The Pro-Life Movement should not be afraid to focus solely on abortion
Every year, the March for Life features a flurry of disparate signs, ranging from “Pro-Life is Pro-Women/Pro-Science” to a baby panda holding a sign imploring passerbys to “Save the Tiny Humans.” However, among the sea of straightforward, and often clever, signage, you will never fail to see large banners testifying to the fact that you cannot be pro-life unless you support many divergent issues.
Pro-lifers are berated with the accusation that you cannot be pro-life unless you are pro-environment, pro-health care, pro-affordable housing, pro-immigrant, pro-sex education and contraception, anti-war, anti-nuclear, and anti-gun. This thought is echoed in the perennial and insipid accusation that one is not “pro-life,” but merely “pro-birth.”
The purveyors of this expansive vision fervently fight for the idea that the pro-life movement must be more inclusive of a broad variety of topics to be “truly” pro-life and create a “consistent life ethic.” They seek to define the pro-life movement as so comprehensive that it morphs into a trite “do good” movement, with “good” defined in accordance with the current trendiest social ailment. However, such a tactic fails to understand the raison d’etre of the pro-life movement and the gravity and moral depravity of abortion.
The well-intentioned effort to broaden the movement’s reach misses the heart of the abortion issue. Abortion is not one issue among many; it is the issue. To be pro-life is to be, above all else, anti-abortion. All else is secondary. Much as slavery defined antebellum American politics and acted as the stratifying issue, abortion must similarly define politics today.
A regime that not only fails to protect its citizens but deliberately excludes a certain demographic from basic protections against violence fails at its core to enact justice. When a society defines “person” to exclude a certain subset of the human population, and consequently allows for their murder, it fails to remain a legitimate community.
The nation must deliver upon first principles—first among them that your life is not defined by your size, location, environment, or level of dependency. Before we can repair the house, we must ensure the foundation is strong enough. Otherwise, not only will we labor in vain to fix the house, but it is not worth the repair.
The fight against abortion should not be diluted for the sake of making it more palatable for popular politics. Usually, a pro-life advocate invokes the “consistent life ethic” to soften the strong medicine of being radically pro-life. However, to forgo anti-abortion advocacy because of its controversial nature and vitriolic opposition often misses the crux of the argument.
There exists a real temptation to downplay the ugliness of abortion and the circumstances that push women to seek it. However, to do so in favor of other issues is to concede the gravity of the situation: the systematic allowance, promotion, encouragement, and funding of 62 million deaths since Roe v. Wade.
So yes, we should be single-issue voters and advocates just as abolitionists single-handedly focused on slavery, and early feminists put aside their own battles with injustice to stand with the most oppressed.
This disposition does not mean we ignore the many facets of the fight against abortion. We should continue to walk with women in crisis pregnancies, support crisis pregnancy centers, and encourage legislation and social action that alleviates the hardships inherent to pregnancy and childrearing. However, we should not move away from the foundation of anti-abortion advocacy until we first and foremost guarantee equal justice for all.
Advocating for the unborn with a singular focus does not belittle the problem of homelessness, climate change, or a myriad other issues. Reverse the equation, and the same conclusion does not hold. How can we focus our attention on anything else when unborn children are slaughtered at a rate unparalleled in the history of human tragedies? This logic should not seem too alien, given the prevailing narrative that supporting “All Lives Matter” in contradistinction to “Black Lives Matter” only serves to obfuscate and belittle the pressing problem of racism in contemporary America.
Lastly, not only should the pro-life movement focus single-handedly on abortion, but any lucid ranking of priorities demands we must. When smoke billows from a neighboring house, you pick up a bucket and run to help. If you ignore the fire and continue to pursue another activity that in other times would be morally good, then that “good” is accomplished in vain.
Be pro-life because it is good. Be pro-life because abortion is evil. But right now, with 800,000 innocent citizens dying every year, fight abortion because we must.
Sean Tehan is a senior from Dallas, Texas majoring in political science with minors in constitutional studies and theology. He can often be heard arguing with friends or enjoying the cultural masterpiece “The Office.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: “March for Life 2015” by American Life League is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 License