Wasting Money on Instruments of Death: Nuclear Weapons in the 2022 Budget

Posted on July 20, 2021 By

by John Whitehead

The Biden administration’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022 contains much to disturb peace activists. The budget continues the long-standing pattern of grotesquely large military spending, with $715 billion allocated to the Defense Department. Further, the budget specifically continues to fund lavishly the most extreme instruments of death, nuclear weapons. Peace activists need to work against this practice of wasting billions of dollars on such weapons.

Trends in Nuclear Spending

Spending on nuclear weapons has a long, dishonorable history. William Perry and Tom Collina, in their book The Button, estimate that during the Cold War arms race the United States spent roughly $10 trillion—or about $30,000 for every person in the contemporary United States—on nuclear weapons. More recently, massive nuclear spending has experienced a revival in the last decade or so.

In 2010, President Obama secured the Republican votes in the Senate necessary to ratify the START arms control treaty by promising to invest in maintaining and replacing the US nuclear arsenal. As the nuclear upgrade program continued, its costs rapidly increased. In 2017, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that this nuclear program would cost over $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continued and expanded the nuclear upgrade program, guided by the goal of countering Russia and China. Earlier this year, the CBO released a new estimate of nuclear costs over the next decade, saying that Defense and Energy Department nuclear activities would cost $634 billion over 2021-2030.

Current Nuclear Spending Plans

The Biden budget proposal doesn’t break with this spending pattern. The proposal calls for spending $43.2 billion on nuclear weapons in FY2022. Of this money, $27.7 billion will go to the Defense Department, with the remaining $15.5 billion going to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an Energy Department agency responsible for developing, producing, and maintaining nuclear bombs. The net amount proposed might be less than the Trump administration’s FY2021 request of $44.5 billion (although accounting differences make the two requests difficult to compare), but it is still a considerable sum for nuclear weapons. Also, some specific nuclear weapons-related activities will receive more funding than last fiscal year.

Certain nuclear activities funded by the Biden budget are especially notable examples of wasting huge amounts in pursuit of extreme destructiveness. The budget calls for building a new fleet of submarines, known as the “Columbia class,” to carry nuclear missiles and a new fleet of land-based nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The money to be allocated to building the submarines ($5 billion) and ICBMs (about $2.6 billion) is an increase over FY2021 spending on these programs.

The budget also contains funding for maintenance of the B83 nuclear warhead. The B83 is the most destructive nuclear bomb in the US arsenal, with a yield of 1.2 megatons, or about 100 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The Obama administration planned to retire the B83, but the Trump administration decided to retain it and the Biden budget continues this policy. In fact, the FY2022 budget proposal contains almost $99 million to maintain the B83, more than triple the amount allocated to the bomb in FY2021.

Another part of the nuclear upgrade program is a plan to produce dramatically more plutonium “pits,” which serve as the cores of nuclear bombs. In the past, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the only facility capable of making plutonium pits, produced 31 pits between 2007 and 2013 and has not produced any more since. However, current plans call for creating a new facility, at Savannah River in South Carolina, to produce plutonium pits. This new facility, together with Los Alamos, is then expected to produce 80 plutonium pits annually by 2030. Plutonium-pit-related activities have received increasing funds over the years, with roughly $2 billion allocated for such activities in FY2022.

Wasteful and Dangerous Plans

Even setting aside moral objections to nuclear weapons, the nuclear planning reflected in the FY2022 budget proposal is highly questionable. The United States already is permitted 1,550 nuclear weapons under the START treaty, which is surely more than enough to “deter” an adversary. US policymakers could and should seek to reduce the nuclear arsenal to a still lower level. In this context, creating the capacity to produce nuclear weapons at a rate of 80 every year is senseless. Maintaining a megaton-level nuclear bomb is similarly redundant and unnecessary: far less destructive weapons are terrifying enough.

Further, building new land-based ICBMs presents problems even beyond redundancy. Land-based nuclear missiles, being stationary, are vulnerable to being destroyed in another nation’s nuclear attack. As Perry and Collina have pointed out, this vulnerability increases the danger of nuclear war. Should the president receive warning of an incoming nuclear attack on the United States, he or she would have only minutes to decide whether to launch the land-based missiles in retaliation, before they’re destroyed by the incoming attack. This situation creates a huge incentive to make fateful decisions quickly, without determining if the situation is a false alarm. Accidental nuclear war may well be the result. The goal should be to retire land-based missiles, not to build a new fleet of them.

At best, current nuclear weapons spending will waste billions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere. At worst, such spending will perpetuate a nuclear arms race that may end in global catastrophe.

Trying to Restore Sanity

The FY2022 budget proposal may be merely the result of bureaucratic inertia, and the Biden administration may change course once it has completed its own nuclear policy review. Peace activists shouldn’t count on this, though.

We need to push back against continuing the grotesque spending on nuclear weapons. American citizens should contact the president by phone or email, as well as their representatives in the House and Senate. As Congress is currently also considering whether to retain the Hyde Amendment and other restrictions on abortion funding in the FY2022 budget, this is a good opportunity to link these issues. Appeals to curtail spending on both nuclear weapons and abortion may get members of Congress’ attention while also breaking through the usual ideological stereotypes. We need radical reductions in the amount of money being spent on methods of killing.


For more of our posts on nuclear weapons, see:

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

The Reynolds Family, the Nuclear Age and a Brave Wooden Boat

“An Inferno That Even the Mind of Dante Could Not Envision”: Martin Luther King on Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue 

For more on the Hyde amendment:

Why the Hyde Amendment Helps Low-Income Women


nuclear weapons

A Daunting Disadvantage for the Pro-Life Side

Posted on July 13, 2021 By


by Acyutananda (see author’s blog)

Of all the consistent pro-life policies or political positions, I have always chosen to focus my own efforts most on the anti-abortion position. This is partly because numerically legal abortion normally accounts for vastly more human-rights violations than say, capital punishment or unjust war. It is also because only anti-abortion philosophy necessarily brings out consciousness as the basis of human value.

Establishing the importance of consciousness is necessary for effective philosophical anti-abortion apologetics. Many people may agree on the general importance of consciousness. However, they have to be convinced that some of their convictions, particularly their conviction that killing innocent born human beings is normally wrong, depend on a usually unarticulated belief that what is wrong about killing is the fact that doing so deprives those born human beings of their future conscious life. And this is often hard for people to see, resulting in a daunting disadvantage for the pro-life side.

That a zygote or early embryo is indeed a full-fledged member of our human family, in the only way that is morally relevant when abortion is considered, can be convincingly shown by an argument focused on consciousness that is usually attributed to Don Marquis, although   the essence of the argument has been present for a long time in Indian philosophy. It may also have been stated perfectly, 60 years before Marquis was born, by pro-life feminist Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to declare her candidacy for the US presidency:

Victoria Woodhull

We are aware that many women attempt to excuse themselves for procuring abortions, upon the ground that it is not murder. But the fact of resort to this argument only shows the more palpably that they fully realize the enormity of the crime. Is it not equally destroying the would-be future oak, to crush the sprout before it pushes its head above the sod, as it is to cut down the sapling, or to saw down the tree? Is it not equally to destroy life, to crush it in its very germ, and to take it when the germ has evolved to any given point in the line of its development?

I also once tried framing the argument in a way that I think was effective for some people.

(I should mention that another argument, focused on human membership in general and not necessarily on consciousness, that seems to have convinced many people of the humanity of the unborn, is the equal-rights argument used by the Equal Rights Institute.)

But to an important extent, these arguments require very careful presentation and depend for their impact on very careful thinking by those who hear them. And they take a while to sink in. I feel that for a normal mind that is a blank slate on this issue, there is nothing obvious about the humanity of the unborn.

Even a pro-life person commenting under a recent Secular Pro-Life blog post wrote, “life at conception sounds strange.” It surprised me at first to hear that from a pro-lifer, since the reality that a human life begins at conception is a fundamental tenet for our side. But then the reality of a human life at conception (or rather, the reality that this life has status as a full-fledged member of the human family) sounded strange to me also until I had thought about it quite a bit.

Here is a comment by Javier Cuadros on the power that “original appearances” have over the minds of people and even of most scientists:

Science is a process of knowledge in which we penetrate ever deeper. . . . As the observations multiply . . . it is typical that the original appearances . . . are shown to be incorrect. The reality is different. . . . This is why I have always been puzzled about the reluctance of scientists to apply the same program of investigation to the nature of the human embryo. Are human embryos men and women and thus entitled to the inalienable right to life and respect for their dignity and physical integrity, or are they not? Here, many scientists . . . are for applying the simple criterion of appearances. No, [embryos] are not men and women, they say, because they do not look like a person. Agreed, they do not look like a developed human being. But the Earth looks like it is stationary. . . . shape does not make a human being. It has been shown that the most fundamental element of the presence and identity of a human being is the existence of [complete human genetic information]

Once we realize that a single-celled organism is a full-fledged member of our human family, a belief that there should be legal protections normally follows. But if that realization really does take quite a bit of thinking for many people, that puts the pro-life side at a tremendous disadvantage. That the pro-life side has nearly been able to overcome that disadvantage is a real tribute to the resolve of pro-lifers and to the human love for the truth. But the disadvantage remains, so that we have won over neither the culture nor the law.

Pro-lifers recognize this disadvantage. For many pro-lifers, their go-to attack on Roe v. Wade is to point out that it does not prohibit late-term abortions. They know that only a developed fetus is likely to win much sympathy from those who have not spared time for deep thinking.

Let’s think in more developmental terms about how this situation arises. What would children’s perceptions of the unborn be, once they learned simply that people start out in their mommies’ tummies, if those children were otherwise uninfluenced by their parents, teachers, etc.? What would the most naive perception be, and how susceptible to change is it (I think very susceptible) once they start hearing pro-choice slogans and pro-life slogans, once they learn a smattering of embryology, see an ultrasound of their younger sibling, etc.? This is all very deep and complicated, and calls for a lot of research. But some things seem clear enough:

Religious pro-lifers may grow up with a kind of rote belief in the humanity of the unborn, but probably sometimes as well a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood with the unborn that is instilled by their parents. And some people born into a religious pro-life family eventually think deeply and do their homework and come to a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that is not just rote.

I believe that anyone who thinks deeply and does their homework will eventually come to a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood with the unborn, if the development of that sense does not come in conflict with some hardened ideological commitment. But it is normally a small minority of people who think deeply and do their homework. If a person neither thinks deeply and does their homework, nor receives pro-life training from their parents, I think the default will be for most people always to feel that the unborn are insignificant. After all, the unborn are out of sight, and even if we could see a small clump of cells, the genetic information driving the growth of those cells would be beyond our normal senses. Cuadros explained this well above.

Few people will seriously undertake “a process of knowledge in which we penetrate ever deeper,” either scientifically or philosophically, so I think most people, dependent as we all are on our five senses and normally lacking deep thought, will tend to feel that the unborn are insignificant, making the contest of images a daunting struggle for the pro-life side. Or at least, most people’s thinking will be inchoate and therefore malleable and suggestible. If people’s minds are malleable, are their minds more likely to be influenced by the “precious human life” side of the debate, or by the “brainless clump of cells” side?

Well, many people have strong selfish reasons to adopt the “brainless clump of cells” perception and become pro-choice, whereas hardly anyone has strong selfish reasons to adopt the “precious human life” perception and become pro-life. There is nothing tangible to gain from coming to the defense of those who have nothing and cannot come to our defense in turn. So an accumulated power of human selfishness helps the pro-choice side that does not help the pro-life side.

The ranks of pro-lifers also wane because of the strong trend in the West for people to lose their religious beliefs. If they lose those beliefs, they will lose as well any perception of the unborn that they had acquired purely as rote belief.

As people age they become more pro-life, presumably because they have had more time to think about it. But by the time they become pro-life through aging, they may have few years left as voters and as role models.

These are the daunting demographics that explain why a correct view struggles so much to become a winning view. For the cause of the unborn to have any chance, we must educate day and night. Perfectly convincing arguments are available, but they are not arguments that can be downed just like a soft drink. To have any chance, we must educate, educate, educate.


abortionbook reviews

Peas of the Same Pod

Posted on July 6, 2021 By

by Elena Muller Garcia, M.A. in Religious Studies


About ten years ago one of my co-workers approached my desk and began to address me by saying:

“Did you see those illegals — ”

I stopped him abruptly midsentence.

“Calling undocumented immigrants ‘illegals’ is the same as calling the unborn child a ‘fetus’. Both terms are used to veil their humanity,” I said. He listened and went back to his desk.

Although this might seem to be an insignificant conversation, the demeaning way in which he said “illegal” still rings in my ears. My dear co-worker was then, and still is, a committed Catholic and an ardent pro-lifer. The sharp contrast between what I knew to be his pro-life advocacy and his abrupt anti-immigrant rant, which I managed to stop that day, saddened and worried me. Unfortunately, he was not alone in his inconsistency. Worse yet, ten years later the tear in what should be a consistent advocacy both for the immigrant person and the preborn child has exponentially widened.

Elena Muller Garcia in front of the Angels Unawares sculpture


As I remember this incident, several life experiences coalesce in my mind. All Americans, except native Americans, have an immigrant ancestor somewhere on their family tree, but I am the immigrant on mine. I was also an unplanned child. In addition, doing post-graduate work at the University of Miami in the 1970s had led me to do research on the personhood of the unborn child. I still remember some of the arguments that were proposed then to justify abortion by denying personhood to the early embryo, describing it as a blob of protoplasm or by comparing the fetus to an unconscious violinist attached to an unwilling person for nine months.

Unaccompanied Minor

 I have shared my experience of arriving in the United States as an unaccompanied minor in different venues and publications. Although I initially did not want to leave my native country, Cuba, much less without my parents, I eventually agreed to do so and left the island when I was thirteen years old. I am one of more than 14,000 children who left Cuba and arrived in the United States thanks to Operation Pedro Pan between late December of 1960 and mid-October of 1962. This was a transformative experience, many times painful but also at times joyful, that constitutes part of the core of the person I am today, sixty years later. Early on I came across John F. Kennedy’s A Nation of Immigrants. In the midst of my deep longing to be with my parents who stayed behind in Cuba for three more years, and the intense feeling of rootlessness that sometimes overwhelmed me, the book helped alleviate my pain. It made me feel welcome in what eventually became my adopted country. I don’t recall in great detail the content of the book itself. Remembering the title, even to this day, helps sustain my welcoming attitude towards today’s immigrants.

