by Mary Krane Derr
Note: this was originally published in the Consistent Life Network’s paper newsletter at the time it happened in 2009. It is offered now in the history of our adventures.
We weren’t gate crashers. We were there as part of the festivities, sometimes recognized, sometimes not, sometimes welcome, sometimes, not.
For starters, take two of the speakers on the official program, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and political scientist Stephen Zunes. Most of the event wasn’t about abortion, and these two activists were both present to speak on issues other than abortion. But their respective stances on that particular subject are a matter of public knowledge. Anyone with Internet access can look up Marcy Kaptur’s legislative record, including her good record on labor, LGBT rights, family planning, and maternal/child health and welfare, among other recognizable-to-all progressive concerns. Stephen co-edited the recent anthology Consistently Opposing Killing: From Abortion to Assisted Suicide, the Death Penalty, and War.
Rachel MacNair and I are friends who go way back and have long histories of our own with Consistent Life. We team-staffed a literature table for CL in the exhibit hall at the Progressive Magazine celebration. Our table featured a large, eye-catching banner:
And who was the very first person to approach us, when we were still setting up the table? A young man who told us he was pro-life, but did not feel free to disclose this opinion in progressive circles. Throughout the day, we met a number of pro-every life women and men who also gladly outed themselves to us.
Quite a few of the people who stopped by were pro-choicers who said lovely, hospitable things like, “I may not agree with you about everything, but I’m glad you’re here” and “I like your kind of prolife.” We had good, respectful dialogues about relieving the root causes of abortion as well as better understanding our areas of disagreement — including not one but two long conversations with an abortion clinic escort.
Rachel and I enjoyed the overall positive climate of these exchanges. We didn’t know quite what to expect at the Progressive Magazine event. But not a single person came up to our table and issued one of those dreaded ad hominem rants, or scolded us along the lines of “What the hell are YOU PEOPLE doing here?” Which has happened in the past, far more than once. That’s progress among progressives.
Now, a few folks did raise eyebrows at our banner or shake their heads and walk briskly away. And once, when I was by myself at the table, I did distinctly see and hear a pair of conference-goers stop dead in their tracks, proclaim “Yikes!” and turn about-face. As if there were not a quite involved and sentient being (me!) taking all this in just inches away. And a sentient being at the ready to make eye contact and smile sincerely at them in passing, at the very least, and if they allowed, to ask them, quite seriously, what specifically was behind that “Yikes!” I did want to know, I did want to listen, but if people don’t give you an opening, then it’s not yours to grab after. But any of these responses sure beat the bad old unreality-based ad hominem rant.
However, something quite troubling did happen to Rachel, after I had taken my leave of the conference. Rachel attended a bigwig panel discussion on the future of the progressive movement. During the question/comment period, she pointed out the existence of progressive pro-lifers. She recommended that the progressive movement as a whole work with us to reach people who otherwise might not give progressive values and politics any serious hearing. Now, Rachel says she wasn’t going on any longer, and probably was going on shorter, than others who lined up behind the questioners’ mikes. I did attend previous panel discussions, and there sure were a lot of talkative folks with strong opinions who leapt up behind those mikes the instant they were switched on. But the bigwigs on the panel grumbled that they could see where Rachel was going with this (they could? How did they know before she went there?). There amidst the champions of free speech, she was summarily cut off. Then the panel bigwigs unleashed a number of statements Rachel had no chance to publicly respond to. And no one challenged the censorship dynamic here. Indeed, there was apparently a lot of applause for it.
On the other hand, some women in the audience approached Rachel afterwards and shared their own reproductive challenges. They quickly grasped that hers was not the stereotype they expected, and they all ended up hugging each other. But why were complex, very human, small-scale interactions like these, the kinds of exchanges we had both experienced elsewhere in the conference, not reflected in the overt, bigwig-marshalled, publicly unchallenged group dynamics that cut off Rachel’s mike?
Like Rachel would tell you if she had a chance — that question matters to the future of the progressive movement, to the hundred more years we wish the dear old Progressive magazine.
For another of our blog posts with her as author, see:
For more of our blog posts on Actions and Adventures, see:
by Rob Arner
I’ve always felt like something of a misfit, like I don’t fully belong. As a person living in 21st century North America, I find myself surrounded by an oppressively exclusive metaphor of the left-right political spectrum. It’s a moral and political environment with two competing “camps,” in which both claim to be fighting for justice and a better world, but each prioritize radically different things as the hallmarks of the better world for which they fight. I find myself looking at both camps and often finding myself in agreement with the goods that they seek. Thus, my conception of a better world is marked by things that are central concerns to both “liberal” and “conservative” groups. In this, I sometimes feel like a mutant hybrid, or better, a chimera – an amalgam of components of two wildly divergent worldviews.
