Being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion


Recently a critic noted that I often criticized President George W. Bush’s wars but do not speak about the war of abortion, in which there have been over 50 million fatalities. Both have indeed been terrible wars. I take it for granted that most readers and other Catholics know beyond any doubt that abortion on demand is seriously wrong without my adding to the chorus. Is there any Catholic above the age of 6 that does not know this? However it seems that most of any age do not know about the injustice, the wrongness of our many wars. One of them is that in Afghanistan, which President Barack Obama has continued.

If I write about our nation’s wars, it is to speak in defense of our all-volunteer military sent into these disasters whose only purpose seems to be to keep our military in readiness, while testing ever new and more lethal weapons. I also write to free up increasingly scarce money for imperative needs like health and infrastructure, given that over 60 percent of America’s discretionary budget every year goes to the Pentagon, not counting what is paid for by whole other cabinet departments to cover Defense considerations, the way Energy pays over 40 billion dollars annually to manage our nuclear arsenal, for instance. Then there’s Veterans’ Affairs, plus the war-making part — the largest part — of our national debt service.

It could well be that military personnel do not want my concern for them, expressed by my calls to demilitarize the budget. They may believe the government explanations given for their being sent to dozens of countries to establish a presence in the face of enemies real or imagined. They may subscribe to the rationales given by people more competent than me about why we are in so many countries when we would never stand for Russia or China, e.g., being where we are. They may justify it by the doctrine of American exceptionalism. This says we are not held to what we hold other nations to observe, that we are excepted from United Nations protocols which we have signed about non-intervention outside our borders. Because we are mightier, because we are America, we don’t have to follow everyone else’s rules.

But like Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and many others who subscribe to the “seamless garment” argument, which says that all pro-life causes are of the same cloth, I oppose abortion for the same reason I oppose mad, runaway militarism. Both are anti-life. One in four pregnancies in the U.S. ends in an abortion clinic, and most women who choose this option choose it a second time. Why?

What are the reasons? First we have to disabuse middle-class people of the notion that life for everyone else is what it is for us. We have food on the table. We have jobs. We have access to affordable medical coverage. So we assume everyone else does. Major mistake. Many abortions are due to poverty. Poor women have so few options when pregnant, whether married or not, that they decide that they cannot afford the child. So many poor women look for some little financial stability in unlikely short-term relationships with men because that is the best they can find.

But if anti-abortionists can only criticize abortion seekers while choosing to remain oblivious to why so many abort, they show themselves grievously unaware. If they oppose anti-poverty programs when they know poverty causes many abortions, they seem insincere. It is a statistical fact that there are slightly fewer abortions in pro-choice administrations than in pro-life ones because the former work to enact laws and programs to head off poverty. This is my problem with American conservatism. It clamors for ever smaller government so there is less tax to pay. But they clip the anti-poverty programs first with little evident concern to lessen the many multiples we spend on defense.

Catholic social justice for the past century and a half has demanded that government attend to the poor, that the wealthy pay more in taxes, and that a decent standard of living be available to all citizens, not just to those who bankroll super-PACs. Who, then, is really pro-life?