“Abortions are tragic failures. And for the most part, they are preventable failures. I would like to see both sides of the abortion controversy agree on this; it is one of the few things on which they can agree. And then they could take steps to avoid the failure that raises the issue of abortion.” (C. Everett Koop, Koop: Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992 )
Evangelicals have long asserted a vocal and public position against abortion and claim to want to see its incidence reduced. Yet one workable response – comprehensive sexual education and informed access to contraception – has faced sustained opposition from the heart of evangelicalism. These two commitments – opposition to abortion and commitment to traditional understandings of sexual morality – often become competing goods in evangelical moral deliberations, not least because of evangelicals’ desire to maintain a strong and consistent public witness to their sexual ethic.
In the face of these competing commitments, this paper argues that, when faced with the choice between publically supporting measures that could reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies (and thus the incidence of abortion) and maintaining their commitment to traditional sexual morality, evangelicals have prioritized traditional moral codes, in both private and civic arenas, over effective but morally complex public health strategies. It then employs the paradigm of “just peacemaking” to encourage evangelical support for these public health strategies for pregnancy prevention. Rooted in deeply held faith commitments and a commitment to empirical realism in outcomes, just peacemaking offers a principled and practical model for collaboration between the two sides of the abortion discussion.
Acknowledging the conflict between these two moral commitments, it then considers the paradigm of just peacemaking as a possible model for evangelicals to collaborate on the common goal of reducing unplanned pregnancies.
Cicely Martson and John Cleland, “Relationships Between Contraception and Abortion: A Review of the Evidence,” International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 29:1 (March 2003) 6-13.
“Paying for Contraception in the United States”, (April 2020) Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/paying-contraception-united-states
N. D. E. Mark and L. L. Wu, “More comprehensive sex education reduced teen births: Quasi-experimental evidence,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 119:8 (February 2022) Retrieved from doi: 10.1073/pnas.2113144119
L. Fuentes, M. L. Kavanaugh, L. F. Frohwirth et al, “’Adoption is just not for me’: How Abortion Patients in Michigan and New Mexico Factor Adoption Into Their Pregnancy Outcome Decisions,” Contraception:X vol.5 (February 2023) Retrieved from doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conx.2023.100090
Glen Stassen, Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for the Ethics for Peace and War. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2008.
Lisa Sowle Cahill, Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Pacifism, Just War, and Peacebuilding. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 2019.