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Truly Pro-Life

November 10, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

There are few more controversial labels than “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” Although abstract in their nomenclature, these labels always refer to the same issue, abortion.

In the America we are obsessed with this issue, and why not? How can you not be enraged by the thought of a cute little baby being snuffed out at the beginning of its life? or an entire gender’s right to self-determination cast aside by the other sex? The issue is always framed this way, usually because one of those aspects will resonate with half the country more than the other. It creates a righteousness to each side, while at the same time demonizing the other. This dichotomy is politically useful, but over the past 40 years has proven to be practically useless.

The choice between these two positions is a false in and of itself, as we are told the only battleground this is to be fought on is the legalization of abortion, oversimplifying the issue to the degree of hopeless quagmire. The issue of abortion and women’s’ rights are part of a deeper issue, and unless that deeper issue is addressed, a resolution will never be achieved.

The real issue is this: do we really honor life?

Ask the poor, uneducated, single mother of three if she really has a choice when she finds herself pregnant. Ask her in her moment of decision if she feels that any really cares about her or her children’s’ life. The truth is, neither position is a position of truth.

Advocates on both sides of the divide project a poor understanding of people caught up in the middle. Those who seek to make abortion illegal have little problem watching a poor girl have a child, and that child grow up without parents because one is in jail and the other must work long hours to support him or her. That child grows up without the support of family or community, and only choice for an education is one that doesn’t even provide the basic skills needed to survive. When that “saved” child becomes an adult they are told that they are not qualified for anything but the most menial jobs that pay insufficiently to support themselves let alone family. Eventually the person does have choice, stay in a state of poverty, unable to support a family of their own, or turn to crime and possible rise out of their situation, usually destroying what little life they had.

How is that honoring life? How does that give anyone a real choice?

I am constantly bemused by the Christians who call themselves pro-life and can never understand why anyone would choose to kill a baby. How can you kill an adorable little baby whose parents will one day watch him take his first steps and record the even on their video camera? How can you kill that child before he smiles and gets on the bus for the first day of school, or piles out of the mini van for soccer practice? How can you not want to sit there on graduation day and watch your offspring take their college diploma? Why would you want to prevent yourself from sitting at thanksgiving dinner while your child cuts the turkey for the first time in his own house, while his wife watches with pride as she nurses your grandchild?

The sad truth for many of the children who never make it to birth is that they are not missing any of those things, because they would not have happened had they lived. Few of the women forced to make such a heart wrenching decision would say they had much of a choice.

You may argue that any life is better than no life, however to stand before a woman in such a context is cold, unloving, and definitely not “life-affirming.” A person who screams, “this is your problem, now you deal with it!” while providing no help or love to a woman in crisis has no right to say such things. Only when we bear one-another’s burdens can we rightful give our input.

I have a modest proposal, let’s eliminate abortion, but let’s do it in a truly pro-life way which provides women with real choices. A pro-life way honors life not just from conception to birth, but all the way to the hopefully long-off grave. As a follower of Jesus, I believe his command to me to “love my neighbors as myself” means I have to love not only the unborn child, but the mother as well.

Here is how you do it: Provide medical care and support for a pregnant mother to be, let her know she is loved and cared for. Provide a world where children born to mothers that cannot handle them will not rot away in the foster system, but every child be given a chance to succeed. Give children opportunities to thrive no matter where they are born. Create a culture that never views other human beings as a burden or an enemy, but as valuable children of God.

If we do these things, I predict that abortions for otherwise healthy babies will drop to nil even without legal prohibition. As a Christian, I believe that all these things should be done anyway, because that is the embodiment of loving others. If you want a world where we do not do these things for others, I’m afraid we will never rise above a contentious debate where both women and children are cast aside. I may be wrong, but until we try it we will never know.

