Pro-Life and Racism

Pro-Life and Racism June 27, 2019

I am pro-life. I bet that quite a few of my long time readers figured I was pro-life anyway, so I decided to come out of the closet on that issue. I could say I am going to Baylor anyway so it is not like they can fire me from my state university job now. But that is not why I have not talked about abortion until now. In reality I have tended to focus on issues other than abortion in my writing, and until today saw no need to complicate my advocacy in other issues by bringing up this debate. Furthermore, I find that talking about abortion brings out nutty characters, and I attract enough of those already.

Why am I pro-life? I simply cannot justify having a pre-born baby torn apart so that we can deal with personal or social issues. I also find that many of the arguments about a woman owning the baby, and able to do what she wants with the child, sounds way too similar to arguments slave owners gave about owning slaves. So I am quite comfortable with my pro-life stance. If some of you want to chastise me in the comments for having this political position, then go for it. I seriously doubt that any of you will offer an argument that I have not heard before, and I am likely to be unimpressed with what you have to say.

And let me make it clear that when I say that I am pro-life that I would like to see legislation that ends the vast majority of abortions. I have heard some “pro-life” individuals who talk about reforming society so that fewer women seek abortion, but stop short of advocating legislation. I am all for many of the social reforms that would make abortion less attractive TOO. But if abortion is the taking of an innocent life, then legislation must be part of the entire package. After all we would not talk about merely reforming our society to discourage people from killing each other, but not outlaw murder.

And just to complete the picture of my pro-life stance, the exceptions I would allow if I could draw up my perfect law about abortion is for life of mother, extreme health conditions of mother, rape and incest. By extreme health conditions, it would have to be something that would be permanently crippling and certified by medical personnel. That would eliminate about 99 percent of all abortions. Of late I have heard interesting arguments about why we should not allow abortions in cases of rape and incest. I am not there yet, but it is possible for me to get there. So it is more likely that I will become less, and not more, open to exceptions in the future.

So why am I bringing this up now? Why muddle the waters in my discussions of racial alienation and Christianophobia with talk of abortion? Quite simply because my approach towards supporters of President Trump is going to be different in 2020 than it was in 2016, and this is a good issue to illustrate that difference. In 2016 I pleaded with my Christian friends to not vote for Trump. I had some quietly tell me that they did not vote for Trump in part due to my arguments. So I like to think I did some good. But in 2020 my focus is going to be on persuading them to hold Trump accountable.

Part of this change is just being realistic. Unfortunately, most of the Christians who voted for Trump in 2016 are not going to change their mind now. They know they already will pay the price in their loss of reputation no matter whether they support him in 2020 or not. So why not vote for him again? I am not going to change their minds. Indeed, I have heard from some of my Never-Trump Christian friends who are starting to talk like they are going to vote for Trump out of their fear of what the Democrats will do if they take back power. I have talked about the foolishness and lack of endgame of this approach but to little avail.

So if they are going to support Trump no matter what, then perhaps I can persuade them to pressure him to move away from some of his more egregious actions and attitudes. He is going to be our president until 2020 and maybe until 2024. Maybe he can be pressured to become a better president. Trump has little incentive to listen to those like me who do not support him. But he may listen to voices coming from his one of his core constituency – conservative Christians.

So what does this have to do with abortion? One of the reasons why many conservative Christians voted for him was because of his claim to being pro-life. I ridiculed their faith in his pro-life stance in 2016, but to be fair he has acted as a pro-life president. He has endorsed pro-life policies in his administration (such as the Mexico City policy) and appointed justices that are pro-life. It may be the case that the Supreme Court Justices appointed by Trump will overturn Roe v. Wade. But even then you will need legislation to move a pro-life agenda. This will require a pro-life movement strong enough to persuade legislators to act on the behalf of the unborn.
That movement cannot merely consist of older white evangelicals and Catholics. That movement has to include the young and people of color. The good news is that many of the young and people of color are pro-life. The bad news is that they hate Trump. If the pro-life movement wants to have long-term success, it is going to have to make allies of some of the young folks and people of color who right now cannot stand our president.

But that is going to be hard if pro-lifers reflexively defend all things Trump. Let me show this by concentrating on people of color. Pro-life people of color are going to have a hard time allying themselves with white pro-lifers if they continue to overlook the race-baiting done by Trump. By race-baiting what I mean is that Trump makes comments that provide comfort for some of the racist elements of our society and thus has encouraged the rise of white nationalism. I am not saying he is a racist, as I do not know if that is the case. But he certainly is willing to placate racists.

Whether it is his comments about Mexican rapists, denial of knowing the KKK or David Duke, talking about third world countries as S***holes, seeing the good in white nationalism, there is plenty to choose from when looking for race baiting done by this president. And it is not any one comment, which someone may explain away. This is a pattern he has had from his very candidacy. And sadly many conservative Christians have been silent about this pattern of race-baiting.

If conservative Christians put real pressure on Trump to stop this type of race-baiting then he would have to listen to them. He cannot win re-election without their support. If they are going to vote for him anyway, the least they can do is work to make him a president that is not consistently insulting people of color. It would be an improvement to have a president who no longer provides comfort to white racists. I am not asking for much.

I do not know if a strong push back against Trump will make it more likely for the pro-life movement to attract people of color. Many of us are so frustrated with our president that this push back may not be able to counteract the very act of voting for him. But given the way this president has increased racial alienation in our society, this push back is the right thing to do. So purely on the basis of it being the right thing to do, I would like to see pro-lifers start to hold Trump’s feet to the fire.

But beyond the moral righteousness of such action, pro-lifers who support Trump have to move in this direction if they hope to link themselves with other pro-lifers. Just telling those of us who cannot support him to just shut up and vote Republican just does not fly. If there is going to be a strong multiracial pro-life movement, it will not begin until more whites in that movement indicate that they actually care about racism in our society. That can start by confronting our president.

I get that some feel that voting for Trump will help the pro-life cause in the short term. But in the long term linking pro-life activism to Trump will discourage many people from taking the pro-life movement seriously. Rather they will blame the pro-life movement for Trump and all the damage that he is doing. Uncritical backing of Trump is clearly a penny-wise, pound foolish decision.

So to my fellow prolifers, let me say that if you want allies in this movement, then you are going to have to listen to the racial concerns of people of color. You do not have to agree with us on everything, but we do expect you to be willing to work with us to find solutions. And you definitely cannot uncritically accept the race-baiting of the president that you helped to put into office. In short if you care about saving babies in the long run, then you are going to have to care about racism as well. Somehow I think that is the way it should be.

Browse Our Archives