I’m An Evangelical Woman Voting for Beto — Here’s Why

Early voting starts today here in Texas. For the first time in my life, I will vote in a midterm election, and when I do, I will vote for Beto O’Rourke for Texas senator. In the past, I’ve tried to keep my political views away from the prying eyes of the internet, but today, I’m breaking my silence. For most of my life, I’ve leaned just right of center. Over the last five years, all sorts of cultural and political events have formed a perfect storm strong enough to blow me to the left.

I’ve also been an evangelical my whole life. From the very first conversation I can remember about how Christians ought to vote, one issue stood above all the rest in terms of importance: abortion. Though I’ve always been quite moderate politically, in times of doubt, my pro-life stance guided me quietly back to the right. So why have I made my leftward drift public now? And how can I and others like me, who disagree with abortion, stomach voting for someone like O’Rourke, who has a clear pro-choice voting record?

According the the New York Times, I’m not alone in my experience. A recent piece from Elisabeth Dias discusses the growing trend of white evangelical women who support O’Rourke. In her article, Dias emphasizes the social justice concerns underlying most of the women’s support for Beto. Abortion comes up only briefly, in an interview with Tess Clarke, who says, “I care as much about babies at the border as I do about babies at the womb.”

I agree with Clarke’s sentiment inasmuch as it encourages greater nuance in the discussion of what it means to be truly “pro-life” across a variety of situations, but her statement may overlook the fact that Ted Cruz actually pushed for legislation to keep border families together this summer. Neither the pro-choice versus pro-life debate nor the O’Rourke versus Cruz contest boils down to anything as simple as unborn babies versus border babies.

My overall reasons for supporting Beto O’Rourke are far more complicated than those presented in the New York Times article, and I certainly didn’t gloss over my pro-life views in coming to my decision. If you and I could sit down over many cups of coffee, I might talk about how I think Evangelicals have been pawns in the right’s power game, with pro-life legislation serving as an elusive prize that has convinced them to overlook some dubious ethical decisions. I might tell you how both Democrats and Republicans have tried to take credit for a decline in abortions over the last ten years, and how neither has the data to actually support that claim. I might talk about how Brett Kavanaugh, the right’s great hope for overturning Roe v. Wade, made it to the bench partly on the strength of his claim to senator Susan Collins that Roe v. Wade is “a long-established precedent,” and “not something to be trimmed, narrowed, discarded, or overlooked.”

Had we coffee enough and time, I’d talk about all these issues and many more. But this is the blogosphere; we have to take our coffee to go. So let me leave you with this:

I want my vote to support a candidate who will work for better education, better access to healthcare and contraception, better parental leave options for both mothers and fathers, better options for minimum wage earners, and better discussions about sexual assault. I believe that those are the kinds of changes that will reduce a woman’s likelihood to feel as if abortion is her only option. In other words, I’m not so much pro-choice as I am pro-choices. At this point in my thinking, I believe that better choices for women, ranging from choices about education to health to jobs will lead to fewer abortions. And since that’s my goal, I’m going to support a candidate who I believe will fight for those choices.

And here, reasonable people disagree, of course — and that’s as it should be! I would love to see a society in which healthy political disagreement and discourse thrives. The problem is that for virtually my whole life, many of my fellow evangelicals have implied that voting for a pro-choice candidate is tantamount to heresy. So, to my pro-life-voting evangelical friends, please hear me: I, too, long for a world with fewer abortions. I believe that voting for Beto O’Rourke may be a small step in bringing that world about. Feel free to disagree with me. But please, don’t condemn me.