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.