Opinion

What “pro-life” does – and doesn’t – mean

Screenshot from "To Be Born"


“If you’re so pro-life, where are you for people after they’re born?”

It’s a challenge pro-aborts routinely pose to pro-lifers, the implication being that our concern for the unborn must be insincere because we don’t support this or that government program allegedly meant to help the poor, sick, or otherwise disadvantaged.

That theory is currently on display in Nebraska, as Republican senators are sharply divided on a bill “that would fund prenatal care for babies whose mothers may be in the country illegally.” Pro-life Republican Gov. Dave Heineman has pledged to veto the legislation, while pro-life Republican Sen. Mike Flood supports it “because it’s pro-life.”

And that raises the question of what pro-life means.

Is it just pro-birth?

Does it extend to life after birth?

If you’re pro-life, can other issues rise to the level of a higher concern?

Needless to say, what our country should do about illegal immigration is far beyond the scope of a pro-life website, but clearing up whether there’s a pro-life component to this particular bill is simple enough.

“Pro-life” simply means “supporting legal protection for every human being’s right to life, regardless of one’s stage of development.” Whether we should allow people who’ve entered this country illegally to stay and whether we should tax some people to pay for the health care of others are important questions, but they rest upon separate principles and circumstances, such as the rule of law and cost to taxpayers. Answering “no” to either question may be correct or incorrect, but in no way does it violate the right to life of anyone who stood to gain from a “yes” decision. There is no pro-life conflict or inconsistency to be resolved.

Further, pro-lifers not agreeing with pro-choicers on this or that unrelated issue, or not engaging this or that unrelated cause, is awfully weak grounds for questioning our motives. For one thing, plenty of pro-lifers do lend their time and money to various charitable causes; in fact, conservatives actually tend to be more charitable than liberals.

For another, you may have noticed that we live in a world of finite time and resources. Every hour you spend helping one person is an hour spent not helping someone else, and unless they’ve secretly figured out how to be in two places at once, the same holds true for pro-choicers. This is another issue in which our opponents hold us to a standard they don’t apply to anyone else, and for good reason:  if, say, somebody started yelling that soup kitchen volunteers were heartlessly neglecting the fight against breast cancer or that activists against animal cruelty don’t care about abused children, we’d all peg him as a nut right away.

We all naturally gravitate to certain causes over others, for various reasons. In pro-lifers’ case, we gravitate toward abortion because it’s the most egregious example we see of harming the defenseless, and unlike homelessness or cancer, abortion is actively supported by powerful people, demanding a persistent counter-force. Besides, it’s not as if we’re taking the easy route – how many other causes’ volunteers have to deal with being blamed for violence, subjected to violence, and routinely getting called every name in the book, including sexist and racist?

Apparently in the left’s eyes, the only way to truly be the “good kind” of pro-lifer is to stand for anything but the right to life.

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