I’ve been thinking about the phrase “pro-life” for a while, and what that would really look like in the U.S. The phrase is currently used almost exclusively to mean anti-abortion, but if someone truly cares about protecting and preserving life, shouldn’t they also believe the following?
Abolish the death penalty. I mean, this one is pretty self-explanatory, right? How can you be pro-life and pro-execution at the same time? And that’s before you even get into the research suggesting that as many as 1 in 25 people sentenced to death in the U.S. are actually innocent.
Provide universal health care. Lack of health insurance increases your odds of dying. People argue it’s not the lack of insurance, but other factors causing the different outcomes. But a 2009 study found, “After additional adjustment for race/ethnicity, income, education, self- and physician-rated health status, body mass index, leisure exercise, smoking, and regular alcohol use, the uninsured were more likely to die.” You want to reduce those deaths? Make health care available to everyone.
Improve mental health care. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. We’re talking about 45,000 people who take their own lives every year. How much could we reduce those numbers if we did a better job funding mental health services and providing support to those who need it? Not to mention destigmatizing mental illness to eliminate the shame of asking for help.
Gun regulation/control. According to the FBI, there were more than 11,000 gun-related homicides in 2016. The per-capita rate of gun-related deaths in the U.S. is eight times higher than in Canada, and 27 times higher than in Denmark. There are countries with higher gun violence rates too, of course. But looking at gun death rates in Canada and China and the UK and Germany makes it clear we could greatly reduce those deaths in our own country…if we wanted to.
Reduce poverty. A 2011 study found that 4.5% of U.S. deaths were attributable to poverty. How many lives could we save by increasing the minimum wage, or by focusing tax breaks on the poorest segments of our population instead of the wealthiest?
Diplomacy first. If you’re pro-life, shouldn’t it go without saying that military conflict has to be a last resort?
Maintain and improve environmental standards and regulations. A 2013 study from MIT found that air pollution, primarily from vehicle emissions, causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. The reversal of environmental regulations in the U.S. is projected to cause thousands of unnecessary deaths in the coming years.
As for abortion… Personally, I don’t think it’s my place to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. But if you really want to reduce abortion rates? Provide free birth control. A 2012 study found that no-cost birth control for women dropped abortion rates between 62 and 78%. Provide comprehensive (not abstinence-only) sex education, which significantly lowers unwanted teen pregnancies. And hey, universal health care can also lower abortion rates.
There are a lot more “pro-life” issues and positions I could have listed, but hopefully this is enough to make the point. Shouldn’t pro-life mean actually trying to, you know, preserve and protect people’s lives?
Yet, in my experience, most people who claim to be pro-life aren’t terribly interested in most of these issues. Often, their positions are diametrically opposed. It’s almost like the pro-life label, as it’s commonly used, isn’t about being pro-life at all.
September 3, 2018 @ 1:32 pm
So on the diplomacy first piece. Most military folks I know, along with foreign service reps and others believe in Diplomacy first. War is what happens when diplomacy fails. Which can occur pretty frequently if you’ve got sociopaths, egomaniacs in charge of a nation. You provide some good evidence for what you specifically mean for the other areas but not so much for that one. Can you explain more about what you mean?
September 3, 2018 @ 1:53 pm
Most Basic, Currently most “Pro-Life” lawmakers are only “Pro-Fetal-Life”, after the kids born they don’t care if the kid has food, healthcare, a roof over their head, or even a sufficient foster system. Most of them are only putting in the bare minimum for their constituents, and may of those claiming to be pro lifers, don’t seem to understand the distinction between the two.
September 3, 2018 @ 2:35 pm
I’ve seen several people rename it “pro-forced birth”
September 3, 2018 @ 5:04 pm
For all its many faults, the Catholic Church is the one “pro-life” organization I’ve seen that is consistent in backing many of the other points above. Of course, it and many of the others calling themselves are “Pro-fetal-life” (thanks Anon!) to the point of thinking the mother’s life is worth less, which I find abhorrent, but at least the Church is against the death penalty and for feeding the poor and providing healthcare.
September 3, 2018 @ 7:58 pm
Most of the pro-life people I know are behind these other aspects of supporting life as well (though in NZ you can take some of these for granted). But possibly that’s because they’re pro-life as a matter of conviction, not because it’s a traditional part of a fixed set of political viewpoints. Not being American may have a lot to do with this.
Incidentally, while you point out that it’s not your place to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, isn’t that exactly what the government does do, by setting a point past which abortions cannot take place? The dictated line between right and responsibility is still there, it’s just in a different place.
