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Pro-Life? Prove It

Clarence Thomas Supreme Court
Sonny Perdue is sworn in as the 31st Secretary of Agriculture by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with his wife Mary and family April 25, 2017, at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.. Photo by Preston Keres

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, one thing is certain: more children will be born in America. Pro-choice advocates argue that criminalizing abortion in some states will drive women to the “back alley” (and they may be right), but we can still expect another 75,000 children born in the first year alone. As low-income women are five times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy as wealthy ones, the large majority of these new children will need help to have any chance at a good life.

Now that the Pro-Life community has won (at least for now) let me put a challenge to the victors. All this time, have you really been “Pro-Life?” Or have you just been anti-abortion? If you are Pro-Life, prove it. Advocate for the services – which, right now, are pitiful – that the post-Roe children will desperately need.

Doing so will prove your efforts for the last 50 years were rooted in a sincere desire to protect children. For the religious Christians who dominate the Pro-Life movement, it will prove that Jesus’ words were the motivation.

Failure to advocate for those services will prove it was all empty rhetoric. Jesus’ teachings, or a belief in the inherent value of every human life were not the motivation; something more sinister was.

America’s reality is that the services available to low-income mothers and children are already woefully inadequate. The weight of all these new children will cause them to collapse. America, for instance, already has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, twice that of Canada’s. The worst care goes to the low-income women most likely to be affected by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

A true Pro-Lifer, then, would demand more money for training OBGYNs and strong incentives for OBGYNs to serve in low-income communities.

Low-income kids are also subject to our terrible child protective services (CPS) and foster care systems. California, for instance, admitted that the crush of children in its care and severe staffing shortages have led to an “unacceptable” situation, with children forced to sleep on concrete floors and urinate in bottles. Even that is better than West Virginia, whose foster system ran out of foster families and had to start shipping children out of state, leading to diminished oversight and horrible cases of abuse.

A true Pro-Lifer would find a system allowing child abuse anathema and would demand a CPS system that does not leave children to suffer.

The list goes on. Sixteen percent of American children – or 11.6 million kids – live in poverty. Nearly 15% don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Twenty million kids lack access to healthcare. These aren’t luxuries these children lack; they are necessities, without which they doomed to failure. What’s more, these are issues that money can fix. The Pro-Life community has the political power to deliver solutions.

Conservatives may argue it was the parents’ irresponsibility that put kids in such straits. I disagree, but even the most strident conservative cannot argue it is the child’s fault that the parent was irresponsible.

Similarly, conservatives may argue that these new children are not their responsibility. After all, these conservatives did not choose to have unprotected sex, and these aren’t their kids. Such a response, however, is not only illogical – people have responsibility for that which they have created, and these new children would not be born save for the Pro-Life community’s efforts – but also flies contradicts basic Christian teaching.

The Bible is clear: we have responsibility for each other. Take Matthew 25:40, when Jesus says “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Conversely, he says in Matthew 25:45, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Or take Mark 10:21; there, a wealthy student asks Jesus what he can do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ response? “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

For a movement led by observant Christians, failure to follow Jesus’ essential teachings would be hypocritical at worst and ignorant at best.

I am Jewish and Pro-Choice, so the Christian Pro-Life movement may fairly ask why it should listen to my lecture. Yet one of the things I admire most about Christianity is its adherents’ desire, from the earliest days, to live their lives as exemplars of Jesus’ teaching. As St. Paul wrote to Timothy (likely around 80 A.D.) “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith.”

One way or another, the self-described Pro-Life community will reveal its character in coming years. Either it will advocate for children after they’re born, or it will leave children to fend for themselves. Its actions will tell us whether anti-abortion activists were truly “Pro-Life,” or whether the Pro-Choice community was right about them all along.

Neal Urwitz is a public relations executive in Washington with a background in religious studies.

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Neal Urwitz is a public relations executive in Washington with a background in religious studies.