That’s what you will think if you spend enough time listening to those who criticize pro-lifers for their alleged inconsistency. Consider the words of Pastor John Pavlovitz, darling of the religious left, during the 2016 presidential election:
“I actually don’t believe you’re pro-life, I believe you practice a far more selective and convenient defense of Humanity. From where I’m standing it seems as though “Life” for you, comprises a very narrow demographic—one that bears a striking resemblance to you. The unborn are easy to advocate for because you can idealize them into something palatable to you, something benign and comfortable, something in your own image. You see, it’s not that you’re really pro-life, you’re pro-straight, white, Christian fetuses.”
Pastor Pavlovitz then goes on a diatribe about the alleged inconsistencies of conservative pro-life advocates, highlighting how they are not really “pro-life” unless they take the time to address every other issue related to human well-being. Similar questions are often raised as well by other folks: “You’re pro-life? How many kids are you adopting?” “You’re pro-life? I’ll bet you own guns!” “You’re pro-life? Do you support war?” The list is virtually endless, with every current social justice fad imaginable being brought up.
Suppose that Pastor Pavlovitz and those who raise these questions are correct that pro-lifers as a whole don’t support life after birth.
The pro-life argument is that it’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. Abortion does that. Therefore, abortion is wrong. How does my alleged rejection of big government programs and progressive political ideas refute that essential pro-life argument?
Two types of people raise the consistency question, the inquirer and the crusader. The inquirer is genuinely wrestling with pro-life truth, working through what that means for her worldview. Her quest is intellectually honest. Crusaders are different. The crusader has zero interest in intellectual truth. He just wants to make you look bad.
Pastor Pavlovitz is a crusader—he just wants to score rhetorical points against pro-lifers. His case, however, is utterly vacuous. It’s also intellectually dishonest.
Here’s how I know. Let’s assume that pro-lifers like myself actually did everything Pavlovitz was demanding of us in order to earn “pro-life” credentials. We support socialized medicine. We oppose capital punishment.
We insist on police reform. We support gun bans. If we do all that, will Pavlovitz and those like him join us in opposing abortion?
Never in a million years.
They’ll give us another to-do list. To which pro-lifers should respond, “Then why bring up our supposed inconsistency in the first place? If you support abortion, then offer a defense of it instead of attacking me personally.” This tactic of calling their bluff will give them something to think about. During a recent campus outreach at a local college, a female student demanded to know whether or not I opposed war, inhuman treatment of animals, gun ownership, or supported same-sex marriage. When she finished with her laundry list, I asked the following:
“Tell me, if I join you in supporting all those issues, will you join us in opposing elective abortion?” She replied, “Of course not! I am solidly, 100% pro-choice!”
To which I responded, “Then why did you highlight those other issues, which really have nothing to do with abortion, when you support any abortion for any reason? Why not offer a defense of unrestricted abortion instead of disguising your true position?”
What we have here is a colossal attempt to change the subject. Instead of refuting the pro-life argument, bringing up supposedly inconsistent beliefs does nothing to justify intentionally killing an innocent human being. It’s simply a lazy way to change the subject and score cheap points by making people you disagree with look bad. Such a behavior is pretty unbecoming of anyone claiming to be educated, let alone claiming to support justice for the weak.
A further question can also be asked of Crusaders like Pavlovitz. Why do other issues need to be focused on with equal or greater intensity before critics will take us seriously in opposing abortion? Do the unborn differ in some way from the born that allows us to tolerate the intentional killing of them until every other social evil is fixed? Pavlovitz and other Crusaders are begging the question, and assuming what they should be trying to prove: That it is acceptable to intentionally kill the unborn. Once again, we are brought back to the Essential pro-life argument.
The inquirer is different. Chances are, she already agrees with us that abortion is wrong, because it intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. However, she also wants to know how her commitment to defending life should frame her thoughts and behaviors with regards to other issues. She may also struggle with why we focus less time and effort on the born as we do the unborn. To this I am sympathetic. I think this is right-hearted but somewhat misled.
In answer to her question, a few differences should be noted: While race relations, immigration, gun violence, and poverty are all important, the unborn merit special attention because unlike the poor or minorities, the unborn may legally be killed in the United States with the full blessing of about half our culture. Minorities, the poor, schoolchildren, refugees, and other groups of born human beings (for the most part) have the protection of the law and the support of society. Few, if anyone, are openly advocating for the ability to intentionally kill these groups; there are people, from students to the highest levels of our government, advocating for the ability to intentionally kill unborn human beings.
Pro-lifers need not apologize for giving the unborn special attention. Our culture has asserted and defended for decades that we have the right to kill the unborn. Until they are protected in our laws and valued in our culture just like the born, we should demand our critics engage us honestly about what it really means to be “pro-life.”
Pastor Pavlovitz, I wish you really were pro-life like us, and weren’t just defending those who are born, just like you.