what does it mean to be “pro-life”?

For a good number of us in the United States, the recent video of the Planned Parenthood official giving details about organs to be used for donation highlights for us the evil of abortion. Best case scenario in terms of the videos themselves, we consider this to be the taking of human life, the death of a baby in a womb which otherwise would have come to birth.

Last evening a Facebook share from an esteemed friend who seems often conservative in their politics, I found striking (as well as a bit surprising), and I shared it since I’m more in line with this way of thinking:

I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would you think that I don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there.

That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.

—Sister Joan Chittister
Benedictine Nun, Author and Speaker

Kirk Whalum on Instagram

I understand profoundly that there is a basic problem and issue with this statement. I know friends who are conservative Republican, some libertarian –and there are surely many– who do care about the poor. And many good works come from such. So this statement is a non-starter with them. And arguably the entire discussion may fall prey to the political issue before it even gets off the ground, which would be a shame.

What we need to grapple with is just what we’re facing as a nation and the factors involved. Of course the sexual revolution of the 1960s preceeded by a morality based on majority opinion with the blip being the needed resolve and sacrifice during World War II is undoubtedly an issue here. People think they can engage in sexual activity with no consequences as in no births. And the lie that the fetus is nothing more than a woman’s tissue in her body which she should be allowed to do with as she pleases. Of course there is mercy and forgiveness for all who have had abortions in and through Jesus.

There is the issue of how the poor should be helped. Some insist that the government should not be involved at all. In the United States, “we the people” are supposed to be the government. I’m afraid that has been no longer the case for some time due to “special interests,” the lobbyists, and to get more specific: corporations and banks. It seems to me that politics too often has become as much or more about getting wealthy as in serving the interests of the people who elected the politician.

But to the issue: I would argue that churches can’t do it all. And in fact overall seem to be doing not enough in their own neighborhoods. Many conservatives would likely argue that if the government would step aside and fulfill its calling, limited to Romans 13, than the church could step in along with private entities to help the poor. I think it’s not a question of either/or, but and/both. It seems to me that God judges every human society on how its people treat each other and especially how they treat the poor. Certainly for the church helping the poor among us as well as in society is a high priority on what we’re called to do.

If the poor are helped, then arguably there would be less abortions, which historically since Roe V Wade has supposedly been the case. And not only should the women in difficult places be helped so that they can give birth to the baby, but they should be helped to give the child a life in which the needs of the child along with opportunities to do well in life are in place. Encouraging as well, responsible choices on the part of everyone.

When I hear of pro-life as in some organization or candidate, I know it refers to abortion. That’s good, but not good enough. As someone aptly shared with me recently, if the money and effort to get “pro-life” candidates elected and Roe V Wade overturned would have instead been directed to efforts to help curb and eliminate underlying factors contributing to abortion, we may have reduced actual abortions significantly.

At any rate we should have this conversation. Even if we agree in the end to disagree. As followers of Jesus and as his church, we have the same goal: to see lives saved and people flourishing through the gospel to the glory of God.