My name is Carly Hoilman, and I am proudly pro-life. Unfortunately, our postmodern culture now demands that I clarify what I mean by that. But I will gladly do so, as many times as it is required of me, because there is power behind the “pro-life” name — power that enemies of life would eagerly usurp if given the chance.
The pro-life movement is under attack today for its perceived failure to address social ills (“life issues”) beyond abortion and euthanasia. In his latest piece for CatholicVote.org, Eric Sammons does an excellent job laying out the history of the pro-life movement — from its inception 30 years ago, to the death and recent resurrection of the “seamless garment” argument, where “pro-life” is used as a catch-all phrase that signifies anything and everything under the social justice sun.
I was disappointed, however, by Sammons’s decision to embrace the title “anti-abortion,” and to forgo “pro-life” altogether. While many pro-lifers may be eager to break away from meh-life Catholics and progressives who believe littering is morally on par with killing unborn children, our response should not be to surrender, but to point our attackers to the truths surrounding the pro-life cause.
Those who have attacked the title “pro-life” are not interested in clarifying the language so much as they are keen to water down the meaning of a well-established cultural movement with crystalline objectives.
Words matter, and Leftists know this. But since they can’t hijack our title outright without exposing their own sinister objectives, the next best thing would be to render it obsolete by suffocating the legitimate pro-life issues of abortion and euthanasia under a broad blanket of social justice issues.
“Anti-Abortion” Isn’t Accurate
Pro-lifers aren’t simply trying to be provocative — our name signifies a clear, consistent moral cause. As Sammons notes, “‘Pro-life’ means that we want all innocent life to be protected by law from being killed.”
Of course all pro-lifers categorically oppose abortion, but this isn’t the only trait that distinguishes us as a movement. While the pro-choice movement really is only about protecting a woman’s “choice” to abort her offspring, the pro-life movement is not only about eliminating this choice.
Changing our title now would be a victory for those who accuse us of only caring about protecting life up until birth. The reality is that while abortion providers like Planned Parenthood are only interested in ending and preventing pregnancies, pro-life charities and pregnancy care centers provide services that address the holistic needs of mother and child, such as food, supplies, financial aid, prenatal care, child care, and spiritual support.
Anti-abortion would be a reductionist label for the pro-life camp because what rallies people and sustains our momentum is not what we’re fighting against, but what we’re fighting for.
Suffragettes didn’t call themselves the anti-voting inequality movement. We refer to the American War for Independence, not the War Against British Rule.
Evil is the absence of good, not vice versa. We are fighting for the Good.
Why We March
With that said, the pro-life movement has knowingly adopted a somewhat narrow understanding of the word “life” that captures exactly what we’re fighting for. Our primary interest is in preserving the lives of the most vulnerable — the unborn, the elderly ill, and the disabled.
The seamless garment argument does a grave injustice to the pro-life movement by misrepresenting and watering down our cause. Our limited focus is not the result of weakness, but prudence.
Abortion and euthanasia are the only examples of state-sanctioned murder in this country. No other political or social issues, no matter how important or legitimate, can be honestly placed in the same moral category.
We fight on behalf of society’s most vulnerable because this is the bare minimum moral standard for any other form of human rights advocacy — if we can’t secure their right to life, then we can forget about everyone else’s.
Life is Winning
By surrendering the title “pro-life,” Sammons is making the tactical error of prematurely ceding the battle. The good news is, it’s not too late.
The only reason social progressives are trying so desperately to repurpose the term “pro-life” is because it still has currency. Life is winning in this country, and they can smell defeat in the air.
With victory so close at hand, we must refuse to renounce the strength that is our name, and instead embrace this winning cause that has drawn hundreds of thousands to march in our nation’s capital for the past 45 years and placed two pro-life Catholics on the Supreme Court.
I have good news for Sammons and bad news for our opponents: The “pro-life” label isn’t up for grabs.