Supporting Life — Every Life

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning overturned Roe v. Wade. The effect of the ruling will be to eliminate access to abortion in about half of the states. This “victory” reflects decades of work by the “pro-life” movement. Pundits, legal scholars, and activists will no doubt dominate the airwaves today, dissecting the consequences of the opinion and plotting political action. I leave that exegesis to them. Instead, I’d like to turn the discussion to what a fullsome “pro-life” society would actually look like.

This post assumes that proponents of the “pro-life” movement with respect to abortion are sincere in wanting to protect infant life.[*] It also assumes that being “pro-life” generally is one of the most important goals of human society. Whether grounded in faith, ethics, or post-enlightenment philosophy, we all should recognize the dignity of every person and support a social contract that promotes life.

As Latter-day Saints in particular, we proclaim that every one is a beloved child of God, that the worth of every soul is great in the sight of God, and that our great Christian duty is to love one another. If we are to build a culture that celebrates life, we cannot stop at protecting the unborn. We must make sure every new baby, and continuing to every adult, receives societal support to stay alive and thrive. After all, the vast majority of abortions are sought by impoverished individuals who lack access to health care or child care. To address this, we must advocate for a whole host of policies and practices by all our social institutions — governments, corporations, churches, etc. — to promote measures designed to maintain and strengthen human life.

I have long pondered what a reimagined society would look like if supporting every life was its actual central goal. There is much hypocrisy in our politics today, from all directions. Building a truly “pro-life” society would require mass investments in caregiving work and healthcare — alongside mass reductions in military spending and violence. It would require eradication of discriminatory practices against minorities and persons with disabilities. And it would limit preferential financial benefits for the already wealthy and powerful, in order to ensure that the least of these are supported.

I’ve brainstormed the beginnings of such a “pro-life” policy list below. Feel free to add more in the comments. If we are serious about supporting life, let us reallocate the energy spent trying to eliminate abortion to promoting these social goals.

Preventing Needless Death

  • Provide universal healthcare
  • Mandate and supply vaccines
  • Abolish the death penalty
  • Ban assault rifles and other high-capacity, lethal weapons
  • Provide quicker access to stronger restraining orders for victims of domestic violence
  • Ensure accountability for state-sponsored violence (e.g. impose employment consequences, criminal prosecution, and financial damages for police brutality)

Supporting Children’s Lives

  • Provide universal children’s healthcare
  • Pass Medicaid expansion in every state
  • Supply universal nutritious free meals in schools
  • Expand food stamp, SNAP, WIC, and related benefits
  • Dramatically increase salaries and funding for childcare, daycare, early education, and school teachers
  • Offer generous paid family leave
  • Provide lactation rooms, flexible work schedules, breastmilk shipping programs, and other practical support for nursing mothers

Supporting All Lives Around the World

  • Provide quality assisted living facilities and elder care
  • Guarantee a minimum basic income and/or access to food, clothing, and shelter
  • Invest in and maintain global clean water infrastructure
  • Supply abundant famine, plague, and natural disaster relief to any and all affected areas
  • Abolish all forms of slavery, indentured servitude, and mass incarceration (including private, profit-seeking prisons)
  • Welcome refugees and work to reunite immigrant families

Supporting Policies with Empirically Known Mass Aggregate Effects on Health and Life

  • Invest in leading scientific and medical research to fight cancer and disease
  • Invest in robust mental health and crisis support programs
  • Subsidize or reduce pharmaceutical drug costs
  • Ban cigarettes and smoking
  • Adopt progressive taxation schemes to reduce gross income disparities and severe poverty
  • Combat climate change through reducing pollution, carbon emissions, plastic waste, and deforestation while promoting clean energy
  • Build walkable, breathable cities with abundant and affordable housing
  • Eliminate dangerous farm, factory, and other working conditions (while not depriving the workers of food, shelter, and income)
  • Require robust safety measures in transportation (e.g. seatbelts, accident prevention sensors, helmets)
  • Increase accessibility for persons with disabilities
  • Ensure access to high-quality education for all children, women, impoverished, minorities, or other underprivileged
  • Promote democracy and combat corruption

– – – – – – –

[*] There are reasons to doubt the sincerity of some, particularly those who have oversimplified “pro-life” rhetoric in order to back positions which lack medical nuance, inflict greater harm on women experiencing natural pregnancy loss or sexual violence, pursue their stated goals through cruelty, or are empirically counterproductive.