My first awareness of this difference of conscience came in college freshman Spanish class. We were tasked with debating different moral issues in Spanish. It just so happened that on my debate day the two issues under consideration were abortion and the death penalty. In preparing for the debates, I noticed that those who were opposed to abortion as a violation of human rights were often supporters of the death penalty, and those who advocated death penalty abolition were often the same ones who advocated for the widespread availability of abortion. I also realized that I was opposed to both, for reasons I did not yet fully comprehend. But on debate day, my debate opponent truly shocked me, as she argued for both the death penalty and legalized abortion. I vividly remember remarking, rather cheekily, “¡Ella quiere matar a todos – desde los enfantes a los criminales!” (She wants to kill everyone – from babies to criminals).
Thankfully, in my experience such blatantly “seamless shroud” advocates are quite rare. Much more frequent is the tension of being embraced in part and pushed away in part. For example, I find that when I’m in more “conservative” company, the fact that I’m pro-life on abortion and oppose involving the medical profession in helping people kill themselves is welcomed, but my opposition to the latest American military misadventure is cause for concern because I don’t “support the troops.” Likewise, when I find myself among more “liberal” friends, my pacifism and opposition to the death penalty are points of connection, while my conviction that abortion is first and foremost an issue of killing rather than of bodily autonomy prevents me from being fully accepted. So I live in this tension, seeing and adopting many of the moral goods sought by both “conservatives” and “liberals,” but finding a home in neither group. Despite the isolation it entails, I like it this way- not being fully “at home” in either popular camp. It allows me to see with eyes of understanding and compassion and make common cause with both in our collective struggle for a better world.
When I first learned about the consistent life ethic (CLE), it gave me words and a framework to articulate what I now realize I had always believed: that human life is too precious, too sacred to be violated. For me as a Christian, this resonated with my conviction that human life is sacred to God, that human beings are bearers of the divine image, and that, as Cardinal Joseph Bernardin remarked, “The person is the clearest reflection of the presence of God among us. To lay violent hands on a person . . . is to come as close as we can to laying violent hands on God. Each social system – east to west, north or south, communist or capitalist – should be judged by the way in which it reverences, or fails to reverence, the unique and equal dignity of every person.”
But I’ve also learned to speak in non-theological ways better fitting the pluralism of the public square. By positing a linkage (not an equivalence) between such seemingly disparate issues as poverty, war, abortion, racial discrimination, and euthanasia, the CLE has given me the conviction to stand up for human rights and dignity wherever and however they are threatened.
So I live in my misfit space, with friends on the right, and friends on the left, working at times with and against both. It can be a lonely space, being this consistent chimera. It requires employing critical thinking as well as connected knowing in equal measure; the ability to deconstruct and the necessity of reconstructing and unifying. But as one who is committed to the idea of being a “minister of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18), it provides the remarkable and refreshing opportunity to build bridges rather than walls, and to bring adversaries together, making common cause in the pursuit of justice, peace, and a better world.
As much as the CLE makes me into an oddity, I know it’s also the best framework for making me into a healer.
Rob Arner is author of Consistently Pro-Life: The Ethics of Bloodshed in Ancient Christianity
He also wrote our blog post, The Consistent Life Consensus in Ancient Christianity
For more blog posts on personal journeys, see:
Supporting the Dignity of Every Life (Bill Samuel)
Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons (Karen Swallow Prior)
Off the Fence and Taking My Stand on Abortion (Mary Liepold)
Educating Ourselves on Issues
Figuring out Euthanasia: What Does it Really Mean?
Suffering and Injustice Concern Us All [connection to compassion for animals]
Perspectives on the Consistent Life Ethic
Dynamics of Nonviolence
A New Pro-life Movement (Shane Claiborne)
Dynamics of Violence
Actions and Adventures
Violence Bolstered by Professional Contradictions (in the American Psychological Association)
Mourning After & Hoping for the Future, We Call for a Consistent Life Texas!
Supporting the Dignity of Every Life (Bill Samuel)
Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons (Karen Swallow Prior)
Off the Fence and Taking My Stand on Abortion (Mary Liepold)
Why Conservatives Should Oppose the Death Penalty (Destiny Herndon de la Rosa)
On Being a Consistent Chimera (Rob Arner)
In Their Own Voices
History of the Consistent Life Ethic
The Adventures of Prolifers for Survival: Scorned by Mobilization for Survival
Difference this Time: Prolife Heroism (Garrett Swasey, the pro-life police officer killed in shootings at the Colorado Planned Parenthood]
The Poor Cry Out for Justice, and We Respond with Legalized Abortion (Graciela Olivarez)
Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-life Movement Before Roe v. Wade
Hollywood Movie Insights (The Giver, The Whistleblower, and The Ides of March)
Does anything on this list inspire you to want to write a post? Or do you see something missing that we ought to have, and you’re willing to write it? We welcome submissions from people to share with the consistent-life community. Send submissions or inquiries to:
weekly[at]consistent-life.org (substitute @ for [at], showing you’re a real person and not a spambot)
Length: normally 800 to 1,000 words, with as low as 300 and as high as 1,500 acceptable.
