Everyone’s a Critic (of Pro-Life Efforts)
Some things in life are just so predictable.
The fact that my kids will ask for a snack literally twelve minutes after breakfast.
And the same old tired rhetoric that loftily makes its worn-out rounds whenever pro-life issues begin to get too much airtime (meaning whenever it gets any airtime.)
We saw it again this past weekend with the annual March for Life. For some reason, at times like these many critics seem absolutely compelled to share their concern over the supposed hypocrisy and short-sightedness of the pro-life cause.
Again and again and again.
- Condescending rants about how, unless the pro-life movement uses the March for Life to address victims of other injustices, it will never be taken seriously.
- Impassioned posts where writers implicitly tear down the March for Life by clarifying that their “pro-life perspective” includes basically every people group on the planet (except, it would seem, the preborn, who don’t even receive a mention.)
- Haughty verbosities in which writers indulge in self-congratulatory affirmations of their own consistent value of all life while at the same time patronising pro-life “friends” with wishes that they really were as pro-life as they say they are.
The bottom line to all of these predictable responses is this basic assertion: you may only stand up for your anti-abortion beliefs once you have shown the same level of concern and activism for the victims of all other injustices.
Disappointing, but not surprising.
And yet for all their “concern” for the pro-life movement, these individuals apparently don’t feel the need to issue fervent appeals to other movements and causes. The Women’s March actively excluded pro-life groups, and yet where were the emotional declarations that, unless the Women’s March showed concern for all women, including pro-life women, it would never be taken seriously? Why do these individuals not call out #BlackLivesMatter for being exclusively concerned with black lives? Or the anti-human trafficking movement for being exclusively concerned with victims of trafficking? Where are their appeals for a widening of the net of inclusion when these movements and causes are in the spotlight? The fact is, they issue no such appeals; to the contrary, they get behind and endorse these causes.
With the exception of the pro-life movement, everyone seems to recognise that it is ok for a cause to focus on just one thing. Indeed, it is necessary for groups to have a focal point so as to actually be effective.
#BlackLivesMatter is about black lives, not Syrian lives. Awesome.
Anti-human trafficking groups are about rescuing victims of trafficking, not providing access to clean water in third-world countries. Absolutely.
The anti-abortion movement is about rescuing preborn children from death by abortion and providing care and support for the mothers of these children. Nope, not allowed.
For some reason, we are rebuked for not spreading already thin resources over a wide variety of injustice issues.
Perhaps these predictable responses can be explained by four things.
Firstly, at the root of these criticisms is a fundamental failure to recognise the preborn as valuable human beings, equal to all victims of all other injustices. Many of the individuals making these criticisms call themselves Christians. Many of them would identify themselves as being pro-life (although I imagine that their version of a pro-life ethic would come down to the popular, but very feeble, “I don’t personally agree with abortion, but I would never impose my views on others.) And yet the only time I notice them referring to pro-life issues is when they decry the efforts of actual pro-life people. The point is this: if the preborn were recognised as human beings deserving of dignity, just like Black lives, Muslims, immigrants, and homosexual individuals, there would be no problem with allowing a movement dedicated to them as a group of victims.
Secondly, I believe that the hesitancy of many to support the March for Life, indeed their swiftness to actually disparage it, comes from a genuine care for women that has not been coupled with an equally genuine care for preborn children. The assertion that abortion kills preborn children naturally makes us uncomfortable because we know that many of the women hearing it have been touched and damaged by abortion. How will they feel when they are reminded of their past actions?
It is good to care about the feelings of women, we must care about their feelings. But our concern for women’s feelings cannot displace our concern for preborn lives. When this displacement happens, love does not trump hate but rather (and much more tragically), women trump children.
Thirdly, many people no longer have a clear understanding of what “pro-life” really means. Perhaps it would be helpful to shift our terminology slightly. Instead of the more generic “pro-life”, I am of the opinion that we should move to embrace the more specific “anti-abortion” label, leaving no doubt as to what the focal point of our movement is.
“We’re against abortion. I think it’s much simpler. It gets across what we’re about in a faster way. It’s already a bad thing. To say you’re against it is OK. I am anti-smoking. I’m anti-sex trafficking. I’m anti-drunk driving. And yes, I’m anti-abortion.” Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life
Finally, it would seem that these critics don’t actually interact meaningfully with many of the people that they are so quick to criticise. If they did, they would realise that their generalisations of “pro-life people are only pro-birth” could not be farther from the truth. These critics often challenge their readers to interact with people who have a different lifestyle, religion, or ethnicity in an effort to understand them and create more unity. This is a good idea, and it’s true: we should all be concerned about the routine devaluing of people who are different from the majority; we should all try to understand the perspective of these devalued people.
But I would ask if these advisors taking their own advice? Do they interact meaningfully with real, active, anti-abortion people? I find it hard to believe that they do, otherwise, they would know that the majority of anti-abortion individuals are pro-ALL-life precisely because they are passionately pro-PREBORN-life.
Yes, true, CONFESSION: we all act hypocritically at times, pro-lifers included. Also, to be sure, anti-abortion individuals are not above questioning when what they speak doesn’t seem to match up with what they live. But to call out any perceived hypocrisy only when the spotlight is directed toward the struggle to rescue the lives of preborn children cheapens and dismisses an entire movement. To aim to detract from legitimate pro-life efforts is to become part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Until these critics value and speak out for our very youngest, smallest, and most defenceless human beings (as they do for other victims) all their words about all the other victims of all the other injustices will ring empty.