Intolerance Knows No Partisan Boundaries

Posted on April 18, 2017 By

by Lisa Stiller

Lisa Stiller

As a CL board member who has been working to promote CL representation at conferences and festivals—and the vast majority of the time loving it!—I have sometimes been amazed and discouraged at the amount of intolerance found on both the Left and Right.

In the spring of 2015, I applied to have CL represented in the Activist Area (social justice groups) at the Clearwater Festival, held each year about 30 miles north of New York City.  In May I received a phone call from one of their staff letting me know that our application had been rejected. The reason: We are faith-based, and they do not accept faith-based organizations.

I told them we are secular, but the response was that our Web site indicated that most of our member groups were faith-based, despite the fact that our home page clearly indicates we are not tied to any faith. So I asked why the Fellowship of Reconciliation is always present at their festival, noting that their Web site clearly points to their faith roots.  Simple answer: No, they are not faith-based!  Even if that were true, I also noticed at the festival this year that the Unitarians and a faith-based retreat center were given tables.

I was also told that Clearwater selects organizations that are in line with their “values.” “We are a pro-peace organization,” I responded. I did not get much of a response to that. Clearly, our opposition to abortion was the issue, but my disappointment was that they could not, or would not, say this!

This is not the first time this has happened.  Our applications to have a table and program ads at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom 100th-anniversay conference in the Hague was turned down.  Although the conference organizers didn’t state the reason for the rejection, we point out that the organization has spoken against restrictions on abortion, calling it a sexual and reproductive rights.  However, two of our board members attended the meeting to leaflet and advocate on behalf of the CL message.  We will not be deterred.

We have been turned down multiple times for workshops at other traditionally progressive events as well, but we are usually at least “allowed” a table at such events.  We take advantage of these opportunities to engage attendees in conversation, get sign-ups for our newsletter, and recruit people who would like to help us organize at the local level.

Bill Samuel & Lisa Stiller

The past few years have surprisingly taught me that the Right has no monopoly on intolerance.  Any pro-choice Lefty who tries to tell you they are open minded while cursing you out for your support for unborn lives needs a gentle challenge.

And every so-called tolerant social justice organization that does not tolerate and does not want to at least open up the floor to a presentation that presents a view that holds all life sacred may deserve to have their claim to support social justice challenged.


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

For more of our blog posts on Actions and Adventures, see:

The Adventures of Organizing as a Consistent Lifer

Violence Bolstered by Professional Contradictions

Mourning After & Hoping for the Future, We Call for a Consistent Life Texas!

My Day at the Democratic National Convention

Adventures as a Delegate to the Democratic Party Convention

A Tale of Two Cruises

The Marches of January (2017)



consistent life ethichistoryliberalsorganizingprogressives    

Noncooperation with Planned Parenthood

Posted on April 12, 2017 By

by Rachel MacNair

As nonviolence advocates, when we take on abortion as one of our issues we naturally want to apply the knowledge about effective nonviolent action to countering abortion practice.

A major part of the theory of why nonviolence works is that any kind of power relies on other people cooperating. From independence movements to civil rights movements and toppling dictatorships, noncooperation is key.

An appropriate focus for such noncooperation is the organization that both runs the largest chain of abortion clinics in the world and is also a major advocate for public policy and social acceptability of abortion internationally: Planned Parenthood (PP).

For making the case about PP, see our previous blog post, and an excellent resource by our member group Secular Pro-life called Fund Women’s Health. This second one also offers links for donations to alternative women’s health outlets that help low-income women without being involved in abortion. These alternatives are crucial to a noncooperation campaign, as I’ll explain more below. But first, I’ll cover the simplest form of noncooperation: boycotts.



Boycotts – named for 19th-century Irish landlord Charles Boycott – means a large group of people agreeing not to buy specific products or otherwise deal with specific targets. What has been the history of using boycotts on the abortion issue?

We at the Consistent Life Network had the idea a while back of doing a petition drive targeting a couple of peace-and-justice-oriented companies. The petition would encourage them to consider the consistent life ethic and stop donating to PP. It didn’t take long to realize what was wrong with this idea:  it would be child’s play for PP supporters to offer a counter-petition demanding the companies keep giving PP grants, and they would likely get an avalanche of signatures.

