I’ve been feeling more and more disillusioned with the mainstream pro-life platform. Maybe it’s the fact that it has been pigeonholed further into the right wing, or that it often tends to ignore the way women who choose to abort are trapped in systems of poverty, racism, and sexism.
I’m encouraged by the increase in non-white, non-religious, in general left wing pro-lifers. But above all, I see that many Catholics seem to think voting for pro-life politicians is enough in itself, as if checking an obligatory box. Some seem to easily forget that the job is not done there, and that the actual circumstances of women in crisis pregnancies will be helped very little by the mere changing of a law.
After one of my closest friends had an abortion last year, I realized how far removed the mainstream pro-life platform has become from these real life circumstances. I agree that the law indeed contains a pedagogical power to teach and defend what is right. But meeting women where they are at, facing the damage done to them by irresponsible and sometimes abusive men, and helping them to recognize their own dignity, the dignity of their child, and the liberating grace and task of maternity takes more than political activism. It takes an encounter, a community, and a proposal for life that is powerful and tangible enough to sustain her in her struggle to say yes to life and all the difficulties that will entail.
I applaud the efforts of crisis pregnancy centers, pro-life health clinics, and communities like the Sisters of Life who actually work face to face with these women. And it became clear to me today that the mainstream pro-life moment is less interested in these concrete gestures of solidarity, and is more interested in promoting itself as a political-ideological agenda.
The presence of President Donald J. Trump at the March for Life—the first American president to speak there—made this fact resoundingly clear, and further alienated me from the pro-life “agenda.” To see all the Catholic news outlets rejoicing over Trump’s presence at the March was a sign of the shallowness of the American Catholic media…to its commitment to ideology and sensationalism, as opposed to Christ’s wounded Body, and the experience of communion with our neighbor.
Needless to say, Trump’s presence makes Catholics and pro-lifers lose any vestige of credibility we had in the public square. Not only this, but it damages the growing possibility of establishing a respect for the unborn in Democratic, feminist, and non-religious circles.Worst of all, Trump’s uncouth, irrational, xenophobic, sexist and often borderline (if not outright) racist rhetoric destroys the ideal of promoting a consistent life ethic.
Yes, I know that abortion is an intrinsically evil action. I know it ranks higher in the hierarchy of mortal sins within Catholic moral theology, and is more objectively sinful than withholding goods from the poor or being unwelcoming to migrants. But, at this point, I strongly believe that Catholics can’t afford to make concessions for this one issue. I don’t think it’s morally or culturally credible to maintain the stance that abortion is the only pro-life issue that matters. While there are valid concerns about maintaining national security and identity and avoiding the dangers of the social welfare State, the plight of the poor, immigrants, and racial minorities has become too grave to be given the back seat.
I’m afraid that too many Catholics have sold out too easily with Trump. Trump’s appearance at the March was highly strategic, and we play right into his hands, throwing away our dignity over this single issue…on which his general track record indicates he doesn’t seem to care much for anyway.
His words at the March (which are shockingly coherent considering his usual style of speaking and tweeting) were clearly placed in his hands by those who think pandering to naive Catholic and Evangelical right wing voting blocs will work. Even if we do take him for “his” word, and he does overturn Roe v. Wade, can we really trust that he’ll work to promote the dignity of all lives, from womb to tomb and everything in between?
Now, I understand that many Catholics had other reasons for voting for him, which I find mildly understandable. And yes, I will applaud him if he actually overturns Roe v. Wade. But that would not even come close to being enough.
Catholics’ best bet at this point is to heed the Pope’s advice to recognize that “realities are more important than ideas.” Let our point of reference not be abstract theological or ideological principles, but the experience of Christ’s love incarnated in His Body, the communion of His Church. Let us “get our hands dirty,” seeking Christ’s body in the concrete circumstances of the woman in crisis and her unborn child. Let’s immerse ourselves in the struggle of the migrant, the poor, the elderly, and all those privileged places where He chooses to make His flesh most tangible.
Let’s not sell out so easily for the illusion of a theoretical victory, which Scripture tells us can only come through the Cross of Christ. Our witness, and our credibility in this country, depends on this choice.