Phi Beta Cons

I’m Pro-Life Because I Recycle!

The unexamined clichés of the religious Left never fail to amuse. Whenever pro-lifers mobilize (such as in response to Obama’s honorary degree and commencement speech at Notre Dame), two lame responses always follow. The first is the canard, “Pro-lifers stop caring about the baby as soon as its born.”  And the other is, “Yes, I’m pro-life, but I’m pro-life in the fullest possible sense . . . I care about everything that makes our lives good.”

Yesterday’s Inside Higher Ed contains a classic of the genre. Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, writes about the “real scandal” at Notre Dame. Describing the protesters, she says: “They defend the rights of the unborn but have no charity toward the living.”

Does she have a shred of evidence to support these claims? Does she know anything at all about the individual protesters? Some variation of this leftist talking point has been repeated so often that even pro-lifers internalize the critique, wringing their hands and exclaiming, “Yes, yes, we need to love the living more.” But what about the evidence? Has it ever been the case that pro-life Christians care more about the unborn than the born?  

Of course not. In fact, religious conservatives are among the most generous — if not the most generous — Americans when it comes to giving their money or their time. And are they giving all that money to pro-life causes? Hardly. I work at perhaps the largest pro-life religious conservative legal organization in the world, but our budget is less than 3 percent of that of one of the largest Christian relief organizations. It has never been the case that pro-life Christians only care for unborn children. To say otherwise is slander.

But McGuire is hardly done. She moves on to perhaps a classic statement of the religious Left’s view of what it really means to be pro-life:

Catholicism is not a one-issue faith. The social justice teachings that are central to our Church’s moral construction demand that we act in defense of the sacred dignity of all human life, from conception through salvation. Ours is a faith that demands peace and decries unjust war even as we demand that the unborn child have a right to live — not mere life, but a life that can realize the full potential of the Creator’s divine plan as a matter of justice. Ours is a faith that is profoundly intolerant of racism and the exploitation of women, of poverty and the violence that economic injustice spawns. Ours is a faith that demands a more just sharing of the world’s resources, more pervasive global education to remediate the illiteracy that condemns children to repeat the cycles of poverty of prior generations. Ours is a faith that finds the use of torture for any reason an abhorrent offense against life. Ours is a faith that calls each member to take the option for the poor, to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters on this planet, to exercise the responsibilities of our citizenship fully, to honor the rights and dignity of workers, to be moral stewards of God’s creation — all in the name of life. This is what it really means to be “pro-life.”

Ahh yes, you’re against abortion, but it’s just as important to fight illiteracy, oppose waterboarding, increase the minimum wage, recycle, and compost your garbage. This is precisely how the religious Left loses its moral voice; when everything is a life issue, the very act of abortion itself recedes into the background. There is no sense of priority, no understanding that perhaps you can’t learn to read and choose paper over plastic if you’re not alive.  

In fact, in reading her entire piece, one realizes what she means by “real scandal.” It is the existence of the conservative pro-life movement itself — those she dismisses as the “ostensibly Catholic mobs.” I suppose faithful Catholics and their Protestant allies should just shut up . . . after all, at least more of those who live are driving Priuses.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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