Unplanned Child

 I do not often share my experience of first suspecting and then confirming that I was an unplanned child. I had a happy childhood in Havana, Cuba. I was the fourth child and only girl. I loved my parents and my siblings. My life centered on my family, my school, my friends, and my Catholic faith. My family life contrasted sharply with the political unrest that had plagued the island nation and had come to a seeming end on January 1, 1959, when the dictatorship of President Batista ended. Tragically, the autocracy only replicated itself in a more virulent strain with the Castro-Communist takeover, which is the reason why I left Cuba, followed, one by one, by each of my brothers and three years later by my parents.

As I was trying to become acclimated to my new country, in the early sixties, the sexual revolution was well underway as well as concern about overpopulation. I used to dream of someday having a large family. If it was true that human population was a threat to civilization and to the planet, then it was not advisable for me to fulfill that dream. Two opposing views were published in 1968: the much-maligned encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI and Paul Ehrlich’s best seller The Population Bomb: Population Control or Race to Oblivion. Although the encyclical and the book are diametrically opposed as far as what course of action should be taken, Paul VI expressed concerns about overpopulation. I read the encyclical but not the book. Thus I became interested in natural family planning. It was then that I started suspecting that I had been an unplanned child myself since I was the caboose child. In Cuba my parents had been able to make ends meet, but that was it. We lived on a shoestring budget although my Dad worked two jobs and my Mom worked outside the home too.

I moved in with my parents again several years after they immigrated to the United States, but I did not ask my mother the question. I harbored a fear that confirming that I was unplanned would devastate my self-esteem. Decades later when I was studying to become a certified teacher of natural family planning I gathered my courage and asked her: “Mami, was I planned?” Her quick answer did not surprise me: “No, you were not planned.” What surprised me was my reaction. Far from feeling shattered, I felt elated by a deep sense of worthiness and freedom. In twelve-step program terms, I realized I was here because of a higher power. I was also overcome by a deep sense of gratitude towards my parents who, though I was unplanned, never made me feel unwanted and always took loving care of me.

Two Strikes Against Me

 Sometimes I feel that if I were an immigrant today, I would not be admitted in the United States and that, since I was the fourth and unplanned child, if I had been conceived today, I would probably have been aborted. My personal experience makes me pro-immigrant and pro-unborn child. Unfortunately, as I experienced that morning years ago when my pro-life co-worker started to berate illegal immigrants, many people do not see the connection. For many, one can be pro-life and anti-immigrant, and for many others one can be pro-immigrant and pro-abortion.

In general, pro-lifers who are anti-immigrant will make a big fuss about being “pro-legal immigrants,” but instead of advocating for a change in our immigration system that would allow for more immigrants to come here legally, they tend to support greater and greater restrictions to legal immigration and initiatives for the building of walls. I was able to come to the United States legally because the United States government created a visa waiver program for Cubans fleeing Communism which is to say, because immigration laws changed. Immigration laws should be changed to answer the needs of today’s migrants.

Pro-immigrant advocates who are pro-abortion will not admit to being so. They will claim to be pro-choice. I have to admit that in recent years I have come to see that there is some daylight between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice. However, the pro-choice position would still not protect me if I were to be an unplanned child in the womb today. The legal status-quo should change to provide more protections, not less, to the bond between pregnant mother and pre-born child.

Peas in the Same Pod

Apart from my personal conviction that pro-immigration and pro-life belong together, is there an objective connection between the anti-immigration and the pro-abortion movements? There is. The pod that contains these two peas is the population control movement. Not pretending to give exhaustive proof, let me just mention one internet site.

The Overpopulation Project lists organizations around the globe concerned with the issue. I would like to point out two of many listed under America.

 Numbers USA is a foundation “providing a civil forum for Americans of all political and ethnic backgrounds to focus on a single issue, the proper numerical level of U.S. immigration. The group favors reductions in immigration numbers toward traditional levels that would stabilize the U.S. population.”

 Negative Population Growth is described as a national nonprofit membership organization aiming “to educate the American public and political leaders about the devastating effects of overpopulation on the environment, natural resources and the overall standard of living. They advocate for a significant reduction in current population numbers in the U.S.”

The Kissinger Report of 1974 includes this mantra: “No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion.”

Ken Cuccinelli, who was acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Trump administration, had joined in 2007 a group called State Legislators for Legal Immigration. Shortly after he joined the association it issued a statement asking that then President George Bush “terminate” illegal alien invasion to protect Americans.

Terminating the life of the unborn child and terminating the flow of immigration fit snugly into the same pod.


For more of our posts that include immigration policy, see: 

Children in Cages

Would My Grandparents Have Died in the Pogroms?



The Consistent Peace Ethic

Posted on June 29, 2021 By

by Rachel MacNair

The Consistent Life Network names its e-newsletter Peace & Life Connections. We make a big point of covering peace issues as the same as life issues and life issues being the same as peace issues. We dislike the political red/blue divide that pits “peace” and “life” against each other in terms of who supports what, since we assert that they belong together.


So a question just recently occurred to me: why do we entirely refer to the “consistent life ethic” and not also the “consistent peace ethic”?

Next question: why did this only recently occur to me, when I’ve been active on this for decades?


Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, major portions of abortion opposition used reasoning against war and executions to make the case against feticide, and liberal Democrats who favored protecting fetal children weren’t unusual (see the book, Defenders of the Unborn). It was most strongly under the candidacy and administration of Ronald Reagan that a more distinct right-wing/left-wing divide was perceived. As Dr. Jack Willke put it to me once, in his Catholic diocese, the Respect Life office and the Peace and Justice Office didn’t talk to each other. I responded to him that that was so sad; they ought to be all the same office.

Bubbling up from this situation were people that also thought peace and life issues went together. Eileen Egan, co-founder of Pax Christi, coined the “seamless garment” concept in 1973, and it was picked up and publicized by Cardinal Bernardin in a lecture at Fordham University, Dec 6, 1983.

The term “seamless garment” had the all-inclusive, cover-all-issues character that was the hallmark of what we wanted to advocate. So when we decided at the final meeting of Pro-lifers for Survival to establish a network, we called it the Seamless Garment Network. People didn’t know what that meant, but we thought we would educate them. What we found is that even after we directly educated people in person, they still mixed us up with a garment workers union. So we changed to Consistent Life Network. By then the phrase “consistent life ethic” – also “consistent ethic of life” – had become well established.

Peace and justice activists commonly do think in terms of connecting issues. Military spending is connected to poverty as it misdirects resources away from social support. War causes poverty directly. Executions are strongly connected to both racism and poverty. And so on. When we speak this way, we’re using language that peace and justice activists are entirely accustomed to.

And then we added abortion and euthanasia into the mix. We were taking an entirely normal peace-movement approach, and expanding it to those issues, on the grounds that this is obvious when opposing socially-approved killing.