Format: Microsoft Word document is preferred.
Normal rules apply about civility, strict truthfulness, and nothing copyrighted outside of fair use law (which allows short quotations whose sources are cited). Links to other sites and references are welcome but not necessary if the topic doesn’t call for it.
Revisions are common in the editing and vetting process, so expect some back-and-forth with the editorial committee.
Attaching a digital photo of the author(s) is normally a good idea. Appropriate and non-copyrighted graphics are welcome.
by Destiny Herndon-de La Rosa
Not a day goes by that I don’t log onto my Facebook, sign into my email, or stream through a thread of tweets declaring one thing loudly: The government is corrupt on almost all levels and something must be done to take away its power.
This might not be everyone’s experience, but as a lifelong conservative, I’ve collected quite a few Republican friends, from far right-wing Christian activists to those fun-loving log cabin types. We disagree on much of the minutiae, but the one thing that holds our herd together is our leeriness of big government. As Lord Acton so famously put it, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s why I will never understand conservatives’ willingness to give this entity, which they’ve deemed untrustworthy, the ultimate in absolute power: the ability to kill its own citizens.
A few years ago I took a step back from the Grand Old Party because, as a pro-lifer, I was tired of the inconsistencies. They’re everywhere, on both sides politically, but the ones on the right just happened to turn my stomach first. Here we were, standing out on sidewalks in front of abortion clinics, offering women in crisis help and free medical care, often through state-run programs. Then every election cycle I saw Republicans encouraging others to vote down the very services that allowed these women to choose life.
We’d talk about loving our neighbor like Christ, then I watched as an angry mob of “good Christian” conservatives hurled the most vitriolic insults at buses full of immigrant children whose parents were so desperate to get them to safety, they paid coyotes to take them across the border, scared and alone. These children, these human beings, were just looking for a small bit of what we were all “blessed” to inherit by no effort of our own. And because many of us were born into these blessings, our conservative beliefs come quite easily. The death penalty being no exception.
If you were raised in middle-class America, received a decent education and have the benefit of viewing law enforcement as your protector and not those you need protection from, then I understand why you might think the state should have the right to enforce laws as it sees fit. However, that’s where another inconsistency arises, along with perhaps some common ground.
Many people of privilege like to sit around Young Republican cocktail parties and decry the atrocities of the federal government, myself included. We talk about the big headline issues: Hillary’s emails, Benghazi, Obama’s most recent vacation. We question where the money is coming from and going to. We question the corruption. However, seldom do we talk about the small headlines; the stuff that actually impacts our own communities — and the people who weren’t invited to the cocktail party.
Private prisons have managed to incentivize incarcerations, turning prisoners into profit margins. That’s corrupt. It is highly likely that the state of Texas has executed an innocent man while a “pro-life” governor sat in office. That’s inconsistent. Since 1973, 140 death row inmates nationwide have been exonerated. That’s scary as hell. Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 82 percent of all executions have taken place in the south (37 percent in Texas alone), and according to Amnesty International an overwhelming majority of those who end up on death row were not able to afford an attorney. That removes the very justice we claim to cling to in our justice system. And that is happening in our backyard.
So why do so many “pro-life” conservatives still support the death penalty in Texas? I imagine it’s because we feel a safe enough distance from this type of government corruption to not worry about it. We don’t have a rap sheet that could be used to incriminate us if there was an accidental house fire that killed three of our children, landing any one of us on a cold metal table with a lethal injection in the arm.
Our privilege pushes our sentences down to just six months, so as not to deter your bright futures. So we turn a blind eye. We go back to tweeting about “Obummers Trip to Hawaii,” and decide not to share articles like this on our Facebook, for fear our friends will uninvited us to the monthly Young Republican cocktail party. And right now, that’s really the only consistency in our lives.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa is active with New Wave Feminists. This column was first published as an editorial in the Dallas Morning News, June 15, 2016
For another of our blog posts on a conservative look at issues of violence, see:
February is Black History Month, celebrated in the U.S. and Canada (and in Great Britain in October); it’s commonly also called African American History Month in the U.S. In the US, the virulence of racism leads to a disproportionate impact on African Americans of the forms of lethal violence: more likely to be targeted for executions, higher casualties in wars such as the one in Vietnam, and being targets of the drug war – which a Nixon adviser admitted was intended to go after Blacks and war protesters.
