GOP, I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life

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You tell me that you voted for Donald Trump for one reason: because you’re pro-life.

Despite everything you’ve seen and know about this man (much of which you openly lament), you say that you just can’t support someone who doesn’t share your burden, and that you’re voting solely this issue.

Life, you say is the ultimate deal breaker for you.

I wish that were true.

I actually don’t believe you’re pro-life, I believe you practice a far more selective and convenient defense of Humanity. From where I’m standing it seems as though “Life” for you, comprises a very narrow demographic—one that bears a striking resemblance to you. The unborn are easy to advocate for because you can idealize them into something palatable to you, something benign and comfortable, something in your own image.

You see, it’s not that you’re really pro-life, you’re pro-straight, white, Christian fetuses.

I can tell by how often your heavy burden for the sanctity of life evaporates upon delivery. In so many cases, any compassion you proclaim really has a nine-month expiration date, as if life begins at conception but ends upon leaving the birth canal. The completion of that third trimester is actually the shelf life of your passionate regard for much of the living.

Because if that life you say you so treasure, one day claims Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.

If that life eventually comes out as LGBTQ, you condemn its soul, harass it in your workplace and church, try to prevent its marriage, tell it where and when it can use a public bathroom. You bully it and drive it to suicide.

If that life is snuffed out by the handguns that you’ve funded and glorified and lobbied for, you offer “thoughts and prayers” and blame the media and mental illness and Liberals. 

If that life needs healthcare because its undeveloped heart can barely beat on its own, you’re suddenly empty of empathy and low on generosity—unless it can pull its own weight and pay the premiums.

If that life has brown skin and wears baggy pants and gets gunned down during a traffic stop, you not only have little grief over its loss, but readily blame it for its own execution.

If that life is strapped to a prison gurney and pumped full of drugs that will cease its lungs from expanding while its terrified mind comprehends it all, you celebrate the occasion as justice being served—after a last meal you resent having to pay for.

If that life has to endure its formative years in overcrowded, grossly underfunded public schools, you tell it to “pull itself up by its own bootstraps”, while nestled in the cloistered, privileged gated community of a Suburbia where bootstraps come with a birth certificate.

If that life has working parents who can’t make a living wage, you label it a lazy, unproductive drain on society always looking for handouts and trying to work the system to its advantage.

If that life doesn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables because it lives in urban areas where such things are scarce and financially prohibitive, you ridicule its obesity and sickness as signs of cultural overindulgence and gluttony.

If that life is sexually assaulted you want to blame it for its promiscuity and immodesty, and wonder why it didn’t just keep its legs closed and why it can’t just move on and why it is so easily offended by “locker room banter.”

If that life is one day sent overseas to defend liberties here; separated from spouses, children, and parents and placed directly in harm’s way, you’re far more cavalier exposing its vulnerability and far less concerned about whether or not it is sacred.

If that life doesn’t reside in the continental US or speak English and comes here fleeing oppression, poverty, and war you’ll never understand, you ask it to go back and “go through the proper channels”, instead of the barely sea-worthy makeshift raft or the stinking, stifling storage container it nearly died in trying to get here.

I wish you were pro-life, my friend—I really do.

I wish all human beings mattered as much to you as caucasian embryos do. I wish that when diverse children are thrust out into a violent, difficult, painful world; many enduring disadvantages, obstacles, and trials you will likely never experience—that you actually gave more of a damn about them.

Because if you did, Life would be far bigger to you.

You would want to do more than prevent abortions.

As vigorously, passionately, and loudly…

You’d want to prevent hunger and poverty.
You’d want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution.
You’d want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia.
You’d want less guns in streets and schools and homes.
You’d want kids in the “bad neighborhood” to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the “good neighborhood.”

You’d want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden.
You’d want those dreaming of coming to and contributing to this country to stay here.

You’d want religious freedom even for people who aren’t Christian.
You’d want LGBTQ people to live and work and worship and love as they desire.
You’d want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated.
You’d want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness.
You’d want to prevent violence and workplace termination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
You’d want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won’t have to replace their daily meals.

These might also be deal breakers for you.

I am a person of Life. That is what my faith calls me to be.

I don’t celebrate when a woman terminates a pregnancy (I honestly don’t know anyone who does), but my advocacy for life also goes well beyond the womb, and includes a far more diverse swath of Humanity than only those who look, speak, or worship the way I do. It includes immigrants and Muslims and Atheists and my enemies.

I wish we were partners in that wider affirmation of the living, because that would be cause of celebration and reason for hope and a visible sign of America’s greatness.

I am pro-all life because it is all sacred; not only when its heart begins beating, but as it beats and when it struggles to beat and up until it ceases to beat.