Juli Loesch (now Julianne Wiley), founder of Pro-lifers for Survival

I was active in the later years of Pro-lifers for Survival, and I was at its final meeting where the Seamless Garment Network was established, so I know who we were. We weren’t long-time pro-lifers that decided what we really needed to do was expand to all issues of killing. We were long-time peace activists who were having the roof fall in on us when we told fellow peace and justice advocates that we wanted to make an anti-abortion case.

We joked that we were communist on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but fascist on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

When Pro-lifers for Survival tried to join the National Mobilization for Survival, a coalition against the nuclear arms race, the Boston chapter said that all pro-lifers were “racist, classist, misogynist anti-choice reactionaries.” We made t-shirts with that, and danced a conga line to it, which is why I still have it memorized all these years later. We weren’t easily intimidated.

We had, and still have, trouble with peace organizations not allowing us to participate in tables or marches or sponsorships because of our anti-abortion stand. By contrast, participating in pro-life events, while not entirely trouble-free, has more often been a matter of just signing up, as the single-issue folks tend to be happy to have an all-hands-on-deck approach.



So I see the answer to the questions as: the term “consistent life” is because we were communicating to pro-lifers that we were pro-life, because that’s a crucial point for them, and we were communicating to peace and justice activists that we were pro-life because that’s the difference we were advocating for and needed to get across. And this was so clearly what we needed to do in both cases that it didn’t occur to me otherwise.

The Problem

But there’s a problem that’s bedeviled us from the start: the use of consistency not for persuasion but for attack.

There are some people (several politicians spring to mind) for whom inconsistency is a fair criticism, and their inability to catch the underlying moral principles of the pro-life position raises questions about their sincerity even when considering just the abortion issue alone. Dialog and persuasion are called for.

But consistency includes solidarity with pre-born children along with everyone else. Instead, we see the idea of consistency used as an attack weapon against those whose major focus is to protect those children, by people who are thereby proposing that such children aren’t important enough to be anyone’s focus.

There are a vast number of hard-working activists who are generally and rightly sick of it. Too often they hear “These anti-choice people aren’t really pro-life, they’re just pro-birth. They don’t care about anyone after birth. If they were really pro-life they’d also oppose X, Y, and Z, like I do.”

Mind you, this would be happening whether the consistent life ethic existed or not. Those who want to argue against the pro-life position are bound to come up with such thoughts.

And I’ve watched in horror as people do exactly this: they use the consistent life ethic to attack the right-to-life movement as not being good enough to suit them. Pro-lifers naturally resent this when it’s used as an attack.

I explain over and over again that this is a grotesque abuse of the consistency concept, which is meant to challenge people to think through more issues with the same moral principles – not disparage people for being on different sides of the political spectrum. I explain to pro-lifers, but they have the experience of having to put up with this. I explain to people who are misusing the CLE that way, but they’re speaking to crowds that cheer them on for saying such things. I explain and explain. I’m trying to hold back the ocean with a broom.

Therefore . . .

We want to challenge both “sides,” and peace advocates need to understand that the ideal of consistency applies just as much to them as to everyone else. Consistent Peace Ethic means the exact same thing, after all. Even though I just coined the term myself.

I propose that we pay attention to times when it makes more sense, or at least perfectly good sense, and start using this as a synonym. This would sometimes be instead of the Consistent Life Ethic, and at other times in addition to it.

If others agree, it will happen, and if they don’t, it won’t. But I think we may discover that in our work of being persuasive, it’s a useful idea.


consistencyconsistent life ethic

Encouraging Words That Require Action: Comments on the Geneva Summit

Posted on June 22, 2021 By

by John Whitehead

President Biden met, for the first time since his inauguration, Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Geneva. While the summit meeting didn’t produce any dramatic breakthroughs in US-Russian relations, it did provide some encouraging signs. The two countries’ joint statement, released after the summit, contained an important declaration on the evil of nuclear war that peace activists had urged the American and Russian governments to make. The summit might open the door for limited but significant cooperation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Hopeful Signs at the Summit

These events, and the generally arctic state of US-Russian relations, were the context for the Geneva summit meeting. Nevertheless, a few flashes of hope emerged from Biden and Putin’s meeting.

The US and Russia will send their ambassadors back to their posts, restoring that line of diplomatic communication. The joint US-Russian statement released after the summit says, “The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control” and promises future talks on arms control, as well as measures to reduce the risk of conflict.

Perhaps most significant, the joint statement contains the comment “Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Such language echoes that of the famous 1985 joint US-Soviet statement, released following Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s meeting in Geneva. The 1985 statement, coming at another time of great international tension, provided reassurance that both nations recognized the catastrophic threat of nuclear war and were determined to avoid it.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Also, the joint statement responds, intentionally or not, to an appeal made shortly before the summit by a coalition of American and Russian advocates for nuclear arms control.

The appeal, organized by the Arms Control Association, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Pugwash Conferences on Science and Global Affairs, called on Biden and Putin to reaffirm the 1985 Geneva statement on nuclear war. The appeal also urged both presidents to “a bilateral strategic dialogue…leading to further reduction of the nuclear risk hanging over the world and to the re-discovery of the road to a world free of nuclear weapons.” While nothing so significant is currently planned, the promise of future talks is at least a step in the right direction.

Beyond these specific outcomes, the overall attitude both Biden and Putin expressed after the summit is encouraging. Each president was measured in his evaluation of the US-Russia relationship, being neither highly optimistic nor pessimistic about the future.

Biden told reporters that he and Putin “share a unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries — a relationship that has to be stable and predictable…[W]e should be able to cooperate where it’s in our mutual interests.” He also commented, “[T]his is not about trust; this is about self-interest and verification of self-interest.”

Putin similarly said, about working with Biden, “This does not mean we have to peek into each other’s souls, look into each other’s eyes and swear eternal love and friendship – not at all. We defend the interests of our countries, our peoples, and our relations are always primarily pragmatic in nature.”

While hardly effusive declarations of friendship, these presidential comments suggest at least a desire for a stable working relationship. The restrained rhetoric is actually reassuring, as hopes for a friendly US-Russian relationship are hardly realistic at present and would likely just be disappointed. Proceeding in a sober, pragmatic spirit is probably best.

Going Forward

What remains to be seen is whether these hopeful signs will lead to results. In particular, the promise of future arms control and risk reduction measures must be kept. Peace activists should not leave this matter purely to policymakers but should continue to push for a more stable US-Russian relationship. We need to lobby for further arms control agreements—and, if feasible, a restoration of the Open Skies Treaty. We also need to lobby against sinking any more money into building or renovating nuclear weapons. The encouraging words of the Geneva summit need to be translated into action.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA


For more of our posts on nuclear weapons, see: 

A Global Effort to Protect Life: The UN Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons

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

The Reynolds Family, the Nuclear Age and a Brave Wooden Boat

Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue

“An Inferno That Even the Mind of Dante Could Not Envision”: Martin Luther King on Nuclear Weapons

The Danger That Faces Us All: Hiroshima and Nagasaki after 75 Years

Catastrophe by Mistake: The Button and the Danger of Accidental Nuclear War

“The Affairs of a Handful of Natives”: Nuclear Testing and Racism

Lethal from the Start: Uranium Mining’s Danger to the Most Vulnerable

nuclear weaponswar policy

The Cure for Headache

Posted on June 15, 2021 By

by  Acyutananda

Cut off your head to be rid of
All those pounds of ugly fat!
Can’t you find any better
Solution than that?

