There’s more to pro-life than just opposing abortion


This column isn’t primarily about President Trump, and it isn’t primarily about the Rev. John Stowe, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Lexington.

It’s about what it means to be truly “pro-life.”

Is pro-life only about opposing abortion? Or is it about supporting all human life?

I’ve pondered that forever.

What prompted me to think about it most recently was an article on August 7 on under the headline, “Trump ‘is so much anti-life,’ Kentucky Catholic bishop says in abortion discussion.”

According to that piece, Stowe criticized Trump’s pro-life bona fides in a video chat July 31 with the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs.

“For this president to call himself pro-life, and for anybody to back him because of claims of being pro-life, is almost willful ignorance,” Stowe said.

Trump spoke last year at the March for Life in Washington, an annual gathering to protest abortion, where he advocated for limiting abortion access. He’s also pleased white evangelicals and many Catholics by nominating conservative, anti-abortion judges to the federal bench.

Stowe, who’s criticized Trump before, said in effect all that wasn’t sufficient.

“Pope Francis has given us a great definition of what pro-life means,” Stowe said. “He basically tells us we can’t claim to be pro-life if we support the separation of children from their parents at the U.S. border, if we support exposing people at the border to COVID-19 because of the facilities that they’re in if we support denying people who have need to adequate health care access to health care, if we keep people from getting the housing or the education that they need, we cannot call ourselves pro-life.”

As the article points out, Pope Francis earlier questioned Trump’s pro-life stance when the president tried to end DACA, a federal program offering protections to some people brought to the United States illegally as children.

Which leads me to my own thoughts.

When Gov. Andy Beshear took dramatic measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky, various friends and I occasionally posted praise of him on social media.

Inevitably, these posts drew harangues from other readers dismissing Beshear’s anti-coronavirus efforts as less than worthless because they claimed, he also supports Roe v. Wade and thus, in their opinion, is nothing more than a baby killer.

As if support for legalized abortion was the only thing about him that mattered.

To me, whatever you think of abortion, shouldn’t his attempts to save older adults and those with chronic medical conditions be lauded? And didn’t those efforts qualify as pro-life, in that he was trying to protect the lives of the vulnerable?

My views, unfortunately, will tick off almost everybody.

Unlike a lot of Democrats, I have serious reservations about legalized abortion. I find it deeply troubling, and, while I don’t want all abortions banned, I do favour restrictions.

And yet, despite my hesitancy on the abortion issue, I vote Democrat nearly always.

I do this because I find the Democratic Party—even given its support for legalized abortion—significantly more life-affirming than the Republican Party.

Both parties, being political institutions, are flawed. But the Republicans seem way more flawed from any pro-life perspective.

As the bishop and the pope aptly pointed out, affirming human life isn’t confined to opposing abortion. That’s just one issue of dozens.

I’d suggest that if you really stand for life, you also have to oppose the climate change that threatens to destroy life on Earth. You have to value human beings over corporations. You have to support prison reform.

You have to oppose ripping helpless immigrant children from their parents’ arms at our borders. You have to support protecting the elderly in nursing homes. You have to adequately fund education.

You have to support universal medical coverage. You have to oppose racism in all its forms, both individual and systemic. You have to contribute toward a merciful social safety net for the poor and unemployed. You have to love gay and transgendered people and all others who are marginalized, because they’re God’s children, too.

And you have to wear your danged mask every day to protect your fellow citizens.

You should not only support a subsistent life for everyone but, as Jesus put it, an “abundant life.”

These aren’t socialist principles. They’re pro-life principles.

I’d take it a step farther. I’d say they’re godly principles. After all, God created life.

So to be really pro-life, you have to love and respect everybody—not just the unborn, but those who are already here and those you may not like or agree with. Love them all, respect them all, protect them all.

That’s being pro-life.

  • Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling.
  • First published in the Lexington Leader. Republished with permission.
  • The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of CathNews.
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