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Defining pro-life

Letters to the Editor | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Congressman Joe Donnelly’s visit to the law school last week and the accompanying article in the Observer (“Donnelly expands pro-life definition,” Mar. 27) made the often-seen but critical error of expanding a definition to the point that it means everything – and therefore means nothing. Donnelly argued that school lunches, job creation, and welfare checks to pregnant mothers are just as much “pro-life” issues as abortion, embryo-destructive research, and euthanasia are.

There is a certain appeal to his logic, since one can easily see that kids who eat have a better life than kids who don’t eat, that families whose parents have jobs generally have better lives than those that don’t, and pregnant women who get government support may choose less abortion less than those that don’t. That appeal, however, evaporates when you take that logic to its conclusion. Are federal highway bills making highways more safe and efficient – thus preventing accidents and encouraging job creation – therefore “pro-life?” Are subsidies to farmers to grow corn “pro-life?” How about gun safety regulation? Warnings on cigarette cartons? Free trade (or protectionism)?

You can literally attach a “pro-life” moniker to every good or bad or medium-rare idea that a politician has using Donnelly’s definition. A “definition” with no limiting principle is no definition at all. Pro-life is a pretty general term if used in a vacuum, but in 2008, 35 years after Roe, 16 years after Casey, and in the context of the fight to preserve the right to live itself that has followed, it is not. It means ending abortion, euthanasia, and embryo-destructive research. It means stopping the destruction of life, not making those that are already here better.

Does that make Donnelly’s ideas wrong or evil? Certainly not. Maybe they are good ideas, maybe not. But they are not “pro-life” issues, and they should not be thrown up as being somehow equivalent or on the same scale of importance as those issues that are pro-life. Killing a child is not the same on the moral order as not feeding the child lunch. Supporting the Democratic Party today, whether in Congress or in the White House, continues to be a vote against the pro-life cause. A vote for a democrat is a vote for a House leadership that is intractably opposed to protecting life. House rules mean that the priorities of Pelosi’s leadership dominates – denying access for any pro-life bills to the floor. You can’t install a party leadership who believes in abortion as a matter of “reproductive justice” and a fundamental right and expect to have a pro-life direction.

Donnelly’s “nay” votes are admirable, but it was his vote for Pelosi that created the necessity for such a vote – and foreclosed the possibility of a “yes” vote on any life-protective laws. Same goes for voting for a pro abortion president, as Obama and Clinton have both promised nominees to the Supreme Court who will continue to enshrine Roe. Pro-life voters would do well to remember that in November.

Stephen Wallace

second year law student

off campus

Apr. 1