I defend all life equally. I celebrate it all fully. I protect it all passionately.

I really wish you did too.

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1,066 thoughts on “GOP, I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life

  1. Mr. Pavlovitz, last spring I wrote an essay which has been published and shared widely on the internet. You might be interested in it.

    “Here’s the truth.
    There is no such thing as “pro-life”. “Pro-life” is nothing but political rhetoric and I’ve actually heard a politician (a REPUBLICAN politician, no less) admit that.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to cut food stamps and make people starve.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to poison people’s drinking water for the sake of a dollar.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to cut healthcare out from under people and force them to die. Millions of people stand to lose healthcare if the ACA is repealed and as many as 40,000+ will die annually.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to send troops to die in foreign countries for wars of profit. Not defense, PROFIT. (The last REAL war we fought for defense was WW II.) And it’s not just troops that die. Over 150 million civilians have died in the middle East since 2003.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to block thousands of refugees (children among them) from coming into the country, dooming them to certain death in South America and Syria.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to block any regulation of guns. According to Kids Count, the single biggest killer of children under the age of 12 in the US is gun violence. An average of five children die in this country every day (over 1800 each year) from gunshot wounds.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to defund Planned Parenthood. As a result, in Texas, in a 2 year period, 22,000 extra unintended pregnancies occured. In Indiana, the largest outbreak of HIV in the country occured. In Kansas, the only clinic for poor women in the entire northwest part of the state was shut down. In all of the states that have defunded Planned Parenthood, STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are running rampant.
    “Pro-life” politicians are perfectly willing to outlaw abortion to the greatest extent they can. In the meantime, they cut Title X, WIC and TANF funds meant for prenatal care. The US now ranks 61st (down even lower from 57th in 2013) in the entire world for maternal mortality and 48th for infant mortality. SIXTY FIRST. There are developing nations with half of the resources and technology of the US doing a better job at keeping their pregnant and birthing women and infants alive.
    The real truth of the matter is that most people who claim to be “pro-life” aren’t. They aren’t even pro-fetus or pro-pregnancy. They are anti-abortion and pro FORCED pregnancy, even to the detriment of the woman carrying it.
    The United Nations just released a report that countries with strict anti-abortion laws contribute to the deaths of approximately 55,000 women per year.
    That’s NOT “pro-life”. There is no such thing as “pro-life”.”

    • My friend Scott Klusendorf replies:

      Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second story window and into the bushes below.

      The girl lived. Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles—and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. A pastor asked if time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator at a local parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from rich corporations. The local Congressman asked if Joe supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk.

      Joe just kept looking at the girl.

      The above story is contrived, but it’s played out in the real world every day. Only the issue is abortion. The minute you state your pro-life convictions, foes attack.

      Pastor John Pavlovitz is a case in point. According to Pavlovitz, you are not truly “pro-life” unless you engage a host of other issues “as vigorously, passionately, and loudly” as you do abortion. He wishes pro-lifers “actually gave more of a damn” about kids once they are born and that all human beings mattered to us “as much as Caucasian embryos do.” If you were truly pro-life, “you would want to do more than prevent abortions.”

      “You’d want to prevent hunger and poverty. You’d want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution. You’d want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia. You’d want kids in the “bad neighborhood” to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the “good neighborhood.” You’d want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden….You’d want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated. You’d want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness….You’d want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won’t have to replace their daily meals.”

      Suppose Pavlovitz is right about pro-lifers. What follows?

      Certainly nothing that refutes the essential pro-life argument. That argument goes like this:

      P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.

      P2: Abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings.

      Therefore,

      C: Abortion is wrong.

      So, all that is required to be “truly pro-life” is to speak and act as if abortion is wrong. That’s enough for me and it should be enough for any pro-life organization. Pavlovitz presents no argument for why pro-lifers must do more. Instead, he equivocates. He twists “pro-life” to mean quality of life for those outside the womb instead of protection of life for those still in. Then, he attacks pro-lifers as hypocrites for not exhausting their scarce resources fighting every injustice imaginable.

      This is slanderous. Why should anyone believe that because you oppose the intentional killing of an innocent human being, you must therefore take responsibility for all societal ills? Imagine saying to the American Cancer Society, “If you were truly against disease, you’d fight other illnesses as vigorously, as passionately, as loudly as you do cancer.”

      Or, consider the gall of telling Black Lives Matter, “You don’t care about Black lives, only those killed by police brutality. If you gave more of a damn, you’d actively defend all black lives, including those harmed by Islamic slave traders, drunk drivers, abortion, gang violence, black-on-black crime, malnutrition, and suicide. But you don’t. You only care about what’s easy for you—picking on white cops.”

