Increasingly, there has been a growing push to label the pro-life movement as merely “pro-birth.” Because many pro-lifers tend to support smaller government, oppose the welfare state, and may even support the death penalty, they cannot possibly be pro-life. They simply want to feel good about a baby being born and then couldn’t care less what happens after that. No quote epitomizes this accusation more than the quote by Sister Joan Chittister, which went viral in 2019. The quote states:
“I do not believe that just because you are 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, a child educated, 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.”
The argument has been broadened out by progressives into a variety of memes to demonstrate the “hypocrisy” of the pro-life movement. Any approval of limits on immigration or border protections, hesitance at the idea of universal healthcare, or desire to cut government spending all fall under the umbrella of “pro birth” or sometimes even “racist” or both.
This argument is simplistic and makes fallacious basic assumptions. First, it supposes that opposing the throwing of money at a problem is synonymous to bigotry and racism. Secondly, it completely separates itself from the realities of innocence and sin (or guilt, in secular society).
On the first hand, simply wanting restrictions on welfare does not a bigot make. The fact that welfare and minorities are constantly linked together in progressive talking points is in itself a racist and paternalistic way of looking at the situation. How on earth could minorities ever make it without guilt-ridden white people just throwing buckets of cash at them? This is most often seen in the push for reparations, which has become increasingly popular in progressive circles, despite its logistical difficulties.
Pro-lifers do not want people to starve. It’s rare to find one completely opposed to emergency food stamps, food pantries, shelters, or anything like that. The key word, however, is emergency. What started as a safety net has become a generational cycle of welfare-dependent families and sky-rocketing single mother households. The answer on the left has been to throw more money at the problem: increase the minimum wage, remove work requirements, widen eligibility. However, the evidence that welfare has helped significantly is mixed at best.
Pro-lifers will typically look at the causes of abortion and align themselves with policies aimed at alleviating those issues. Poverty and financial concerns are one of the key factors in the decision to abort. One way of alleviating poverty that conservatives favor is in the focus on education and failing public schools in low income neighborhoods. This has grown into the push for school choice, something that progressives vehemently oppose and would consider “pro birth” for not wanting to spend more money on the public education system.
Many children are forced into failing schools simply by their zip code, and poor families don’t have the funds to send their children to private schools. The general gist of school choice is that the government should allow a parent’s tax dollars to fund the school option of their choice. This could be their local charter school, magnet school, private school, or homeschooling. It would give students the chance to succeed and graduate from a school that meets their needs. Not only is this very pro-life, it is pro quality of life. A pro-lifer doesn’t want a family in poverty to remain trapped in the cycle of continuous poverty, and a good education is a key way in breaking that cycle.
Another issue that keeps pro-lifers from supporting more money into welfare programs is the sky-rocketing number of single mother households since the implementation of the “war on poverty.” Some, like Thomas Sowell, even argue that welfare has propelled the breakdown of families, particularly black families, by creating families where “the government is daddy.” The share of single mother households has more than tripled since the sixties, creating multiple societal and cultural problems.
This issue is probably the most significant to a pro-lifer, as 85 percent of all abortions are by unwed mothers. The solution, too, is not so easily legislated as it would require more of a cultural shift, such as a focus on abstinence rather than sex education and a return to looking at marriage as a societal good and divorce as a last option.
There are some legislative possibilities that a pro-lifer would support, such as lowering certain regulations on daycare requirements, which would lower costs to some degree, increasing deductions for childcare, and increasing tax cuts for married couples. Donald Trump’s policies even created a branch of conservatives that were even willing to consider things like paid leave and childcare subsidies. Of course, such moves have the same potential downfalls as current welfare programs, and because pro-lifers call for caution on just jumping in and giving money to everything, they are once again labeled “pro-birth.”
In all honesty, the issue of childcare and supporting single parents so they can work and stay out of poverty requires much more bipartisan discussion, which is very difficult in the current political climate. The fact is, however, that even if pro-lifers were to say yes to 100% free childcare in exchange for abortion restrictions, it is highly unlikely that pro-choice activists would agree, as even restrictions on third trimester abortions are scoffed at and the Born Alive Act was struck down. It’s hard to imagine the Democratic party making any concessions with their push to have abortion labeled “healthcare.”
Another issue that causes a great deal of derision and criticism from progressives is the pro-life individual that supports the death penalty. Although it is hard to find the exact percentages of how many people whom consider themselves pro-life also support the death penalty, it certainly isn’t uncommon.
Much of this overlap stems from the correlation of religious beliefs and pro-life support. Verses, such as Genesis 9:6 have been used to support the idea of capital punishment. Whereas an evangelical pro-lifer would see an unborn as an innocent life being needlessly taken, capital punishment is viewed as justice being served and protection of society at large. While there is a swathe of opinions of when the death penalty is acceptable, for which types of crimes, and how it ought to be carried out, the underlying agreement is that an unborn baby is an innocent who is killed without a trial or any ability to make a defense for himself. A more in depth look at being pro life and in favor of the death penalty in some circumstances can be found at Focus on the Family. There aren’t many pro-lifers that would make the case for a liberal application of the death penalty. In fact, most pro-lifers would even say that capital punishment should be “safe, legal, and rare.” However, there hasn’t been a push to make capital punishment some sort of inalienable right or to codify it into the Constitution.
There are many other considerations of the pro-life conservative that concern themselves just as much with what happens after birth as progressives. Much of these considerations focus on quality of life, beyond just having everything provided to the individual. There are certainly some areas of economic and domestic policy that could be explored and discussed by the two sides, but the protection of innocent life itself is certainly not one of them that should be open to debate.