Why Ending Hunger is a Pro-life Issue

Life is our most fundamental right. I believe each person is entitled to their own life, each government is bound to protect the lives of those within their borders, no person has the right to take the life of another, and every life is a sacred gift no matter how long that life is. This is why I have counted myself as a member of the pro-life movement for many years. I am convinced that a person’s life is worth saving, worth living, and worth defending.

Although I am pro-life, I have become deeply concerned with how the pro-life movement seems complacent in standing up for policies that would protect and preserve one of the most basic needs of each human life: food.

The global community stands at a unique point in history. We have, for the first time, the real possibility of effectively ending hunger in the world. Since 1990 the number of hungry people in the world has been halved. Global poverty is on the decline. Technology, public policy, and international cooperation have opened new possibilities that previous generations never would have thought possible. Organizations like Caritas Internationalis and Bread for the World are now forecasting that we can see hunger ended within a generation. We have the possibility of living in a world where people going hungry is something only found in history books—not in the distant future, but within the next decade or two. The millions who die each year from hunger can be saved. All it requires is global leadership, a strong will, and a commitment to stay the course toward ending hunger.

The pro-life movement would be natural allies in this work. Not only does feeding people save the lives of those who are at risk of dying from hunger, it also strengthens the cause of the unborn.  As conditions become more stable for children and mothers, and food becomes less scarce, mothers are better prepared to receive a child and less likely to resort to abortion. Not only that, but partnerships like 1,000 Days and the Scaling up Nutrition Movement focus not only on providing care for unborn children, but also fight to make sure that children and mothers are given proper nutrition up until a child’s second birthday. Fighting hunger is the right thing to do—it saves the lives of millions of children and creates a world where millions more can be welcomed into a healthy home that is open to life.

Working for food security is working to strengthen a culture of life from the womb to the tomb.

I have been encouraged by a number of pro-life leaders who have taken this cause to heart. Take, for example, Rep. Chris Smith (R – NJ), Co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, who recently took up the cause of global nutrition. Calling malnutrition the “great killer of children,” he has called for supporters on both sides of the aisle to sponsor legislation that addresses providing nutrition for mothers and children from the moment of a child’s conception to their second birthday. Helping provide food in this crucial window, Smith emphasizes, is “life-affirming, and can save the life of both mother and child.” I couldn’t agree more. Pro-life Democrats have also taken up the cause. For example, former congressional representative and US Ambassador Tony Hall has made ending hunger a top priority throughout his career and now serves as the director of the Alliance to End Hunger.

In spite of this encouraging leadership, there is still a great deal of timidity among far too many to stand up for ending hunger. Recently Paul Ryan, a vocal anti-abortion Catholic, crafted a US budget that cuts the International Affairs budget by a devastating eleven percent in addition to sharp cuts that have already handicapped our ability to provide lifesaving care to millions due to sequestration cuts. Another outspoken member of the pro-life movement, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Ca), has recently pushed a provision through the Coast Guard authorization bill which essentially subsidizes the shipping industry out of the USAID budget and would result in 2 million fewer people receiving the food they need. Pro-life advocates have remained surprisingly silent on these issues.

Today half of all child deaths are nutrition related, but these kids don’t need to die. The end of hunger is on the horizon. We can create a future where children don’t go hungry. Yet our pro-life policymakers are too often the hands that steer our course away from this goal. It is time for the pro-life community to begin to champion food security. It is time to fight for life.