Our world is full of double-speak terms, where we politicize our words to make them sound better than they are. So I think it’s important to really consider our vocabulary from time to time and evaluate if it lines up with the meaning it seems to claim.
I did that a little bit earlier this week with the idea of a “Christian nation.” Today, I’d like to do something similar with the question of what it actually means to be “pro-life.”
Stripping away how the word is used in our modern culture, I want to start from scratch with a new definition based on the core premise. And it begins with this: pro-life means, quite simply, in favor of life.
What does it look like to be in favor of life, to desire for life to succeed and thrive? Everything is based on priorities, and I believe this stance would put the sustainability and success of life at the top of that list. And that aligns with the statement in the Declaration of Independence that we have certain unalienable rights, the first being life.
To begin with, pro-life would mean in favor of successful and healthy conception and birth. That makes sense. But if we’re really in favor of life, I think it goes far beyond simply wanting life to continue to wanting it to thrive. So it would be favoring healthy conception and birth into a loving, comforting, supportive situation. In our world, that would require a stable financial situation, an opportunity for the parents to spend time with the child, and a support network beyond just the parents to ensure the child receives all the love and assistance they need.
Beyond this, pro-life wants what is best for life. I hope we can agree that what’s best for a child is love, health, and education. Those require more resources and support networks, prioritizing nutrition and regular preventive care, along with good teachers and learning environments not lacking books and educational tools.
Further, pro-life is self-sustaining, so it would reinforce to the child as they grow that same love and desire for success that leads them to care for others and see intrinsic value in the people around them.
Pro-life is not discriminatory. While we all have our close relationships and naturally will prioritize those in our networks, true pro-life sees the child fleeing persecution in another country as equally worthy of love and support as our own child safe in our home. Further, pro-life is in no way limited to children. It sees persecution and hardship, poverty and pain, and opens doors of love to bring healing and the promise of greater life. It sees equal dignity in all people, whether they’re from Baltimore, Somalia, Central America, or New York.
Pro-life sees all threats to life as damaging and worth fighting. And pro-life doesn’t hesitate. When mass shootings happen, pro-life offers more than “thoughts and prayers” and seeks ways to prevent the next killing.
Every preventable death is a travesty to pro-life. In fact, to pro-life, there is nothing worse than preventable death, whether by violence, starvation, sickness, or injury.
As I mentioned above, pro-life prioritizes life above all else, which inherently means that all other priorities are set aside when life hangs in the balance. This does not respond to gun violence with more guns, but with less. This does not respond to killing with more killing, but with mercy, even if that mercy includes life imprisonment to prevent more life from being taken.
Pro-life sees the sanctity of life and seeks to preserve it. That can’t include withholding the resources necessary to help people prevent the creation of life when they’re not ready to support it. And it absolutely can’t include withholding the resources to support, encourage, and care for those who do create life they’re not ready to manage on their own.
At its core, pro-life is essentially a synonym for love, and anything resembling hate or indifference does not fit. That requires action, support, and sacrifice. We cannot profess to be pro-life and yet support things that lead to death through lack of (or faulty) health care, a fair justice system, education, or any other resources needed to survive. Similarly, we cannot profess to be pro-life and resort only to encouraging words or “thoughts and prayers” when we see things that oppose life. Action is required.
Our culture has turned the words “pro-life” into a very narrow political stance. And quite often, those who espouse that stance somehow find ways to oppose measures that, as described above, actively support life. That breaks my heart, and I believe it’s something we need to desperately reconsider.
Pro-life is not limited to a narrow definition. It is all-encompassing. Pro-life is pro-all life, all the time, everywhere. It is radical and loving in a world that so often follows the idea of survival of the fittest.
To all who profess to be pro-life (myself included): let’s strive to remember the actual core of the term (both in definition and as an action) and not shrink it to specific political stances. Let’s do all we can to support life wherever and whenever we can, without limitation.