Here, we offer some quotations from African-Americans about being harmed unjustly by abortion, or targeted by racist practices seeking to prevent them from reproducing, or to encourage them to “choose” assisted suicide.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Source: a 1971 speech obtained from the Lillian P. Benbow Room of Special Collections at Tougaloo College, Mississippi.
“It’s not too late. There is still time for America to change. . . .
The war in Vietnam must be ended so our men and boys can come home—so mothers can stop crying, wives can feel secure, and children can learn strength . . .
The methods used to take human life, such as abortion, the pill, the ring, etc., amount to genocide. I believe that legal abortion is legal murder.”
Source: Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. by Harriet A. Washington. New York: Doubleday, 2007, pp. 189-190
“One day in 1961, Hamer entered the hospital to have ‘a knot on my stomach’—probably a benign uterine fibroid tumor—removed. She then returned to her family’s shack on the plantation to recuperate. But in the big house, ominous tidings circulated. The owner’s wife, Vera Alicia Marlow, was cousin of the surgeon who had treated Hamer. Marlow gossiped to the cook that Hamer had lost more than a tumor while unconscious—the surgeon removed her uterus, rendering Hamer sterile. The cook repeated the news to others, including a woman who happened to be Hamer’s cousin, and thus Hamer was one of the last people on the plantation to learn that she would never have a family of her own.
‘I went to the doctor who did that to me and I asked him, ‘Why? Why had he done that to me?’ He didn’t have to say nothing—and he didn’t. If he was going to give me that sort of operation then he should have told me. I would have loved to have children.’ But a lawsuit was out of the question, Hamer recalled. ‘At that time? Me? Getting a white lawyer against a white doctor? I would have been taking my hands and screwing tacks into my casket.’ “
Source: Ebony magazine, October, 1971
“Government family programs designed for poor Blacks which emphasize birth control and abortion with the intent of limiting the Black population is genocide. The deliberate killing of Black babies by abortion is genocide – perhaps the most overt of all.”
Source: 1977 “March on Washington”
Note: Unfortunately, he changed positions in time for his 1984 run for the Democratic Party nomination. Yet his reasoning remains.
“There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of higher order than the right to life . . . that was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside your right to be concerned. What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually? It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind-set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind.”
Erma Clardy Craven, social worker
Source: Abortion and Social Justice, Sheed & Ward, 1972
“It takes little imagination to see that the unborn Black baby is the real object of many abortionists. Except for the privilege of aborting herself, the Black woman and her family must fight for every other social and economic privilege. This move toward the free application of a non-right (abortion) for those whose real need is equal human rights and opportunities is benumbing the social conscience of America into unquestioningly accepting the ‘smoke screen’ of abortion. The quality of life for the poor, the Black and the oppressed will not be served by destroying their children.”
Source: Letter to Ira Reiner, Los Angeles District Attorney, around 1989 (therefore referring to a legal abortion)
“I am the mother of Belinda A. Byrd . . . I am also the grandmother of her three young children who are left behind and motherless. I cry every day when I think how horrible her death was. She was slashed by them and then she bled to death, taken from this world on January 27, 1987. She has been stone dead for two years now, and nobody cares. I know that other young black women are now dead after abortion at that address . . . Where is [the abortionist] now? Has he been stopped? Has anything happened to him because of what he did to my Belinda? Has he served jail time for any of these cruel deaths? People tell me nothing has happened, that nothing ever happens to white abortionists who leave young black women dead.”
The Washington Post, October 17, 2016. Right-to-die law faces skepticism in nation’s capital: ‘It’s really aimed at old black people’
Many in the black community distrust the health-care system and fear that racism in life will translate into discrimination in death, said Patricia King, a Georgetown Law School professor who has written about the racial dynamics of assisted death. “Historically, African Americans have not had a lot of control over their bodies, and I don’t think offering them assisted suicide is going to make them feel more autonomous,” King said . . . Some African American residents have said the legislation reminds them of the Tuskegee experiments, in which hundreds of black men with syphilis in Alabama unwittingly participated in a 40-year federal study of the disease’s long-term effect. The men were told they were being given “free health care” and were being treated for the disorder, when in fact they were not.
For a lengthier statement on abortion hurting the poor, see this 1972 document from Graciela Olivarez:
And for helping to counter the racism, see:
For more on euthanasia, see our blog post
For a similar blog post featuring those with disabilities, see:
by Shane Claiborne
Note: Shane Claiborne founded The Simple Way in Philadelphia and heads up Red Letter Christians (people who are committed to living “as if Jesus meant the things he said.”) His books include The Irresistible Revolution and Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why it’s Killing Us.