But this works both ways when there are huge numbers of sympathizers on polarized sides. An example was that decades ago abortion defenders were upset at legislation passed in the state of Idaho and threatened a boycott on Idaho potatoes. Pro-life groups immediately said they would splurge on potatoes if that happened. After all, if you buy a bag of potatoes to give to your local soup kitchen, your charity dollar does double duty – and you didn’t even spend very much.

So a boycott on one side will be met by a spending spree on the other, as long as the proposed product to boycott allows for that. A boycott of products associated with foundations who grant money to PP will only work if it’s not a product that abortion defenders can splurge on.

Taxpayer Funding

For decades now, the US federal government’s funding of International Planned Parenthood goes back and forth by executive order depending on whether the US president is Democratic or Republican.

In contrast, deciding whether US government money goes to PP within the United States is a question being argued in the US Congress and state legislatures. The main source of taxpayer revenue is Medicaid payments that cover individuals using PP services. Courts have ruled that states can’t dictate which medically-qualified facility Medicaid recipients use. Another source is Title X – Family Planning money, given as grants.

It’s long been established law that taxpayer money to PP doesn’t generally go directly to abortions. The argument is over whether public funds should cover services other than abortion that PP provides.   PP mixes genuine health care with stomach-churning violence, as well as advocacy for such violence. So from the perspective of those of us accustomed to nonviolent movements to counter violence, noncooperation is required.

Noncooperation Campaign

When dealing with medical services unrelated to abortion, community health centers in the U.S. are an already-existing institutional nonviolent alternative to PP clinics.

In many places, they’re fairly near PP clinics. Efforts to persuade women to use the community centers instead of PP promote noncooperation with PP. Successfully persuading women to go elsewhere for services they need depends on many factors, but when going to providers other than PP is easy to do, that makes persuasion far more effective.

However, in other places, there’s no community health center nearby. Therefore, to establish noncooperation with PP, we need to lobby state legislatures to establish such centers. If that’s a bit too much of a project to take on, we can try to persuade those people who lobby for pro-life causes already, in states where the legislatures are inclined toward PP defunding, that establishing alternative centers is worthy for them to do.

In yet other places, those centers do exist, but they’re stretched and wouldn’t be able to handle the extra patient load if PP weren’t doing the care. In that case, we can lobby for more resources for those centers.

Also, sometimes PP is the only place in the vicinity that accepts Medicaid. Working on getting others in the vicinity to also accept Medicaid is another possible action.

Homework for US activists: You can locate the Planned Parenthood facilities in your state. Then see which community health centers are near them. If no community health centers are near PP centers, then do some more homework on how to establish such a center. If community health centers are located near a PP center, check out if those centers require more resources to handle more patients.

Effective Noncooperation

The idea that PP is necessary to get health care and family planning to low-income women is one of the major arguments against defunding. But health care can be offered in alternative ways. Therefore, this is a necessary step to the policy goal of government de-funding

But beyond that, ensuring women have an alternative to PP as far as receiving health care may prove an effective means of noncooperation by itself. After all, missing funds may be made up for by an upsurge in individual and foundation grants, especially from billionaires. Several billionaires are strong PP supporters and might give substantial donations if they see taxpayer funding cut; for them, giving a few million dollars would be like the rest of us buying extra potatoes.

Yet the fewer the number of women who are going to PP, the less power PP has. Its funding flows are only part of the picture.

If you know of good alternatives, in the same vicinity, to your local PP center, that makes it easier to talk women into going there instead of PP. Not all women will want to, of course, but the information that they can go to these alternative health centers fairly easily is the first step in giving them the facts about PP and persuading them to do so.

Because whatever happens with PP funding – all the money that comes not just from taxpayers but from supporters – lower numbers of clients coming is crucial to the long-term success of noncooperation with PP.


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

For more of our blog posts on taxpayer funding of abortion, see:

Why the Hyde Amendment Helps Low-Income Women

Defunding Planned Parenthood?


abortionnoncooperationPlanned Parenthoodtaxpayer funding

Pondering Justice

Posted on April 4, 2017 By

by Carol Crossed

Carol Crossed

Why is it so difficult to get people to act for justice? There are seven qualities that acts of justice embody.

First: Justice is public. You are trying to change the culture; people need to see you.  It’s not private.

Second:  Justice is judgmental.  People “admonish the sinner” and “instruct the ignorant.”

