“This is a pro-life issue.”

By now you have probably heard this sentiment expressed about any number of issues that are not immediately related to abortion. Food stamps, taxes, healthcare—even immigration!—are designated as “pro-life” causes because they may in some way be construed as encouraging the safe birth of children or (through second- or even third-order effects) discouraging mothers from aborting their children. These appeals imply not only that the issue in question is of higher importance than it might otherwise be, but also that one is not truly “pro-life” unless one is in agreement on this particular issue.

At first blush, this seems like it might be a worthwhile tack. After all, most Christians would agree that ending the injustice and horror of abortion anywhere in the world will require a multi-pronged strategy; it is foolhardy to think that merely overturning Roe v. Wade (and then either subsequently working within each state to totally ban abortion or passing legislation at the federal level doing the same) will be enough. Merely building a political movement to get to these judicial and legislative goals requires a certain amount of cultural messaging, extrapolitical activism, and material support for children and families. (Pro-life supporters of Donald Trump and Roy Moore seem to have neglected this in their desperation to win temporary battles at the cost of their dignity and any future victories they might have achieved).

Beyond the simple realpolitik of the pro-life movement needing to back up their statements of support for women and children with action in order to get any legislative traction, those who want justice for all human beings also have to deal with the problem of illegal abortion. No matter what the legislative status of abortion happens to be, we will always need ongoing efforts to convince people of the value of all human life and ensure all families have their basic needs to prevent pregnant women from seeking out illegal means for killing their children. Thus, being wholly “pro-life” requires a holistic and comprehensive approach to ending abortion.

These rhetorical moves, no matter how well-intended, are a fool’s errand. Tying in all sorts of causes under the “pro-life” banner will only weigh down the term itself and sink all of our political aspirations.

The first problem with these strategies is that they are ultimately incoherent when pushed to their logical limit. Sex and procreation are so intimately related to human flourishing that they can never be separated from any economic or political questions. We will never have peace in the much-maligned Culture Wars because the political implications of sex cut far too deeply into our lives, nor can we separate any consequences for family formation from policy.

Take zoning, for example. I can’t think of anything less sexy prima facie, and yet zoning and building regulations have massive implications for where we live, how we get from place to place, and what sort of sex we have. Height restrictions and parking requirements will naturally generate sprawl, raise housing prices, and displace the poor; this in turn will make the prospect of having children more financially burdensome and accordingly make the option of abortion more tempting should an unplanned pregnancy arise. On the other hand, mixed-use communities, appropriately subsidized public spaces, and abundant bike lanes will give parents more options for cheaper housing suitable for having more children and shorter commutes that leave more time for baby-making. (Not to mention healthier bike riders making use of well-designed bike seats!)

If zoning (or anything else) is a “pro-life” issue, then nothing is. Trying to subsume everything under the “pro-life” label weakens any holistic understanding of politics and makes it harder to get people to think clearly about what political common goods we aspire to. Just as casting adoption tax credits as a “pro-life” issue twists the underlying complexities of adoption and care for struggling families, so stamping “pro-life” on immigration or pollution distorts our ability to talk meaningfully about our mutual obligations and political responsibilities.

A consequentialist “if it reduces abortion, it must be pro-life” approach also constricts our shared political imagination – which is exactly the sort of logic that led to many supporting Roy Moore despite his disregard for the Constitution and his indifference to truth.

Even if you can convince your standard-issue Republican that universal healthcare reduces abortions, you have only cemented his conviction that abortion reduction at any cost is the lynchpin of politics. Such a strategy is disastrous in the long-term because it fails to appreciate the way in which our aspirations to human flourishing require interlocking and interdependent political, social, and cultural work. We should always consider the possible consequences of any legislation (and thus electing any legislator) on human life, but to do so independently of other questions is foolhardy.

Indeed, the pro-life movement has been remarkably successful because it has understood that it must fight hard on every front – supporting untold numbers of vulnerable women and children, bombarding our cultural discourse with a message of human dignity, and eking out legislative victories state-by-state. The willfully ignorant may claim that Christians and pro-lifers don’t care about babies outside of the womb or their mothers, but their message is losing out – advocates of abortion are on the defensive everywhere. The “zoning is pro-life!” message only undercuts the role that non-state institutions play in combating abortion and building a more just society.

We do have to describe the ways in which more robust public welfare system, a cleaner environment, and a more humane immigration system are good for babies, but explaining this from “this could reduce abortions” only gets it backwards. If someone is not convinced that ensuring the human dignity of every person vis-à-vis equal protection under the law and access to food, shelter, and medical care are our collective responsibility, then their support for any particular policy, no matter how practically “pro-life”  it may be, is built on sand. Furthermore, anyone with more substantial and legitimate disagreements about just how effective any one policy may be (e.g. health care) are effectively cut off from any political discussion.

Finally, this approach undermines the necessity of banning abortion. Many people are now wrongly convinced that the best we can do (even in the long term) is reducing demand for abortion by ameliorating poverty. While I am absolutely convinced that eliminating poverty would indeed sharply reduce abortion, there are still thousands of babies killed every year whose mothers have the necessary resources and support to raise them. We cannot abandon these children and deny them the right to live as their Creator demands.

On the question of an abortion ban’s efficacy, many European countries are noted to have low abortion rates that seemingly correlate with their generous welfare benefits and easily accessible contraception. While both welfare and contraception are undoubtedly public goods, one need only consider the example of Iceland to see that robust system of support for pregnant mothers and the disabled does not necessarily entail that people will voluntarily embrace caring for the vulnerable. On the other hand, Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world and still has a lower abortion rate than nearby nations.

Thus, the “pro-life” label can and should still be used to describe policies and activities that directly work to restrict the unlawful killing of innocents. Legal restrictions on abortion are an unqualified good when they work in tandem with other policies that protect and support the vulnerable. Watering down this definition allows people to weasel out of the difficult but necessary legal protection that the unborn are entitled to; we would never call someone anti-slavery merely because they supported a subsidy for cotton farmers who wished to transition to paid labor. Maintaining support for a comprehensive ban on abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk is a necessary component of fighting for justice.

We must work out a holistic understanding of “pro-life” and apply it to our politics, but this cannot be reverse-engineered; we have to first build a political theology that appreciates the roles of different institutions in promoting the common good and inquires as to how the state can best support those institutions. Tagging any cause we support “pro-life” only cripples our shared political imagination and encourages lazy, finger-pointing discourse. Justice for the unborn will only come about when we can create a society that cares for every human being.

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Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

  • I understand this argument and there are certainly those that use pro-life in this way.

    But when I talk about using the term pro-life in a more wholistic way I am not talking about (or just about) things that influence abortion or life, but about the range of issues that impact the way we think about life and the worth of life. So I think we need to speak about the whole range of issues that dehumanize or devalue life. That may not be the real politic method of changing minds. But I think that when we value some types of life issues but not other then we are illustrating limits of our vision for the full flourishing of life.

    For instance, euthanasia is a life issue because it is part of the discussion of how people value life at either end. Disability of a variety of sorts is a life issue because one of the reason that life is disvalued is because of the utilitarianism of the modern world.

    I understand your point that in expanding the vision of pro-life to be more than just abortion we can minimize the problem of abortion. But I don’t think we solve the problem of devaluing life in abortion by not thinking fully about the multitude of ways that we devalue life.

    • Thanks, Adam. I can’t really think of any political issue that is not in some way about resisting the dehumanization of devaluing life. Even (as I mentioned) zoning! So I think we’re on the same page when I say that our strategy ought to be about helping people build a political worldview and political theology from the ground up that considers the common good.

  • BWF

    A few scattered thoughts:
    1. I’d guess that one of the main reasons why people are advocating that non-abortion related causes should be considered pro-life isn’t that so many pro-life activists don’t think about them. It’s because – and this is meant to mostly apply to the United States in the 21st century – at an institutional level, pro-life groups are too close to the Republican Party and thus are linked – fairly or unfairly – with those policies.
    2. This isn’t how it always was. I’ve read a few excerpts from Daniel Williams’s book Defenders of the Unborn, and he makes the case that the right to life movement in the pre-Roe era (and the early post-Roe era) was much more ideologically and culturally diverse.
    3. After reading this article, I’m still a little unclear of the viewpoint that Matthew Loftus is taking. Is it a middle ground between, on the one hand, voting for a totally toxic politician like Roy Moore just because of his anti-abortion stance, and on the other hand framing any tangential cause as “pro-life”? Or it is some other outlook that’s more complex that I’m not getting?

