least once and possibly twice, many of us will vote for a candidate or party with positions on a wide range of issues that affect our community and the welfare of our nation.

In the past, while I was serving as a local church pastor, I wrote several articles outlining some principles to think about when voting for a candidate or party in any given election (you can read them here). While in that position, I felt it was not beneficial for me to be seen to be telling people in my pastoral care (i.e. church members) that they should vote for a particular party. Things can get messy when churches and Christian leaders tie themselves too closely to one brand of politics and I wanted to avoid mishaps in that area.

However, my convictions about the seriousness of fighting for the right to life of all people conceived within our borders, along with an increasing sense of bleakness about the quality of public life in Australia has led me to make this plea to anyone who will read what I have to say about voting in any upcoming elections.

I urge all Christians not to vote for any candidate or political party who advocates the destruction of unborn babies via abortion procedures, as something that is beneficial or morally acceptable.

God created humanity in His image (Gen 1:26-27) and charged men and women to be fruitful and multiply and exercise authority over creation under God’s ultimate rule (Gen 1:28). Each one of us is here today because God knit us together in our mother’s womb, commencing our journey of life as a human whose ways and future are known to Him (Ps 139:13-16). The fallen human nature we each possess, as descendants of a common ancestor, is present from conception (Ps 51:5).

The Lord Jesus’ incarnation as a member of the human race began when He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:18-20) and his cousin John was able to rejoice while still in the womb in response to the presence of the unborn Jesus and his mother Mary (Luke 1:41-44). God says that to take the life of another human being is to disregard God’s inviolable image in that person and is a crime worthy of death (Gen 9:6).

What I’ve just presented is part of the picture behind our commitment to life and the seriousness of getting it wrong. While naturally someone who rejects God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus and through His apostles and prophets (brought down to us in the Scriptures) lacks this framework for seeing all life as God-given, God-reflecting, God-owned and God-protected – this is hardly a matter we can agree to disagree on.

The hard reality of abortion is that it murders children as an expression of rebellion against God and everyone who commits it must face God’s wrath as someone guilty of another’s blood. The only people who are guilty of such an act who will not personally experience eternal death as a consequence are those who recognise that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of their rebellion against God and blood-guilt for a human life. Abortion is deadly serious not only because children die as a consequence, but because Jesus died as part of God’s judgement on this evil.

So the principle I’m strongly advocating is that anyone who doesn’t get this – that medically destroying innocent children’s lives is a serious matter – is completely unworthy of any Christian’s vote. Full stop.

But what does that mean practically? When it comes down to it, it means I am calling for Christians not to vote for particular political parties and their candidates if the promotion of abortion is part of their policy platform. That means I have to urge my Christian brothers and sisters not to vote for specific political parties and candidates who do actually have such a position.

Thus, I’m pleading with you not to vote for the Labor Party (ALP) or the Greens at the upcoming federal election and at any subsequent state or federal polls. Both of these parties support access to pregnancy termination (abortion) as a matter of party policy. You can read their statements here and here.

Now let me deal with a couple of issues that immediately arise.

#1 I am not telling Christians to vote for the Coalition (as though it is the only other option)

There are plenty of reasons you might want to consider not voting for the Liberal Party and the re-election of a Turnbull government. Let me make it very clear that I do not support the Liberal Party as an organisation and would never join it as a member. It has principles and objectives I disagree with fairly firmly. But what I’m not prepared to do in this article is tell you not to vote for them on the basis of this issue, because the party does not have a policy for promoting abortion the same way Labor and the Greens do.

On the other hand, Malcolm Turnbull is himself pro-abortion and therefore (in my opinion) unworthy to be the Prime Minister of Australia on that basis, so some Christian voters may decide not to vote in support of a party/government that he leads. Likewise, your local candidate or member may personally support abortion as a women’s rights issue, in which case I’d urge you not to support them with your vote. But if you want to vote for a Liberal or National candidate who is pro-life, you should definitely consider supporting them – assuming there is no other issues with their character or policies that disqualifies them from your support.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pose for a photo together at Pentagon on Jan. 18, 2016. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Clydell Kinchen)(Released)
PM Malcolm Turnbull supports abortion

#2 What if my Labor candidate is pro-life?

