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What should a pro-life candidate look like?

Bob Anderson

How disheartening it is to see America so divided and polarized in the public square. Abortion is one of these divisive issues where the extremes dominate the discussion. The pro-choice position represents only 29% of Americans (Gallup, 2018). They believe in abortion upon demand and a prenatal child even after viability has no right to life. The pro-life position represents only 18% (Gallup, 2018).

They believe that abortion should be banned at conception and that a woman has no right to end a pregnancy even if she cannot afford to raise the child. Both extremes demonize the other side and would happy to impose their view on the rest of the country. The silent majority of Americans are more discerning, they seek compromise. They believe that a woman has the right to choose until her prenatal child is viable but after viability, abortion should be restricted

Pro-life voters believe policies that do violence to and disrespect human life are unjust. Next year, they will have to decide who best represents the pro-life ethic. Single-issue pro-life organizations and evangelicals who oppose abortion may support the reelection of President Trump to thank him for appointing two conservative justices to the Supreme Court. However, history shows overturning Roe vs. Wade will exacerbate the abortion wars and fail to stop them but rather move abortion underground and across state lines. A notable exception which makes sense is the proposed ban on second-term dismemberment abortions. Further, opposing abortion is only one aspect of being “pro-life.” To be truly pro-life you have to be pro-life for the whole life, for all of life’s natural stages. A government policy that forces low-income women to have babies they cannot afford and then provides no financial supports to care for and raise them is inconsistent and inhumane. Pro-life for one’s whole life is in accord with the “consistent life ethic” teaching popularized by Joseph Bernardin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago and the teachings of Pope Francis.

President Trump has shown that he is not pro-life in any meaningful way. He has opposed life and shown intolerance and disdain to vulnerable human beings in so many ways: by opposing the life protections of the Affordable Care Act, by separating immigrant children from their parents and putting them in cages, and putting the planet at risk by denying climate change and easing pollution restrictions. Mr. Trump’s hateful statements divide Americans along racial and ethnic lines. He has failed to support common-sense gun safety policies that save lives. These policies are not pro-life.

Are there ways beyond opposing abortion that the next president could do more to respect and protect life?  Two important areas come to mind.

First, we need to support policies that address the economic barriers that increase abortion. These policies empower pregnant women to carry their pregnancies to full term. They are being supported by Democratic candidates. Examples include ensuring that pregnant women and families have health coverage, offering sick leave and paid family leave, and helping low-income families cover childcare costs.  Such policies save the unborn, as evidenced by the substantial decrease in abortions since passage of the ACA. 

Second, the next president can respect and protect the value of every life after birth-policies that treat your neighbor as yourself: Bring people out of poverty and reverse the recent increase in income inequality, expand the protections of the ACA, treat immigrants in humane ways, restore clean air and water standards, recognize climate change as an existential threat to humankind, fight racism at all levels, use language that heals the nation’s racial and ethnic wounds, and support common sense gun safety policies that lessen gun violence.

Will Republican candidates ever recognize the need to address economic causes of abortion? Will they ever reverse their policies that threaten human life and dignity after birth? Will Democratic candidates ever compromise on the abortion issue by at least recognizing the right to life of a prenatal child after the child becomes viable? The people of Michigan deserve a President who truly respects human life and shows compassion for all Americans at all of life’s natural stages. Although there is no clear choice, a Democratic candidate overall may offer a better pro-life choice than the present occupant of the White House.

Editor’s Note: Robert Anderson is a Marquette attorney, has taught law at NMU and MTU, and is active in his Catholic Church.