We need a new pro-life movement in America.
Too often “pro-life” has come to mean anti-abortion, as if abortion was the only LIFE issue. Life does not begin at conception and end at birth, but if some pro-lifers were left in charge of things, the womb would be the safest place to be – and as soon as you were born you’d be in trouble. You’d want to stay in the womb as long as possible.
It’s not enough just to be born – we also need to support the babies, the kids, the youth. And that means making sure everyone has the things they need to thrive – education, food, health care, housing, and all such things.
Wouldn’t it be beautiful to have a pro-life movement that stood against abortion, but also stood just as passionately against the death penalty, gun violence, militarism and war, the degradation of creation, police brutality, and all other things that destroy life? That would truly be a pro-life movement. To be prolife is not only about protecting the unborn, but also about supporting folks after they are born.
One of the most important things we can talk about today is the need for a consistent ethic of life. I like to say that I am pro-life from the womb to the tomb.
Every human being is made in the image of God, and any time a life is lost we lose a little glimpse of God in the world.
This language of the consistent ethic of life, the seamless garment, has been a helpful ethical framework for many people over the centuries. The early Christians stood consistently against all killing – and spoke passionately against abortion, the death penalty, murder, and war. And today a consistent life ethic is resonating with a new generation of evangelicals, especially young folks.
We are tired of death. We also are tired of a two-party system that is very inconsistent when it comes to this ethic of life. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a consistent ethic of life. Many Republicans are against abortion. Many Democrats are against gun violence. But both parties promise to increase military spending. It creates a quagmire for those of us who are tired of death and for whom a value for LIFE is our ethical framework.
I also want to suggest that we need more than ideologies and hubris in this movement. We need action. I recently met a man after a speaking event who told me he has always been pro-life. But he said, “I began to realize I was pro-life but I wasn’t pro-active. I wasn’t really doing anything other than protesting.” He went on to share with me that he has now started a counseling service for young women and an open adoption agency to help find homes for new babies who need families.
That’s what I love about Mother Teresa. She didn’t just say she was pro-life – she showed us she was pro-life. She took in 14-year old moms, and picked up orphans abandoned in the train stations of Calcutta. I had the privilege of working with her in India.
While I was there, I learned that folks called her “Mother Teresa” because she was their mother. She had raised them.
I remember meeting a young man, about thirty years old, who said to me, “You know why we call her Mother Teresa, right?” I shook my head curiously. He went on, “Because she’s our mom.” He showed me things she had given him over the years, just as any mom would give her kids. That’s the sort of integrity that the pro-life movement needs today.
I want to be pro-life like Mother Teresa was pro-life – and that means taking in teenage mothers, and walking alongside families in poverty. It means creating support groups for people who have chosen to have abortions and are living with the pain of that decision. It means getting involved in the lives of folks facing execution and standing against all killing, both legal and illegal.
Mother Teresa didn’t just picket abortion clinics. She didn’t just have t-shirts and have an “Abortion is murder” bumper sticker. She had young people whom she had raised who called her “mother.” If we are truly pro-life we had better have some teen moms and foster kids living in our homes.
And Mother Teresa knew that abortion was not the only life issue. She was just as passionately against the death penalty and made some personal phone calls to governors in the U.S. to stop executions. She told them, “Do what Jesus would do.” She even wrote a letter to John Dear who was in a North Carolina jail for protesting war and asked him “to proclaim the love of Jesus even to the poor in prison.”
Mother Teresa consistently spoke out courageously for life. She’s a great model for us today, as we seek to be pro-life – and not just in word, but in deed.
So let us reimagine the pro-life movement today as a movement that stands consistently for life, and against death. And let us move beyond stale rhetoric and ideologies to action. What’s just as important as whether we are pro-life or pro-choice is how we are pro-active.
All of us who seek to be pro-life should continue to care about abortion – but we should just as passionately care about the death penalty, gun violence, the movement for black lives, the crisis of refugees and immigrants, the environment, healthcare, mass incarceration And all the other issues that are destroying the lives and squashing the dignity of children whom God created and loves so deeply.
Those who like this post may also enjoy:
Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons.
We’re usually especially busy in January, but much more this year. More to the point, consistent-lifers and pro-life feminists have gotten way, way, way more coverage than usual. This is easily done, since in the past we rarely got any. We were delighted to get one quotation into one article. There is something about current circumstances that lends itself to getting more attention. Clues to that can be found in the wording of the headlines.
