The Unborn and the Undocumented: A Lament

When I first heard reports about an undocumented teenager’s appeal for an abortion, my heart sank into my stomach.  All I could think was, “This is really, really bad.”  Bad for pro-life concerns and bad for pro-immigrant concerns, because the case can only polarize the two against each other in our current political climate.  And to make matters worse, it presents The Donald with a golden opportunity to style himself as the face of the pro-life movement.  And I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s bad, possibly fatal, for the movement’s credibility.

And now the deed is done, and the child is dead.  And the human dignity of that child, and of his or her mother, will continue to be dismissed for political reasons.

And so this is a lament for the dignity of them both, dismissed and yet indelible.

It is a lament for the young girl known as “Jane Doe” and the cycle of violence she has been caught in; and for her parents, whose previous act of violence fed her fear; and for her sister, made to suffer a forced miscarriage; and for her child, whose very life has been taken in an act of legal violence; and for the child’s father, no less responsible for his or her existence but conspicuously absent from public discourse.

It is a lament for pro-lifers embracing anti-immigrant rhetoric, on the false premise that the sorrow they rightly feel for an aborted child requires demonizing the mother for her immigration status; and for immigrant advocates embracing pro-abortion rhetoric, on the false premise that the sorrow they rightly feel for a detained young migrant requires dehumanizing her child whose death is reduced to a “service.”

It is a lament for all those in vulnerable positions – unborn and undocumented – made more vulnerable still as they risk being reduced to political and rhetorical pawns, whose intrinsic human worth is set against each other in a deadly zero-sum game.

It is a lament for a culture of death, a throwaway culture, that devalues the vulnerable left and right, that creates unjust laws that leave them unprotected, and that creates a political culture that pits one vulnerable population against another, that may grudgingly tolerate individual concern for one or the other, but never both.

It shouldn’t take such a thoroughly lamentable situation to illustrate why pro-life and pro-immigrant concerns must accompany each other (as I’ve said before, for similar reasons, about being pro-life and pro-poor).  If either is truly rooted in concern for the vulnerable, it must include the other.  It is no help to the unborn to deprive their parents of the basic necessities to safely bear and support their children, or to castigate them for needing help.  It is no help to those who are disempowered by socioeconomic or immigration status to tell them their children are better off dead.

And so this lament is also a warning, both to my fellow pro-life advocates and my fellow advocates for immigrants.  Please, for the love of God and humanity, do not be drawn into the polemical forces that conflate compassion for one with antipathy for another.  Resist the false logic of the culture of death.

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