As the national debate on abortion continues, now fueled by legislation introduced by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, perhaps it is time to sit back and ask yourself “Are you pro-life, or are you only pro-birth.” Being pro-life involves much more than preventing a woman from having an abortion. It means caring about all life, not just before being born, but afterwards and throughout a person’s life. As reported in Politico, Graham on Thursday introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act which would restrict any abortion after 20 weeks into the pregnancy. Similar measures have been defeated in the past in the Senate as passage would require 60 votes. This may further politicize the issue by making Trump’s desire to revoke the Senate filibuster rule part of the argument.
But there are other issues to be considered as well. Are you anti-abortion, but still favor enforcing the death penalty? How is that pro-life? Are you pro-life but do not support providing healthcare for children. Just last week Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire. As a part of Medicaid this program is administered by the states and jointly funded by state and federal government. How is denying healthcare to children being pro-life?
Nobody wants a “nanny” state, but when the Preamble to our own Constitution states that one of the purposes of government is “to promote the General Welfare” then we must be willing to protect the most vulnerable in our society – the children and the elderly. Yes, the elderly who could be seriously impacted by cuts in Medicaid that help provide nursing home care for them as well as Medicare which provides health care coverage. This is far more than a legal or budgetary issue. It is a moral and religious one as well. If you are part of the Judeo-Christian heritage, then you cannot ignore the numerous calls to care for the “widows and orphans” in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
One of my personal heroes, Sister Joan Chittister OSB has the following to say on this debate:
Earlier today a political pundit said words to the effect that even if someone found out their child was anencephalic (that is, it had no brain at all) the woman should still be required to carry it to term, even though the child would live at most 45 minutes. That happened to one of my cousins, although she did not know about it until after the child was born. But there is worse. About 30 years ago a good friend of mine was carrying twins. Her doctor refused to induce labor late term in her pregnancy. He told her she also had to carry the babies to term. The only problem – the actual tragedy – was that both babies had died in utero. Her husband was finally able to convince the doctor to do the right thing.
Sister Helen Prejean has spent much of her life fighting death penalty cases. She is pro-life. If you have donated money or supplies to help struggling families feed their children, then you are pro-life. But if you are opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to ensure that the child for whom you are fighting does not have adequate food, or clothing, or medical care, you are not pro-life. You are simply and merely pro-birth.
As Sister Joan says “We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”