Comments

  1. Yes – all of this!!

  2. But that’s socialism!

  3. The overwhelming majority of the country still agree with President Bill Clinton, abortions should be safe, legal, and rare. You lose support when you advocate no excuse, late-term, termination.

  4. I’m pro-life, and I support today’s decision, but amen to everything you said. I believe those things, and I vote that way too. And many pro-life people feel the same way: https://www.facebook.com/RehumanizeIntl/posts/pfbid02CRSHyd9Fjeh8ux3yBzAeVTbSYM989FYmRDhz9v7XPxYMFLQ2PcNC3JGmkWGbWkQ2l

  5. it's a series of tubes says:

    What is the rationale for banning cigarettes and smoking, but not banning alcohol consumption? Per most recent NIAAA documents I can find, in 2016 5.3% of all global deaths were directly attributable to alcohol, to say nothing of the myriad “short of death” harm to quality of life…

  6. Carolyn says:

    @its a series of tubes — my gut check on my proposed life-affirming policies was to scroll through reports on leading causes of death in the US and World. Respiratory and heart disease associated with smoking are very high on those lists. I didn’t see a similar corollary to alcohol, but if you would like to link to the documentation you reference I absolutely believe the point is worthy of serious consideration.

    I do think there’s a slight difference in that light consumption of alcohol (not to the point of drunkenness) has been shown to have some pro-health effects, it’s drunkenness and alcoholism that cause the negative ones. Conversely, I’ve never seen a study that smoking has any benefits at all, other than temporary nicotine highs.

  7. almost at the last says:

    False.
    “We regard the killing of a human being, except in conformity with the civil law, as a capital crime, which should be punished by shedding the blood of the criminal after a public trial before a legally constituted court of the land.”
    Blood in and blood out.
    This is the way.

  8. it's a series of tubes says:

    Carolyn – the document I reviewed is here:
    https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
    (says updated March 2022)
    The section “Global Burden” is particularly relevant.

    A similar document for tobacco is here:
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco

  9. Congratulations, you just listed the Democratic party’s platform.

    There is not a single item you listed that an elected republican would support.

  10. Carolyn says:

    TK: That seems to beg the question about the extent to which republicans are pro-life.

  11. Pro-lifers get called out a lot for not being pro-life beyond the issue of abortion, but it would be interesting to do another post on what a truly “pro-choice” society would look like.

    Both “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are euphemisms that we use because no one wants to say they’re “pro-abortion” (and despite considering abortion murder, a lot of people don’t like to describe themselves as “anti” anything, I guess). And that is fine. But the debate really is about abortion, not gun violence, war, the death penalty, or medical debt.

    Those who favor criminalizing abortion need to acknowledge that while criminalizing abortion will almost certainly reduce the abortion rate, it will also almost certainly increase the number of women and children in poverty. I know there are pro-lifers who truly care about the loves and well-being of mothers and children, but the public efforts of the anti-abortion movement have focused almost solely on overturning Roe v Wade and restricting (or eliminating) legal access to abortions. There has not been a comensurate effort to increase supports, protections, and accommodations for women who choose to carry their unplanned pregnancies to term, and certainly not for those women to raise those unplanned children to adulthood.

    My own adult daughter is a passionate pro-life activist, so I don’t need to be educated on what pro-lifers really want or what they’re really like. I know it’s a diverse movement. But that diversity isn’t represented by politicians who identify as pro-life. The political face of the pro-life movement has focused on re-criminalizing abortion with no apparent consideration for what comes next. We do not have a society that values motherhood so much that it’s willing to provide the necessary structure and support for women who have children. We have never had such a society. We say we value motherhood, but that’s only true insofar as mothers are willing and able to carry all the burdens of motherhood themselves.

  12. TK–Republicans wouldn’t support increasing accessibility for the disabled? Just let ’em crawl places on their own while touting their right to have their life anyway? No wonder I’m an Independent.