So we offer links to coverage in the mainstream media, plus lots of photos of the highlights of participation. There were also people who engaged in local actions around the country.
Women’s March, January 21
Washington DC, San Francisco, and all over the U.S.
The Washington Post: Opinion: Susan B. Anthony would never have joined the Women’s March on Washington, by Carol Crossed and Eric Anthony
The Washington Post: Opinion: I’m an anti-abortion feminist. I’ll walk at the Women’s March, whether organizers like it or not, by Aimee Murphy
The Washington Post: Is there a place at the Women’s March for women who are politically opposed to abortion?, by Perry Stein
CNN: I’m a feminist against abortion. Why exclude me from a march for women?, by Erika Bachiochi
The Atlantic: These Pro-Lifers Are Headed to the Women’s March on Washington. Is there room in the movement for people who morally object to abortion?, by Emma Green
The New York Times: Views on Abortion Strain Calls for Unity at Women’s March on Washington, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg
The Daily Beast: SHORT-SIGHTED: March Organizers Must Welcome Pro-Lifers. If ever there was a time when pro-choice and pro-life feminists need to find and fight for common ground, it’s now, by Keli Goff
We don’t have photos of the D.C. contingent, nor the ones in Los Angeles or Kansas City.
West Coast Walk for Life – San Francisco, January 21
March for Life – Washington DC, January 27
(Expo with exhibits January 26-27)
RealClearPolitics: Pro-Life Feminists’ Broader Message Is Nonviolence, by Melissa Cruz
BuzzFeed: These People Marched Against Abortion — And Against Trump, by Ema O’Connor, January 28, 2017, “You can call yourself pro-life as much as you want,” one March For Life attendee said, “but if you are keeping refugees out while bombing their countries, if you are sexually assaulting women and … bragging about it, it’s not enough.”
National Public Radio (NPR), Connections with Evan Dawson. Discussing the March for Life and the Movement’s Next Steps. Guests include Audrey Sample of Feminists for Nonviolent Choices and Rosemary Geraghty of Life Matters Journal. February 1, 2017.
At Students for Life, 80 copies of Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion were distributed.
And people in our member groups chat with people at their tables:
Consistent Life endorsers Shane Claiborne and John Dear were among the 18 people arrested at a protest in front of the US Supreme Court on January 17, marking the 40th anniversary of the court allowing executions to resume: The Action to Stop Executions.
Now that the Golden Globes have passed and the Oscars are coming up, we’ll comment on past Hollywood movies from a consistent-life point of view.
The Giver, 2014
This movie is based on a book for young people by Lois Lowry that sold over 10 million copies, so the story has huge appeal.
Prolife commentators note its dystopian world is a controlled one, with infanticide and euthanasia and the euphemism of “release to elsewhere” for executing troublemakers. But consistent-lifers notice another theme: the reason for the colorless controlled world was revulsion against war, a graphic revulsion that the rebellious hero shares.
But he’s startled to realize his world hasn’t abolished murder; only given it another name. People are committing murder without realizing this is what they’re doing, because their deep emotions are blocked, love is regarded as imprecise and problematic, and they’ve lost memories. The Hollywood ending restores their memories and emotions and the gentle execution stops right away; the stopping of ongoing infanticide and euthanasia as well is implied.
Doesn’t this fit the world the oncoming generation has grown up in? Their parental and grandparental generations were full of people active against the American war in Vietnam, but with the left-wing/right-wing dynamic also insisted on abortion as a “right” with infanticide possible on the reasoning’s slippery slope. Working against one kind of killing and then promoting another, these were people who rebelled against war but then forgot what murder is.
The ending where the characters are reminded what murder is would make this a therapeutic story for young people, helping to account for its popularity.
The Whistleblower, 2010
This is not a movie to see for entertainment. The graphic images are truly disturbing, because this is based on the true story of sexual trafficking in post-war Bosnia. Rachel Weisz (pictured) plays the title character, investigating the corruption and shocking brutality of this modern-day slavery.
The connection of war to sex trafficking, while not stated explicitly, is portrayed so obviously that it serves as public education about how this effect of war works in real life.
Abortion is not portrayed at all, but watching the vicious behavior of the traffickers who “own” the women leaves no doubt that if any of them get pregnant from the activities they’re forced to do, the traffickers would think nothing of forcing abortions to make the women re-usable.
This movie helps in understanding one of the vicious connections between war and abortion: war causes sexual slavery and that causes forced abortions. All three practices are intolerable each by themselves, but here we see once again how violence is connected to more violence.
Ides of March, 2010
This Hollywood movie is a biting satire on hypocrisy in presidential campaigns; the discerning viewer can see the road to lethal results when the candidate gets power.