“Got to end this endless war,”
Said President Truman,
So he pulled out all the stops,
Did something inhuman.

Tony Timpa got excitable
(It was cocaine self-pollution),
So they arrested his cardiac,
Called it conflict resolution.

Your child was inside of you,
I know you wished it weren’t.
Now the earth is scorched,
And innocence burnt.

It’s now the 21st Century
Since the Golden Rule,
That bright idea
That we learned in school.

© 2021

Author: Acyutananda (“c” pronounced as in “ciao”) is a yoga monk. He believes in the consistent life ethic. His blog is http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org


For more of our posts with poems, see:

“Seamless Garment” – Poem by Daniel Berrigan

Let us all agree on this one simple thing: It is not OK to kill people. by Robert Randall



The Case for Abortion as the “Preeminent Priority”

Posted on June 8, 2021 By

by Fr. Jim Hewes

Top Ten Reasons

  1. Wars killed over 100 million people in the last century. It took a hundred years to reach that number. The United Nations estimates 45-50 million abortion each year, so it would take only two or three years of abortions to surpass that number.

The brutal reality is that the lives of 900,000 pre-born children end every year in the United States from abortions. What would we think if 900,000 school children or 900,000 immigrants were killed every single year (or 900,000 lives lost to Covid-19)? Abortion is the number one cause of violent death in the world and in the United States, making abortion the number one priority. The immensity of that violence dwarfs every other issue by a mile.


In addition, there are millions of women wounded and damaged for many years after their abortions, which also affect fathers, siblings, grandparents, other family members, and abortion industry workers.



  1. There is the undeniable fact that if one doesn’t exist, then other human rights won’t come into play. Since abortion is at the very beginning of life, it sets the trajectory of what kind of society we are creating: not a culture of life but a culture of death, which excludes a whole group of human beings simply based on arbitrary characteristics of their size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency.
  1. An injustice has almost never ended unless the evidence of the injustice has been shown. There’s the heartbreaking photo of 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc, after a napalm attack in 1972, showing the horror of war. One can view the 3-year-old Syrian refugee child, Alan Kundi, lying dead, face down on a beach in Turkey, to demonstrate the plight of refugees. One can show pictures of homeless people in cardboard boxes, living on the streets, to show their terrible situation. One can watch emaciated bodies to see the effects of hunger or poverty.

Yet you rarely ever see pictures of pre-born children. Pre-born children are viewed differently, especially by the media which shapes so much public opinion on issues. They never show abortion victims, because they are being hid away and forgotten, which absolutely lessens their value. So, society is never brought face-to-face with the ugliness and the horrifying nature of this terrible evil.

The day of George Floyd’s death, with all the subsequent media coverage and protests, there were 800 African American pre-born children killed, completely unnoticed.

  1. Pre-born children are never heard, only silent screams; they’re never able to give horrifying testimonials of what’s been done to them. They’re the one group that doesn’t get asked about the meaning of their abortion. They need the unparalleled attention, the strongest protection, and the most outspoken voices advocating on their behalf, lest they continue in silence to be marginalized, ignored, and brutally destroyed. In abortion. the pre-born are basically without a voice because they’re not considered human, but a mere concept (a product of pregnancy) or an abstraction (health care / reproductive rights); in abortion their humanity isn’t even recognized but simply seen as an outpatient surgical procedure, or just mere cells.
  1. Violence and death are more readily accepted by society to solve complex problems when vulnerable life is destroyed at the very beginning of life, and the killing takes place within the very heart of, and with the complicity of the family. As Mother Teresa stated: “abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.”
  1. Those who have died by euthanasia, the death penalty, the crime of murder, or in war are ordinarily afforded some type of dignity, by a funeral service and burial. Pre-born children are dismembered, then thrown in a trash bag as medical waste, and dumped as garbage.
  1. Seventeen death-row inmates were executed in 2020. If even one person is executed, it’s one too many. But would there have been an earth-quaking event of a civil war back in the 1860’s, if there were a total of 17 slaves in the entire country? When slavery was legal in much of the U.S., with about four million slaves, 13% of the nation’s population, it took on paramount importance. Slavery wasn’t the only evil in 1860, but it was a fundamental evil and thus a preeminent social issue. It had to be eliminated to create a new foundation for true justice to emerge across a wide variety of other social issues. To say that slavery was the most important social issue didn’t detract from the importance of other issues (like child labor, etc.). Instead, it highlighted the foremost evil that had to be overcome for the good of the entire nation. Such is abortion today.

Another example: imagine we’re in Germany during the early 1940’s (or Pol Pot’s Cambodia in the 1970’s or Rwanda in 1994) and someone stated: “I don’t understand the argument for giving the Holocaust more weight than all other killings in Germany.  People’s lives are no less taken away when killed outside the Holocaust than within it. If during the early 1940’s in Germany, the Holocaust is inherently more important than all other issues, then all other issues are inherently less important than the Holocaust.” Would this approach make any sense?

Just because a particular issue is the defining issue, which surpasses all other important issues of life in a particular time and place, this wouldn’t diminish the other life issues, just highlight what needs the most focus as long as that overriding injustice lasts. Those previous situations of intrinsic evils no longer exist and are no longer priorities now, because the circumstances have dramatically changed in those countries. If the pre-born were declared persons by the Supreme Court and abortion became illegal for the entire country (not just returned to the states to decide) then the pre-eminence of abortion might change in the United States.

  1. We’re not so much choosing the approach of pre-eminent priority, but rather it’s being forced on us by the magnitude of the injustice and the vulnerability of pre-born children. When a society legally and morally/ethically removes protection from any group of people, then you endanger the protection of everyone else. The principle applies no matter what group of people you formally deprive of personhood. It just that the pre-born are the only group today who have been deprived of that legal status. So, in a sense, it is not we who choose to make abortion the priority issue. The court and society chose it.
  1. Abortion has lessened the value of life outside the womb and has desensitized us to the horror of violence for those who have already been born.

If a parent can kill an innocent, helpless, unwanted child because of “choice,” why can’t anyone kill someone else because of “choice”? This was exactly what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “If we say that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell others not to kill one another?” Also: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love but to use violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

  1. People who don’t have solidarity with the pre-born lay the groundwork of not being in solidarity with anyone vulnerable after birth. Most CLE people would generally agree that there should be “a preferential option for the poor;” no one is poorer, more weak, more defenseless, more vulnerable, more marginalized, more frail than pre-born children.

Why Preeminence?

One of the confusions, especially around election time, is the mistake of thinking that a “single-issue voter” has the same meaning as one who holds “abortion is a preeminent priority.”  Abortion as “a preeminent priority” always sees an essential strong link of abortion with all the other issues of the consistent life ethic / seamless garment / non-violence. If abortion is really a true preeminent priority, it doesn’t automatically mean that abortion is the only issue; nor does it mean that one sets aside all other issues of life. One’s opposition to abortion, as well as holding the preeminent priority of abortion, will not really be credible if one does not work against the other threats to life outside the womb.

