Pro-Life/Whole Life?

Dr. Malcolm Cross

Last week I noted that the possibility that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade has led blue states to pass laws lifting almost all limits on abortion, and red states to pass laws which eliminate almost all legal reasons for abortion.  How the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the sure-to-be challenged red state laws is currently unknown, but one thing is certain:  No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the issue will not go away.  Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, pro-choicers will immediately look for ways and means to reinstate it down the road, presumably with campaigns to elect pro-choice presidents and senators who will appoint and confirm pro-choice judges who will bring back Roe v. Wade.  Should the Supreme Court uphold Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers will continue their anti-abortion fight anyway.  But the issue, in whatever form, and in response to whatever the Supreme Court does, is here to stay.

That being said, pro-lifers must rethink their strategies and tactics.  One tactic, which they should adopt immediately, is to abandon any attempt to limit the right to abortions for victims of rape and incest.  The main argument of pro-choicers is, anti-abortion laws are governmental attempts to control women’s bodies, while pro-lifers say they don’t want to control the body of the woman herself, but to preserve the life of the body within, which she created through consensual sex.  But to prevent a woman or girl impregnated truly against her will belies the pro-lifers’ arguments.  Pro-lifers should recognize that to deny the victims of rape and incest access to abortion is to compound the evil already done to them.  

Parenthetically, it should be noted that Republican candidates for the Senate have, in recent elections, been defeated because they opposed access to abortion for rape and incest victims; they might well have won their races, and thereby enlarged the Senate Republican majority, had they supported abortion rights not only to save mothers’ lives but to help women cope with the evil of rape and incest as well.

But beyond this, pro-lifers must ask themselves some fundamental questions:  Do they wish only to limit abortion rights, or do they want to significantly reduce abortion itself?  And how can they answer one of the arguments of the pro-choicers, i.e., that pro-lifers believe that life begins at conception, ends at birth, and that therefore no additional policies to enhance the quality of life for newborns (and everyone else) are needed?

Pro-lifers who want to not only limit abortion rights but limit abortion as well, and improve the quality of life for everyone at every stage, should seriously consider adopting (or, in the case of programs already adopted, retaining and strengthening) programs which provide: 

  • Sex education emphasizing pregnancy prevention and not merely abstinence for moral reasons (I think, however, parents should have the right to determine whether their children should be enrolled in sex education classes, and have the opportunity to review class materials before making their decisions one way or the other);
  • Easier access to birth control drugs and devices for everyone (although parental consent should be required in schools if access to birth control is extended to students);
  • Mandatory health insurance for minor children and pregnant women, with subsidies for the poor, as well as universal health insurance for everyone at every stage of life;
  • Research, development, and implementation of ways and means to enhance prenatal and neonatal care, as well as to address the medical needs of everyone throughout life;
  • Facilitation of adoption procedures;
  • Intelligent approaches, based on science and reason, rather than mere ideology, to dealing with the life-endangering issues of famine, pollution, climate change, and international strife.

This list of policy considerations is by no means exhausted, and the exclusion of particular ideas 

does not necessarily mean their rejection.  The items contained herein are offered as a representative sample of policies pro-lifers (and pro-choicers as well) should seriously consider as part of a “pro-life/whole life” strategy—a strategy which recognizes that life begins at conception, that it should last until it ends naturally and peacefully, and that it should almost never be terminated except in extreme cases of rape, incest, saving the mother’s life, self-defense, or the defense of society.

No doubt there would be vigorous objections to such a program, not only from pro-choicers who might see such initiatives as some sort of trickery to hide additional attempts to limit abortion rights but from pro-lifers and other conservatives as well.  Some members of the “Christian Right” might well object to greater access to birth control and anything other than abstinence-only education; for them, faith-based exemptions should be considered.  Other conservatives may fear that dealing with health insurance, environmental concerns, and climate concerns might inevitably lead to bigger government.  But imagination and new technological developments may reduce the need for governmental expansion.  And to each objection, one should answer that should any, some, or all of these initiatives reduce abortion and increase the length and quality of human life, then the benefits of these policies may well outweigh their costs.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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