Bishop Stowe: Pro-Lifers Should Not Sport Slogans of President Who Denigrates and Endangers Immigrants

Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky writes:

I am ashamed that the actions of Kentucky Catholic high school students have become a contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest. As such, I believe that U.S. Catholics must take a look at how our support of the fundamental right to life has become separated from the even more basic truth of the dignity of each human person.

Without engaging the discussion about the context of the viral video or placing the blame entirely on these adolescents, it astonishes me that any students participating in a pro-life activity on behalf of their school and their Catholic faith could be wearing apparel sporting the slogans of a president who denigrates the lives of immigrants, refugees and people from countries that he describes with indecent words and haphazardly endangers with life-threatening policies.

We cannot uncritically ally ourselves with someone with whom we share the policy goal of ending abortion…

Respect for the sanctity of human life included the promotion of all that is necessary for all humanity to flourish. While the church’s opposition to abortion has been steadfast, it has become a stand-alone issue for many and has become disconnected to other issues of human dignity.

This past November, the U.S. Catholic bishops issued their first pastoral letter on racism since 1979…. The pastoral letter describes racism as a “life” issue; that perspective needs to become part of our educational curriculum. Students must grapple with this history and ask themselves how they are going to live differently….

The pro-life movement claims that it wants more than the policy change of making abortion illegal, but aims to make it unthinkable. That would require deep changes in society and policies that would support those who find it difficult to afford children. The association of our young people with racist acts and a politics of hate must also become unthinkable.

The Pro-Life Movement: Consistency and Legitimacy vs. Embracing Trump

Michael Gerson writes:

If you believe that a fetus is a member of the human family from its first moment — and millions of Americans do — then opposition to abortion is inherently a social justice issue. It is the defense of the weak and voiceless against violence….

To be consistent, of course, you would need to care equally for the lives of women in crisis. And for the health and welfare of children after birth. But that is my point. Defending human dignity at every stage of human development is not a commitment currently embodied in either political party, nor in either conservatism or liberalism. People who hold this view should be against Roe v. Wade and against the separation of children from their parents at the border. They should be opposed to the dehumanization of unborn children and the dehumanization of refugees and migrants. The legitimacy of pro-life sentiment is demonstrated by its consistency….

But if the overturn or revision of Roe comes, it will almost certainly return greater flexibility to states regarding the regulation of abortion. This will kindle dozens of debates across the country and become a contest of persuasion and organization.

It is then that the Trumpification of the pro-life movement will exact a price. There is a serious cost when a movement that regards itself as pro-woman associates with misogyny. There is a serious cost when a movement that claims to be expanding the circle of social inclusion associates itself with nativism and racism. There is a serious cost when a movement that needs to be seen as charitable and reasonable associates itself with the politics of abuse and cruelty….

Maybe gaining two justices is worth it. But I am skeptical. The pro-life movement needs to be, and be seen as, advocating the defense of the weak against the strong. Trumpism is the elevation of the strong against refugees, and against migrant children, and against minorities.

US Bishops: We Unequivocally State That Racism is a Life Issue

In their new pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” the US Bishops write:

The injustice and harm racism causes are an attack on human life.  The Church in the  United States has spoken out consistently and forcefully against abortion, assisted suicide,  euthanasia, the death penalty, and other forms of violence that threaten human life.  It is not a  secret that these attacks on human life have severely  affected people of color , who are  disproportionally affected by poverty, targeted for abortion, have less access to healthcare,  have the greatest numbers on death row , and are most likely to feel  pressure  to end their lives  when facing serious illness . As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue. Accordingly, we will not cease to speak forcefully against and work toward ending racism.  Racism directly places brother and sister against each other, violating the dignity inherent in each person.  The Apostle James commands the Christian:  “show  no partiality as you  adhere  to the  faith  in  our  glorious  Lord  Jesus  Christ ” ( Jas  2:1) .

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.

Is There Room for Pro-Life Feminists at the Women’s March on Washington?

Emma Green reports:

Pro-life women are headed to D.C. Yes, they’ll turn out for the annual March for Life, which is coming up on January 27. But one week earlier, as many as a few hundred pro-lifers are planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington, which has been billed as feminist counterprogramming to the inauguration….

Many pro-life women felt just as outraged as pro-choice women about Donald Trump’s conduct and comments, including the revelation that he once bragged about groping women without their permission. For their part, the organizers say pro-lifers will be welcome to march on January 21st. A pro-life group based in Texas, New Wave Feminists, was granted partnership status on Friday. “Intersectional feminism is the future of feminism and of this movement,” said Bob Bland, one of the event’s co-chairs. “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.”


On Monday afternoon, after the publication of this article, the Women’s March organizers removed the New Wave Feminists from their website and list of partners. “The Women’s March’s platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one,” the organizers said in a statement. “The anti-choice organization in question is not a partner of the Women’s March on Washington. We apologize for this error.”