    • Thanks, BWF! I think we should enthusiastically advocate for a holistic and radical approach to policy that works for the common good. For example, I really like the American Solidarity Party, and wrote about it here: https://mereorthodoxy.com/evangelicals-third-party-solidarity-party/

      • Minimalist_Fiend

        Dr. Loftus, the American Solidarity Party does not share your narrow definition of pro-life being anti-abortion only. The ASP strives for a consistent life – whole life pro-life ethos. Your narrow definition is the GOP version of pro-life that makes someone like Donald Trump “pro-life”. The same with Roy Moore. All are welcome to see the ASP’s pro-life ethos at: https://solidarity-party.org/platform/#right-to-life

  • Physiocrat

    I am in broad agreement with Loftus. Making a term less clear and definitive is not going to aid the anti-abortion movement and if anything will reduce the numbers who can work within the coalition

  • hoosier_bob

    I think you’ve just proven that the term “pro-life” doesn’t really say much. I don’t generally use it because it lacks descriptive specificity. I think it’s probably more accurate to refer to opponents of legalized abortion as being “anti-abortion,” and to those who focus on reviving criminal punishment for abortion as “pro-criminalization.”

    Further more, the “pro-life” movement contains a number of people who don’t seem to care at all that abortion may cause the taking of a life. Note that white evangelicals didn’t start opposing abortion in large numbers until it became tied to feminism and women’s liberation. Gender-role hierarchies are central to evangelical theology and identity. If white evangelicals were honest, I suspect that many of them oppose abortion because it undercuts the “natural” hierarchy of women subjugating themselves to men. After all, white evangelicals were bothered little by Roy Moore’s predatory actions toward teen girls. That’s because Moore’s conduct fit the gender-role hierarchy that lies at the center of the evangelical faith. I would respect white evangelicals more if they simply were more explicit about their views concerning gender-role hierarchies and, in some cases, racial hierarchies. Then, we could dispense with all this euphemistic language about being “pro-life.” That’s what I like about Presbyterian theologian Tim Bayly. He acknowledges what evangelicalism actually requires concerning gender roles.

    • samueljames

      Bob, I continue to admire the tenacity and ferociousness of your commitment to being wrong.

      • hoosier_bob

        Then can you explain why 85% of white evangelicals flocked to the polls to vote for Moore? And, contrary to what Al Mohler said, the white evangelical turnout was not lower. The drop in evangelical turnout primarily related to people like me who once identified as evangelical and no longer do.

        I admire your tenacity in pretending that white evangelicalism is anything but a subsidiary of the alt-right.

      • hoosier_bob

        On a more serious and less snarky note…

        I have certain moral objections to abortion, and believe in promoting policies aimed at reducing the number of abortions and shifting the dial on public opinion concerning the issue. (In my view, the most effective of such strategies are those that nudge people to make better choices rather than policies that foreclose the option of making bad choices.) That said, I’ve generally had little to do with the so-called “pro-life movement.” I connected with the movement briefly in the late 1990s, and left because I had little in common with most who were part of the movement. Several issues bothered me.

        1. Misogyny. The pro-life movement is chock full of people whose interest in the issue of abortion primarily concerns their opposition to women’s legal equality. How can a sexual deviant like Roy Moore be so opposed to abortion? This is how: He believes that women’s bodies are the possession of men. In that sense, his opposition to abortion is perfectly consistent with his predatory actions toward teenaged girls. For these folks, the sin of abortion isn’t the taking of innocent life, it’s that the woman’s making that decision violates the precepts of patriarchy.

