Contributed by David Stanton, PhD
Today (January 16) is National Pro-Life Sunday. But there is something about the so-called "pro-life" agenda that makes me angry. What makes me angry is that for "pro-lifers" the lives in question are only the lives of unborn children. How can you be pro-life for only the unborn, but be against feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, and medical assistance to those most in need? They are not pro-life, they are simply anti-abortion.
Though every so often a pro-life group will give “token” support to end of life issues or other life related subjects, “if you don’t get the abortion issue right, you get it all wrong”. I know I am in a smaller subset within the Democratic party because I am pro-life, but I am frequently looked down upon by my fellow Catholic believers because I am not so myopic as to believe that only one segment of the population, the unborn, is in need of action by people of good will everywhere to be a true pro-lifer.
I cannot remember the last time a rally was held for the homeless, the hungry, or those without medical care by a nationally organized group of pro-lifers. I cannot remember a group of pro-lifers supporting a candidate that was against the death penalty, and actively for providing access to shelter, healthcare, and clothing, and by definition – working to protect the lives of the “least among us”. In over fifteen years at my parish a bus has never been provided for parishioners to go to a rally to ensure pro-life issues have support and physical presence of those purporting to be “pro-life” other than various abortion rallies and prayer vigils.
But this is where my fur really gets ruffled. Both the Old and New testaments articluate a number of important things that people of faith need to do. A brief summary of these includes: feed the hungry, cloth the naked, comfort the afflicted, care for the sick, and make disciples of all. Missing from this list and any scripture passage I can find are: take public positions that support a candidate who passes the right “litmus” test – being against abortion; treating anyone not in a particular political party like they are not part of the church (faithful parishioner); and being willing to accept and endorse a candidate that is in the “right” party, regardless of his/her morality.
When a Republican was elected to replace Senator Kennedy in Massachusetts I received a number of e-mails from fellow Catholics with phrases like – "Yeah! Let's gas up the bus and go!" I sent back an e-mail asking if they were aware that this particular Republican consistently voted as a choice candidate and and the response was, “Please don’t e-mail me anymore”. Apparently, to be in the other party, you not only need to be blind, but ignore any inconvenient truth as well.
The Catholic Church has taught since its beginning that War is immoral except for purposes of self-defense, and then only in very limited circumstances. The innocent die at a higher rate than those in uniform during any war, yet, there is no organized pro-life group working to end Bush's war of choice. America has the highest infant mortality rate (after birth and not including abortion statistics) than any of the major industrialized nations in the world, but there is no pro-life outcry or organized message groups working to end this tragedy. A child born in an inner city in America has on average, a 60-70 percent chance of being shot or killed before he or she reaches age sixteen, yet there is no pro-life voice for making this go away.
I am proudly pro-life when it means doing all the things Christ tasked his followers to do. I am proudly pro-life when something I do protects a human life at any point from Conception to natural death. I am proudly pro-life when I participate in activities that ensure healthcare for all, public safety in the community, sheltering those in need, comforting those who experience loss in their lives (especially that which results in a lower or dramatically changed quality of life), and when I can help prevent a person from being “terminated by the state” in a prison somewhere. Every life has value, every life has meaning and purpose, and no life should ever be allowed to end unnaturally for those who are truly pro-life.
It is disingenuous at best to claim all life is valuable from conception to natural death, and then proclaim exceptions to the rule – such as poverty, gun violence, or felons convicted of capital crimes.
Of course, if a person is truly pro-life, they would be working just as hard in all aspects to protect life, not just in those areas where the fundraising is easy and lucrative. Think about it.
Administrator's note: As a woman who supports choice, I feel it necessary to remind all that being pro-choice is not the same as being pro-abortion. Though I agree with David that there should be more to the "pro-life" agenda than fetuses and the occasional geriatric or Terri Schiavo.