In response to criticisms of conservative pro-lifers
Eddie Damstra | Thursday, April 19, 2018
A couple of weeks ago, a piece entitled “Pro-Life movement: Where were you?” was published in The Observer. Throughout the letter, the author argued that the Right to Life group on campus should have organized a cohort to attend the March for Our Lives, which took place in major cities to protest the current status of gun laws in America. The message of this piece more generally was that the pro-life movement should support gun control measures if it is to truly claim to be a voice for the preservation of human life. This letter is reminiscent of recent criticisms of pro-life groups often made by those on the left. These criticisms often claim that those in the pro-life movement who fail to support increased funding for certain social programs or fail to take liberal positions on certain public policy issues cannot claim to be truly pro-life.
The problem with these criticisms is that they seem to insinuate that policy issues such as healthcare or gun legislation possess a clear pro-life and anti-life divide. Those making these criticisms entirely oversimplify policy issues and assert that their position on the issues is the position which directly promotes life. Of course, for each of the public policy issues which liberals claim conservative pro-lifers take the “anti-life position” on, there is no such pro-life or anti-life distinction. The vast majority of public policy issues are not analogous to the issue of abortion because the central debate of these issues is not over the legality of terminating human life.
In most debates about public policy, the debate is not over the ends but rather the means. Nearly everyone wants to educate children and provide healthcare for people; people simply disagree over the manner in which to arrive at such goals. For example, being against single-payer healthcare is not somehow a position that conflicts with one’s claim to be pro-life. Instead, being against single-payer healthcare is simply rooted in a belief that there are better mechanisms to give quality healthcare to the general public.
On the other hand, the central debate contained within the issue of abortion is whether or not the taking of human life should be legal. In this debate, the ends are the thing being disputed. To be pro-choice is to be in support of the right to directly terminate human life in pursuit of a perceived securement of liberty. This is the desired end for a pro-choice sympathizer. Those who are pro-choice may attempt to argue that they are not in support of the freedom to terminate a human person, but they cannot deny that they are in support of the freedom to terminate human life. Conversely, those who are pro-life are in favor of directly protecting human life from being terminated and working to end the legality of such termination of human life. This is the desired end for a pro-lifer.
Parallels between abortion and essentially any other policy issue should not be made because no such parallels exist. Abortion is an entirely unique issue because the position one takes on the issue is dependent on whether one believes that the taking of human life should be legal or not. Besides the death penalty, to which pro-lifers should be opposed, there is no other public policy issue that involves this distinction.
The claim that being conservative and pro-life is somehow inconsistent is a rhetorical tool often utilized by those on the left to attempt to discredit the legitimacy of those in the pro-life movement. To be pro-life is to be against the termination of human life and to oppose the legal status of such a heinous act. To support the second amendment is to support the freedom for one to protect himself or herself. Being pro-life and supporting the second amendment or being pro-life and supporting conservative positions more broadly are not incompatible views.
However, I would also refrain from calling these views complimentary. Issues such as healthcare reform, school choice, gun policy and nearly any other issue should not be included in discussions of whether someone is truly pro-life or not. Rather, the determination of whether someone is truly pro-life should be based on where one stands on the legality of terminating human life. Therefore, all those who oppose abortion and its legal status, conservative and liberal alike, can — and should — validly claim to be pro-life.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.