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When life isn’t really living

Recently left this comment in a blog where the “pro-life” movement was being discussed; in particular, it was unveiled as more of an “anti-choice” movement instead.

Amanda has hit on a real touchstone of the “pro-life” movement: their selective approach. Often, pro-life conservatives are the first to speak out against funding for social programs in the U.S. which provide for single and economically poor mothers, such as universal health care, Head Start, and school lunch programs. They’ll do everything in their power to insure that you carry your baby to term, advocating that the full weight of the State should be brought to bear to perform this “holy” task – but once the baby’s born, it’s suddenly *your* problem.

To put it in another sense, I’m also frequently offended by those who use the “sanctity of life” argument to oppose abortion, but do not continue that stance to include opposition to war and the death penalty. Apparently, to those folks, life is only “sacred” if it’s a baby; once they grow up, it’s okay in God’s eyes if they’re killed…

To be fair, this attitude is not universal among Christians or conservatives, and does seem to be changing. I’ve worked with Catholic organizations on peace efforts in the past; they are all perfectly consistent about their pro-life views and though some express discomfort at working with traditional liberals, they do so anyway, which I respect. As well, though I do not agree with his policies, Mike Huckabee is stumping on the idea of extending the social network to include those who follow the pro-life message and carry their children to term.

The whole “pro-life” phenomenon is interesting, and I’d like to take a closer look at it sometime, particularly the history behind it. The term “pro-life” wasn’t really used until about the late 1960s, if I recall; the argument before then was strictly a conservative Christian argument against the “wages of sin” – in other words, the real problem with abortion was that the mother was “getting away with” sex out of wedlock. The baby wasn’t even a consideration.

The Sexual Revolution brought that line of reasoning to a close, as, in general, telling people they can have sex is universally more successful than telling people they can’t.

I have read before, and now can’t find a source for it, that the movement was re-branded “pro-life” in a deliberate bit of marketing resulting from a meeting on that subject with a small number of participants which spelled out the marching orders for all. Suddenly, God wasn’t angry at the mother – He just wanted those poor babies to live. It was a much more “sellable” message. Instead of you being against sex, suddenly they were against babies. Hey, that works! And not coincidentally, it also marked the beginning of a more accusatory, radicalized form of advocacy. No longer were they content to gather in groups such as the Catholic League of Decency and tut-tut at the naughtiness about them…now, they had a holy crusade against the unbelievers on their hands. Later, this would extend, in some sick people’s minds, to blowing up clinics and shooting doctors.

In any case, if anyone has any info on that meeting, I’d like to read about it.


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