It’s human nature and the make-up of American society to tend to be competitive. But prioritizing an issue doesn’t lessen other issues or other lives, unless it’s looked at only through a competitive lens. It’s not meant to cloud out all other considerations of life issues.

For it’s not just about having a right to be born, but a right to an abundant life, It’s vitally important to help those same babies who are not aborted for the rest of their lives. This includes supporting mothers who are single parents or struggling in poverty or facing violence in wars or other conflicts.

Unfortunately, too many single-issue voters don’t challenge anti-abortion politicians on other important social issues. These also have an impact on those not aborted as well as other human lives. What happens too often after anti-abortion politicians get elected is that many single-issue voters remain silent and give these politicians a “pass” because they were against abortion. They allow the pre-born to be “weaponized” for certain political purposes or for helping one political party.

Those who hold abortion as a preeminent priority, on the other hand, know it’s not enough to just get a human life born and prevent that life from being aborted, if that same life is then destroyed or gradually harmed by certain policies that perpetuate the violence of war or poverty, or leave women after the birth of their child with little or no support.

If you take into account all these reasons (and more), the right to life is foundational and the centerpiece to the whole structure of society’s existence and underlies every right. The right to life precedes and undergirds every other issue of life, and prioritizing abortion is the key underpinning for all other issues of life. Abortion outweighs all other issues and doesn’t admit of exception or compromise. It’s intrinsically always unjust, and gravely immoral regardless of motive or circumstance. Abortion is first and foremost wrong universally, in every place and in every conceivable circumstance.  Without the right to life, all meaning and purpose is erased and lost forever.

All evils are not equal, which is why abortion is of such paramount importance. If the fundamental right to life is not secure but contingent on others, no rights are ultimately secure. If there is no right to life, society and all other rights are built on sand.

It’s just a reality that none of us can do everything, so we naturally prioritize something. This preeminent priority approach doesn’t diminish the value of the other issues or other lives, nor does it mean ignoring or neglecting the other issues of life; for each and every life is in God’s image and likeness, with infinite dignity.


For more of our posts from Fr. Jim Hewes, see:

Death Penalty and other Killing: The Destructive Effect on Us

Reflections from My Decades of Consistent Life Experience

Consistent Life History: Being Across the Board


For differing opinions on the balance of issues, see:

Is Abortion Different from Other Violence? / Julia Smucker

Specialization or Generalization? The Many Ways of Following the Consistent Life Ethic / John Whitehead

Equal Concern for Each Human Being, Not for Each Human Issue / Richard Stith

Does the Consistent Life Ethic Water Down Life Issues? / Bill Samuel


A Cold War Comes Home? Anti-Asian Racism in Light of US-China Hostility

Posted on June 1, 2021 By

by John Whitehead

Racism against Americans of Asian heritage has received significant attention recently. Concerns about anti-Asian hate crimes arose last spring as the Covid-19 pandemic began to affect the United States. The horrifying murders of eight people, six of them Asian, in the greater Atlanta area in March 2021 revived concerns about bigotry toward Asian Americans. As activists and others work to counter this evil, we should consider the role that hostile US policies and attitudes toward China—which go beyond the response to Covid-19—may play in fostering anti-Asian prejudice.

Hate Crimes at Home

Covid-19 raised the possibility that people of Asian descent would be scapegoated for a pandemic that originated in Asia. Early in 2020, the FBI predicted that anti-Asian crimes would rise “on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.” Soon after, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned about “the potential for hate crimes by individuals and groups targeting minority populations in the United States who they believe are responsible for the spread of the virus.”

Over a year later, the scale of anti-Asian hate crimes since Covid-19 broke out in the United States is hard to measure confidently. The FBI’s national report on hate crimes committed in 2020 won’t be available until November. In the meantime, we have some preliminary, partial numbers and anecdotal evidence that are cause for concern.

The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism (CSHE) at California State University, San Bernardino, released a report this spring on anti-Asian incidents. Analysis of official preliminary police data showed anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 146% from 2019 to 2020 across 26 of the largest American jurisdictions. The increase is all the more striking given that hate crimes generally increased by only 2% in these jurisdictions during this period. The study also compared reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 large US cities and counties in the first quarter of 2020 versus the first quarter of 2021. It found a 164% increase, from 36 to 95, between 2020 and 2021.

STOP AAPI Hate, a coalition of community organizers and academics, created an online, multilingual portal through which people could report anti-Asian incidents. The portal collected reports of 3,795 incidents, both criminal and non-criminal, in 2020 and early 2021. Police data for some large cities show noticeable increases in anti-Asian hate crimes compared to previous years. New York City had an average of 6.4 anti-Asian incidents annually during 2015-2019 and had 28 in 2020. For Los Angeles, the numbers were 6.6 annually during 2015-2019 and 15 in 2020.

As noted, these data have limitations. The STOP AAPI portal doesn’t try to verify the incidents reported to it, and since the portal was created in 2020 we cannot compare its numbers to previous years. Also, the apparent increase in incidents might be the result of increased media attention rather than a real increase. Nevertheless, the numbers suggest a possible pattern of increased anti-Asian hatred.

The reported incidents might also be just the tip of the iceberg: many hate crimes might go unreported for various reasons. Quyen Dinh, the executive director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, a civil rights group, comments, “A lot of our community members don’t know they can report, or they are afraid to report to law enforcement…They would rather share with the community groups they feel comfortable with.”

Beyond the patterns suggested by numbers, anti-Asian bigotry turns up in multiple specific incidents reported since March 2020. A New York Times compilation of 110 such incidents provides disturbing details. To take just a handful of examples:

  • March 2020: In Midland, TX, three members of an Asian American family, including a 2-year-old and 6-year-old, were stabbed in a grocery store because their attacker thought they were Chinese and had Covid-19.
  • November 2020: In Washington, DC, a tea shop owner was confronted by a customer who shouted “Chinese” and “Covid-19” and eventually pepper sprayed the owner.
  • February 2021: In Los Angeles, a Korean American man was hit in the face by two attackers who called him racial slurs and “Chinese virus.”
  • March 2021: In New York City, multiple violent attacks on Asian Americans took place, including an incident where a Filipino American woman was knocked down and kicked while her attacker yelled “You don’t belong here.”
  • March 2021: In San Jose, CA, a woman was sexually assaulted by an attacker who shouted anti-Asian slurs.

Hostility Abroad

These and other anti-Asian incidents have taken place in the context of fears about Covid-19 and political rhetoric that identifies the virus with China. Former President Trump sometimes referred to the virus as the “China virus” or the “Chinese virus” (although he later backed off from those words and called for tolerance of Asian Americans). Trump also once used the term “kung flu,” which was also used in multiple anti-Asian incidents.

However, other circumstances beyond Covid-19 might contribute to anti-Asian attitudes within the United States today. Even as Covid recedes (we hope), hostility between the United States and China continues to be a serious problem.

The Biden administration has identified China as a leading US rival. CIA Director William Burns has called China “the biggest geopolitical challenge that we face.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has said “no challenge we face rivals the holistic threat posed by China, and more specifically the Chinese Communist Party.” Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), arguing against cuts to the US defense budget, tweeted that “China’s goal is nothing less than the complete destruction of the United States.”