        2. Defensive Fetish. The pro-life movement is full of people who hold to a variety of views concerning race, sex, and gender that are no longer deemed acceptable to voice in polite company. So, candidates who hold such views cannot seek to appeal to potential voters on the basis of those views. It would induce too much backlash. So, they have to muddy the water, and provide some publicly acceptable reason for which someone may justify voting for them. Abortion comes to the rescue. Being rhetorically opposed to abortion has little cost, especially if that opposition requires you to do no more than promote punitive legislation. So, adopting a rigid pro-life (pro-criminalization anti-abortion) stance can create moral cover for the real reasons that may motivate someone to vote for a racist, sexist homophobe like Roy Moore. That likely explains why Roy Moore’s sexual deviancy had a minimal effect on his pro-life support. Many folks were actually voting for Moore because he’s a racist, a sexist, and a homophobe. Abortion just became a convenient justification to doing so.

        3. Familialism. The pro-life movement is full of people whose interest in abortion is tied to the fact that the availability of abortion leads to delayed family formation. They view the nuclear family as central to societal functioning, and oppose abortion because it decouples the decision to become sexually active from the decision to marry and have kids. This isn’t an unworthy goal. But, for such folks, opposition to abortion merely serves a utilitarian purpose. It’s a means for getting to another end. The presence of the familialists in the “pro-life movement” probably explains why the movement has made the counterproductive decision not to advocate for contraceptive use among those who are sexually active and not married.

        4. Purity Enthusiasm. The pro-life movement is also full of people who are proponents of the purity movement and are therefore opposed to premarital sex. These folks are a subset of the familialists. They oppose abortion because its availability tends to remove a significant risk of premarital sex. Again, this isn’t an unworthy goal. But, like with the familialists, the purity enthusiasts primarily oppose abortion for reasons unrelated to human life.

        5. Evangelicalism. The pro-life movement is closely tied to the promotion of evangelicalism. The Catholics who are involved with the movement generally are former evangelicals or have close ties to evangelicalism. Incidentally, the above four categories largely define the sociological contours of evangelicalism. From its beginning, evangelicalism represented a fusion between social conservatives who promoted familialism and sexual purity (led by the likes of Carl Henry and Billy Graham) and those who promoted racial segregation and patriarchy (led by the likes of Nelson Bell). The movement could not unite around questions of race, so racial issues fell away as an explicit basis of agreement. Instead, gender-based hierarchies (“biblical manhood and womanhood”) and utilitarian opposition to abortion became the explicit basis of agreement between the social conservatives and the racial segregationists. From that point forward, the “pro-life movement” took on a distinctly evangelical flavor, and agreement with evangelical theological and social norms became the basis upon which one was viewed as a *true* opponent of abortion. Consider, for example, when the evangelical leaders of the March for Life sought the arrest of gay anti-abortion activists when the latter tried to join the march. Evangelicals tend to see abortion as *their* issue, probably because the utilitarian opposition to abortion has served as a primary unifying point within movement. The “pro-life movement” has gradually opened up to conservative Catholics, but it remains deeply suspicious of secular people who oppose abortion for reasons besides those that mesh with promoting evangelical political and social norms.

        By my observation, the above five categories make up a fair chunk of the “pro-life movement.” Put another way, the “pro-life movement” consists mainly of people who oppose abortion primarily for utilitarian reasons, not by those who primarily want to promote life. After all, the term “life” has generally been associated with promoting individual liberty and protecting people from suffering harm without their consent. It also embodies elements of fairness. But such secular goals are typically held in low esteem by those who oppose abortion for one or more of the above five reasons. These folks are not pro-life at all. Opposition to abortion is merely a means to get to some other end.

        So, Sam, your conclusory denial is hardly surprising. That’s all you can do. Because the you start to unpack the facts, it’s pretty clear that you, ERLC, CBMW, and other evangelical front groups are not really pro-life, at least not insofar as we’ve generally understood the term life in the US. Rather, your opposition to abortion is deeply intertwined with your promotion of the evangelical movement and its social and political norms. It’s your prerogative to promote those norms. As a staunch social libertarian, I see such efforts as wrongheaded. Even so, I do wish y’all would stop seeking to traffic in the goodwill of others in promoting your cause. The term “pro-life” connotes the promotion of individual liberty and autonomy, which couldn’t lie farther from the social and political causes that evangelicals tend to promote, cf. the overwhelming electoral support for Roy Moore and Donald Trump by white evangelicals. When you publish an article promoting contraceptive use among sexually active singles, you’ll be entitled to call yourself “pro-life.” Because only then will we believe that you’re primarily interested in reducing the taking of life through abortion. Until then, we’ll believe that you’re primarily interested in the abortion issue because it serves the utilitarian purpose of promoting the authoritarian social and political prerogatives of white evangelicals.

