Pro-Life and Social Welfare Rights

Daniel K. Williams:

In the early 1970s, when the pro-life movement framed itself as a politically liberal cause that favored the expansion of social welfare benefits to pregnant women, it was difficult for opponents to caricature the movement as a cause of heartless misogynists.  By the end of the twentieth century, though, it was more difficult for pro-lifers to plausibly argue that they cared about women’s rights and women’s health when they were allied with conservative Republicans who opposed federally funded healthcare and other social welfare measures that some of the pro-lifers of the early 1970s had argued were essential to giving women positive alternatives to abortion.

The pro-life movement originated as a liberal cause, grounded in human rights claims, and rooted in a concern for all human life, both before and after birth.  But because pro-lifers have largely forgotten their movement’s liberal heritage and have allied themselves almost exclusively with political conservatives, perhaps it is not surprising that many pro-choice liberals now question pro-lifers’ sincerity when they claim that abortion restrictions are necessary to protect women.  If pro-lifers were still promoting a comprehensive social justice agenda and federally funded medical care for women, as they did nearly half a century ago, perhaps liberals would be less skeptical about their professed interest in women’s health.

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