Here direct lethal results come earlier, during the candidacy: in the presence of the normal “women’s-right-to-choose” rhetoric, in painful contrast to that rhetoric, powerful men manipulate a young woman into pregnancy and then abortion. Pictured is a scene in which a campaign staffer insists on abortion as a cover-up and drives the mother to the clinic. In his view, she has no say.
With the candidate being the father, it could be foreseen the baby would be doomed unless the mother rebels. In this case, after the abortion she commits suicide, which becomes an occasion for yet more power games.
Despite the movie featuring many actors and real-life pundits known to take the “pro-choice” position, the dynamics of abortion as violence connected to a sea of violence are clearly portrayed.
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For a short list of movies intentionally about nonviolence, see a past holiday issue of our weekly updates, Peace & Life Connections. Our Advisory Board member John Whitehead has written an article on movies with anti-war themes in Peacemaking for Life. We also blogged a movie review of Mothers & Daughters. Anyone who wants to offer a movie or book review from a consistent-life viewpoint for us to consider for publishing can send it to email@example.com.
One of our earliest endorsers, Nat Hentoff passed away January 7, 2017 at the age of 91. The photo to the right comes from when he appeared as one of four interviewees in our video from the 1980s, back when we were still the Seamless Garment Network, which is why the video was called The Seamless Garment. (The seamless garment and the consistent life ethic are the same thing).
He was a writer for the Village Voice and frequently had pieces in such places as The Progressive magazine. He was especially well-known for his free-speech absolutism, including writing a delightful book called Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee. Listing a variety of places where speech was censored not by government but by intolerance, pro-life feminists and consistent-lifers had their stories told.
It startled his progressive friends (and wife) when he became pro-life. It lost him some writing gigs, but he stuck to his principles.
It happened because he was shocked by the Baby Doe cases, in which infanticide of babies with disabilities was advocated by means of denying needed medical care. The care would have been offered a non-disabled child. The child’s death was the goal.
Nat came to realize that feticide for the same reason was just as much an outrage. Then he reasoned that feticide for any other reason wasn’t acceptable either. People in the circles he ran around in were quite startled. We were delighted to have a good friend.
In October of 1986 he gave an excellent speech explaining his views, now a consistent-life classic, called The Indivisible Fight for Life.
He also wrote about his experiences in an excellent piece called “Pro-Choice Bigots: A View from the Pro-life Left”
We encourage everyone to read the full articles on-line. To give you a taste, here are quotations of his which we ran as the Quotation of the Week in our short weekly e-newsletter, Peace & Life Connections:
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From The Indivisible Fight for Life, 1986:
I remain an atheist, a Jewish atheist . . . For me, this transformation started with the reporting I did on the Babies Doe. While covering the story, I came across a number who were convinced that making it possible for a spina bifida or a Down’s syndrome infant to die was the equivalent of what they called “late abortion.” These infants were born. They were entitled to at least the same rights as people on death row – due process, equal protection of the law. So for the first time, I began to pay attention to the “slippery slope” warnings of pro-lifers. And I began to find out, in a different way, how the stereotypes about pro-lifers work. When you’re one of them and you read about the stereotypes, you get a sort of different perspective.
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From “You Don’t Have to Believe in God to Be Prolife,” U.S. Catholic, March 1989, 28-30.
A primary objection, I was told, to the seamless-garment approach was that it would dilute the anti-abortion message, and that was more important than any other because the unborn were being killed right now . . . I understand the point, but the anti-abortion movement would be stronger if it had more members — members across the spectrum of American politics, religion, and no religion . . . It’s worth remembering that even if the Supreme Court does in the years ahead add more restrictions to abortion and even if it were to reverse Roe v. Wade, the abortion battle would continue. All the more so if Roe v. Wade were overturned because then each state would have to decide whether or not it would permit abortion.
After reading the above, John S. Walker added the following tribute:
Nat Hentoff was far more than you stated in your response to his passing at age 91. For as long as I can remember Nat Hentoff advocated for the liberation of black people in America from white tyranny. Most of us felt this in his uncanny knowledge and advocacy of black music and the artists who performed. From 1946 until 1980 his essays, criticisms, liner note forays were stimulating, enticing and visceral; always keen enough to reveal the essence of the music both melodically and political. Like Mr. Hentoff, I , too was hypnotized by the music of Charlie Parker.
Self-acclamations of atheism mean very little when such a life is guided by principle and the belief of human justice. So we bid adieu to another crucified Jew. May he now enjoy his renewed acquaintance with Mr. Parker, John Coltrane and all the others who praised God with their music.
by Rachel MacNair
The National Review is a magazine founded by William F. Buckley in 1955 to give intellectual heft to conservatism. The Nation is a magazine that was founded in 1865 as a successor to William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator and it offers progressive thought. Each of them regards the other as being on “the other side” – the Right and the Left.
