Save Lives or Punish People? Which is Pro-Life?

Save Lives or Punish People? Which is Pro-Life? August 19, 2020

I’m going to have to write about abortion again.

I don’t like writing about abortion, because when I do, people from both sides of the issue call me horrendous names and remind me that I’m fat and unattractive. But I just can’t let a conversation I had this week go by without comment.

Before I write about abortion, I always feel I need to specify a few things, just to get them out of the way:

–I believe that it is intrinsically evil to take a human life.  Every form of direct killing of a human is gravely evil, and we should work against it however we can including by passing laws, if the laws will actually help.

–I believe that human life begins at conception and ends sometime after the body stops breathing. In the time between conception and natural death, it is gravely evil to directly kill that person for any reason and it’s almost always gravely evil to allow them to die on their own as well. I believe and profess that this is true, and I’m committed to helping save as many lives as I can.

–I don’t believe it’s helpful to compare abortion to other intrinsic evils, because I don’t believe that the relation between two people in a pregnancy is the same as the relation between any other two people. Pregnancy is unlike anything else. And abortion is not like murder-for-hire or race based chattel slavery or the Holocaust, it’s its own terrible evil because pregnancy is its own unique state. The laws we pass to help stop or limit other types of killing might not be helpful in stopping or limiting this one. We might, God forbid, have to think creatively if we’re actually going to make a difference.

–It is not true that loyalty to a folk hero is  necessary to demonstrate your devotion to a certain cause. I don’t worship idols, I worship Christ.

–I criticize the celebrities of the pro-life movement so often because I am also pro-life. It sickens me that the pro-life movement is so often guilty of behaving horrendously in public, BECAUSE I believe we have the moral high ground. The constant misbehavior of pro-life celebrities makes opposition to killing a baby look oafish and cruel, and that’s wrong.

–No, I’ve never had an abortion. I was blessed to somehow be able to have one beautiful daughter in spite of my bad health and I’d do anything to be able to have another baby. That’s not really anybody’s business, but I bring this up because often when I express a critique of the pro-life movement, I am met with people who want to call me terrible names and taunt me about the pains of hell and then ask how many abortions I’ve had. The answer is zero. That won’t prevent the name calling, but just for the record.

Now, with that out of the way, I want to tell you about a conversation I had publicly on Facebook. I was talking with an older gentleman who insisted that voting Republican was a moral obligation because Republicans claim they’re going to make abortion illegal. Republicans have not done that, mind you. They are, indeed, the reason that abortion is legal because Republican Supreme Court Justices decided Roe versus Wade and upheld the decision in Planned Parenthood Versus Casey. No matter how many Republicans we get on the Supreme Court, they keep on refusing to reverse Roe. And reversing Roe wouldn’t actually end abortion; it would just make it possible for there to be a blanket ban on abortion in one state while another state allowed it and had a dangerous poorly regulated abortion clinic right on the border– a public health nightmare. There’s got to be a better way.

This is not even getting into the fact that when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and Executive Branch for two whole years, in 2017 and 2018, they refused to pass any significant anti-abortion legislation and wouldn’t even de-fund Planned Parenthood. I’m not talking about a big bloated bill with the defunding of Planned Parenthood sandwiched in it somewhere. I’m saying, they could have written “no funding for Planned Parenthood” on a napkin and held a vote in one afternoon, gotten it across the president’s desk by dinner time, and had the law signed by the end of the week, if that’s what they actually wanted to do. It’s clear to me that anti-abortion legislation is the carrot the GOP uses to coax conservative Christians along, and if they passed too much of it they would lose the carrot.

I also know that our Church does not require a Republican vote on pain of sin; this has been discussed multiple times, not just by talking heads like me but by the CDF, and you can read about it yourself.  It’s not a sin to vote Republican and it’s not a sin to vote Democrat.

Now, I brought this up with this gentleman, and he was adamant that the bishops were wrong. He said “there can be no gray in fighting genocide, there can only be black or white.” And I agree with him. I’m not very keen on referring to abortion as genocide, although it’s certainly often used as a tool in genocides– just look at what the Chinese are doing to the Uighur people, for example. Yes, abortion kills an enormous number of human beings and that’s unacceptable, but usually when people say “genocide” they’re referring to something more specific than that. And I agree with that man that there isn’t a gray area, when we’re discussing killing. Killing is simply wrong. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a difference of opinion as to how to stop that killing, or limit it if we’re completely unable to stop it.

Because, like it or not, we can’t stop abortion. We can help stop individual abortions, and we must try to do that. But abortion itself isn’t going to go away by the passing of a law. People have been getting abortions for thousands of years. There are papyrus scrolls describing abortions that took place in ancient Egypt in 1550 BC. Abortions have been obtained whether they were legal or illegal, whether they were extremely dangerous to the mother or less dangerous, for as long as people understood how pregnancy worked.

I showed the man a chart. This was created by the Heritage Foundation, so I don’t think they represent some kind of wicked liberal conspiracy. The Heritage Foundation looked at Planned Parenthood’s annual reports and found out that the number of abortions they performed shot up dramatically in 2017 and 2018, when pro-life conservatives controlled the house, senate and the executive branch. Under Obama, the numbers were lower, and they took an enormous dip in 2015 and 2016. The Republican-controlled federal government has jacked up its spending on Planned Parenthood every single year, as Lila Rose herself reports.

And the gentleman didn’t care. He explained that the abortions  were happening because Planned Parenthood was evil. What was happening because of the good work of Republicans, was that justices were being appointed who would eventually change laws.

He didn’t care about or take responsibility for the actual killing of real human beings right in front of him. He cared about theoretical laws that might someday be passed, in order to punish people for killing human beings. He didn’t even care if the laws worked, he just cared about laws.

And this is the problem I have with the pro-life movement again and again. I think saving human lives, born and unborn, is more important than punishing and controlling people. They’re not actually pro-life, they’re pro-legislation. And year after year, the legislation fails to pass. And when it passes, it fails to work. And in the meanwhile, people who’ve already been born suffer and die as well, and watch the pro-life movement ignore or outright mock their suffering because it isn’t the particular type of suffering they want to legislate about.

Now, is every single person who is pro-life exactly like that gentleman? Probably not. But I think he tipped his hand for an awfully large number of people. I think he’s giving away the game. The pro-life movement doesn’t want to help people, it wants to pass laws. And it’s not even good at doing that.

I choose to help people.

On November 3rd, I am going to go to the polls and vote against the party that has driven abortions up and caused thousands of other preventable deaths as well. I don’t like the democratic candidates hardly at all. I can’t stand Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. but in my estimation, they’ll kill fewer people. And then, I’ll spend the other 525599 minutes of my year finding ways to help people that will probably be a lot more effective than voting.

I’d rather save lives and help others than punish people. And I refuse to be spiritually abused into feeling that I’ve sinned by doing so.

And now I’ll get back to writing about topics I actually like.


Image via Pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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