You have heard, no doubt, people saying that their choice for president is based on sentiments such as “we have shared values” or “he’s authentic” or “he’s prolife.” Political scientist Samuel Popkin of the University of California, San Diego, calls this kind of reasoning “gut rationality.” Essentially, people vote by heuristics and go with their gut, with whom they most identify, or with how the candidates make them feel. But such a vote, while rational sounding, tells us that voters often vote with their heart and not their head.
For most prolife voters (and other single-issue voters), emotional voting is a substitute for their cognitive-processing limitations. Most voters simply do not know all that there is to know about a candidate. The information available on the candidate’s record, the assessment of the veracity of the information and prognostications for what the candidate might do if voted into office, is a daunting task for political pundits. For ordinary citizens, sifting through this data, if available, could cause an overload for even the most studious.
The average citizen is woefully ignorant of facts and, thus, relies on sound bytes and obfuscatory God terms like family values, patriotism, freedom and progress. In fact, according to political voting behavior expert, Drew Westen, PhD, when given empirical data that pushed voters one way or the other, that had no impact, those facts only hardened their emotionally biased views. In politics, Westen claims, “when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins.” It’s a sad reality for our democracy when reason and facts lose to emotions, when politicians’ sound bytes reign over the complexities within the platform of each candidate aspiring to lead our country.
Not surprising, for most prolife voters, abortion, couched as the all-encompassing prolife moniker, is their single issue vote looking for a prolife candidate. So, if you are that voter, ask yourself how ending legal abortion will improve the lives of single mothers, homeless and hungry families or unemployed parents. Ask yourself how your prolife candidate will address the astronomical rise in sexually transmitted infections in teens (one out of four) in spite of the failed conservative-embraced abstinence-only education in school districts. Ask how ending legal abortion will help the woman carrying a dead fetus at 14 weeks or help the woman with a hydranencephalic fetus. Ask how ending legal abortion will help the woman who is forced to continue her pregnancy despite suffering from affective psychosis and serious hyperemesis gravidurum. Ask how ending legal abortion will help the pregnant woman who does not want to continue the pregnancy, does not want to be a mother, does not want the fetus to be inside her, has no emotional attachment to this thing growing inside her and does not want any outsiders telling her what she can or cannot do with her body. These questions are just about abortion. They’re not about the larger issues that support women and their families. They’re not about the very real issues that families face as they try to put food on the table, tutor children with their homework, juggle work and family, and juggle finances to pay the rent or buy the groceries. Some say that it’s a matter of conscience. They say they cannot support someone who agrees with taking innocent life. OK. But does your prolife candidate support the military’s taking of innocent lives in the many U.S. invasions? Does your candidate support capital punishment? Does your candidate support budgetary cuts that break the lifelines for the poor, the disenfranchised and our veterans? And after you’ve pondered your answers to these questions, issues that the Congress and the president can impact, remember that the president doesn’t decide the abortion issue. The only role the president has in that regard is through his judicial appointments, primarily to the Supreme Court.
To sum things up, consider two more questions. First, if you’re an antiabortion single-issue voter making your bet on the prolife candidate, ask yourself if abortion is something that is paramount to the safety, prosperity, to the very existence of all in this nation. Second, ask yourself if the end of legal abortion will save the nation from destruction in the long run. I’m betting you cannot answer in the affirmative to either question, if you are truthful.