      Indeed, why is Pavlovitz’s “whole-life” argument never used against other groups who target specific forms of injustice? If an after-school daycare program only receives inner-city kids from 3PM to 5PM weekdays, will Pavlovitz blast them for only caring about people during those hours?

      That he won’t is proof that he doesn’t believe his own argument. He just picks on pro-lifers.

      Moreover, Pavlovitz is mistaken when he says pro-lifers don’t care. According to Philanthropy Roundtable, religious conservatives are very generous. Meanwhile, pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) outnumber abortion clinics by large margins. They provide single moms abortion-alternatives, parenting classes, and baby clothes. According to research published in The Public Discourse, 2,300 PRCs serve 1.9 million women and their children every year. Unlike Planned Parenthood, PRCs can’t count on government money. They are funded largely by generous pro-lifers.

      Finally, Pavlovitz’s leveling attempts are mind-boggling. Are we to believe that denying someone a bigger paycheck is morally equivalent to dismembering a pre-born human being?

      If you think that, your moral compass is broken.

      Of course abortion isn’t the only issue, any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or killing Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of their day.

      Abortion intentionally kills a million innocent human beings every year. Given that brutal reality, pro-lifers are right to put greater emphasis on the lives of the unborn than the paychecks of the born. Demanding they do more is like telling an abolitionist in 1860, “You can’t be against slavery unless you address its underlying causes.”

      Slavery is wrong. Abortion is wrong. Neither statement requires further qualification.

      Opposing the intentional killing of innocent human beings in the womb is the very essence of what it means to be pro-life. As my colleague Dr. Marc Newman points out, “Individuals and organizations that make it their exclusive mission to save these human beings from a culture hell-bent on butchering them have nothing to apologize for. They don’t need additional causes; they need additional support.”

      I wish pastor Pavlovitz had the heart to step up and give it.

      • You don’t give a shit about the kid once it’s born.

        Your dumb little story is a piece of straw to justify your desire to punish women for daring to want control of their own lives rather than meekly suffer the penalties for sex.

        Because that’s what pregnancy is, to you: not a production of new life, but punishment for sin.

        You’d leave the girl in the fire because it’s her responsibility to get out of the burning building. You’d leave her there because it’s her punishment for failing to prevent the fire. Because you don’t think you share the responsibility for ensuring that the building is properly constructed so that everything is up to code (largely because you think building codes encourage irresponsible behavior in tenants). As the place burns, YOU would be the one talking about the fires of Hell and saving souls instead of lives.

        When Joe leaps out the window, you’d scold him for preventing the girl learning her lesson about playing with fire. Because, to you, she has to suffer third-degree burns and lose half her face to satisfy you that she has ‘learn[ed] her lesson.’ Oh, and she has to go into debt over her medical bills as part of her punishment.

        And you’d say that the desire for safe buildings is approval of arson.

      • Absolutely brilliant reply. Thank you for this.
        I am tired of hearing the same old regurgitated nonsense from pro-aborts because of their inability to intelligently defend their position.

      • Why do we celebrate the story of the Good Samaritan in the scriptures? Because he not only helped the man who had been robbed but he also took him to an inn and paid for his care. I agree that it is unrealistic for any one of us to be able to address every social condition that needs attention. We all fail in that regard.

        But I think the larger point is that “pro-lifers” could certainly put less energy into making life for so many more difficult once they are born. That’s where the hypocrisy comes in. Maybe you don’t need to work toward making it better but please stop making it worse.

      • You are completely correct that pro-lifers should not be criticized for a focus on one issue. No one can make everything a priority. However, I think you misunderstand the target of John’s arguments. He is not criticizing all pro-lifers, but he is criticizing the GOP and their hypocrisy. The party actively works against the least among us on almost every issue, while using abortion as a symbolic issue to draw true pro-life voters.

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  8. My friend Scott Klusendorf replies:

    Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second story window and into the bushes below.

    The girl lived. Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles—and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. A pastor asked if time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator at a local parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from rich corporations. The local Congressman asked if Joe supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk.

    Joe just kept looking at the girl.

    The above story is contrived, but it’s played out in the real world every day. Only the issue is abortion. The minute you state your pro-life convictions, foes attack.

    Pastor John Pavlovitz is a case in point. According to Pavlovitz, you are not truly “pro-life” unless you engage a host of other issues “as vigorously, passionately, and loudly” as you do abortion. He wishes pro-lifers “actually gave more of a damn” about kids once they are born and that all human beings mattered to us “as much as Caucasian embryos do.” If you were truly pro-life, “you would want to do more than prevent abortions.”

