A Dialogue: What Does It Mean to Be Pro-life?


Stan Guthrie

Overheard on social media (not really):


“I’m pro-life, and so I voted for this politician.”

“Well, being pro-life is so much more than voting for a politician or supporting a particular law.”

“Of course it is, but we can’t overlook the fact that this politician opposes the use of federal funds for abortion and nominates only conservative, pro-life judges. That may not be the whole pro-life agenda, but it certainly helps.”

“Well, your politician just does these things to get your vote. They change nothing. They’re just window-dressing meant to keep you in the fold.”

“Really? The abortion rate has fallen sharply since the 1980s. That’s due, at least in part, to new, more restrictive laws against abortion across the 50 states and judges who will uphold them.”

“Well, that’s your opinion, but being pro-life is about more than simply allowing babies to be born. It also involves making sure that the baby gets excellent healthcare and has a good school. And what good is a good school if you don’t have adequate nutrition?”

“So you’re saying we should include taxpayer-funded school lunches as a pro-life issue?”

“Why not? If you’re pro-life, you’re pro-life—in every area of life.”

“Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, those of us who see abortion as a monstrous social blight have coalesced around the term ‘pro-life’ because it crystallizes what we are fighting for—the right of every human being to be born, to be able to live the life that God has granted.”

“So what you’re really saying is that you are ‘pro-birth,’ and that all these other things don’t matter.”

“Not at all! I’ll admit that it took some time for the pro-life movement to broaden its focus from protecting the unborn to include serving their mothers, and now, their fathers, by giving free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, and baby clothes, and by encouraging adoption. But if you want to belittle all that we are doing by slapping a ‘pro-birth’ label on us, be my guest! I for one will wear it proudly, if you consider the alternative.”

“The alternative is to be less narrow and more open to all the issues that affect human life. This means, among other things, taking a stand against gun violence, racism, economic injustice, and climate change. What could be more pro-life than that?”

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of people not shooting each other, of human dignity for all, of everyone getting an opportunity to succeed without discrimination, and of a planet that’s safe for human beings—who, after all, are stewards of God’s world. It’s our obligation, and calling, to take care of it. But I don’t necessarily agree with all your prescriptions for solving these challenges, which usually involve higher taxes and more government. These issues are matters of prudential judgment.”

“No, that’s double-talk! If you’re really pro-life, completely pro-life, you will agree with me about these policies. They’re just common sense! I’m pro-life from birth to death. We like to say that the protection of life is a seamless garment.”

“And there’s a lot of merit in what you say, no doubt about it. It makes sense that if we agree that unborn human life is worth protecting, so is born human life.”

“So you agree with me!”

“Not quite. We agree on the principle: human life is worth protecting. But we disagree on the particulars, which are debatable. There can be no debate that human life in the womb is worth our best efforts working through legislation, advocacy, and practical help. There can be no debate that sixty-one million unborn babies killed in their mothers’ wombs, of all races, since 1973 is a moral horror that must be stopped. Climate change is of a lesser moral magnitude.”

“Why would anyone oppose saving the earth? What could be more important than that?”

“Look. The best ways to stop murder, racial bigotry, and an overheating climate are matters of evidence, debate, and judgment. I believe people of good will can disagree about the reasons for and severity of these problems, and the best ways to solve them. No one, however, can dispute that the fetus is a defenseless, innocent human life worthy of protection.”

“Okay, I get that. Feel free to fight for the fetus, if that is your pro-life passion. I will continue fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage, Medicare for all, and any other issues that I think are pro-life.”

“Go ahead and fight, but as I said, these issues may or may not have their merits, but they are not pro-life.”

“What bigotry! What gives you the right to define whether or not something is pro-life?”

“We defined the term after Roe and have used it for nearly five decades. When people hear it, they know what it means. It’s our term. What gives you the right to redefine it?”

“We had to redefine it to make it better.”

“Better? Look what you’ve done to ‘bigotry’ and ‘marriage’! You’ve redefined them to meaninglessness. But we’re not going to let you do the same to pro-life.”

“What? Then you’re saying we’re not part of the pro-life movement! Again, how bigoted!”

“It’s not bigotry—it’s precision with the language. You are more than welcome to join us when we pray at Planned Parenthood, or write letters to the editor, or purchase ultrasounds, or collect necessities for expectant mothers, or adopt supposedly ‘unwanted’ children. And of course you’re free to advocate on behalf of all the issues that are most important to you—whatever you call them.”

“Thank you.”

“So can we count on your being at the abortion clinic for prayer this Saturday?”

“I’m afraid I have other priorities.”

Stan Guthrie’s latest book is Victorious: Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place.


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