In his book, Moral Choices, Boston College philosopher Peter Kreeft (author of the hilarious and insightful, Between Heaven and Hell and Jesus Meets Socrates) has a chapter about twelve boxes that Jesus will not squeeze into. Kreeft makes the salient point that Jesus is not Left or Right, and he is not a friend of extreme individualism or communism.
I think an authentic pro-life perspective is far more profound than emotional reactions to 1960s feminism or lock-step repetitions of environmentalist mantras. Conservatives conveniently forget that it has only been a generation since African- Americans and women have had a semblance of equal opportunity. Liberals have amnesia concerning the real stability of the traditional family across the economic and racial spectrum before the welfare state. The Right excoriates government regulation, but environmental improvements since the 1970s would be impossible without government oversight. The Left has a visceral hatred of real business - the kind that actually produces products and has to keep improving processes. Of course, the "business" of entertainment or education is exempt from critique. If you make millions from semi-pornographic movies or songs, that is OK as long as you vote the right way and have a Prius parked outside your mansion.
A pro-life worldview begins with wonder. Regardless of one's religion or opinion on the age of the universe, that fact that there is something and not nothing is amazing. Our planet is "rare" - all scientists admit that the probability of aligning and integrating all the factors for life is very small. If we can begin with wonder at the macro and microcosmic worlds, we have a starting point all humankind can share.
A pro-life perspective is grounded in the uniqueness of humankind among all the living creatures. Please notice I am not saying that such superiority means savage subjugation of animals and the environment. One does not need to be religious to see the qualitative difference between humankind and even the highest primates. Why does this matter? Pro-life means that a man is more important than a mink. A baby in the womb is more important than an obscure bug in the jungle. The notions that animals and other earthly life deserve the same legal and moral status as humans will ultimately dehumanize us and return us to self-destructive paganism.
Wonder and the value of human life must be joined with a deep respect for the interconnectedness of all creation and the special human vocation to care for the world. We may be more valuable that a toad, but we are part of a delicate and delightful ecology that calls our for care as well as creativity. Economic growth and environmental balance are NOT incompatible. Caring for the earth is not an ideology or religion - it is good stewardship of the gift of life.
Pro-life means that humans are endowed with natural rights and that governments exist to protect these rights, not bestow or restrict them. All people deserve love and respect regardless of gender, race or worldview.
These 4 pillars: wonder, human uniqueness, environmental stewardship and natural rights, are the foundations for the policies and principles that follow.
To be fully pro-life is to enhance and protect life at all stages and in some cases, confront the evils that undermine life. Here are eight affirmations that round out a pro-life ethic.
One: Life begins in the womb. Denial that the growing baby is a person requires such self-deception that it needs to be curtailed. The maturing baby is not a blob of fetal tissue or an appendage. There are times when the mother's life is in danger that therapeutic abortion may be called for. There are times that the consequences of incest or rape need to be confronted. Abortion as birth control dehumanizes everyone and keeps men from responsibility for their actions. Voluntary sexual intimacy between adults may result in pregnancy! Biology works. Underage moms and dads need to be responsible to give up a child for adoption or raise the child with the help of family and community.
Now we get to the heart of matter - what about all the exploited, poor women who are pregnant, having conceived in a relationship that is just shy of rape? The answer is economic, social, psychological and spiritual support, not the termination of life in utero. As a nation we must see all children as gifts and not snuff out life before or during her first breath.
Two: Pro-life means being pro-education for all children. We can provide education in all locations in smarter, more efficient ways. The wonderful turnaround narratives we love to read about or see in the movies are not the preserve of Left or Right. Courage, humility, leadership and a willingness to take responsibility are values all people of conscience share. There is room in the USA for homeschooling, private and public education. We must do more than teach to a test. We must also not allow public educators to displace parents, community and religious traditions in the interests of their political agendas. We do need more money for education - in the hands of students and teachers, not overpaid administrators who hide behind "flaws in the system" while exploiting the system for their own gain.
Three: Pro-life means pro-family and that means responsible parents caring for their children. Poor or rich, children deserve to go to school with clean clothes, full bellies and the knowledge that they can come home to a safe place. Clean clothes and a bowl of oatmeal are not beyond the ability of most people. Conservatives and liberals can join together in promoting family education on hygiene, parenting and life skills. Deadbeat dads need to be prosecuted and abusive parents held accountable. This does not mean that children can sue their parents because they received a timeout they didn't like. Real discipline is hard work.
Four: Pro-life means more local government and public-private partnerships and less paternalism from Washington, DC. For eighty years we have seen the fruit of federal programs that only expand in their inefficiency. Charities and community groups, city hall and county governments all need to roll up their sleeves and create new solutions for sustainable life. Pro-life promotes economic opportunity, not handouts. Pro-life programs transform ghettos though new businesses and end redlining. Pro-life advocates invest in human dignity, not constructing inhuman housing projects that sequester the poor. Pro-life compels life-long learning and flexibility in work, not vocational training that creates cogs for global capitalist machines.
Five: Pro-life implies reasonable laws on gun ownership, avoiding the totalitarian goals of the anti-gun lobby while recognizing that limits on firepower and good licensing are not violations of the 2nd Amendment. Our Founders recognized that the state should not disarm its citizens. Like citizenship, there must be reasonable rules for firearm ownership.
Six: Pro-life means that we stand against all forms of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, from the brothels of Bombay to the factories of Juarez, from Internet porn to over-sexualized education for public school children. Celibacy outside and fidelity within marriage must be celebrated instead of castigated. The contempt of Hollywood for traditional values is palpable in its hypocrisy. The same folks who hate the "Leave It To Beaver" values of the 1950s are aghast when a partner takes up with someone else! Without prosecuting the private lives of consenting adults, we need to reaffirm that women and men are capable of sexual self-control. We must work tirelessly to free the millions of exploited from labor and sex slavery. This is not just an "other country/culture" problem - these evils are present right in the heartland of America.
Seven: Pro-life means that we bestow dignity on the aged, infirm and vulnerable and refuse to capitulate to the calls for active euthanasia. It is one thing to let nature have her course; it is quite another to help her out, especially when economic motives create the context for elimination. All human life has value.
Eight: Pro-life means we are reluctant to go to war, careful when we do and clear about our aims. No general with a conscience wants to put soldiers at unnecessary risk, yet politicians talk about the military in calculating terms that ignore the price these brave women and men pay for their country. We must help our allies, confront terrorism and protect our liberties. We can do this without being an occupying force in hostile regions and without wasteful spending. As a corollary to this, pro-life means that we must dialogue about the death penalty and listen to each other. There are real pro-life people on both sides of this debate.
Pro-life is a rich, non-ideological affirmation that each day is a gift and each person possesses infinite worth. It is compassionate and concerned for justice. It recognizes personal responsibility while affirming that no one makes it alone. It affirms some traditions while setting people free to create new ones.
From conception to coronation, human life is worth protecting and nurturing. This is what it means to be pro-life.