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D.C. group advocates for life

God, Country, Notre Dame | Monday, November 4, 2013

I, along with a group of fellow Notre Dame students, traveled to Washington, D.C., just in time for the grand reopening of the federal government. Together we drove to the capitol for an immersive look into issues regarding life and bioethics by meeting with various non-profit advocacy groups located in and around the D.C. area.
Regardless of the field, many advocacy and non-profit organizations tend to focus on one aspect or particular issue in order to realistically have a tangible effect in the organization’s particular service capacity or focus area. Organizations dealing with life issues are no exception. Many organizations exist that choose a particular issue regarding an aspect of life and seek to affect a positive change in the respect and dignity of human life in that area. Some organizations focus on establishing peace by fighting for an end to war and violence, while others focus on providing food to the hungry. Other organizations advocate an end to capital punishment, while others help care for people with disabilities. Some organizations look to eliminate racism, while others focus on aiding the impoverished. There are also organizations that focus on issues protecting the beginning of life in its early stages, while others look to defend life nearing its end. 
I learned that many “Pro-Life” organizations have been accused of not being pro-life but rather “anti-abortion” or simply “pro-birth.” Accusers cite that the organizations spend unimaginable time protesting Roe v. Wade, going to abortion clinics and engaging in sidewalk counseling, volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers and encouraging women to choose life for their baby.          However, these organizations fail to give much attention to other life issues including, but not restricted to, war, genetic testing, poverty, eugenics, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia. First, in response to these accusations, I would say that the pro-life organizations are not just “anti-abortion” or “pro-birth.” These pro-life organizations do uphold the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, which includes upholding the respect for human life in all life issues that I have already mentioned and those that I have left out as well. Second, while these may be tough accusations for us who are pro-life to hear, especially those involved in pro-life groups and outreach, these accusations do present us with a good reminder of all that being pro-life entails.
 The message of one of the organizations that our group met with in Washington reiterates this point for us. “Consistent Life” is an organization that enacts its mission of being “committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today’s world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia. We believe that these issues are linked under a ‘consistent ethic of life’. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation and respect in protecting the unprotected.” “Consistent Life” exists as a networking organization for pro-life groups across the spectrum and stands to advocate the dignity of every human life on a vast scope. One notable member of the organization is our very own Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.
For Catholics, the consistent life ethic is a part of the Catholic Social Teaching and the beliefs regarding the sanctity of every human life described in Blessed John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae. This consistent life ethic was popularized under the title “Seamless Garment of Life” by Cardinal Bernardin. This message also echoes the words and actions of Pope Francis as the Holy Father has called all believers to deepen our love and respect for life. Pope Francis has done so by emphasizing service to people with disabilities, people in poverty, people who are hungry and all other people who are marginalized. Our Pope still maintains that we are to protect the unborn lives and those nearing death, but he acknowledges that life issues are not limited to standing against abortion and euthanasia. Rather, being pro-life can’t just be a complacent personal decision or a way we vote, but being pro-life entails building a culture of life through the ways in which we treat others, through the decisions that we make and through the way we ultimately decide to live each day, as children of God in a world and society that holds and advocates a culture of death. 
Evidence of this great disparity of the culture of death in our society is made visible in our nation’s polarizing two-party political system. One side holds a great importance of the social welfare by giving governmental aid to the poor and needy while at the same advocating abortion and euthanasia. The other side holds a great importance in protecting life at the beginning and ends of life, yet often fails to stress the importance of helping the marginalized in society. Both sides seem to be okay with the death penalty and war. How are we supposed to coexist with this system when we believe in dignity and respect for all human life in all circumstances? We must stay steadfast in our hope in God’s promise that life will defeat death and good will defeat darkness. 

   Carter Boyd is a sophomore studying science-business. He can be reached at
cboyd1@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.