We judge the system that creates the poor, that fosters military might, a lifestyle of individualism that applauds abortion as a legitimate choice. When it comes to abortion we jump through hoops to avoid being judgmental.

Third: Justice is risky.  It confronts us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Who is my neighbor?  Or rather who is not my neighbor?

Every religion has some version of the Golden Rule: From the Bible, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). From Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” From Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow.” (Rabbi Hillel, first century C.E.).

When we proclaim killing is killing, we will fall.  We will be pushed.  Our good name will be destroyed.  A contractor who refused to work at an abortion clinic spoke about how his walking away from the job cost him business. My husband, who did affordable housing, refused to be part of his company’s contract to build housing in Fort Drum.  Think of the people who put their lives on the line and are arrested trespassing.  During the 1960s, during the lunch counter sit-in and freedom rides, about 3,000 people were jailed. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the number of persons arrested in front of abortion clinics was 71,000.

Fourth: Justice is anonymous.

We generally can’t measure its success.

It doesn’t count clients like social services. It’s more impersonal than seeing someone smile in a soup kitchen line.  It’s not a high-gratification job.

Fifth: Justice is divisive and confrontational.

Frederick Douglas said we have to welcome “agitation,” Martin Luther King said we have to employ creative tension.

Sixth: Justice is counter-cultural. 

Sure, you are going a different way. Pro-life feminists are doing that very thing. Abortion violates every tenant of feminism, and now we feminists have changed our principles to accommodate abortion.

The principle of equality

Abortion is domination over another.  It’s the opposite of conflict resolution because it destroys a party to the conflict. Senator Patricia Schroeder, a leading proponent in choice on abortion, fought for the rights of women to be combatants in war.

The principle of nonviolence 

Because of abortion, we have changed our definition of nonviolence to accommodate killing in certain circumstances.  Listen to abortion doctor Don Sloan: “Is abortion murder? All killing isn’t murder.  A cop shoots a teenager who ‘appeared to be going for a gun,’ and we call it justifiable homicide – a tragedy for all concerned, but not murder.” (Don Sloan, Abortion: A Doctor’s Perspective, A Woman’s Dilemma, page 84).

Judith Arcana in her psychology book on psychology and reproductive choice: “I think abortion belongs in the same context as assisted suicide, and war . . . all situations that require the taking of life with moral, ethical knowledge and acceptance of responsibility.” (“Feminist politics and abortion in the US,” Psychology and Reproductive Choice)

Jason Deparle on feminism and abortion: “It’s not surprising that the defenders of abortion don’t like pictures of fetuses; General Westmoreland didn’t like the cameras in Vietnam either.” (Washington Monthly, April 1989)

And then there’s war. In theory, soldiers shoot only at each other. But in practice, lots and lots of other folks get killed.  We drop bombs where there are non-combatants – women and children and old people – and when they die we call it not murder but “collateral damage.”

(See more quotations of abortion doctors relating abortion to war)

The principle of ecology

Putting a saline solution in one’s body is not care of creation. It’s sexual strip-mining;

The principle of community is replaced with rugged individualism.  Women have become the Marlboro man.  “If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one” mentality gives us “If you don’t like irradiated food, then don’t eat it.”

There are fathers’ rights groups who wanted to exercise their right to abort and are opposing child support.  The “child-free movement” doesn’t want to pay for public education for children they didn’t have.

We have become like 1984, the novel by George Orwell, where war is peace, slavery is freedom, and Truth is Choice.

Seventh: Justice is political.

It is by necessity political.

Not partisan political. The Consistent Life Network doesn’t endorse candidates.  We aren’t shaped by the parties.  Rather, we shape candidates.  When Pope John Paul was in the U.S. in 1992, someone said he couldn’t figure out of this guy was radical left or radical right.  Fr. Brian Hehir of the US delegation said, “He is neither.  He is just radical.”

So justice is political.  We have to shape good laws and Supreme Court decisions, because these are teachers. The two years following Roe v. Wade, abortions tripled.  Why?  The Court said it was not immoral to kill.

Justice is mercy on steroids.


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

For more of our posts from Carol Crossed, see:

Spice Things Up with the Consistent Life Ethic

The Parable of the Bridge

First Stirrings in Connecting the Life Issues




abortionconnecting issues

More than Double the Trouble: Another Way of Connecting

Posted on March 28, 2017 By

by Rachel MacNair

An important idea for understanding how social injustice works is making the rounds. It’s called “intersectionality,” and it’s a specialized way of connecting issues. That makes it right up our alley.

