Abortion is among the most contentious and controversial of subjects in modern political discourse. We have drawn lines and given ourselves pejorative titles of “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” I, personally, understand and sympathize with both sides of the aisle on the issue (though, at the end of the day, I tend to side with the pro-life movement). But in labeling themselves “pro-life,” I find that many, particularly those on the right, are only pro-life when it comes to issues of conception and pregnancy. In effect, they have defined pro-life as a term that only applies to when a baby is inside the womb. Once the child has passed through the birth canal, however, many of conservatives’ attitudes towards that infant can be described as anything but pro-life.
To me, the term pro-life implies that one stands behind the sanctity of human life at all times, regardless of age, race and gender. To be pro-life means that you are not just a defender of the life of an unborn baby, but that you are also a defender of life through death.
As someone who largely embraces the pro-life title, I find that many pro-lifers (especially those who label themselves as conservative) fail to live up to the standard of that title. Let’s start with the basic fundamental of health care. I firmly believe that every citizen of this country, regardless of socioeconomic status, is entitled to quality health care. It is unfathomable to me that someone who claims to fight for life is also willing to let a fellow citizen die due to an inability to afford quality cancer, heart disease, or infectious disease treatment. It is inherently anti-life to suggest that the wealthy are entitled to the best quality health care, and that the poor should be left without coverage. A basic, universal access to healthcare is to its very core pro-life.
Another position that is quite literally the contrapositive of pro-life is a support for the death penalty. As a former supporter of capital punishment, I understand the reasoning behind wanting death as a punishment. Death seemingly avenges those crimes that are the most heinous and cruel in our world, and provides a deterrent for those who wish to commit such vicious acts in the future. Yet the research suggests that America’s death penalty system has an error rate that is as high as one in nine. Let me repeat that again, a one in nine error rate. That means that there is an army of innocent individuals that have be killed by the state. How is that pro-life? How can supporting an institution that kills innocent victims be consistent with defending life? Furthermore, the taking of one man’s life to avenge the death of another is not justice — it is an attempt to achieve vengeance in the wake of the most appalling of tragedies. The death penalty will never alleviate remorse for the victims, and taking life will never compensate for a life that has been lost.
The last topic I will comment on is guns. The simple fact of the matter is that children are dying in our schools. Men, armed with rifles that were specifically designed to kill large swaths of people in a short period of time, have entered our schools and turned our classrooms into hunting grounds. To stand behind the private ownership of these weapons is anything but pro-life. These weapons were not designed for self-defense, or to shoot an animal; they were designed for an offensive attack. Conservatives who cry that the government is coming to take away the arms of law-abiding citizens are simply using straw man arguments to rally their base. No rational lawmaker is suggesting the total abolition of guns. What we — the vast majority of the American population — demand is tougher gun laws to limit the constant stream of mass killings that have plagued this nation. To stand behind the ownership of weapons that have been used to kill elementary school children en masse is anything but pro-life. It is quite simply a pro-death position.
I firmly believe in the sanctity of life. Every person, regardless of who they are or where they come from, is entitled to life. To stand behind life is to not only fight for a child in the womb, but to also continue the fight after birth. To ensure that an individual has access to healthcare, a decent education, drug prevention programs, quality food, clean air and water, and safe communities throughout the entirety of his or her life is to its very core pro-life. If you take on the mantle of pro-life, you better be willing to take on the immense task of working preserve and enhance life at all steps. To truly be pro-life is to stand behind life from cradle to grave — to fight for life not just when it is convenient and simple, but also when it is brutally difficult.