  1. November 21, 2012 at 4:20 am

    I’ve long thought the best way to stop abortions involved a two-fold strategy, neither of which are likely to happen given the current rhetoric. But given that the legality of abortion has a negligible effect on the actual number of abortions performed (yeah look at N. Africa where it’s illegal and see how many illegal abortions WE KNOW ABOUT are performed), we need to address the ACTUAL cause of abortions: unwanted pregnancy. Thus we need to deal with the pregnancy part (part 1) and the unwanted part (part 2)
    1) Encourage funding for sex education classes (and not “abstinence only” kind either) and provide free contraception (of any sort) to anyone who wants it. This eliminates or significantly reduces the number of pregnancies that would occur among those who are ill equipped to care for a child. To tell someone that we “shouldn’t subsidize their sin” by doing so is to misframe the conversation. In such a scenario you are making the child into a punishment not a blessing. Is that really the message we want to send? However, evangelicals decided in the early 80s that politically they would align with conservative Roman Catholics (even though beforehand American evangelicals had been fairly liberal politically, and evangelicals in other countries continue to be politically liberal. For goodness sake, the first evangelical president was Jimmy Carter, who was a liberal democrat and, at the time, a Southern Baptist (he’s since been pushed out of the SBC and joined other baptist groups)). By aligning with conservative Roman Catholics, evangelicals accepted their pro-life narrative: not only anti-abortion, but anti-contraception as well. This is despite the fact that no evangelical denomination I know of has ever condemned the use of contraception (and many even promote such use). As long as this alliance remains, however, this will never be a reality. Most evangelicals have become politically non-distinct from conservative Roman Catholics (that is anti-Vatican II Roman Catholics). This is, incidentally, behind the current objections to the so-called “contraception mandate.” If we’re really pro-life we should endorse it.

    2) Let’s get rid of the unwanted part. The number one reason people get an abortion is due to financial pressures. Simply put, it is cheaper to get an abortion than to birth and raise a child. Our current political system tacitly supports abortion. As Michael said, we need to cover the health care costs of the entire pregnancy. How is that even up for debate? If we believe the unborn child is a distinct individual, then we should provide for the care such a child prior to the child being able to gain such care through employment. This means we don’t just cover bare minimums, but high quality pre and post natal care for child and mother. Also we should cover dental care the same way (did you know that mothers lose calcium during pregnancy and for up to 6 months following pregnancy, if it isn’t replaced her body will simply take it from her teeth). Incidentally, this also implies that before the age of 18 we should also cover a child’s healthcare. If this sounds really pro-“Obama-care” that’s because it is. I don’t get why we are debating this. If we truly care about children, then surely we should cover their medical care regardless of who their parents are (or how much they care or are able to care for their kids). If, after 18, you want to say you’re on your own, well that’s a different debate I won’t get into now. Not only should we cover medical/dental care of all children under the age of 18 (and unborn), but we should do everything we can to ensure that they excel. That means: a) provide for healthy meals. This can be done via a voucher system (like food stamps) and school lunch programs. Also that means improving the nutritional quality of ALL school lunches not just the rich schools. b) Improve the quality of schools. Where you happen to live should not dictate the quality of the schools. Property taxes (which often fund schools) should be redistributed to all schools more equitably. Otherwise it creates a system where those who least need the money (i.e. rich areas) end up with the most and most expensive schools. Like it or not, money attracts better teachers, provides adequate equipment, and allows for better facilities. Poverty encourages poor schools, so let’s change up the equation and give it time to work (change won’t be immediate, but studies have consistently shown they lead to improvement). c) Pay for (reasonable) daycare for younger children and provide/pay for after school programs for older children. Why? If a parent needs to work (which if they are poor they do) in order to have a chance to improve their situation, and by extension their children’s situation, then this should be allowed within reason. A full work day should be allowed as a minimum. That means that a parent should have care for their children for the 9 hour work day, plus the hour before and after, if they need it. Single parents can’t be stay-at-home moms. A school day is typically 7 hours long. That means there should be after school programs (that are FREE) and/or daycare subsidies for 4 hours a day, every weekday. d) Tutoring of either children, or their parents, should be provided. If you expect parents to help their kids with their homework, then you need to ensure they understand the material. I am all in favor of this option primarily. Give parents appropriate tutoring for an hour a week in order to learn the skills they need to help their kids.