September 3, 2018 @ 10:33 pm
I think you’re confusing lack of support for ever-increasing government-provided social services with lack of support for people in need. There are other ways to help people and solve problems than to always increase the size and scope of government, you know. Religious charities have been prominent in providing all sorts of social services, for thousands of years, so I think it’s a total mischaracterization to claim that pro-life people don’t care about people once they’re born. People who are pro-life also run adoption agencies, foster care, schools and daycare, soup kitchens and homeless shelters, hospitals and other healthcare providers, hospices, support for people in prison or just coming out of it, disaster response, and a thousand other ways to try to help people. You can argue that we should do more, that the scope of the problems requires more than private charity, but to say we’re not interested in anything other than telling women “what they can and can’t do with their bodies” is pure demagoguery.
September 3, 2018 @ 10:50 pm
Religious charities have never been equal to the task of providing the level of help that even a much smaller society needs; the most basic skimming of history shows that. Furthermore, there is one very good reason for offloading the bulk of such assistance onto a government. It’s called “economies of scale”. The government has more purchasing leverage than even the largest private or religious charity; and perhaps more to the point, the government does not need to make a profit on the process. Econ 101.
I am willing to allow the statement that #notallprolifers are opposed to the things Jim describes. But again, the most cursory reading of current events is ample to display that a great many of them — including, critically, the leaders of the movement — are, and are far more invested in making sure that women do not have the ability to make their own decisions about sex and health care. To claim otherwise is disingenuous.
September 4, 2018 @ 9:25 am
If only more people spent time doing this kind of thinking, the world would be a better place.
September 4, 2018 @ 10:31 am
With respect, there are people who believe that regardless of what happens to a person later in life, their right to that life is sacrosanct. Until a person has life, there are no other options possible. As Americans, their right to have that opinion is no less true than someone of the opinion that a person should have control over their body at the cost of someone else’s life.
You are correct, we have a lot of work to do to make the world a better place.
September 5, 2018 @ 1:21 am
Slacktivist blogger Fred Clark has pointed out that conservative Protestants didn’t object to abortion until it became a useful political tool (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/10/29/revisionist-memory-white-evangelicals-have-always-been-at-war-with-abortion/ among other posts). When I was a teenager they’d have defined “pro life” differently.
September 5, 2018 @ 6:49 am
Fraser – It’s always nice when you can find an excuse to dismiss people who disagree with you without actually considering their arguments, isn’t it? Pro-life people have similar stories about ulterior motives on the part of people who support abortion rights. I find those stories much more compelling, but then, I would.
September 5, 2018 @ 9:05 am
I feel safe pointing out here that (as you imply) SOME “pro-life” people do believe and support the points outlined. My wife is a compassionate, diplomatic geek who also happens to believe that abortion is tantamount to murder. She’s smart, and “woke”, and a strong ally to our just, liberal causes. But the issue of abortion is where she is too often maligned by people who otherwise would embrace her as “one of us”. Thanks for keeping your post civil, Jim, while not easing up on the more hypocritical folks out there.
September 5, 2018 @ 3:02 pm
Just about every person I know and respect who is against abortion as a concept has long since left the pro-life *movement* because of this kind of hypocrisy, even if they held firm that all abortion is always murder.
Some have even gone far enough to join the pro-choice movement because they realized that universal health care, free contraception and actual sex ed were indeed useful in actually reducing abortion — and that there were certain specific cases where they had to agree it was the best of a lot of bad choices. You don’t have to like abortion or think it’s a good idea to agree with someone else’s bodily autonomy.
I also keep wondering at the mentality that seems to think forcing a child on someone who is not ready and willing to raise it is a suitable punishment **even if** you think the mother is immoral and deserves some kind of punishment, as it’s mostly the innocent child who actually suffers.
(Although I have also met a person who pretty much insisted that sex ed, contraception, abortion and single mothers were *all* reprehensible. I could not get through to him that you have to pick support for at least one to have any possible good outcome. He was also insistent that it was a new issue caused by feminism, and I suspect he would have thought the Irish “orphanages” for out of wedlock kids, where even the survivors were documentably underfed and ill-treated, and a lot of infant bodies in the detached septic tanks underneath, were a conspiracy theory.)
September 6, 2018 @ 8:29 pm
‘Pro-Choice’ means women can bear children if they want. There are no forced abortions in the movement.
On the other hand, ‘Pro-Life’ parents raising ‘Pro-Life’ daughters are quite willing to force their daughters to have abortions.
Look up ‘The Only Moral Abortion is Mine.’