Some pro-life feminists and progressives are going anyway. Aimee Murphy of Life Matters Journal, who we have interviewed here at Millennial, writes:

Note to the women’s movement: It is possible to be both pro-life and a feminist. In fact, it is possible to be pro-life and a feminist and opposed to President-elect Donald Trump. It’s too bad the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington refuse to accept this fact. This week march organizers indicated that women like me are not welcome in their ranks….

Like most feminists, we pro-life feminists at Life Matters Journal were troubled by Trump’s election. His hateful rhetoric, xenophobic policies and misogynistic behavior indicate a terrifying disregard for the inherent dignity of human beings — women especially. Our foundational philosophy is the intrinsic value of humanity, regardless of gender, circumstance, age, ability, sexuality, race, religion. We wanted to make clear that Trump doesn’t speak for us: He is not and should not be the face of the pro-life movement….

But we will go. We will march. Planned Parenthood does not own women’s rights. The first-wave feminists understood that abortion is killing and that it is a tool of the patriarchy. We stand by the example of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and many others who upheld the dignity of pre-born children and fought discrimination against women.

We will fight against the modern popular feminist paradigm that says that to support women’s rights, we must support the violent act that is abortion. We will fight against the culture that understands pregnancy as a disease condition and sees children not for their inherent dignity, but for how wanted and able they are. We will stand up against misogyny, rape culture, sexual assault, sexism, racism, ageism, ableism and all discrimination. And yes, because of that, we will stand up against abortion.

Another Washington Post op-ed also highlights the disconnect between the march’s organizers and first-wave feminists:

Those of us at the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Mass., are saddened that the museum honoring this American iconic heroine and tireless worker for women’s rights will not be among the organizations marching in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Some would, perhaps, think that Anthony family descendants and board members of the great suffragist birthplace would be leading the Women’s March, especially as the centennial marking the Susan B. Anthony Amendment for women’s suffrage has begun in some states. But they would be wrong: Anthony would never have joined a march in favor of abortion access.

The unifying theme of Susan Brownell Anthony’s life was to speak up for those without a voice. Anthony fought for temperance, the abolition of slavery and especially the enfranchisement of women. She also spoke up for the voiceless child in utero, opposing Restellism, the term that Anthony’s newspaper and others at that time used for abortion. It’s easy to chalk up Anthony’s (and other early feminists’) opposition to abortion as a relic of their day and age. But these women were progressive and independent; they did not oppose abortion because they were conditioned to, but because they believed every human life has inherent and equal value, no matter their age, skin color or sex….

Many women and women’s groups who will march next week have good reason to do so, and they should be respected. However, we ask that abortion rights not be misappropriated to Anthony and the critical work of the suffrage movement. Anthony and many of her fellow suffragists were anti-abortion feminists, the contemporary existence of which even Hillary Clinton has acknowledged. If the Women’s March truly wants to honor the suffragist legacy, they will acknowledge their existence, too.

You can read more about pro-life feminism here and watch America Media’s video on millennial pro-life women, which includes pro-life feminists, here.

Donald Trump is Now the Standard-Bearer of the Pro-Life Movement. We Should be Ashamed.

Catholics are once again the swing vote that has decided who will be the next President of the United States. Donald Trump has won voters who self-identify as Catholic 52% to 45%, reversing President Obama’s 2012 win. Among Catholics, Trump outperformed numerous past Republican presidential candidates.

Catholic voters in America have given Donald Trump both the presidency and a Republican-controlled Congress. But for pro-life Catholics, one question must be considered: is this the person we want to represent the pro-life movement?

As a college student, millennial, and devout Catholic, I take both my faith and the right to life very seriously. I don’t simply want abortion to be prohibited, but for all people to be supported and for their humanity to be affirmed, dignified, and upheld. I am pro-life for the whole life. This means standing against abortion, the death penalty, unjust wars, and euthanasia. It also means being in favor of a living wage, accessible and affordable healthcare (especially for mothers and their children in times of need), mandated paid maternity leave, and more funding for crisis pregnancy centers. Everything that society can do to protect and support pregnant mothers and their babies should be offered, because this commitment to life and human dignity is what will ultimately end a culture of assisted suicide, abortion, objectification, and xenophobia. This will bring about a genuine culture of life. These are all things I consider when I enter the voting booth.

Many of my friends who are devout Catholic millennials support these same values, and many struggled to determine how they would cast their ballots. Sadly, due to their care for the unborn child, many felt they had no choice but to vote for Donald Trump due to his newfound commitment to appointing judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Personally, I could not bring myself to vote for either major party candidate.  I voted for a whole life write-in candidate. On election night, as my friends watched the results of the election pour in, we looked at each other in disbelief. Many who voted for Trump had thought they were making a protest vote, that he wouldn’t actually become president. But now, he is the President-elect of the United States. Read More