With the Right controlling all three branches of government, there is the tiniest sliver of a remote possibility that Roe may end up being overturned.
Even if this happens, the pro-life movement has lost.
This is partially because – as both pro-life and pro-choice thinkers are beginning to realize – the abortion issue doesn’t really boil down simply to Roe. Other nations with more restrictive abortion laws – and better social safety nets, which reduce abortion – are also discussing it. Overturning Roe would not be the end of the affair, for either side.
Above all, however, the pro-life movement has lost because it has now been exposed for what it is. After forty years of claiming to be on the side of the women and not just the unborn, or decrying the label “pro-birth” – mainstream pro-lifers can not, in good conscience, do so anymore.
Not being in good conscience, they may try. But the world sees through them now. Even many of us who identify as pro-life have had enough.
I’ve been cultivating, perhaps, a sort of “three strikes and you’re out” paradigm, as far as the movement with which I was once personally involved is concerned. The first strike was when pro-life leaders told us we HAD to vote for Trump, in spite of everything (racism, sexism, sexual assault, ethical violations, bullying, ableism, philandering, eugenics, ineptitude, feel free to add to the list). The second strike was when pro-lifers not only turned a blind eye to, but actually turned on the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting. It was clear then that many held the fabricated “right to bear arms” over the “right to life.?
And now we’re on the third strike: pro-lifers silent on the attacks on the dignity of life and holiness of family, carried out against desperate parents seeking asylum at our borders – or, worse yet, defending these attacks. One woman posted on her Facebook page that the forced separation and caging of children was “necessary” to save the children from possible sex trafficking, invoking the old “it’s for their own good” trope beloved of so many tyrants. Others repeat the “if they didn’t want X to happen, they shouldn’t have come here illegally” mantra – in glaring contradiction of their own determination to oppose the laws according to which abortion is legal. There is no empathy, no consideration of these suffering parents and terrified children as human. They are simply “illegals.” Subtext: non-white.
The people have noticed this. In the past few days I have seen at least five posts from both middle-grounders and pro-choice activists – many of whom are working hard in defense of refugee families – asking where the pro-lifers are, wondering why the pro-lifers, who claim to care about the well-being of children and the inviolability of families, remain at best silent.
A few of us have spoken up. My own organization, the New Pro Life Movement, has been promoting efforts to raise bail for incarcerated and innocent mothers. Rehumanize International and New Wave Feminists have been vocal in defense of refugees.
But we are the minority. The majority, the ones who said we had to support Trump, are happy to support him in his assault on life, and happy also to attack those of us who believe in a consistent life ethic.
This is why the movement has lost: it no longer has a moral platform to stand on, no longer has any semblance of a claim to care genuinely for all lives, for women as well as babies, for the born as well as the unborn. The racist leanings of the movement have been made apparent. Ordinary decent human beings will fight back hard, henceforth, against any “pro-life” initiative – and they will be wise to do so, as those who purport to defend life are now exposed as supporting policies that do harm both to born and unborn persons.
All that “pro-life” means anymore is “Handmaid’s Tale stuff.” The controlling of women’s bodies, fetishization of fertility, the corruption of religion by patriarchal power, and all the hidden tokens of other fetishizations that this entails. Because it is not all about Roe, this clear delineation of the movement’s moral identity will prove fatal to it. Should they “win” it will be a winning wrought through abusive power, and thus not be winning at all. And as the dialectic pendulum swings back again, we can expect to find it harder and harder to convince people that pro-life isn’t intricately connected with sexism, racism, and tyranny – with pussy-grabbing, mocking the disabled, and dehumanizing refugees. In short, it will be almost impossible to convince our critics that we aren’t exactly what they always thought we might be.
And anyone who holds to a consistent life ethic, believing that all lives are deserving of protection, now faces a much more difficult challenge, as our identification as “pro-life” will – very rightly – tarnish us in the eyes of ordinary, moral, humane persons.