What it Means to be Pro-Life

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I am and always have been adamantly and unequivocally pro-life. I am convinced that terminating a pregnancy brings to an end the life of a unique human being. For that reason, every effort should be made to preserve, support and encourage the carrying of every pregnancy to full term. The miracle of the Incarnation is the very core of our Christian understanding of God. We believe that God was born of a homeless woman in a shed. We confess that God is weak, vulnerable and in need of care and protection. The vulnerability of God in the womb of Mary compels the belief that human life is sacred from the time of conception and deserving of our most lavish protection. For a lot of folks who march under the pro-life banner, being pro-life equates with picketing Planned Parenthood and supporting legislation limiting access to abortion. That, however, does not come close to being genuinely pro-life. Here is what it means to be pro-life.

The most effective way to prevent the termination of pregnancies is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. That requires sex education at the elementary school level. It also requires making gynecological care and access to birth control available to all people of childbearing age, including teens. The argument that availability of birth control and sex education will encourage more teens to become sexually active has not proven to be the case. In reality, neither sex education nor the availability of birth control increases the degree of teen sexual activity, but they do significantly reduce the instances of teen pregnancy. Over all, where women are given access to good gynecological care, including reproductive care and counseling, we find far fewer unintended and unwanted pregnancies; hence, fewer abortions. Support for family planning and sex education is a pro-life position.

Furthermore, the best way to protect the lives of the unborn is to care for their mothers. Food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services are provided to low-income women, infants, and children under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, popularly known as WIC. This program is designed to ensure that women are able to obtain the nutrition necessary to remain healthy throughout their pregnancies and feed their children when they are born. Knowing that there are resources available for women to raise and care for their children creates a strong incentive to continue a pregnancy. Supporting the WIC program and other nutritional support programs for low income persons is therefore a pro-life position.

Health care is a critical factor in preserving the lives of the unborn. Having a child is an expensive proposition when, for whatever reason, one does not have health insurance coverage. This is particularly so for high risk pregnancies, complicated deliveries and post-natal problems. Too often, abortion appears to be the only alternative to bankruptcy or homelessness. Universal health insurance coverage ensures that no baby will ever be “too expensive.” Support for universal health care coverage is therefore a pro-life position.

Finally, there some circumstances under which a pregnancy should be ended. If you believe that a twelve year old girl, a victim of rape or incest, a woman to whom pregnancy and childbirth pose serious medical risks should be compelled by law to carry a pregnancy to term, then your moral compass is oriented to the north pole of a different planet than the earth I inhabit. I doubt we have enough moral common ground to continue this discussion further. But if, like me, you agree that there are circumstances were abortion is a responsible, if tragic, decision; then there is just one question left: Who decides when a pregnancy should be terminated?

Deciding whether to end a pregnancy is difficult and fraught with conflicting interests and priorities. The issues bearing on that decision are never clear and require wisdom, discernment and an intimate knowledge of the persons affected. I am firmly convinced that no one is in a better position to make such a decision than the persons closest to it and most directly affected by it. Women, not the state, not the courts or the medical establishment, are in the best position to determine what, under all of the circumstances, is best for their own well-being and that of their children. Consequently, enabling women to make these difficult decisions by providing access to affordable, medically safe surgical procedures, including abortion, is a pro-life position.

Now let’s boil down to its essentials the phony right wing pro-life position propagated by the likes of Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, evangelist Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and one of President Trump’s most vocal evangelical supporters, Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. For these men and their supporters, pro-life means one thing: government control of women’s bodies and reproductive systems. These same people who are so often screaming at the top of their lungs that the government has no business running health care, regulating fire arms or teaching sex education sing an altogether different tune when it comes to women’s health. When it comes to women’s most intimate and personal medical decisions, these so called pro-lifers are saying to women, “Come on, ladies. Don’t trouble your pretty little heads over your health and well-being. Government knows better than you do what you and your families need.” There is nothing biblical about that.

But what about all those pregnancies that continue to be terminated? Shouldn’t we be doing something to stop that? Yes, we should and we are and it’s working. Abortion rates have been declining substantially for the last decade. To be clear, this decline had nothing to do with loudmouth protesters marching around Planned Parenthood centers with idiotic signs, shouting abuse at women seeking all manner of medical services, most having nothing to do with abortion. It had nothing to do with any legislation restricting women’s access to abortion. In fact, this decrease in induced abortions occurred as a result of increasing availability of health care, contraception and sex education.[1]  Improvements in these areas are the only proven method of reducing the frequency of induced abortions. So I won’t hear any pious blather about those poor precious aborted babies out of the hypocritical, self-righteous little pie holes of anyone who is not out campaigning for universal health care, access to contraception and sex education. For all its heated rhetoric, the right wing faux pro-life movement has done nothing for babies, born or unborn.

In short, I trust women to do the right thing without government compulsion or the threats of moralistic, Bible banging bullies.  Yes, it is possible that some women will make poor choices-as do governments, courts and medical professionals. But, on the whole, mothers tend to make the best choices for themselves and their families-especially when given every conceivable opportunity to choose life, including early sex education, access to birth control, nutritional support, gynecological care and adequate health insurance coverage. Nothing can replace a mother’s intuition, wisdom and compassion. That is why God entrusted the life of his Only Begotten Son to the care of a woman. Entrusting the welfare and protection of the unborn to the care of their mothers is, therefore, the true biblical pro-life position.

[1] See “Abortion Worldwide 2017: Uneven Progress and Unequal Access,” produced by the  Guttmacher institute, 2018.

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