Being Pro-life Means More Than Just Bringing A Baby To Birth | Opinion
By Rev. Alexander Santora
A reader sent me this statement: “Wouldn’t it be nice if ‘pro-lifers’ focused on suicide prevention? Or ending the death penalty? Or fighting poverty? Or curbing hungers? Or stopping gun violence and police killings? Or combating the opioid epidemic? Or ending wars?”
The term “pro-life” conjures up different things for different people. For some, it is simply to be anti-abortion and protect life in the womb at all costs. But another insight, which was prominently put forth by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, looked at life issues across humanity as a “seamless garment.” Then some would reject Bernardin’s take since it dilutes the pre-eminent life issue of bringing life in the womb to birth.
It is important to explore what and who are truly pro-life since in a political campaign it becomes a slogan that can motivate people. I believe abortion is morally wrong and that we should encourage women and couples to bring the baby to term. Even though Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, no one is required to abort and true pro-life organizations and supporters can keep that real choice front and center. How pro-life groups do that is part of the problem.
The struggle between newly formed feminism and the right to life has sparred for nearly five decades now. Feminist terminology won out and the baby in the womb was reduced to a fetus and the issue is no longer the life of the baby, but the life of the woman and her right to decide what is best for her own body. The two sides are as far apart now as they were at the inception of this debate.
The pro-life groups have become strident and broached no common ground with others making compromise out of the question. They believed that the immorality of the abortion lobby made their followers murderers and called them such. And this violent response turned people, especially women, off, enabling abortion to become the almost settled law of the land. The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to become a Supreme Court justice was made with the hope that a newly conservative majority on the court will overturn Roe. This philosophical logjam has animated many presidential contests, as it does today.
Trump, for example, who had been pro-choice, has conveniently become pro-life to win the support of Evangelicals, Catholics and other conservative religious folk. And his simple mouthing of a term that he allegedly cares little about is about raw political power. The GOP has peddled this view for decades. Sadly, the Democratic Party has become monolithic about its pro-abortion stand to the detriment of losing many religious people who would normally vote for them.
But here’s where Bernardin is as relevant today as when he first articulated his philosophy. Pro-life needs to take in account all aspects of life from womb to tomb. Yes, without life and birth, nothing else matters. But once there is life, there are many challenges along the way. Good schools in minority neighborhoods can affect a child’s future. Reducing poverty can help people lift themselves up. Affordable housing can reduce homelessness. The accumulation of obscene wealth by a few can render a precarious existence for the majority of people. Affordable health care can prevent people from contracting chronic illnesses. Released prisoners need help to get on their feet to prevent recidivism. Without support, senior citizens can lead lonely and poor lives in their last years.
These are just some of “seamless garment” matters to consider when any voter digests political stands. Does a candidate or a party really address pro-life issues or merely mouth terms? It is important to know a whole platform and not just cherry pick one issue. I am a Democrat and believe that my party is truly pro-life even though they fail on the pre-eminent issue of bringing a baby to term. I find that the party’s failure to welcome pro-life people even in a narrow sense has hurt it.
And as a Catholic, Biden needs to move the party to become more inclusive even if it means alienating some women supporters.
But the biggest challenge after this election is to try to bring people together to dialogue about the power of life. And I am sure this is just one of the hot button issues like race, policing, and health care that needs more common ground. A good president can unite and not divide. That may be the best approach to pro-life.
The Rev. Alexander M. Santora is a Hoboken resident.