        As I’ve noted before, I once was an evangelical. I left as groups like CBMW and ERLC took a more active role in shaping the contours of the movement. I had always hoped that the movement could move beyond the contours of its rise in the 1950s to embrace a broader vision along the lines of what Roger Olson has set forth. It eventually became clear to me that that was unlikely to happen. So, I left. That said, I follow this blog because there are occasionally interesting pieces that point to the emergence of a new movement that would rise up independently of the evangelicalism we’ve known for the past 75 years. In other words, I look forward to an evangelicalism that affirms Christian orthodoxy (including Nicene formulations of the Trinity) but dispenses with the sub-Christian social and political authoritarianism that has too long marred the evangelical witness in America.

        • gladys1071

          I agree with everything you say, to me the Pro-life movement is nothing but a pro-natalist propaganda. It is the idea that they want everyone to procreate, any hindrance to such is frowned upon. That is why proper use of birth control or sterilization is not promoted by pro-life groups.

          • hoosier_bob

            That’s a good point. In thinking back about the requisite anti-abortion sermons I’ve heard in the PCA over the years, the pastoral anecdotes regarding abortion never matched up neatly with the life stories of those seeking abortions. By my recollection, the pastoral anecdotes almost exclusively focused on a nubile, white 20-something-year-old woman who was selfishly passing up motherhood and marriage in exchange for completing college and starting a career.

            Notions of herrenvolk democracy run fairly deep within evangelicalism, although they aren’t expressed as vocally today as they once were in certain quarters. But maintenance of herrenvolk democracy requires high rates of fertility, and probably requires most women to forego advanced education and a professional career. It probably also explains why something as innocuous as homosexuality, especially among white men, upsets evangelicals so much.

          • gladys1071

            They also overlook that married women have abortions too (though a smaller percentage). I am married, but i chose to not have children, i am a Christian, but i chose not to procreate.

            I am neither a conservative or liberal, i hold views on both sides. I like you i am also a social liberetarian and i despise authoritarian laws. I too i am NOT an evangelical, i identify more as Eastern Orthodox faith, and i DON’T adhere to the bible as the ultimate authority. I believe Jesus to be the ultimate authority, i try to follow his example in loving and accepting others, even those that belief differently than me.

            i am of the thinking that religious beliefs and practices are private and that each person’s relationship with God is thier business and not the business of the government. I believe in strict separation of church and state, and the two should not mix.

            Yes i am pro-choice (1st trimester only) i don’t consider abortion in the early stages to be evil as many pro-lifers say. I think that the woman should come first and that her life and circumstances should matter more than an embroyo. I don’t believe in outlawing abortion and taking away a woman’s right to her body and using the power of the state to coerce her to stay pregnant against her will, i find that a violation of her rights.

          • hoosier_bob

            I’m not sure that we’re on the same page religiously. I’m a fairly consistent orthodox Protestant.

            I oppose criminalizing early-term abortion because I believe there is too much uncertainty as to whether a crime was actually committed. Moreover, criminalizing abortion would have the effect of pushing more people to engage in self-help and risk harm to themselves.

            That said, the “life” argument, when made by evangelicals, is disingenuous. The most vocal evangelical opponents of abortion are also favor authoritarian political and social structures. As James Davison Hunter noted some years ago, abortion for evangelicals is mainly about the proper role for women in society.

          • gladys1071

            “I’m not sure that we’re on the same page religiously. I’m a fairly consistent orthodox Protestant”

            That is alright, i lean towards the eastern orthodox faith, thought i don’t attend such church as of yet.

            We are both followers of Christ and that is what matters most.

          • Ann Morgan

            Gladys, have you seen the recent posts from Roach Scientist to me? He is having a rare fit of honesty in which he is admitting that it is NOT about the fetus, and that even celibacy is not acceptable, rather, women must have sex and pop out babies at all costs.

            I love it when forced birthers get excited enough to actually start telling the truth, but I haven’t heard from him today, I think the other forced birthers might have told him to hush and stop revealing the real truth :-P

          • gladys1071

            we know forced birthers are exactly that “forced birthers” they just want women popping out babies, i know they just have a pro-natalist agenda.

