By Steven Norris
The premature leak of the draft opinion in the Supreme Court’s current abortion case has brought that conversation to the forefront of public discourse this week. Many news outlets frame the conversation as between those who are “pro-life” and those who are “pro-choice.” Others want you to believe that it is a Republican-Democrat issue. I’m not so sure that the conversation is that simple.
Rather, we need to reframe the “pro-life” conversation around a “consistent ethic of life.” To be “pro-life” must start with a recognition that all life is a gift from God, imbued with inherent worth, and should be treated as such. Similarly, the scriptures are unambiguous about the role that people of faith have in caring for and protecting the most vulnerable among us — orphans, widows, and strangers to name a few.
With that starting place, a “consistent ethic of life” would include work to end abortion and the underlying issues that lead someone to believe that it is the only answer. It would include a commitment to foster and adoptive care for the children brought into the world. A consistent “pro-life” position would include access to health insurance, medical care, and affordable prescriptions for all people. It would ensure that proper food and nutrition was available without stigma or shame. It would advocate for immigration reform to protect the lives of those fleeing unhealthy, violent, and dangerous situations.
A consistent ethic of life would find it very difficult to support militarism and war. It would work to bring an end to gun violence, quell the rise of domestic violence, and to ensure that no parent should have to stand beside the grave of another young person whose life has been snuffed out prematurely. It would advocate for the care and protection of creation, access to quality education, and address debilitating debt. Being “pro-life” should be about proper housing, caring for the elderly, and bringing an end to the death penalty. I could on and on.
(Please note: I am doing little more than naming the issues here. Each of these listed above deserves a detailed and nuanced conversation around the specific circumstances involved in protecting and honoring God-given life.)
My point is this: reducing the conversation to a debate between simplistic “pro-life” (anti-abortion) and “pro-choice” camps does not go far enough. Reducing the conversation to a Democrat-Republican issue is equally disingenuous. To truly follow the way of Jesus cuts much deeper than most of us are willing to go. It challenges many of our assumptions because we have failed to see how all of these diverse issues are connected to a consistent ethic of life.
If we are going to protect life, let’s protect life — ALL of it. Let us commit ourselves to creating environments that foster human flourishing, not just survival. Let us break out of our entrenched encampments and hold ourselves to a higher standard. As a friend of mine puts it, let us consistently be pro-life “from womb to tomb.”