    In sum, if we are going to be pro-life genuinely, which I think we should be, our strategy needs to be changed away from simply anti-abortion, to truly pro-life. We should make children an asset and a blessing not a liability. I will briefly turn to objections.

    The biggest objection to the second part is that it will simply encourage poorer people to have kids to get more government money. Let me explain why that isn’t the case. Any support offered will be direct to children with stiff penalties for misusing those resources (since it’s fraud include fines and possibly jail time). Most people will not risk it. Those who would risk it anyway should probably not be parents and the kids might be better of in the foster system. To counteract the current state of the foster system, their should probably be some sort of subsidy (complete with screening process to make sure the parents are able) for adoption of older children currently in foster care (which seems to be the biggest problem). This would encourage that. Also, there are always other costs that this would not cover. It is not having children for free. Those kids take up space, deprive people of sleep, and do other things that cost money outside of this. I am suggesting that such cost be minimized.

    Second, there is the objection that this will cost far too much money. I don’t believe this is actually valid. It may cost initially more up front, but the long term pay off will more than make up for it. If this system were implemented I genuinely believe that high school graduation rates would jump within 5-8 years. If you survey the prison population you will notice two things about the overwhelming majority of them. 1) They are mostly uneducated (no high school diploma or GED), with a surprising number not even able to read. 2) They come from poor backgrounds. This system would significantly reduce notion 1) and would minimize the effects of 2). Most offenders in jail started as teenagers, not as adults. If we can prevent a pattern from forming, we might be able to give hope. Prisons cost more money than this type of prevention would. Also, as a portion of the budget, this is infinitesimal. Considering that the US government pays a huge portion of money to build tanks and jets that will never be used (and they know they will never be used), I think some money could be diverted from elsewhere. Also, if you look really long term, this would encourage more people to enter the workforce at a higher income level. Higher income means more taxation base. Not only would it eventually pay for itself, but it might (in say 10-20 years) begin to pay for more than itself.

    Third, isn’t this socialist? Yes and no. No it’s not socialist because it isn’t completely defined and it’s only applicable to those who do not yet enjoy the full rights of citizenship. It’s not socialist in the sense people (alarmists) try to use it. It has very little to do with Marx, Stalin, Mao, or Communism. Yes it is socialist in a different sense, but in the same way that the military is, the police department is, the fire department is, and, to a degree, public schools already are. Societies tried privatized fire departments, the result? The Great London fire of 1665. Societies tried privatized police departments, the result? These private groups ended up stealing things to “create” work. If you favor privatize military, there are some sections of the developing world rule by warlord type dictators, that’s what privatized military gets you. Simply put, there are some things we should be socialist about, while others we maybe shouldn’t be socialist about. I think education and healthcare, at least for the under 18 group on both counts, fall into the former not the latter.

    Finally, could this ever happen? Yes it could, but it probably won’t, at least not in my lifetime. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it as a goal, but I do think it is important. This is truly a pro-life position. If this (fantasy) goal did happen, then the number of abortions that occur in the US would tank. As a side note, if you want to make abortions illegal, start small on something more agreeable: third trimester abortions. There are very few circumstances where such a thing is medically necessary. Make a medical exception and otherwise make at will third trimester abortions illegal. Once a pregnancy is viable, it makes more sense to induce labor (which has to be done anyway) than to terminate. It’s not all or nothing people. Every little bit is a huge step in the right direction. Sorry for the ramble Mike. This is just kinda stream of consciousness so don’t hold it against me. (I hope I don’t lose too many friends over this if they see it. Ending a conversation by not engaging doesn’t solve anything).

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