A recent debate that has captured my attention concerns the distinction between the terms pro-life and anti-abortion, and what these words truly mean. This is not an entirely recent topic (for example, Planned Parenthood is known to only refer to pro-lifers as anti-abortionists), but in the last few months it has been more widely discussed on social media platforms, perhaps most likely due to the upcoming election. Posts from left-wing activist groups or celebrities have tried to define from their perspective what they believe the term pro-life means, and it is nowhere near what it has meant since the 1970s.
This trend of reshaping language to support a particular political agenda has been common for centuries, but it seems especially prevalent in the present age. Catholics must be informed and intentional enough to understand what is happening and to stand up for the truth.
Pro-life has long been understood by Catholics to mean upholding the God-given right to life, from conception until natural death.
Practically, being pro-life means taking a strong stance against abortion, euthanasia and, especially here in the United States, the death penalty.
The main focus of the pro-life movement from its inception was to fight the legalization of murder of the most vulnerable humans in our country — the unborn and the elderly.
The recent backlash against the pro-life movement has centered primarily on what many deem a too-narrow focus. If you are against abortion, many liberal activists argue, then call yourself anti-abortion. Otherwise, if you label yourself pro-life, that means something different.
Recent social media posts reflect the definition of pro-life to include any kind of issue that they believe deals with the betterment of life — “climate justice,” universal healthcare, higher minimum wage and open borders are some examples.
The pro-life movement is about upholding the dignity of all lives: the unborn, the disabled, the poor and the vulnerable. That has never changed.
Pro-life centers across the country assist expectant mothers and aid them with resources after their child’s birth. Christians throughout the centuries have reached out to the most poor and vulnerable in society with a helping hand. Since when have pro-lifers never been concerned with these matters?
Being told by the left to support specifically non-conservative policies in order to prove we believe in the dignity of every human person is absurd. Universal healthcare, higher minimum wage and other issues are not fundamental aspects of the pro-life movement. Those issues, as most informed politicians understand, carry also a significant amount of controversy and harmful consequences.
Neither controversy nor harmful consequences should be involved in the pro-life movement.
That’s not to say you cannot support any of those issues and be pro-life as well; however, it is not a requirement. Almost any law can be argued to have the intention of the betterment of life — how else would it pass through Congress or the state legislatures?
At the end of the day, there are many opinions on what laws to pass in order to promote better lives in this country. Political preferences and opinions are irrelevant in this discussion— murder, one would hope, surpasses any personal opinion.
The pro-life movement deals with the life and death of those humans who can in no way protect themselves. It is a much graver issue, and thus it is ludicrous to me to say that something such as “climate justice” can be discussed with the same gravity as abortion. One is political, the other is immoral.
No pro-life American, and specifically pro-life Catholic, should ever be told what to believe by those who support the killing of unborn children.
Where is our strength, resilience and adherence to the truth? We cannot be so easily swayed to change our beliefs when told to do so by those who do not believe in upholding the dignity of human life. So no, Planned Parenthood and other similar groups, I am not merely “anti-abortion” or a “forced-birther” or any of the other terms put out as an attempt to reduce the significance of the abortion issue. I am pro-LIFE.