Local & State Voices

Pro-life should be more than pro-birth

Eliminating abortion in America is never going to happen. But the debate is going to keep coming up. The most likely scenario is a return to the pre-Roe days, where states make patchwork individual choices about access to reproductive healthcare. If the Supreme Court allows states to make abortion illegal, few if any abortions will actually be prevented. Poor women will have to work harder to get one and affluent women likely won’t even notice things changed. That’s how it usually works anyway, because this will always be about religion, power and control.

For many, faith is defined by what is forbidden. For me, it’s more about what is required. Like most Americans, I’m pro-life and pro-choice. Through faith, I believe abortion should be legal, safe and rare. I would never want to impose my faith on another person, if only because doing so makes it compulsory and no longer faith at all. As with most men, I feel bad even discussing what women can do with their bodies. But then men have been telling women what to do since the beginning of time, so I guess history’s on my side.

Several years ago my son and I drove by what appeared to be the beginnings of a riot. It was actually hundreds of demonstrators outside a women’s health clinic. People were screaming, chanting, holding crosses and gigantic signs, many with grotesque pictures of aborted fetuses. I explained to my son they were trying to convince women not to have an abortion. His reply was innocent and on-point: “Why do they have to be so mean?” Perhaps their faith is strong, but their religion fails them.

As a foster and adoptive parent, I might have more passion for the unborn if I weren’t so preoccupied by the plight of those already here. Our world is full of children no one wants, who often become adults no one wants. We can be a cruel species. Perhaps that’s why Jesus concerned himself with the sick, poor, orphans, immigrants and prisoners. We Southerners usually refer to them as “those people.” Problem is, many of us are one check, one divorce, one addicted kid, one illness, or one stupid choice away from being “those people.” You know, the ones we pity, don’t trust, won’t let our kids play with, the ones bad things happen to, the ones we don’t want next door.

Maybe that’s why “pro-life” groups don’t demonstrate outside our prisons, hospitals, and social service and immigration centers. Imagine if large crowds gathered there every day, screaming with rage, holding banners with grotesque pictures of chained black youth in orange jump suits, homeless people living under bridges, mentally ill children stacked in emergency rooms, brown children in cages at the border, and orphaned boys and girls dressed up, hoping to win the family lottery.

Seems to me being pro-life requires more of us than being pro-birth. After all, we don’t become human through biology alone, but through acts of will and love on the part of other people. Something seems to go terribly wrong with our concern for life once a child leaves a mother’s womb. Those trapped in poverty, by addiction and mental illness, or trapped by a broken criminal justice system, are not free and certainly don’t have dignity. But by golly, they were born!

Religion, power and control; three words, too often meaning the same thing. To me, it’s pretty simple: when you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a beautiful thing. When you say others can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a problem.

Email: billy@billymaddalon.com