by: Father Terry Gensemer, Director of CEC For Life
Some may remember several years back when Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) popped onto the pro-life scene. They had awesome graphics, a great presence on social media, and seemed to be a reinvigorated voice in the movement that young people could really get behind.
That fanfare, however, was short lived, as leaders within AHA soon became hypercritical of every major leader in the movement, and even more critical of the Catholic Church, which they believed to pretty much be the Antichrist. As they received push back from every kind of pro-lifer for this overwhelming aggression, AHA pushed even harder, ultimately claiming that the current movement had failed from being too soft, and that AHA's "new" approach (of establishing chapters and handing out literature - true story) would finally end abortion. They washed their hands of the movement. And now, not many would know who they are.
So, enter the New Pro Life Movement, an ambitious group began by Patheos bloggers Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Matthew Tyson, in response to Trump receiving the Republican nomination. The NPLM is the cheery version of AHA, who wants to work with everyone (as long as they didn't vote for Trump), but remains publicly hypercritical of the current movement. Like AHA, they too, believe the movement has failed - but not because we are too soft. Rather, because the movement is too hard. Too narrowly focused. And more Republican than they can stand.
Including just about every Democratic plank, the NPLM believes that unless we devote ourselves to what they call the 11 Pillars, we are not truly pro-life. The 11 Pillars of the NPLM
include: The Right to Life, Abortion, Women's Rights and Justice, Euthanasia, War, Death Penalty, Healthcare (Universal), Poverty, Environment, Gun Violence, Social & Political Involvement.
The list itself is not problematic. Any pro-lifer could hold a number of opinions on some of these issues without compromising a pro-life stance. (Again, pretty sure Democrats for Life of America has been doing so for years.) The list itself should not concern the pro-life movement. However, the philosophy and means by which they aim to address and accomplish this "new pro-life movement" should be very alarming to anyone involved in the fight against abortion.
Red Flag #1: Common Ground Because War Isn't Nice
The NPLM focuses on the idea of eliminating the demand for abortion, rather than supply, believing that this will close the distance between pro-lifers and abortion advocates. In order to do this, they reiterate again and again the idea of finding common ground with abortion supporters, banking on the sentiment that no one really wants abortion, and rejecting the concept of a "culture war." They truly believe that abortion supporters will just come alongside them once they calmly explain that they are helping pregnant women.
"Our goal is not to defeat this or that cultural opponent," they write on their website. "We believe we will be more effective in creating a culture of life if we are able to find common ground as often as possible."
In his most recent video, co-founder Matt Tyson says of abortion supporters, "I guarantee you they can get on board with helping women...No one is going to complain if people stop having abortions. They're just not. That's not a thing. That's not going to happen."
Rebecca Bratten Weiss strongly agrees with this idea of bringing abortion supporters "on board" with the NPLM. In a recent blog post criticizing the March for Life (along with the rest of the movement), Weiss writes, "I have encountered more and more thoughtful, ethical pro-choice advocates who sincerely believe that we need to have fewer abortions...."
Ok, sure. Your average pro-choicer on the street might say they'll go for fewer. But "fewer" certainly is not zero. Fewer is not removing abortion altogether. What do they say when you propose that? (Answer: Abortion on demand without apology!) Because the idea of "reproductive choice" is not based on circumstances or volume; it is based on the preborn child having no rights and the woman exercising "bodily autonomy." The reason isn't what matters to them. The "right" is what matters.
Not to mention that a person you spoke to at the Women's March is not a Cecile Richards, or a Barack Obama, or any number of powerful people who have made certain that abortion is entrenched in our society. For them, abortion is not a debate, it is a directive. And they do not engage in peace talks.
Yet, Weiss believes she can build a pro-life culture with any of these people. In this same article, she discusses building bridges with "many responsible and ethical pro-choice feminists and political leaders."
To shy away from the idea of a culture war in order to more fully embrace the opposition is not only an error in judgment, but a fatal flaw that will ensure failure. There is simply no common ground for murder.
Ironically, NPLM states under their Pillar against War that "military force is only justifiable when absolutely necessary to stop an unjust aggressor and protect the lives of innocent human beings." Over the last four decades, sixty million innocent lives have been destroyed by the unjust aggressors of abortion. If that's not a war, then what is?
Red Flag #2: Fight Everything or It Doesn't Count
The NPLM prefers the phrases "consistent life ethic" or "whole-life ethic." They state that a "true pro-life ideology focuses on more than just abortion," which refers to their 11 Pillars. If you aren't willing to support all of their positions - including universal healthcare and preventing climate change - then you aren't really pro-life. (And again, if you voted for Trump, just leave now.)
This is perhaps the most hypocritical slant of the "new" movement. There's room for an "ethical pro-choicer" - whatever that is - to sit at the table. But if you are already pro-life, suddenly the standard flies skyward. There is no middle ground on gun control, or healthcare, or the environment - issues on which pro-lifers have always held varying opinions with no trouble.
Under the "new" movement, you can't believe that any one of those things, abortion included, is more important than the other, or you cease to be pro-life.
Pro-Life apologist Scott Klusendorf recently wrote an excellent article to combat this very line of thinking. He writes:
"Abortion intentionally kills a million innocent human beings every year. Given that brutal reality, pro-lifers are right to put greater emphasis on the lives of the unborn...Demanding they do more is like telling an abolitionist in 1860, 'You can't be against slavery unless you address its underlying causes.'
