One of the most contentious topics on social media, in newspapers, on TV, in churches, and at home is the question of what it means to be “pro-life.”
This should not be contentious as the meaning of “pro-life” is straightforward. Yet it seems that the principles of valuing life, and not just one’s own, are selectively applied. Thus, a philosophy that should be the foundation for any society that calls itself civilized, has become a mere tool for those who like moralistic posturing.
How exactly are we “pro-life” when there are millions who do not have access to affordable health care?
Although estimates vary, every year, tens of thousands of U.S. citizens die because they do not have the health insurance coverage they need.
We are also not “pro-life” if we are unwilling to confront the gun violence that terrorizes our nation’s schools and neighborhoods.
Annually, more than 30,000 people die because of guns. Yet the Georgia legislature approved a bill that loosens our state’s already lax gun laws and just two weeks after eight people were gunned down in Atlanta.
Then there is the death penalty. As long as there are states that exercise this form of medieval justice, we are also not “pro-life.”
The Old Testament’s philosophy of “an eye for an eye” only turns the whole world blind. Moreover, statistics show that at least one out of 10 death row inmates are innocent of the crimes they are accused of.
We are also not “pro-life” if our society is unwilling to confront its history of racial violence and finally connects the legacies of slavery, lynching and convict leasing to the present-day criminal justice system that is severely broken.
Like it or not, there is no equal justice, people of color are treated differently than those who were born white, and the reality of systemic racism and police brutality can simply not be ignored.
Lastly, there is, of course, the issue of abortion where most of the huffing and puffing is going on by “pro-life” moralists, who are typically male, typically pro-gun, typically pro-death penalty, and likely also pro-Viagra.
If our society truly cared about the unborn life, a concern that seems to disappear once it enters the world, we would address the issue of teenage pregnancies, support meaningful sex education in our schools, make birth control available for free and recognize that our nation’s socioeconomic conditions contribute to a higher rate of unintended pregnancies than is common in western and northern Europe.
Dr. Michael G. Noll is with the Valdosta Coalition for Peace and Justice.