Meanwhile, the Senate is considering a bill, the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, targeting China. The bill calls for spending $300 million annually “to counter the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party globally.” The funds would go to, among other purposes, “expose misinformation and disinformation of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda” and “support civil society and independent media to raise awareness of and increase transparency regarding the negative impact” of various Chinese economic initiatives.

As Jessica J. Lee and Rachel Esplin-Odell of the Quincy Institute comment, the Act could encourage paranoia and hostility toward China and skew media coverage of China, “in favor of anti-China journalism, [while] drowning out more unbiased analyses and reports on constructive engagement with China.” While the Act, to its credit, condemns anti-Asian racism, it may nevertheless encourage general hostility to China that will influences attitudes toward Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans.

Fears of foreign influence might already be influencing the treatment of Asian Americans within the State Department. The Asian-American Foreign Affairs Association (AAFAA), which represents diplomats of Asian heritage, has long expressed concerns about how security clearance rules intended to reduce “targeting and harassment by foreign intelligence services as well as to lessen foreign influence,” are applied to Asian Americans.

In March 2021, 100 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from the foreign policy and national security fields released a statement saying “the xenophobia that is spreading as U.S. policy concentrates on great power competition has exacerbated suspicions, microaggressions, discrimination, and blatant accusations of disloyalty simply because of the way we look. Many of us have been targeted because we are either ethnically Chinese or simply look Asian.” The statement goes on to say “Treating all Asian-Americans working in national security with a broad stroke of suspicion, rather than seeing us as valuable contributors, is counterproductive.”

Countering Hatred

Some positive steps to counter anti-Asian racism have been taken. Congress recently passed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, which contains provisions to improve multilingual reporting of hate crimes, access to support services, and public education about hate crimes. The 2021 State Authorization Act, currently being considered in Congress, would reform State Department security clearance procedures. The new procedures would allow diplomats to appeal clearance decisions and have the decisions reviewed independently. Meanwhile, the Strategic Competition Act should be rejected, at least in its current form.

We should also step back from the general hostility toward China that is increasingly embraced by both US political parties. This need not mean stopping all criticism of the Chinese government over, for example, its human rights record in Hong Kong or Xinjiang. However, it does mean scaling back extreme anti-China rhetoric and balancing criticism with recognition of the need for great power cooperation. Hostility among nations is always dangerous. Such hostility has the added danger of turning inward and harming vulnerable communities at home.


For similar posts from John Whitehead, see:

“Remember Pearl Harbor—Keep ‘Em Dying”: War and Racism in the Pacific

The Wages of War, Part 1: How Abortion Came to Japan

Wages of War, Part 2: How Forced Sterilization Came to Japan 

“Millions Who Are Already Hanging by a Thread”: The Global Repercussions of Covid-19

Sickness is the Health of the State? Civil Liberties and Conflict during a Pandemic


“I Became Like a Soldier Going to Battle”: Post-Abortion Trauma

Posted on May 25, 2021 By

by Sarah Terzo

Jacqueline Middler

Jacqueline Middler had two abortions and deeply regretted them. She wrote a book, White Stick, hoping to convince other women not to make the same choices. (All quotations below are from this book).

Middler became pregnant her first year of college. She didn’t know what to do but was leaning towards choosing life. Then she spoke to a friend who’d had an abortion.

The friend said there were many things Middler wouldn’t be able to do if she had a baby. She wouldn’t finish college, she would lose her scholarship, and her boyfriend, whom she wanted to marry, would break up with her.

Middler said, “But I can’t kill my baby.” (p. 30)

The friend told her there was no baby, only cells. Middler writes, “Finally, words that comforted me. I wouldn’t be killing a baby – just a group of cells.” (p. 31)

Midler didn’t know that a preborn baby’s heart is beating at 21 days, and some scientists think it starts even earlier. She didn’t know that a child in the womb was already right or left-handed at eight weeks, or that by 10 weeks the baby has fingerprints and sucks her thumb.

Middler had doubts, but she silenced them. If she had an abortion, she reasoned, no one would ever know. She could continue with her life as if nothing had happened.

When Middler told her parents of her decision, they said they didn’t agree, but they would support her choice. Middler recalls wishing they would step in and forbid her from having an abortion, or at least give her more direction. But the full burden of the choice was placed on her shoulders.

Middler says, “[I] had already hardened my heart… Once I made the decision, I never wavered. I became like a soldier going to battle, determined to win and get my life back on track.” (p. 32)

Whether in abortion or through war, it isn’t human nature to kill. People must suppress their instincts and harden their hearts to do so.

Middler bled after the abortion. She began to see her abortion as killing a baby:

[M]y constant pain and blood loss reminded me of what I had done. Within the discharge from my body were pieces of tissue, and I wondered what part of my baby they represented. (p. 42)

She suffered emotionally and became addicted to drugs and alcohol:

I cried so much. I had hoped to never think about my choice again, but now I thought about it every second of every day. I couldn’t share these thoughts with anyone… As the ugly head of my grief and pain came roaring up to crush me, I beat it back down into the small place in my heart where I let it reign. If the noise got too loud, I reached for drugs or alcohol to quiet the pain.

Outwardly, I looked the same… But inwardly I struggled to process the shame and guilt. Somehow, I finished the term and began packing for home. As I stepped aboard that plane, I was not the same girl who had come to school. My inner being was broken, hardened, and numbed by my choices and my drug use…By taking my baby’s life, some of my own life had died too. (pp. 42-43)

Middler became extremely promiscuous after her abortion, going to parties, drinking and drugging, and going home with various men. At one point, she managed to stay sober for several months, only to find out she was pregnant again. She “celebrated” her decision to have another abortion by drinking again. She got mindlessly drunk and used marijuana.

At the time, she thought that the heavy drinking and drugs had damaged her baby. She says she “didn’t want the baby to suffer in this life with physical deformities or mental incapacities, so ending his or her life before it started seemed like a good thing to do.” (pp. 52-53).

Years later, she would admit to herself:

These thoughts had nothing to do with the baby’s well-being but had everything to do with my own selfish desires not to be inconvenienced by a damaged baby. I knew my life would forever be tied to this baby’s father as well. I knew he would want to be part of the baby’s life. But I knew I did not want to be tied to any one person. I’d grown too numb to think of anyone but myself. (p. 53)

 Things got even worse for her after the second abortion. She says, “I felt more than broken – I felt destroyed. In this dark place, I could see no light, no hope.”

