Analogies between abortion and other “life issues” are shakier than we sometimes suppose.
Spend enough time arguing against abortion, and you’re certain to deal with accusations of hypocrisy and inconsistency. If you were really pro-life, critics say, there are other, outside-the-womb causes you would champion just as ardently.
In a 2004 interview with PBS host Bill Moyers, Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun and social activist, gave voice to this common complaint. “I do not believe,” she said, “that just because you’re opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
Does the pro-life movement have too narrow a focus? Recent Republican efforts to reform our health care laws have vaulted this question back into the spotlight. Opponents ripped the Republicans’ plans as depriving our most vulnerable citizens of health insurance coverage. And they wondered why pro-life conservatives in Congress would neglect going to bat for low-income women—those at greatest risk, in their desperation, of making an appointment with Planned Parenthood.
Both friends and foes are always urging pro-lifers to update their list of priorities. A genuine ally of unborn life, they might say, should also oppose the death penalty. Or lobby for restrictions on gun ownership. Or protest America’s wars. Or fight cutbacks to government programs. Or demand action on climate change. Some even lump campaigns against smoking …