Many good examples of intersectionality  have been offered, but those of us familiar with the consistent life ethic can offer some that others might not think of. That’s what we’ll do here.


What is “intersectionality”?

Kimberlé W. Crenshaw

Kimberlé W. Crenshaw coined the term, and defines it as “drawing attention to interaction effects of inequalities.” It’s when one kind of being discriminated against intersects with another. You don’t just have inequality times two, but more.

Here’s an example Dr. Crenshaw gives: an African American woman took an employer to Court for discrimination because they hired no Black women at all. But they hired Blacks (only men), and they hired women (only Whites), so the court said there was no discrimination. There wasn’t discrimination against either group individually, just both of them together. But the Court thought that didn’t count.

Another startling example is the amount of news we’ve had about African American men being shot by police – but not the women.   Dr. Crenshaw has listed many of the men for a variety of audiences, and reports that in general people who pay attention to the news have heard the names. She then lists African American women who have met the same fate, and draws blanks. For information on these women, who U.S. news-watchers should have heard of, see “Say Her Name.”

Dr. Crenshaw explains that the reason the intersectionality idea is important is to make sure any intervention we design includes everybody. For example, some immigrant rights advocates didn’t think about domestic violence victims, and domestic violence advocates didn’t think about immigrants, but some immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, because of being without papers, are scared to call the police. So when different kinds of violence intersect, it’s compounds the injustice.

Credit: Miriam Dobson. From “A Beginner’s Guide to Intersectionality”


Applied to Pregnant Women

In the past, there have been employers who claim they’re not being sexist so long as they do hire women. It’s just that they take some over others. They don’t want those who are pregnant, or married, or who have children. Fortunately, legislation and the courts haven’t bought this, and, in the United States at least, discrimination against women for being pregnant is indeed sex discrimination. It’s regarded as such by the United Nations’ 1979 treaty, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and by the Maternity Protection Convention of the International Labour Organization (2000).

So in certain countries the law protects pregnant women, but such women still have to face behavior and attitudes that put them down. Here are ways that being negatively viewed as a pregnant woman intersects with other forms of discrimination:


      Pregnant Women X Domestic Violence

Women subjected to intimate partner violence are already vulnerable, but those who are pregnant are more physically vulnerable. Additionally, there are cases where it’s the pregnancy itself that brings on the violence.

Sufferers of domestic violence are also more likely to have partners harshly insisting on abortions for women who don’t want them. In the extreme, there are dozens of documented cases of women actually being murdered by the men who impregnated them because the women refused to have abortions. Since murder is already illegal, with harsh penalties, and the reason we even know about these cases is that prosecutors are doing their jobs, legal reform of murder laws isn’t the remedy. It’s a matter of changing attitudes. But surely for every case reported there are many more that aren’t documented, and for every case of actual murder, there are many cases of “only” being beaten up. And for every case of physical violence, there have to be many cases of verbal abuse and threats.


      Pregnant Women X Disabilities

Women with disabilities are already subjected to discrimination. When other people assert that such women can’t handle a life event such as pregnancy, or shouldn’t reproduce, this can add to the disdain. The stigma inflicted on those with disabilities increases when it’s used as a reason to avoid reproducing.


       Pregnant Women X Racial, Ethnic, or Religious “Others”

When a woman belongs to a community that is held in contempt, her becoming pregnant multiplies that community and therefore multiplies the contempt.

A common attitude was articulated by Edward Allred: “When a sullen Black woman of 17 or 18 can decide to have a baby and get welfare and food stamps and become a burden to us all, it’s time to stop. In parts of South Los Angeles, having babies for welfare is the only industry the people have.” (San Diego Union, October 12, 1980). Dr. Allred’s aversion to government subsidies didn’t prevent him from accepting millions of dollars in California tax dollars for his abortion practice. In the same article he expresses contempt for Hispanic immigrants and speaks of setting up an abortion clinic at a strategic location to “stem the tide.”


 Applied to Unborn and Newborn Children

Unborn children are literally invisible, unless an ultrasound or intrauterine camera is focused on them. Newborn babies, whose femaleness or disability was hidden until birth, can by virtue of those features become suddenly vulnerable at birth.