Formerly I would have encouraged you to consider voting for them, but I’ve changed my mind. Here’s why. I’ve read some stuff recently from Joe Carter at the Gospel Coalition, which explains how voting works in relation to factions. We belong to electoral factions of sorts and we vote for members of factions (directly – i.e. our local MP) and leaders of factions (indirectly – i.e. who should be prime minister or premier).

To cut to the chase, if you vote for an ALP candidate who supports the rights of unborn children, you’re nevertheless voting for them to work towards the policy goals of the ALP – especially should they manage to win government. While there may be a conscience vote on certain contentious issues in which it may be helpful to have pro-life parliamentarians of all stripes present in the chamber, the reality is that in the day to day running of the country an ALP government will be working to implement their health policies, which includes ready access to abortions for women. The pro-life candidate you vote for is less likely to succeed in changing the party platform (which in this case they should be doing while in opposition, not government) and more likely to end up enabling pro-death factions within the party to promote and pursue the stated policy goals.

#3 There’s more than one issue to consider at any given election

I agree. But again, some recent reading has helped boost my confidence in calling for us to disqualify any candidate from our consideration when voting, who has any unacceptable policy positions.

You already agree with me (I think). If your local candidate said something outrageously racist, sexist or discriminatory against Christians – I don’t doubt you’d find another candidate to vote for based on that alone: never mind whether they have economic credentials or a plan for improving local facilities. If they supported a particular policy or viewpoint that made it very embarrassing to admit you voted for them to your family or colleagues, it may also have the same effect. Likewise if they managed to make it onto the ballot paper but were found to have serious character issues during the campaign, you’d probably steer clear.

All this is to say, “single-issue voting” as it’s sometimes called, is completely reasonable. It doesn’t mean only one issue matters, but rather than some matter so much that you can’t reasonably vote for a person or party who gets it wrong.

Abortion is most certainly one of these issues. Labor may have better policies than the Coalition in certain areas and they often seek to look after people and groups that don’t always fare so well under the Coalition’s economic policies. Many Christians find the Greens’ asylum seeker/immigration policies more compassionate (and therefore more desirable) than those of both major parties. I acknowledge these things. But because both the ALP and Greens would choose the death of unborn children to fulfil part of their ideological goals – neither of them should be trusted with your vote, unless those policies change.

This is not the last time I plan to write on this issue during this election campaign, or indeed the parliamentary process regarding abortion in QLD. But I do urge all Christians, this July – however you use your democratic privilege to vote, don’t cast it in favour of someone who doesn’t acknowledge the humanity of the unborn and who would be part of the political machine that enables the slaughter of thousands of them in Queensland and Australia every year.

[1] Bidgee “A stop sign in Australia” CCBY 3.0 wikimedia commons.

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2 thoughts on “Voting for Life (in Australia)

  1. Thanks Yarran,
    I agree with most of your comments and have always thought that being a single voter issue is sometimes entirely appropriate. I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts in regard to whether, in the case that the candidates of all the major parties in your electorate are pro-abortion, voting for a minor party is irresponsibly squandering your vote.

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    1. Thanks Nathan – that’s an excellent question to raise.

      My perspective is that I think part of the reason we’re in the political mess we’re in is because so many Australians (Christians generally being no exception) have accepted the common political narrative that there are only two real political options in our nation and/or state(s).

      Certainly there’s a 99.5% chance that either Labor or the Coalition will form government in Australia or Queensland, but that will never change if the majority of people continue to vote for one or the other! I think rather than being a squandered vote – choosing an independent or minor party to vote for can be a powerful way of steadily working to either change the two party system by creating other politically viable options, or at least concerning the establishment parties enough to review their policies and who they run with as leaders and candidates.

      My recommendation would be to vote for any candidate who is pro-life (so long as they don’t hold another position that disqualifies them) as your first preference and then, assuming you’re bound by compulsory preferential voting, to number the other candidates with the least desirable or most objectionable policy positions last.

      If I’m faced with a three horse race of ALP, Greens and a Liberal candidate who is supportive of abortion, I’d probably cast an invalid vote as a matter of conscience – but I think fortunately I’ll have other options this election.

      On another note, I strongly recommend that Christian voters think carefully about their Senate vote – where there is a great deal more flexibility as to who you can support and who you can decline to support. I recommend using the new above the line system to vote for six parties that have positive (or at least neutral) positions on this issue, or voting below the line to put pro-life candidates first and pro-abortion candidates as close to the bottom as possible.

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