For many years I had identified as being pro-life. But really I was just anti-abortion. No matter the situation, I viewed all abortions, those who received it and those who performed it as categorically evil… murderers, killers, and a host of other pejorative terms; remaining insensitive to the circumstances in which a woman may have chosen an abortion. In the early days of my pro-life zealousness I spent some time picketing in front of abortion clinics, handing out tracts, financially supporting pro-life causes, voting for pro-life political candidates, and boycotting any organization or retailer that even remotely supported abortion and/or pro-choice causes. Ironically, during this same time I was also a proud, gun-owning, card carrying member of the NRA. I was a proud supporter of our military and quick to encourage war against our sworn enemies. I was also quick to judge almost all hardened criminals to the electric chair or lethal injection without giving second thought. I was more-or-less anti-abortion, but had no problem with other things that may cause violence or death.
But, as I grew in my faith, matured a bit more, and learned what it means to truly follow the peace teachings of Jesus, something changed. I had to take a step back, give pause, and closely examine myself and what I believed. And this self examination led me to reassess what it means to be pro-life in the most fullest sense. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I mostly had it all wrong. Like Jesus, being pro-life should always involve extending grace and forgiveness to all people (including those who perform abortions, those who have received them, and those who support it), and learning to love. A lot more. But, it should also include so much more than just taking up, though important, the singular issue of abortion.
Pro-life should mean not only advocating for and protecting the unborn where nearly one million abortions are performed each year, but it should extend to preserving all life outside of the womb as well. It should entail seeking peace with our nationally proclaimed enemies rather than resorting to war where thousands of innocent people (including children) are tortured, killed, or maimed in collateral damage. It should entail speaking out against the “military industrial complex” that thrives off of war and global conflict, profiting off the loss of many lives. It should entail speaking out against the powerful gun lobby who push against stricter gun control legislation that is needed due to 30, 000+ unnecessary gun deaths each year. It should entail seeking to abolish the death penalty where not only innocent people are sometimes mistakenly put to death, but does nothing to rehabilitate or redeem a criminal and has proven not to deter crime. It should entail the support of organizations that assist with and promote contraception, sex education, and family planning in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies that often lead to unneeded abortions. It should entail the care for all of creation, speaking out against the inhumane treatment of animals or the exploitation of our earth and its environment. It should entail keeping our men and women in uniform accountable, speaking out and being pro-active against unwarranted police brutality, most often killing our black brothers and sisters. It should entail welcoming the immigrants and refugees among us, that if deported or abandoned could lead to deplorable living conditions or, in some cases, even death.
Author/speaker Rachel Held Evans verbalizes this same tension and dilemma that those of us face who believe that life does indeed begin in the womb, but aren’t quite convinced the current movement is completely moral or that it really works.
Anyone else caught in this tension?: I’m pro-life in the sense that I believe life begins in the womb and is worth protecting even before birth. However, 9 times out of 10, I find myself totally disagreeing with the pro-life movement’s methods for protecting that life. For example, completely defunding Planned Parenthood with no plan to replace its other services (like offering affordable contraception, gynecological services, and prenatal care to underprivileged women), could actually lead to more abortions. Teaching abstinence-only education in public schools appears to be less effective than comprehensive sex-education at reducing the teen pregnancy rate. Simply voting for Republicans who want to make abortion illegal (even though they are very unlikely to do so and even though criminalizing abortion won’t stop it from happening) without considering how other conservative social policies affect women most at risk for having abortions seems like an exercise in futility. And opposing coverage for contraception in insurance policies seems like a great way to increase rather than decrease unwanted pregnancies. It’s just so frustrating to agree with the pro-life movement’s ideals but virtually none of their methods, and to disagree with many of the pro-choice movement’s ideals and yet support many of their efforts to care for women in ways that are likely to decrease the abortion rate. It’s a classic stuck-in-the-middle dilemma and I’ve got no easy answers. Mostly I just find myself shouting at the TV screen no matter who is on to speak!
Maybe the pro-life movement would have more credibility and more people would listen if they see that we who are pro-life genuinely care about life.
All life, inside and outside of the womb.
But, as it stands now, hypocrisy and paradox seem to be the best descriptors of this movement. If we’re honest with ourselves, the pro-life movement is really just about anti-abortion, nothing more.
And, something must change, or nobody will listen.