          • Ann Morgan

            I don’t think they have a very clear idea of the sort of disaster that endlessly popping out babies in general, and especially putting a priority on popping out disabled babies, will lead to. I have. It’s ugly. It’s about as far from their vision of endless streams of plump babies dancing around forever in fields of flowers as you can get. They won’t like it, and I doubt they have the skills to survive more than 5 minutes in the sort of world they are determined to create….

      • BWF

        This was not a wise comment, Samuel.

  • lwall

    Matthew, I think zoning is very sexy prima facie… but that’s just me.

    Interestingly, the phrase “pro-life” without its context in anti-abortion efforts could have broad connotations, which might be part of why people have broadened its implications. In other words, “pro-life” hypothetically could have become the banner for many causes, including many that you mentioned. Ultimately, I agree with you that the range of issues people are discussing as a part of a more holistic “pro-life” agenda are really better under the umbrella of “common good”, which has a rich history of meaning that could be a resource, in contrast with “pro-life”, which has been specifically appropriated, and doesn’t have have that riche conceptual history. Thank you for your thoughts, as always.

  • The more I think about this the more I am convinced that those that want to primarily reduce abortion need to claim the label anti-abortion and leave the label pro-life to those that want to work more broadly on issues of human value.

    It is not that I am not anti-abortion. I am. I just think there is a limit and I am not for criminalizing abortion. We are now at the point were the rate of abortion is below the 1973 rate. So I think we can and should try to reduce abortion further, but I also think that Christians need to adopt a pro-life label and move away from an only anti-abortion stance.

    I know that many, many anti-abortion people really are pro-life broadly. But far too many are not. Roy Moore and Donald Trump supporting anti-abortion advocates seem to me the easiest example to put forward. While many were voting against Jones and Clinton’s abortion positions, many of them were not at the same time advocating a reduction in racist policies around policing or incarceration. Or were not interested in funding children’s health care or adequately funding special education programs, etc.

    Matt I know you are broadly pro-life and you are writing this out of a conviction of the importance of reducing abortion. But I think the way forward is not isolating anti-abortion from a broader pro-life agenda but to more messily increase the pro-life meaning and publicly work through the messy ways that we do not adequately think through public policy issues with enough ethical depth.

    I absolutely don’t think we can just become democrats (or even American Solidarity Party advocates). It will take more than that. But I really do think a doubling down on anti-abortion as a single issue, even as a single rhetorical device to highlight its importance, is the wrong method.

  • Chris

    This misses the point of why other things are called “pro-life.” It is a rhetorical strategy, not a literal argument. The point is that if pro-life Christians were truly interested in justice in the world, they would not so wholeheartedly oppose measures that make life difficult for the people most likely to have abortions. Opposition to sex education, birth control, requiring a living wage for full-time employees, decriminalizing poverty, and many more issues makes it very hard to take pro-life people seriously, because they only seem to care about justice at one very specific, very questionable point.

    It is not that those other issues ought to fall under the pro-life banner in some idealized version of the movement. Rather, the other issues highlight the abject hypocrisy of being pro-life.

    • SamHamilton

      Hi Chris,
      I’ve got think the purpose extends beyond pointing out hypocrisy. When someone makes an argument against abortion (or for abortion restrictions) calling that person a hypocrite isn’t an argument against their point of view. It’s a diversionary tactic…a whataboutism or tu quoque. That’s why I have to think that the larger purpose behind this tactic is to get that abortion opponent to question her lack of interest in or outright opposition to policies that alleviate poverty, etc. But maybe I’m giving people too much credit.

      • Chris

        I appreciate your accidentally giving me a new perspective on this. “Whataboutism” usually takes the form of pointing out a small exception to a broader topic. In this case, meaning social justice, it is actually abortion which plays the role of the “what about.” Abortion is such a tiny issue compared to the issues of poverty that surround it, that it is in fact the pro-life movement which is the tu quoque, and saying that they’re not really pro-life is a way of pointing that out. They have found a questionable exception to the social justice generally sought by the left and have staked their whole voting habits on it.