Both held post-election Caribbean cruises that were one-week seminars digesting where we are now because of the elections. Both hold these seminar cruises annually, but timed this year’s to be after elections results were known. They were three weeks apart, and both had around 350 passengers participating.
And I, being as perverse as I am – or to say it more positively, being the bridge-builder sort – went on both of them. When it had reason to come up, I told people on each that I was also going on the other, and the reaction was usually positive and sometimes led to interesting conversations.
Being with the same cruise company, they were quite similar in format. There were some trivial cultural differences – The Nation gave t-shirts to all registrants, and I don’t think that idea even occurred to the National Review (NR) people. Most of what the speakers said was about what you’d expect if you read the magazines they write for.
When processing the election, NR panels focused at length on what they thought was wrong with Hillary Clinton. They were pleased with Trump winning, though they had opposed him during the primaries, because that meant Clinton was defeated. The Nation, on the other hand, focused at length on why Trump might have had any appeal, and got to a few remarks about Clinton herself later on. But one theme about Clinton was common to both groups: that her elitism had been a turn-off.
They have different takes on opposing racism, though both clearly do. Both had a good portion of non-whites among the speakers on their panels, and as far as I could tell both had an entirely white audience. On the NR panels, Jonah Goldberg did a several-minute diatribe against the Alt-Right, saying that while NR does like to do coalitions among various kinds of conservatives, the Alt-Right people were too far beyond the pale. He got enthusiastic applause.
Euthanasia never came up. When the death penalty came up in conversation, I was the one mentioning it. The difference on abortion, though, was substantial.
For NR, they held an entire session on the topic. The person introducing it noted that there were differing opinions on this in the audience – a comment made in no other session – but the session focused entirely on explaining the pro-life case. It was a straightforward educational session. But it was one that could have been held ten years ago just as well; it didn’t discuss current news or movement strategy.
Then there was hardly any comment on the issue at all in the other sessions. Not even on the question of why Clinton narrowly lost, where a good case could be made, at least at the level of speculation, that her extreme abortion views had an impact. Those views weren’t listed among the things that they found wrong with her.
The Nation sessions, on the other hand, mentioned the issue fairly frequently in its euphemistic terms, “reproductive rights” and so on. These were peppered throughout the comments, added to lists of what would need to be defended, with remarks based on the assumption that everyone agreed (and I never found any evidence otherwise, except for me). Yet in those main sessions, I don’t recall hearing as much as an entire paragraph on the topic, and usually not even a full sentence. It was frequent, but it was shallow.
The Nation staff did encourage me to put out some consistent-life handouts on a table with other handouts near the main sessions, since they were encouraging participation and spread of ideas. A handful of each of the three I put out were taken, and of course I don’t know how many were read and then put back down again.
Small Group Discussions
For NR people, individuals and small groups were usually eager to discuss the finer points of the pro-life view, I being well-practiced in that and have written books on the topic. I told them I was trying to get the peace movement to understand the pro-life view, because if any people should understand nonviolence to unborn children, peace movement people should. In addition to abortion itself, trying to squelch alternative views are unhealthy for the peace movement. So I was helping to strengthen the peace movement with the pro-life work. This generally made sense to people, and those who did want to discuss peace movement ideas had it framed for them to make more sense.
With The Nation cruise, on the other hand, I could be quite chatty on other issues, but had to tread lightly when abortion came up. I did essentially get accused of heresy at one point (my word, not hers) and told to shut up. That’s likely with that group, but I was pleased it was only once. Others were much friendlier.
I’ll end with my favorite conversation, because it fit so well. At a lunch table I overheard a man saying how hypocritical it was for Republicans to say they cared about unborn children and then let them die in wars. I went over and they welcomed me into the discussion, as was custom, and I re-iterated the point: unborn children in war don’t even need to take direct hits, but are harmed by the very vibrations of bombs. Then I acquainted them with the consistent life ethic, where pro-lifers included opposition to war and war opponents were pro-life. Having ascertained I was pro-life – framed just right – they asked a series of questions. What about this situation, what about that situation? I easily answered and they went on to the final one: what about overpopulation? I said if we were going to kill human beings for that reason, wouldn’t it make more sense to kill those adults causing the problems? Little tiny babies weren’t the ones causing problems. They immediately picked up on that. Starving people in India weren’t the ones responsible for any “overpopulation” problems, and how much did the average American waste? While they were on a roll on that topic, I excused myself. My work on that occasion was done. That’s the most satisfying kind of conversation.