What Does it Mean to Be Pro-Life?

When it comes to abortion, the fundamental policy difference between Republicans and Democrats is Republicans say they oppose abortion; Democrats actually do things to reduce abortions.

Whether abortion is legal or not is actually a very narrow issue. Women have always had abortions and always will, whether they are legal or not. [Incidentally, women had abortions in bible times; however, the issue is never mentioned by Jesus or in the bible at all.] The much bigger, and more important issue, is what we are doing to lessen the number of abortions. We lessen abortions by:

  • Good family planning so that women are more likely to have babies when they are ready to care for them.
  • Helping women find quality, affordable child care, health care and jobs (if necessary) so they can care for their children.

So, which party is really "pro-life"? Read on to find out.

Most people think that being pro-life simply means one is against abortion. However, there’s actually a lot more to it than that. After all, everyone is "against" abortion. Everyone would love to live in a world without any abortions. So, simply being opposed to abortions is obviously not all that it means to be be pro-life.

Being "pro-life" is not an either-or proposition. For instance, there are aspects of both Republican and Democratic policies that are "pro-life." It's well known, of course, that Republicans boldly assert their pro-life position. This generally means they are opposed to the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v Wade (discussed more below) and favor a return to the days when states could outlaw all abortions.

Lesser-known are the policies Democrats favor (and Republicans generally oppose) that are also "pro-life." I'll leave aside the issue of the death penalty since I don't think either party is clearly for or against the death penalty.

Certainly, being pro-life should also mean supporting life by supporting policies that combat global warming, pollution and poisoning of land, air, water and people (i.e. mercury poisoning). Global warming has become the number one killer in the world, especially of poor people -- both pre-born and after birth. They die from things like floods, drought, starvation, hurricanes, tornadoes, disease, illness, etc. All of these things have been greatly exacerbated by global warming. So, truthfully, one cannot be "pro-life" unless one is an environmentalist.

Also, anyone who is truly pro-life surely must support universal health care. The United States today leads the industrialized world in pre-natal deaths. Millions of pre-born babies have died in America due to a lack of adequate health care for their mothers. How do we know universal health care would help? Well, it's pretty obvious actually. The U.S. is next to last in the industrialized world in pre-natal mortality. We even trail some third world countries -- like Cuba.

According to the State of the World's Mothers Report American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway.

The 40 or so other nations that have a lower death rate all have one thing in common; they all have universal, government provided, health care. So, surely if one is pro-life then one supports universal health care.

Even if we limit the discussion of what it means to be pro-life to only the topic of abortion; even if we do that, there is still much to consider.

The abortion question is about how much the state should be able to restrict a woman's ability to choose to have an abortion. In Roe vs Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a right to an abortion until the fetus reaches the age of "viability." The Court said a fetus is viable if it is capably of living outside the womb, even with artificial assistance. It said normally that would happen between about week 24 and 28. After that, the state is free to prohibit abortions, except for the health of the mother, and most due. Third trimester abortions are extremely rare in the United States. Most abortions (88%) happen before week 13.

This point is important: almost everyone agrees that women should have the right to choose an abortion in some situations and not in others.

On the extremes (both pro-choice and pro-life) there are a few who think a woman should be forced to give birth even in the case of conception by rape or incest and even if doing so would endanger the mother's health. On the other extreme are those who feel a woman should be able to choose abortion even in the 9th month of pregnancy. But, almost everyone falls in between the extremes. Almost everyone thinks the right to choose should be granted in some cases (rape, incest, life of mother) and also that the government should be able to prohibit abortion in some cases (i.e. 3rd trimester).

So, the good news is there is much we all (pro-life and pro-choice) Republicans and Democrats agree on about abortion. Also, there are a broad range of issues besides abortion that impact the "sanctity of life."

Finally, and this is counter-intuitive, the data seems to demonstrate that generally when Democrats are in power, abortions decline; when Republicans are in power, abortions rise. Democratic policies are generally more supportive of helping women carry pregnancies to term. This is likely true for several reasons, foremost because Democratic administrations generally provide more economic support for poor women which helps them afford to choose to have children.

Economic support is crucial to reducing abortions because 3/4 of women who have an abortion say at least part of the reason they chose to abort was because they couldn't afford to raise a child. It's also been shown again and again that rising poverty causes abortions to rise.

Lower abortion rates under Democratic administrations likely is also caused because Democrats tend to expand family planning, maternal health and contraception services. These services (also included in most universal health care plans) unquestionably reduce abortions as well as save the lives of women and children, born and unborn, both in the United States and worldwide.

Birth control also helps create stable families since most unintended pregnancies happen outside of marriage. As a group, young, unwed, mothers find it harder to go to college, have a career and/or marry a man with a good job. So, birth control reduces those kinds of pregnancies and therefore helps women to get pregnant when their lives are more established and hopefully they are married.

When voting for a politician, consider all his or her views and decide which candidate you think is really "pro-life" and which supports policies likely to result in more death. A "pro-life" bumper sticker or even stating that one is "against abortion" is not enough, alone, to make one really pro-life.

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