What does it mean to be “Pro-Life”? What does it cost?
Many of my conservative friends, when asked why they continue to support a man who has shown a lack of respect for the constitution, for states’ rights, for people of color, for immigrants, for women, for the objectivity of a free and fact-checked press, for science, for the working class, and for anyone who disagrees with him, cite their strong beliefs about the sanctity of life—in particular, the life of the unborn.
I understand these beliefs. I share them. For me, the fact that we can’t know for sure at what point an embryo becomes a living soul (or, for those like me who believe in a separate spirit that enters the body, at what point that spirit enters the body of the unborn child), means that we should work as hard as we can to avoid the need to terminate a pregnancy, especially in a country in which there are so many stable and healthy homes that would be eager to adopt a newborn and give it a life free of abuse and poverty. (One of the ways we might work hard to avoid this need would be to advocate for greater access to sex education and birth control, but that’s another topic.) I understand the moral conflict that many people feel at the thought of voting in any way that seems like it might lead to more death for the unborn.
Those who are against abortion, or at least against abortion as a way of dealing with unwanted pregnancies, have called their cause “Pro-Life,” meaning that they are committed to working hard to protect the lives of the unborn. This is a good cause—a moral cause. It’s important, though, that we not become lazy in our morality. If we truly do value life, we have a moral obligation to examine all the issues and candidates, in all of their complexities, to assess which policies really are “pro-life,” and not just abdicate this responsibility by voting knee-jerk for whichever candidate claims to be pro-life. For one thing, a candidate’s stated position does not always reflect his or her heart. (I have a hard time believing, for example, that a man who thinks nothing of having numerous extra-marital affairs and bragging about his abuse of women is truly and deeply against abortion for moral reasons.) But more importantly and much more dangerously for our society, it’s possible for a person in a position of power to be “anti-life” in many immoral and costly ways while earning political benefits because of his or her stance on abortion.
In this election, please take the time to consider: is this candidate really “pro-life”? Or is it possible that he or she is trying to buy your conservative vote by standing against abortion? Does this candidate claim to want to protect lives, but in reality focus only on the lives of the unborn? What about other lives--does he or she act in a way to protect the lives of babies on the outside of the womb, particularly those born in poverty? What about protecting older lives that are in danger because they were born Black or to immigrant parents? Does he or she wish to protect the lives of women—and by this, I mean quality of life as well? How about the handicapped? Do his or her policies provide for access to healthcare for those who earn only minimum wage? How about protecting the social security income of the elderly? Does he or she work for unity—within the country, within communities, and even in the world—or does he or she inflame prejudices and advocate enmity?
Our willingness to be lazy in our analysis of which policies really do reflect a respect for life—all kinds of life—in favor of voting only on a single issue allows some politicians to, in essence, buy our votes. If a person—let’s say Donald Trump, for instance—can claim to be against abortion, is he guaranteeing himself the right to trample on many other kinds of lives because of the reliability of single-issue voters? Are we letting ourselves be bought?
The abortion issue is complicated, and in a country that prides itself on its preservation of religious freedom, it is not likely that we will ever achieve consensus on it. In the face of this fact, let’s do what we can to preserve as much life as possible. If you feel called to work for more “life” in the world, take the time to educate yourself on each candidate and issue. Don’t let your vote be bought by easy labels that don’t always tell the truth about a candidate’s values.