"Slavery is wrong. Abortion is wrong. Neither statement requires further qualification."
The all-or-none approach is strikingly similar to how Black Lives Matter proceeded (and AHA, actually). The BLM movement, organized under the banner of ending senseless police violence against African Americans, also adamantly chose to include advocacy in favor of LGBTQ, abortion, and "dismantling the nuclear family." And, much like the current NPLM, if you cannot embrace every platform then you cannot truly believe Black lives matter.
It's actually pretty tyrannical. And it's in this same vein that the NPLM is creating their line in the sand, while simultaneously criticizing pro-lifers who prioritize the fight against abortion for...well, drawing a line in the sand.
Is it possible that the NPLM simply thinks that by including more issues on equal levels, more people will join their movement? Perhaps they do. And perhaps they will. But will more preborn children be saved? Absolutely not. You can't fight on eleven fronts at the same time and hope to win. The pro-life movement formed in response to legalized abortion. It formed as passionate citizens came to the rescue, quite literally, of innocent preborn children being torn apart in the womb.
To lose that focus is to lose the movement. Moreover, abortion is a systematic evil that tears away at the fabric of any society willing to embrace it. If the NPLM wishes to end poverty, war, or gun violence - then end abortion. Because as long as a child in the womb - innocent and defenseless - is not deemed worthy of protection, then no one outside of the womb, with far more means to defend themselves, ever will be either.
Red Flag #3: Women First, Babies Second
The NPLM is also unequivocally feminist. It seems to be the lens through which everything they articulate is filtered. In fact, "feminist activists" is the only group on their About Us page that is welcomed by name: "We especially welcome feminist activists who share our concern for opposing those societal evils that drive women to abortion...."
This creates a drastic change in focus for the NPLM. Whereas, the current pro-life movement focuses on gaining rights for the preborn, who have none, as well as providing care for mothers and fathers that will enable them to walk away from abortion, the NPLM seems to believe women should come first.
In their 11 Pillars, NPLM states that "women are the central figures in the abortion debate" (not the preborn). And there's no mention of fathers either, who are also devastated by abortion. This kind of narrow focus has the potential to gloss over the true crux of the abortion issue: personhood for the preborn.
This is made shockingly evident in the article written by Weiss that was mentioned earlier. She states:
"It's true that abortion can be physically and psychologically harmful to a woman. But what the pro-life movement fails to note is that in many cases, NOT choosing abortion will hurt women more. They'll be kicked out of homes and schools, fired from their jobs, shunned by their communities. Lacking medical coverage, they will sink into crushing debt. Lacking funds, they can't take time off work in the event of a high-risk pregnancy. Infant and maternal mortality rates are an issue here. Often, they can barely even feed the children they have. They may be stuck in abusive marriages, and be afraid to bring a baby into a violent home."
Weiss gives zero attention to the fact that when a woman chooses abortion, a child is denied her basic right to life and ripped to pieces. Instead, she makes the bizarre argument that a woman choosing not to have an abortion - that is, choosing not to become implicit in her own child's horrific death - can be more physically and psychologically damaged by making a choice for life.
Which do you think is harder to bear: Losing your job, or letting someone kill your child?
Under their Pillar for Women's Rights & Justice, the NPLM also complains that the current movement has failed to help pregnant women, stating that there is "too much time spent arguing with the social and political figures who support abortion and not nearly enough time spent helping the women who actually have [abortions]."
They seem to ignore the fact that, while abortion clinics are currently in the hundreds, pregnancy resource centers are now in the thousands. Or that every day countless sidewalk counselors stand outside of clinics, in every type of weather, for hours on end, to offer women alternatives to abortion. Or that resources like Rachel's Vineyard and Silent No More exist and were created specifically to help women who did choose abortion.
It seems the NPLM has all kinds of criticisms to readily offer against the pro-life movement, and "new ideas" to try - like helping women. Ultimately, however, it fails to acknowledge a long-standing history of compassion and hard labor made evident through the hundreds and thousands of resources now available for mothers and fathers and their preborn child. Not to mention counseling and services available to abortion workers looking for healing and a new life.
The NPLM seems to remove itself from this history, believing it has the new, best way to end abortion, just as other groups, such as AHA, have done before.
And, look, there is no problem in changing tactics to win any war; sometimes a tactical change is necessary. But to alter your vision so much that you lose sight of your purpose; to relinquish ground in the name of common ground; to forget exactly who it is you came to rescue; these are things we must not do. We cannot do. Because lives are hanging in the balance.
The NPLM may be new, and it might be a movement, but it lends itself to some very slippery slopes. Slopes we have seen before. Proceed with caution.”
Originally Posted on CEC For Life
As a movement, we all try to hold the title of " truly pro-life," and decide for ourselves what that ought to mean. We've condemned harsh, negative phrases like "anti-abortion" or "anti-choice," instead favoring more relevant, approachable terms. In many cases, we've lost sight of the essence of our movement or have sacrificed our purpose in order to be more accepted by society.
It would be ridiculous to expect all those who claim the label of "pro-life" to fit the same mold. We all come from different backgrounds and hold different values; however, in our differences, we must be cautious that we do not place our own desires over the lives of preborn children in need. We must remember that to be pro-life, first and foremost, we must be anti-abortion.