        • SamHamilton

          Yes, abortion opponents can play the “whatabout” game too, when they’re criticized for not supporting public policies that reduce poverty and respond with…”but you support legal abortion!” That’s not an argument against anti-poverty programs, but a tu quoque argument.

          But that’s really besides my point above, which you didn’t address. Don’t you think there’s more to the attempt to expand the definition of the pro-life label than tu quoque criticism at least for a decent number of people?

  • Pingback: If Anything Is Pro-Life, Nothing Is – Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture « Reformed faith salsa style()

  • It seems to me that the weakness of this article is found in how it revolves being pro-life with the abortion issue. What about those who are born who are not in the process of bringing a child into the world? Isn’t it pro-life to be concerned about their lives too?

    When being pro-life is only concerned with the plight of the unborn, many unnecessary negative associations are made with the opposition to elective abortion. And that sabotages work done to protect the unborn.

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  • Cal P

    I am anti-abortion, but there are some logistical and peculiar problems with attempts to legislate anti-abortion that I’ve never seen adequately addressed. We believe life begins at conception, yes? And abortion is a form of homicide, yes? Then what does one do with still-births? Should they be treated as potential homicides? Should there be a police inquiry after every still-birth, and if so, why not? Some of the oldest forms of abortion involved herbal remedies to terminate the pregnancy, and women have tried techniques and maneuvers to kill babies in utero that were unwanted for one reason or another (sometimes economic necessity, sometimes vanity).

    Obviously, the attendant legislation outlawing abortion would be to criminalize those who perform it (otherwise the legislation would be meaningless). So, what of women who attempt to abort the baby themselves? And if there isn’t an adequate answer to that question, then there will be a spread of that type of abortion, which would not only be murderous to the child, but dangerous to the woman as well. The pro-choice fear, which is that pro-life policies require a police state for women’s bodies, is not unfounded.

    I can understand supporting a political option that wants to shut off public money to abortion clinics, or setting legal parameters as to what qualifies as a “medical” abortion, but anything more than that opens up a can of worms. Christians should be less concerned with laws than promoting social bonds of pro-life, which means not only church support for alternatives to abortion, but also involvement in adopting such children and raising them as their own. If anything political, there should be more support for social welfare programs to support pregnant mothers, instead of the trope of the welfare queen driving her pink cadillac with her brood of children in tow.

    • gladys1071

      You are correct, outlawing abortion outright would require a police state for women’s bodies, is each miscarriage going to be investigated? women would become 2nd class citizens and subject to the state, that will not fly in a society like ours where individual rights are paramount.

      As a woman telling me what i can do with my uterus is nobody’s business but my doctor, the state should not be inside women’s uteruses.

      What part of women own their uterus and they can decide to refuse to sustain a pregnancy do the pro-lifers not understand?

    • hoosier_bob

      Well said. I agree that personhood laws would require that every miscarriage be investigated as a potential homicide. I don’t see us going there as a society. Instead, we’d likely go back to the pre-Roe days when restrictions on abortion were selectively enforced against certain classes of women.

      Never mind abortion is effectively not available in the small number of states where criminalizing it is electorally possible. So, criminalization abortion would likely change nothing on the ground. That’s why the abortion question is necessarily a stand-in for something else. It’s probably no coincidence that most folks who oppose abortion also believe that a woman’s primary role is that of a wife and mother.

  • SamHamilton

    This is a helpful commentary Mr. Loftus. I think part of the problem stems from the term “pro-life” being a euphemism for “anti-abortion rights.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with euphemisms. They can make phrases less clunky and they often sound more appealing, thus drawing more people to a cause. The problem begins when some people, intentionally or unintentionally, take them literally or to mean more than they do. This is what some people do, or try to do, with the “pro-life” label. I understand why some people (whether they’re committed anti-abortion activists who want to also rally against assisted suicide laws or other public policies that end life or people who support abortion rights who want to change the subject to health care, poverty or other topics closer to their heart), but I think it would be a disservice to the cause for those of us who oppose abortion to accept a broad umbrella of “life issues” that would water down the objective of restricting abortion. Accept arguments made in good faith about poverty, health care, etc. and expose arguments made by people who want to play semantic word games for what they are.

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