  13. Natalie says:

    This is a good list.

  14. We need support for elder care too. We really do have a if you can’t work you’re useless mentality.

  15. BHodges says:

    Lily: see also my recent post about the Liahona article which implicitly places a lot of worth in a person’s ability to be “productive” and a “worker.”

  16. nobody, really says:

    I’ve got a friend in the ward who is a combat-disabled veteran. He gets scheduled for critical medical appointments over 200 miles apart on the same day.

    As bad as medical care can be in the US, it seems to be exponentially worse at the VA, and the VA is an excellent example of how the federal government would run medical care in the US.

    Imagine all the warmth and kindness of the DMV, the efficiency of the USPS, and the generosity of the IRS, all rolled up in one package, and holding a scalpel.

  17. You’ve provided one example nobody, really, and expect it to apply to everything. That’s lazy logic, and you know it. How about all the government sponsored healthcare that all those politicians get? I mean, we could have a real conversation or we could regress to platitudes. Your fear mongering weakens your own arguments.

  18. nobody, really says:

    Yes, it’s lazy logic for me to hold up an example of 1,298 health care facilities, including 171 medical centers, and claim that it is a prime example of how the Federal Government might run health care in the United States. It’s completely inappropriate of me, Brian, to suggest that how 9 million patients are treated is how 360 million patients would be treated.

    You’ve caught me. Just another lazy conservative here. I’m certain that Speaker Pelosi would be happy to “gift” the same resources she uses to everyone else.

  19. I have accessed my medical care at the Topeka VA for many years. It’s always been excellent. Just sayin’ …

  20. Geoff - Aus says:

    Nobody, You have come to a discussion about making abortion illegal and tried a diversion but; first if there was universal healthcare veterans would not have to travel to get it because it would be available locally to everyone. Perhaps also you might apply some of your lazy lodgic to comparing the present US system with countries that have universal healthcare. Cost https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_per_capita
    USA $11000 per person per year. Australia $5200. Is our healthcare inferior? No our life expectancy is 5 years greater than yours. Replace the insurance companies (profit) with a government department which also negotiates prices with drug companies, and sets prices for medical proceedures with doctors and hospitals.

    ABORTION, Rebecca j asks what a pro choice world would look like. Like it does in the rest of the free world. For example Australia just had a federal election and abortion was not mentioned. Abortion is a medical proceedure between a woman and her doctor.

    I will be surprised if the rate of abortion goes down very much or for very long, because the number of unwanted pregnancies will not reduce unless sex education, and affordable birth control are available. Most first world countries have lower abortion rates than US because they have universal healthcare. For example Germany 6 abortions/ 1000 women / year USA 20. But many women will still be able to access abortion in neighbouring states, hopefully?

    The US rate of infant mortality will definitely rise.

    During the Australian election, women withdrew their vote from the conservative party, and elected independents. Perhaps republican women could do the same thing. And of course other women must use their vote to convey that this republican agenda is unacceptable, at the november election.

  21. Geoff - Aus says:

    Nobody tells us his veteran friend has to travel 200 miles to get medical care.
    Women in republican states will now have to travel to a democrat state to get care. Need more democrat states.

  22. bennettmsu says:

    Does anyone believe the church would commit one cent of its billions of dollars to most of these causes?

  23. utahcarpenter says:

    The actual solution is requiring full support from the fathers of the children. When the taxpayers step in to help financially it is replacing the fathers obligations in most cases. Men would be much less likely to sow their seed if they where financially and emotionally tied to their actions.

  24. Rebecca, you wrote that criminalizing abortion will likely reduce the abortion rate, but I don’t think that it does. Every study on the topic that I have looked at has stated otherwise.
    It’s counter intuitive at first, but happens because when abortion is legal, a lot of preventative measures are legal and normalized as well.

  25. nobody, really, you’re still not helping yourself. I too, have been in wards with conservative church members and veterans who have used the VA. And ones who have worked at the VA. You’re making broad statements and accusations which, as evidence by your Pelosi side-swipe comment, are facetious, and show a lack of imagination and world-perspective. You’re not engaging in dialogue, you’re making side-swipes. And making a fool of yourself in the process. It doesn’t look good and still doesn’t help your argument.