      Babies X Females

Millions of girls and young women are missing, especially in certain Asian countries. It’s bad enough to cause a gender imbalance in the population.

In her award-winning book, Unnatural Selection, pro-choice writer Mara Hvistendahl explains how this came about as a matter of military strategy. She reviewed archives that showed people in the US presidential administrations of Nixon and Ford were terrified that countries with many poor Asian peasants would “go communist.” Therefore, rather than offering programs to help prevent the peasants from being poor, they were determined to have fewer poor people by drastically reducing their birth rate.

If the number of girls is reduced, this has a far greater impact in reducing future population growth. One man can impregnate several women during the same time period, but one woman generally produces only one baby at time.

So sex-selection abortions were seen as a positive. Being unborn and newborn intersects with being female. Add another intersection: military targets.


      Babies X Disabilities

In the United States, after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, this anti-discrimination and pro-accommodation legislation should have had a positive effect on perceptions of the disabled. For those well beyond infancy, it did. Yet right after the ADA passed, there was a dramatic decrease in the birth rate for Down Syndrome babies. There’s no reason to think they were conceived at a different rate, and screening was about the same. But there were demeaning media depictions. Negative images came from positive portrayals of prenatal testing followed by terminating the pregnancy when a diagnosis resulted. While children and adults with disabilities were making progress, unborn children who would have been safe otherwise became targets if they had disabilities.

Throughout history, disabled newborns have been targeted for destruction. Older children and adults were treated outrageously due to their disabilities, but intersecting with being a baby made imposed death much more likely.



With the consistent life ethic, we’ve often talked about how issues of violence are connected, and how therefore when you tackle one of the issues, your advocacy for nonviolence and protecting human beings gets around to helping on all the other issues as well. Here we have another important way of connecting issues: noticing that violence can more than double down when two or more kinds of targeted people are found in the same person. As Dr. Crenshaw asserts (though she hasn’t made the points above and is herself pro-choice), our strategies for remedying this will be more effective when we’re aware of how adding up the kinds of discrimination can multiply. We might come up with practical solutions we might not have thought of otherwise.


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

For our blog posts on lethal discrimination against those with disabilities or motivated by racism, see:

Women with Disabilities Speak

Historical Black Voices: Racism Kills

connecting issuesdisability rightsintersectionalitymilitaryracismwomen's rights

Progressive Prolifers at the Progressive Magazine 100th Anniversary Celebration

Posted on March 22, 2017 By

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.

At the conference: Stephen Zunes, Rachel MacNair, Mary Krane Derr

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.


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

See more on the life of Mary Krane Derr.

For another of our blog posts with her as author, see:

Ancient Roots of the Consistent Life Ethic: Greece

For more of our blog posts on Actions and Adventures, see:

The Adventures of Organizing as a Consistent Lifer

Violence Bolstered by Professional Contradictions

Mourning After & Hoping for the Future, We Call for a Consistent Life Texas!

My Day at the Democratic National Convention

Adventures as a Delegate to the Democratic Party Convention

A Tale of Two Cruises

The Marches of January (2017)




consistent life ethicliberalsprogressives     , , ,

On Being a Consistent Chimera

Posted on March 14, 2017 By

by Rob Arner

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




See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

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)

Coming to Peace and Living a Consistent Life After Military Service

Off the Fence and Taking My Stand on Abortion (Mary Liepold)

Sharon Long: My Personal Pro-life Journey


Christianityconservativesconsistent life ethicliberalspersonal stories

Find Our Blog Posts

Posted on March 7, 2017 By

 Educating Ourselves on Issues

Figuring out Euthanasia: What Does it Really Mean?

Open Letter to Fellow Human Rights Activists

Rejecting Mass Murder: Looking Back on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Suffering and Injustice Concern Us All [connection to compassion for animals]

More than Double the Trouble: Another Way of Connecting [intersectionality]


Perspectives on the Consistent Life Ethic

Does the Consistent Life Ethic Water Down Life Issues?