She spent the rest of her time in college in a drunken, drug-induced haze. She says:

I alienated everyone, including good friends. I bought drugs and smoked them by myself, often disappearing into the woods to spend many hours staring endlessly into the vast forest, wishing I could disappear. I was not the same person anymore. In fact, I knew that the carefree girl I’d been before my abortions would never return. My choices had affected every aspect of my life and had now destroyed it. I sat in a dark place…

When I returned to school this time, my life felt empty. To protect myself, to be able to move through the motions, I shut down my emotions. I locked them up tight within. I felt more than broken – I felt destroyed. In this dark place, I could see no light, no hope. (pp. 52-53)

Eventually, she stopped abusing substances and began attending church, finding comfort in Christianity. When she got married, she had two miscarriages. Each miscarriage brought back memories of her abortions and thoughts that God was punishing her. She still had to face her abortion and the harm it had done to her life. She says:

As a result of my choice to murder, I made other bad decisions – one after another. Abusing alcohol and drugs, alienating friends, choosing bad partners, screwing up good jobs – the list goes on and on. (pp. 105-106)

 Through church ministries, prayer, and “taking responsibility” she found healing:

I acknowledged what I did – took responsibility – and grieved for my choices. I cried. I got angry. I accepted it. Then I decided to let it go. It wasn’t easy. I still look at my abortions as a time I ruined my life. However, I no longer beat myself up for those choices. I allow myself to feel the grief and then fill myself up with God’s words of love for me instead. (p. 109)

She went on to give birth to three children.

Years later, she and a friend went to a concert by a singer they both liked. Before the concert, they were shown a pro-abortion video. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-choice:

I had no idea that this artist’s concerts had morphed into pro-choice events. I watched and listened as many different women and doctors appeared on the screen talking about how important it was to have the choice of abortion. The main speaker talked about how she had eight abortions and how she thought abortions were just another form of birth control. Her callous remarks and hardened heart hurt me. (p. 133)

The singer yelled pro-choice slogans into the microphone, and the crowd stood up and cheered.

She and her friend were the only ones not standing and applauding. Middler says:

I looked around and saw every woman in the audience cheering for their freedom, and I wondered if they knew the shackles that would bind their souls. I wondered if there was a voice for the people like me who had abortions and knew abortion was wrong, knew that choice was life-altering, knew the depths of hatred one could have for oneself, and knew the choice would be with you forever. I wondered if there was a voice for us – someone who could tell others not to go this route…

At that moment, I told God I would be the voice for women like me if he wanted me to. I would share my story. (pp. 114-115)

Middler has the following message for women considering abortion: “Choosing abortion will change the direction of your life, but not in the way you might think. Having an abortion is not the easier choice.” (p. 114)

She hopes that her book will change hearts and minds on abortion and encourage women to choose life.


For more of our posts on personal journeys, sees:

My Personal Journey on Veganism, War, and Abortion / Frank Lane

Off the Fence and Taking My Stand on Abortion / Mary Liepold

Sharon Long: My Personal Pro-life Journey / Sharon Long

Reconstruction of a Nation: Resilience in the Face of Terror  / Aneeza Pervez of Pakistan

Brown v. Board of Education and Me / Bill Samuel

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



Vaccinations and Tender Consciences

Posted on May 18, 2021 By

by Rachel MacNair

I’m about to make some heavy criticisms of the way the Covid vaccines came to be, so I start by saying I’ve now gotten both of my Moderna vaccinations. I encourage everyone qualified to be socially responsible to the community by getting theirs as well. Failing to do so, under current circumstances, is taking part in a major massive threat to life.

But as for the criticism, I start by observing that it was large corporations that came up with the vaccines. It had to be; smaller outfits don’t have the wherewithal to do something so complicated.

Yet people in very large groups can so easily fall into mind-numbing bureaucracy. Large corporations get us huge military projects that use up resources and hurt the environment for death-dealing machines that shouldn’t exist. Large corporations lobby to lower their taxes and therefore to cut desperately needed social spending. They also underpay their workers, so poverty increases. Large corporations are the major polluters of the environment; as individuals, we don’t do nearly so much, and when we do, it’s usually because of what large corporations sell us.

One major problem on the vaccines, as I see it, is that the large corporations that came up with them have shown similar callousness by using fetal cell lines somewhere in the process. Moderna and Pfizer used it in testing, but not in production. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca used it in production (see An Ethics Assessment of COVID-19 Vaccine Programs). The fetal cells themselves aren’t in the final product, so no one need fear that they’re getting the fetal cells injected in their arms. Nevertheless, I resolved not to get the J & J and to hold out for the ones that only used it in testing. It didn’t matter since Moderna was what I was offered, but still, I had resolved that.

The baby that was killed and then used for the cell line was killed decades ago. I’m not a Catholic – I’m a Quaker – but  Catholic arguments I’ve heard are: we aren’t actually materially participating in abortion, nor making any more abortions happen. If there were an alternative that had no use of the fetal cell line at all, of course we’d make a point of using that. But there isn’t – just the distinction in how much they did it. We all have to use products that have some evil in them – for example, we use buildings that were built by enslaved people.  We aren’t in any way supporting, or failing to oppose, the horrific evil of slavery by continuing to use those buildings. Most important of all, the massive life-saving to be achieved by the vaccine is absolutely, absolutely necessary.

I buy those arguments, or I wouldn’t have taken the vaccine. But there are Catholic people and others who are aghast at the abortion connection of the vaccines and therefore dead set against them.

Of course there are. 

The health researchers should have expected that. This is the real world.

The response of many pundits has been to try to argue such people into dispensing with their tender consciences on this point, and to take the vaccine anyway. I assert they’re arguing with the wrong people.

We as a society always knew that a mass vaccination campaign requires that people be persuaded to take the shots. Health promoters need to talk many people into it.

Therefore, it’s grotesquely, grotesquely irresponsible to have used anything in production that might add to vaccine hesitancy. Add to it by leaps and bounds. Add to it by maybe millions of people. Specifically, people of tender conscience.

No, the researchers ran roughshod over those consciences. The very mindset that allowed the researchers to discount the lives of unborn children goes with the mindset of discounting people of tender conscience. As if we don’t exist. Or shouldn’t.

Therefore, though the researchers could have used alternative methods that would have avoided leaving so many people queasy, they forged ahead with them. Then, upon discovering that there are people that they’ve inflicted this burden on, rather than realizing what a humongous mistake they made and expressing contrition, they argue with the people of tender conscience that they just shouldn’t have the tender conscience. Those researchers themselves don’t, and they’ve made non-persons out of all of us who do.

They weren’t paying attention to this most basic detail when using the fetal cell line. They argued against opponents of using it, inasmuch as they paid attention to us at all.

So now that they discover a problem – one that should have been foreseeable – their idea of a solution is to bully us into accepting their definition of the situation instead of our own.

We as a society are stuck in the situation, and we can’t change the past. But all arguments that we as advocates for life ought to behave as if our current situation is a given run aground for me when that past could have been different if large corporations had been more responsible.

I could handle their arguments for the current vaccines better if they realized their mistake, apologized, learned from the experience, and promised not to do it any more. Without that, the arguments from people who discount both babies and their defenders can never sit well with me. I’ve gotten my vaccinations and encourage others to do the same, but I resent the disrespect toward me and my group that their production decisions entailed.

That disrespect is deadly, because it fosters the predictable result of greater vaccine hesitancy and resistance.


For more of our blog posts on the pandemic, see:

Mask Up: It’s Pro-Life

Post-pandemic: What Worries Me

A Healing Metaphor: Pandemic as War

The Random Death Sentence: COVID in Prisons and Jails / Sarah Terzo

Masking Up but Not Shutting Up: Defending Freedom of Speech during a Pandemic

#SayHisName: The Medical Murder of Michael Hickson

Angela Kennedy  (1963-2020)

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