For too long abortion was seen as the only "life" issue in our culture and politics, but there is a growing conviction among Christians that poverty, disease, war, the health-care crisis, human trafficking, the death penalty, nuclear weapons, and the worldwide deaths of 30,000 children every day from preventable causes are also key life issues.
Sojourners and I have advocated for a holistic and "consistent ethic of life" approach for years, and it is good to see the broader life issues receiving more attention. (See "The Meaning of 'Life'" in this month's issue of Sojourners magazine.) However, I also believe our nation is ready for a new kind of politics and leadership on the issue of abortion.
The abortion debate has too often been used to score political points, rather than to identify what kinds of church practices and public policies could actually prevent and reduce abortions. But with a tragic 1.2 million abortions a year in the United States, Christians must work together to stop the politics of blame and work toward common solutions.
While many Christians disagree on the legal questions surrounding abortion, together we can and must pursue practical steps that actually reduce abortion rates. Three-fourths of women who have an abortion say a primary reason is that they cannot afford to raise a child, so reducing poverty and supporting low-income women is a good place for our candidates to start.
Recent research affirms that social and economic support for women and vulnerable families are effective solutions to lowering the abortion rate, including greater access to health care, poverty reduction, adoption reform, and pre- and postnatal care.
Republicans and Democrats must learn to work together on this issue - tell the presidential candidates to lead the way, beginning at this Wednesday's debate. We must look forward to the day when both poverty reduction and abortion reduction are nonpartisan issues and bipartisan causes.
Both Senators McCain and Obama have offered themselves as agents of change, anxious to transform the culture in Washington. They could start at Wednesday night's debate by offering a comprehensive "life" agenda and committing to work with both sides of the political aisle to dramatically reduce abortions in the United States.
Despite their differences over issues of choice, both the Democratic and Republican platforms open up the prospects for serious abortion reduction. And Christians could and should hold both political parties accountable for protecting human dignity and life from "womb to tomb."
With the final debate Wednesday night, there is still time to ask the candidates to cross old divisions and support life and human dignity.
Sojourners will continue working with both Republicans and Democrats in the next Congress to push for common-ground efforts to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.
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