Spice Things Up with the Consistent Life Ethic

People Are So Much More Than Their Circumstances

Pondering Justice

Dynamics of Nonviolence

If Men Could Get Pregnant

The Creativity of the Fore-closed Option

The Parable of the Bridge

The Good Grandma

A New Pro-life Movement (Shane Claiborne)


Dynamics of Violence

The Myth of Sexual Autonomy

Guns and Abortion: Extremists Resemble Each Other

Where Violence Begins

When “Choice” Itself Hurts the Quality of Life



Actions and Adventures

The Adventures of Organizing as a Consistent Lifer

Violence Bolstered by Professional Contradictions (in the American Psychological Association)

Mourning After & Hoping for the Future, We Call for a Consistent Life Texas!

My Day at the Democratic National Convention

Adventures as a Delegate to the Democratic Party Convention

A Tale of Two Cruises

The Marches of January (2017)

Progressive Prolifers at the Progressive Magazine 100th Anniversary Celebration

Intolerance Knows No Partisan Boundaries


Personal Journeys

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)

Coming to Peace and Living a Consistent Life After Military Service (Eve Dawn Kuha)

Off the Fence and Taking My Stand on Abortion (Mary Liepold)

Sharon Long: My Personal Pro-life Journey

Why Conservatives Should Oppose the Death Penalty (Destiny Herndon de la Rosa)

On Being a Consistent Chimera (Rob Arner)


In Their Own Voices

Women with Disabilities Speak

Historical Black Voices: Racism Kills


 History of the Consistent Life Ethic

First Stirrings in Connecting the Life Issues

The Consistent Life Consensus in Ancient Christianity

Ancient Roots of the Consistent Life Ethic: Greece

The Adventures of Prolifers for Survival: Scorned by Mobilization for Survival

Reminiscing on the Founding Meeting of the Consistent Life Network


Violence Overcome

A Historical Success Story: Duels

Our Experience with Overturning Terrible Court Decisions


Notable People

Courageous Woman: Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001)

Difference this Time: Prolife Heroism (Garrett Swasey, the pro-life police officer killed in shootings at the Colorado Planned Parenthood]

Celebrating the Life of Daniel Berrigan

Nat Hentoff, Rest in Peace



The Poor Cry Out for Justice, and We Respond with Legalized Abortion (Graciela Olivarez)


Government Policy


Our Experience with Overturning Terrible Court Decisions



Should Abortions be Illegal?

Who the Law Targets

Why the Hyde Amendment Helps Low-Income Women

Defunding Planned Parenthood?

Noncooperation with Planned Parenthood



Election Politics

A President for Life and Peace?

Varieties of Hawk: Clinton v. Trump on Foreign Policy

My Day at the Democratic National Convention

Inconsistency Sabotages the Peace Movement

Adventures as a Delegate to the Democratic Party Convention



Book Reviews

A Way Beyond the Abortion Wars?

Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-life Movement Before Roe v. Wade

Excerpt: Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion

The Tragedy of Carrie Buck: A Review of Imbeciles by Adam Cohen


Movie Reviews

Hollywood Movie Insights (The Giver, The Whistleblower, and The Ides of March)

Mothers and Daughters



“Seamless Garment” – Poem by Daniel Berrigan


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] (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.


List of All Posts

Why Conservatives Should Oppose the Death Penalty

Posted on February 28, 2017 By

by Destiny Herndon-de La Rosa

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

New Wave Feminists at March for LIfe



See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

For another of our blog posts on a conservative look at issues of violence, see:

Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons.

connecting issuesconservativesconsistent life ethicdeath penaltyReligion     , , , , , ,

Historical Black Voices: Racism Kills

Posted on February 21, 2017 By

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.’ “

Dick Gregory

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.”

Jesse Jackson

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.”

Mattie Byrd

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.”

Fenit Nirappil

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.


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

For a lengthier statement on abortion hurting the poor, see this 1972 document from Graciela Olivarez:

The Poor Cry Out for Justice, and We Respond with Legalized Abortion 

And for helping to counter the racism, see:

Why the Hyde Amendment Helps Low-Income Women

For more on euthanasia, see our blog post

Figuring out Euthanasia: What Does it Really Mean?

For a similar blog post featuring those with disabilities, see:

Women with Disabilities Speak



abortioneuthanasiaracismwar and peace     , , , , , , , ,

A New Pro-Life Movement

Posted on February 14, 2017 By

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.


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

Those who like this post may also enjoy:

The Consistent Life Consensus in Ancient Christianity

Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons.

Does the Consistent Life Ethic Water Down Life Issues?


abortionChristianityconnecting issuesconsistent life ethicdeath penaltygunspovertyracismReligion     , , ,