    “You’d want to prevent hunger and poverty. You’d want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution. You’d want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia. You’d want kids in the “bad neighborhood” to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the “good neighborhood.” You’d want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden….You’d want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated. You’d want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness….You’d want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won’t have to replace their daily meals.”

    Suppose Pavlovitz is right about pro-lifers. What follows?

    Certainly nothing that refutes the essential pro-life argument. That argument goes like this:

    P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.

    P2: Abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings.

    Therefore,

    C: Abortion is wrong.

    So, all that is required to be “truly pro-life” is to speak and act as if abortion is wrong. That’s enough for me and it should be enough for any pro-life organization. Pavlovitz presents no argument for why pro-lifers must do more. Instead, he equivocates. He twists “pro-life” to mean quality of life for those outside the womb instead of protection of life for those still in. Then, he attacks pro-lifers as hypocrites for not exhausting their scarce resources fighting every injustice imaginable.

    This is slanderous. Why should anyone believe that because you oppose the intentional killing of an innocent human being, you must therefore take responsibility for all societal ills? Imagine saying to the American Cancer Society, “If you were truly against disease, you’d fight other illnesses as vigorously, as passionately, as loudly as you do cancer.”

    Or, consider the gall of telling Black Lives Matter, “You don’t care about Black lives, only those killed by police brutality. If you gave more of a damn, you’d actively defend all black lives, including those harmed by Islamic slave traders, drunk drivers, abortion, gang violence, black-on-black crime, malnutrition, and suicide. But you don’t. You only care about what’s easy for you—picking on white cops.”

    Indeed, why is Pavlovitz’s “whole-life” argument never used against other groups who target specific forms of injustice? If an after-school daycare program only receives inner-city kids from 3PM to 5PM weekdays, will Pavlovitz blast them for only caring about people during those hours?

    That he won’t is proof that he doesn’t believe his own argument. He just picks on pro-lifers.

    Moreover, Pavlovitz is mistaken when he says pro-lifers don’t care. According to Philanthropy Roundtable, religious conservatives are very generous. Meanwhile, pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) outnumber abortion clinics by large margins. They provide single moms abortion-alternatives, parenting classes, and baby clothes. According to research published in The Public Discourse, 2,300 PRCs serve 1.9 million women and their children every year. Unlike Planned Parenthood, PRCs can’t count on government money. They are funded largely by generous pro-lifers.

    Finally, Pavlovitz’s leveling attempts are mind-boggling. Are we to believe that denying someone a bigger paycheck is morally equivalent to dismembering a pre-born human being?

    If you think that, your moral compass is broken.

    Of course abortion isn’t the only issue, any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or killing Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of their day.

    Abortion intentionally kills a million innocent human beings every year. Given that brutal reality, pro-lifers are right to put greater emphasis on the lives of the unborn than the paychecks of the born. Demanding they do more is like telling an abolitionist in 1860, “You can’t be against slavery unless you address its underlying causes.”

    Slavery is wrong. Abortion is wrong. Neither statement requires further qualification.

    Opposing the intentional killing of innocent human beings in the womb is the very essence of what it means to be pro-life. As my colleague Dr. Marc Newman points out, “Individuals and organizations that make it their exclusive mission to save these human beings from a culture hell-bent on butchering them have nothing to apologize for. They don’t need additional causes; they need additional support.”

    I wish pastor Pavlovitz had the heart to step up and give it.

    • Jody, I agree with a commentor upthread, Ann, who suggests that maybe you should call yourselves “anti-abortion” activists rather than “pro-life”, as anti-abortion is much more specific and accurate to what you are trying to achieve.

      By a pure definition, John Pavlovitz and I are “pro-life”: we support healthcare for all, a living wage, freedom from poverty and isolation, and an end to the marginalization and killing of non-whites/non-Christians/non-cis and straight people. We respect ALL life–not just that in the womb.

      Not sure what John’s personal thoughts on abortion are, but I personally frown on the practice and don’t like to see it happen. Yet, I believe the MOST effective ways to prevent abortion are less punitive than the authoritarian right-wing Fundamentalist model would have it. Outlawing abortion and forcing women to become wards of the state and incubators for babies they are not ready to either give birth to or raise is NOT the answer.

      In my and many other progressives’ opinion, the best ways to reduce abortions and ensure that it is not needed are the following:

      1) Education
      2) Contraception
      3) Economic empowerment

      If young women and young families had greater access to these three things, you’ll see abortion virtually disappear in this country–or at least become a rarity and an anomaly rather than a mainstay.

      But then again, authoritarians are never known for going for *effective* solutions, amirite?

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