    Look, I’m not arguing the government is fully efficient. In fact, the true miracle could easily be that, considering all the cuts to these programs and institutions and the lack of support from conservatives and the distain for them and the threat of permanent dismantling of them, they are as efficient and helpful as they, even in their lack.

    I mean, I could just as easily say: take the efficiency of the call centers, the hold times, the lack of transparency, the exploitation, the lay-offs, the shortened, impersonal visits, the skyrocketing prices, and the “I only see you as potential profit” aspects of corporate America and imagine them holding the scalpel. And then, if I added at the end, “imagine Mitch McConnell standing over your bedside because he cared” it would be just me playing to a certain political ideology w/o critical thinking or earnest. And it wouldn’t help the discussion. I would preaching to a choir, assured of their commendation. Argue away, please. We should. But perhaps at a higher level?

  26. Bob&Anna says:

    Rebecca J your last sentence is spot on, that we value motherhood as long as mothers are willing and able to carry all of the burdens of motherhood themselves. And we idealize it which brushes aside the difficulties and challenges.

    This is a good list Carolyn. I was thinking last night that my best option was to start emailing my state representatives asking them where their support for paid maternity and parental leave was since they are “pro-life” and all.

  27. Rebecca J, that was an excellent comment. I’d like to take your insight that ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ are euphemisms and expand on that.

    ‘Pro-life’ is about good ol’ fashioned American Christianity. It includes an abhorrence of socialism, the prosperity gospel, hard work, sticking to gender roles, believing in God, men are the providers, women are the nurturers, and lots and lots of guns. Morality is based on the Bible and the views of straight men in charge.

    ‘Pro-choice’ is about secular equality. It includes the right to bodily autonomy, especially surrounding sexuality, gender presentation and reproductive choices. It also includes a willingness to consider socialism, extending rights to health care and housing to everyone regardless of whether they can hold a full-time job, gender equality, and fewer guns and probably less military as well. Morality is based on social sciences and considering the views of men, women, queers, POC, the disabled and everyone else.

    Despite being raised by very faithful LDS parents who believe I have succumbed to Satan, I’m now firmly in the camp with secular equality. (Although, when some Republicans were insisting that mandatory vaccines and mask-wearing requirements were violations of their constitutional rights, I admit that I was fully willing to support their interpretations of bodily autonomy if I thought they would extend the same support to my assertions of bodily autonomy.)

  28. Tracy Hancey says:

    Your list is the difference between being “pro-life” and “pro-birth”.

  29. J. Walch says:

    Bennettmsu: “Does anyone believe the church would commit one cent of its billions of dollars to most of these causes?

    Maybe I’m missing the sarcasm, but the Church spent $906 million in 2021 on projects including distributing 1 billion vaccinations, 200 healthcare projects including newborn care, 114 clean water projects, etc. You can see the 2021 report at https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bc/content/shared/english/charities/pdf/2021/PD60013504-CaringForThoseInNeed-Annual-Report-2021-desktop_eng.pdf?lang=eng.
    Is that enough, given our relative wealth? No, but its a lot more than once cent. But I shudder to think how bad the world would have to get before the Church would deploy, say, even $5 billion.

  30. Frank Smith? says:

    what does “empirically counterproductive” even mean?

  31. @J. Walch –

    You stated – “Maybe I’m missing the sarcasm, but the Church spent $906 million in 2021 on projects including distributing 1 billion vaccinations, 200 healthcare projects including newborn care, 114 clean water projects, etc.”

    Yet the church, despite it’s assertion that “Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple,” refuses to cover birth control for church employees, even it it’s needed for basic health care and not contraception.

    https://universe.byu.edu/2022/04/07/church-insurances-failure-to-cover-birth-control-even-as-a-medical-necessity-sparks-outcry-calls-for-change/

    The Deseret News ran an editorial “Opinion: With the end of Roe, America must build an infrastructure of life” stating that ‘Americans also see the importance of access to quality reproductive health care for women.’ How ironic, given that the church denies access to its female employees.

