Momentum Builds for a Less Partisan, More ‘Whole Life’ Pro-Life Approach

As the Trump administration moves quickly to achieve its policy objectives and the March for Life approaches, a number of writers have analyzed the current state of the pro-life movement and its future prospects. Among the conclusions they have drawn are that the movement must reject a hyperpartisan mindset and that it is necessary to embrace a more whole life approach, showing a consistent commitment to human life and dignity (you can read more about the Whole Life movement here).

In a new editorial, the editors of Our Sunday Visitor suggest that now may be the right time for a more whole life approach at the March for Life:

While the main focus of the March for Life must always remain overturning Roe v. Wade — for without the right to life, all other rights become impossible — perhaps the March for Life could begin to more robustly advocate for additional issues that contribute to basic human dignity. For example, in addition to protesting abortion, could we protest euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide? Could we advocate for the dignity found in the poor, the immigrant and the refugee? Could we stand up for the right for access to health care and life-giving and sustaining benefits for all? Could we work together for a world where the actions of the wealthy in the first world don’t negatively impact the lives of those in the third world, as they do in many of the world’s current environmental policies?

This call comes in the same week that a meme with a whole life quote from Fr. James Martin went viral on social media:


At the Washington Post, John Gehring writes about those who will be spreading a whole life or consistent life message at the March:

The Franciscan Action Network and the Catholic Climate Covenant, national groups based in Washington, will underscore how climate change and environmental devastation are disproportionately hurting the poor…

Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, an organization that collaborates closely with bishops across the country, describes climate change as a “pro-life issue” that Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have all addressed in clear terms. Francis took the church’s teaching on environmental stewardship to a new level two years ago by becoming the first pope to release an encyclical on the environment. Respect for life, the pope insisted, must include urgent action to address the impacts of climate change. People are already suffering and dying in many parts of the world, Misleh noted, because of storms, droughts and other disruptive climate events…

The Catholic Mobilizing Network, which collaborates with dioceses across the country to help end capital punishment, will attend the march and hand out prayer cards and stickers that read “Who Would Jesus Execute?” When Francis became the first pope to address Congress, he called for the abolition of the death penalty. “Every life is sacred,” he said. Karen Clifton, executive director of the network, noted that the U.S. bishops’ conference as well as the last three popes “have called for Catholics to be unconditionally pro-life.”

At America, Sam Sawyer, SJ warns that Donald Trump is not what pro-life leadership looks like:

Symbols matter. When pro-choice citizens, or even those on the fence about abortion, look at what happened in the White House this week, they will not see a principled defense of the dignity of human life. Instead, they will see the latest salvo in a partisan war, in which abortion is mostly a proxy battle. And though they may—we pray—fare better, the unborn, like the refugees and immigrants Mr. Trump is only too comfortable demonizing, will have been reduced to a convenient symbol of political victory.

This is not what pro-life leadership looks like. Those who believe in the dignity of every human life should weigh carefully the cost of embracing it.

At NCR, Michael Sean Winters argues that the pro-life movement must build a wider, bigger culture of life to achieve the success that it desires:

One of the achievements of the pro-life movement in recent years has been to shed its image as a movement led by a bunch of male, celibate clergy unconcerned with the plight of women. Women have become the face of the movement and bishops have gone out of their way to call attention to the need to care for women facing crisis pregnancies. In recent years, at the annual Mass before the March, Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Cardinal Timothy Dolan placed concern for women at the center of their homilies. A new generation of female and male pro-life voices has been outspoken in confronting the rapes on campus and the “hookup” culture, broadening the focus of the movement in healthy ways. Online magazines such as Millennial have helped forge a distinctively feminist pro-life approach.

That achievement cannot survive a too-close association with the Groper-in-Chief. A pro-life movement that values women cannot, at the same time, find its champion in a man who spoke about assaulting a married woman, and not just spoke, but bragged about it, and did so in the most vulgar terms imaginable. And, unless the pro-life movement remains a place where women are valued, and their concerns are heard, and their crises addressed, the pro-life movement will never, ever succeed in achieving its aims.

It will also never succeed without at least some measure of bipartisan support. Yet, Dannenfelser and the Susan B. Anthony List are tied with Planned Parenthood as the group that has done more than any other to make such bipartisan support impossible….

What if Trump gets two nominees to the high court? What if they repeal Roe? That would kick the issue back to the states where, I fear, a vast majority of the legislatures would enact liberal abortion laws. The pro-life movement has not laid the groundwork for the kind of definitive win they claim to seek. Changing the law won’t be enough. The first time a woman dies procuring a back alley abortion, the backlash will be intense. Building a pro-life culture takes time and persuasion and compassion. It is harder than winning control of a legislative chamber or even of the Supreme Court. And, the political expression of a culture of life will be bipartisan or it will be a failure.

And in the Washington Post, Patrick Brown writes:

Among the next generation of antiabortion leaders, there is an increasing realization that legal restrictions alone are not enough to promote a “culture of life.” Protecting a fetus’s legal status is an essential step in ending abortion, but it is only one piece of a cultural and political agenda that would truly support pregnant women and the children they carry.

In addition to changing hearts and minds about abortion, antiabortion activists should demonstrate their seriousness in supporting children both before and after birth by championing a concrete policy agenda of family economic security. Passing the Hyde Amendment would be much more credible as a truly pro-life, rather than simply antiabortion, goal if it were accompanied by an expanded, refundable Child Tax Credit.

As a refresher, the CTC currently reduces the amount of taxes owed by $1,000 per child. For families that owe less in taxes than the amount of their credit, a portion of the remaining balance is returned as a rebate. But low-income families are often left out of the CTC’s benefits — an estimated 1 in 5 families had earnings too low to claim the full $1,000. Additionally, inflation has eroded a full one-third of the credit’s real value since it was set at $1,000 in 2001. This is especially disturbing as poor women are disproportionately represented among women who have abortions: As others have observed, women in poverty accounted for 42.4 percent of abortions — an unacceptable, disproportionately high number, considering 14.2 percent of women nationwide live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau.