The Elephant In the Pro-Life Room

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Dear fellow Pro-Lifers, please stop making it so hard to defend the Pro-Life movement.

It’s been two years since the first Women’s March and two years since I wrote Time To Change the Conversation. I wish I could say that things have gotten better. Instead, I find myself increasingly frustrated with a movement I desperately want to be a part of with a hypocrisy that gnaws at me every time I open my social media.

To say that these frustrations are new would be disingenuous. I have spent the better part of my adulthood growing more and more frustrated with a growing divide between the pro-life and pro-choice sides of the abortion debate. A divide, which in my opinion, defies all logic.

My frustrations from the last twelve months started in February with the Parkland shooting and then a couple months later at Santa Fe High School. I’m a high school teacher and both events shook me to the core. I read stories about teachers who put their lives on the line to protect their students and I wanted to say that I would do the same. But then I had to pause, because the honest truth was that, while I would probably do the same for my students and I would want my kids’ teachers to say the same for my own children, I don’t want that to ever be necessary. I said it over and over again on social media in the months following both shootings: I don’t want to have to decide between saving my students and forcing my own children to grow up without a mother.

The debate about school safety and security exploded, some calling for more guns and some calling for extremes in gun control and many more saying that there had to be a better way that was somewhere in the middle. After all, it isn’t just schools that aren’t safe from gun violence: just months before a madman had killed 58 people and left more than 500 others injured from gunshot wounds and injuries inflicted by the panicked escape from an outdoor concert venue in Las Vegas. We’ve seen shootings at workplaces and movie theaters and so many more place. When I wrote my THRED piece about the issue of gun violence, I wasn’t calling for repeal of the 2nd Amendment; I was calling for a reasonable, researched discussion that looked at everything and sought a pro-active, not reactive solution.

And ironically I saw pro-life gun rights activists making the same arguments about guns as pro-choice gun control activists make concerning abortion. As I watched my friends on both sides of the issue argue with each other about the best possible solution, I shook my head, wondering how they could both completely miss the irony of their statements, fully cognizant that this irony was hurting a pro-life movement that I want to believe in.

Then the summer months brought us videos of families legally turning themselves in to border patrol agents at the southern United States border, only to have children indefinitely separated from parents and guardians at the border. While yes, this was not a new practice, the volume of families being separated grew beyond what officials at the border could handle, leading to traumatized children receiving mediocre care with no official timeline for when they would see their families again. Months after a federal judge ordered that the families be reunited, there are still record numbers of children in detention centers along the border states.

And yet I saw so many “pro-life” people on my social media feed saying that parents were asking to have their children taken from them because they were choosing to circumvent official immigration procedures by claiming asylum instead. Instead of using the “you play, you pay” mentality in reference to why women shouldn’t need abortions because they should know better if they choose to have sex, they were applying the same mindset to families that were separated at the border. With proper assistance from lawyers, judges, and social workers, these individuals could be vetted to be productive United States citizens. Instead, the situation at the border is heaping more trauma onto families who have been through enough already.

And then I watched the events unfold around the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. By the end of the hearing, I was honestly less concerned about whether or not he actually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were in high school and more concerned with the effect the hearing was having on women around the country. I watched friends, classmates, and acquaintances bare their souls and share their stories about sexual harassment and assault, only to be told “I’m sorry that you went through that but it doesn’t matter to us whether or not Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault in high school (and we don’t believe his accuser is trustworthy anyway) because he is our best hope in a generation to overturn Roe V. Wade.” The pro-choice movement saw this attitude as proof that abortion foes didn’t care about women and used it as fuel for their own pro-choice rhetoric, and I couldn’t blame them for doing so.

And now there are the events that unfolded after the recent March For Life in Washington D.C. Initial video surfaced which appeared to present irrefutable evidence that a group of young men from a Catholic high school were taunting and harassing a group of Native Americans who were also in D.C. for the Indigenous Peoples March. And while more has been released regarding the event over the last couple days, information that makes the situation more nuanced than it initially appeared, the whole incident still makes my blood boil. Because you can’t look at the incident from this past weekend as a single incident taking place in a vacuum. The young men were wearing MAGA hats, and as Rachel Held Evans posted in her Twitter account, “many of us consider [that] a symbol of intimidation and white supremacy.” That is not because I believe that all who wear those hats ascribe to a philosophy of white supremacy, but because over the past couple years, that symbol has been tied over and over again to white supremacist behavior and gatherings. Combine that with the incendiary tweets from our president just a week ago concerning Elizabeth Warren, and it is easy to understand why people initially responded the way that they did. 

Unfortunately for those young men, they have to deal with the reality of living in a digital age where everything and anything they do can be captured on video and posted to the internet. And yes, we should look at the entire video before judging, but that doesn’t change the smirk that I saw on his face. That doesn’t change the “Build that wall” chants by his peers. That doesn’t change the fact that his adult chaperones didn’t step in and pull him away. And the pro-life movement, instead of unequivocally standing up for the young man, needs to own all of the above concerning that incident, because it is about more than bad optics, it’s about the possible future face of the pro-life movement.

I believe in the sanctity of all life, from womb to tomb. Yes, I want to see an end to abortion, but that cannot and should not be the end of the discussion. So this is what I want to say to my fellow “pro-lifers”: You say that you defend life, but

  • What if that baby that became a child with a genetic disorder that needed hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical treatment? Will you protect his parent’s right to seek the very best treatment without going into bankruptcy and support reforms to a broken health care system that causes this to happen on a daily basis?
  • What if that baby grows up to live in life-threatening housing conditions? Will you fight for his parents to have access to safe affordable housing, or will you blame his parents for their impoverished condition?
  • What if that baby grows up in a family that needs to resort to food stamps for survival? Will you fight for her parents to have access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food and nutrition, or will you complain about those on food stamps being a drain on our tax dollars?
  • What if that baby grows up to be a refuge seeking asylum in the United States? Will you defend her right to not only gain entrance into the United States but also to fully integrate her into American society while allowing her to maintain the basic tenants of her faith and culture?
  • What if that baby grows up to become one of the one in four young women who will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime? Will you believe her and help her seek justice, or will you defend her attacker instead?

I want to be a part of a movement that defends the lives of all. I don’t want to have to keep explaining to my pro-choice friends why the only lives pro-life advocates seem to be concerned about are the lives of the unborn. I want to be able to get rid of the unspoken question constantly on my lips: How can you expect me to vocally and effectively defend the right of the unborn to live when you refuse to defend the right of the born to have a life?

If we want to save the lives of the unborn, we need to show the pro-choice movement that this is an issue of all life, not just the womb. You want to change the world? It’s time to inspect the plank in our own eye first.