  32. What about renounce war and proclaim peace?

  33. I wonder how many Pro-Life people push for tighter controls on chemicals that damage fetuses?

    Pete: IUD’s can also help women with adenomyosis. Birth control pills help with endometriosis, adenomyosis, severe acne, PMDD, & irregular periods. Yet, Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators leadership seems to be unaware of these things. My sister took the pill to help with PMDD/PMS, and it did not make her sterile for life, contrary to rumors about the pill. She was able to conceive after about 5 months of Marriage.

  34. Yes to all, but modestly complicating the considerations for me is that my pro-life list headlines with empowering women. Economically, socially, physically. In my opinion more life affirming things will happen under that banner than any other. I read everything on your list qualified by that headline.

    I like to challenge LDS people especially with this line: “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” I read parents for father and mother but don’t propose to argue the point. For present purposes I focus on entitled. “Entitled” is a big word and importantly applies to the children, not society or parents or policy makers. The children are entitled. What are we doing about it?

  35. Geoff - Aus says:

    Between 20 and 30% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage or still birth. Many women have a miscarriage during their life.
    Doctors are required to report.
    If you are pregnant, and concerned about the pregnancy, and you go to the doctor, you then have a miscarriage (upsetting) you could then get a visit from the police (more upsetting) asking you to prove you have not had an abortion.
    If you think this is unlikely women have had this experience already.

    75% of abortion are for women living in poverty, many of color.
    There is talk that states could make access to affordable birth control more difficult, which would result in more unwanted pregnancies. So more abortions, and greater maternal deaths.

    For decades people have been voting republican because they could fix abortion. This is what their solution looks like. More abortions, and more dead women, and more women in prison.

    If women who voted republican refused to because of this attack on women in november, and 24 change their vote, the government might have the numbers to fix this. Or if more democrats turn out to vote?

  36. Mortimer says:

    What bothers me, Carolyn, about this dream and the “every soul is precious” rhetoric, is that it’s really focused on the temporal and the fetus/baby. It doesn’t begin to capture or articulate the sentientness (if we can craft that word) of women, especially women who in our theology are souls with reason and freedom which define us as mankind. Women continue to be viewed as objects of this machine rather than designers of destiny. I’d love to see women respected as full agents, full adults, charters of their course.

    What about adding the radical
    Idea (present in Jewish theology) that a baby/fetus is an extension of the woman until it is born. The mother should be of paramount concern. Her needs and well-being are prerequisites for everything else. She is a full adult- a captain or master of her future as well as that of her family. She is viewed with the respect and sovereignty.

    In the idealistic world Carolyn described above, some societal problems are fixed as we *finally* provide basic temporal support for prenatal, infant and family care. But what about acknowledging the fundamental spiritual and human truth that women are intrinsically autonomous?

    “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.” -RBG

  37. Although I disagree with a few of these as stated, and I suspect that I disagree with the likely or intended implementation of even more, I’m on board with this.

  38. Eponymous Wonk says:

    “There are reasons to doubt the sincerity of some,…” certainly true, and an understatement, and I would rather it not be buried in a footnote. Can’t fault you for being diplomatic but a more incendiary response to such people is arguably justified. There is a reason why both Jesus and Jefferson reserved a special disdain for religious authority and religious hypocrites. As to the main points in the article, I certainly welcome entreaties like this from the LDS community as they hold a special place in my heart, although I myself do not recognize the authority of any scripture.

Trackbacks

  1. […] we cannot stop at protecting the unborn,” civil rights attorney Carolyn Homer wrote in a By Common Consent blog post. “We must make sure every new baby, and continuing to every adult, receives societal support to […]

  2. […] ¿Qué tipo de leyes debería trabajamos para? la lista de carolyn me parece bastante convincente, al menos si nuestro objetivo es respetar la vida, no solo negar la […]

  3. […] what kind of laws should we work for? carolyn’s list I find that pretty compelling, at least if our goal is to respect life, not just deny women’s […]

  4. […] what kind of laws should we work for? carolyn’s list I find that pretty compelling, at least if our goal is to respect life, not just deny women’s […]

  5. […] What sorts of legal guidelines? ought to We’re working? Caroline’s Record It appears very compelling to me, not less than if our aim is to respect life, and never simply to […]

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