Being pro-life isn’t about immigration, healthcare, or the environment

By | January 18, 2019

Lately, there has been an increased and intensified discussion about what it means to be authentically pro-life. We have both witnessed a concerted effort among some members of the faith community and others, including friends and colleagues whom we deeply respect, to broaden the scope of pro-life concerns to encompass everything from race and immigration to healthcare and the environment.

Certainly, these are serious matters that affect each one of us. As men and women who believe that every human life is sacred and valuable, and as concerned and engaged citizens, we are bound by our faith and by conscience to care deeply about these issues and any issue that speaks to the dignity and worth of human beings created in God’s image.

Yet, there is a priority and urgency to the protection of the unborn.

Our culture is sadly confused about the inherent dignity of the unborn child. Tragically, in the last 46 years, over 55 million Americans have been denied the most basic human right: life. Unborn children are the poorest of the poor in our world, the most vulnerable population.

Today, over 100,000 Americans will gather in Washington, D.C. for the 46th annual March for Life. We march to remember those lost and to work toward the day when every life is protected. With the stated mission of ending abortion by uniting, educating, and mobilizing pro-life people in the public square, the March for Life has become the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration.

We have seen great advances in that mission in recent years in terms of lower abortion rates, favorable legislation, scientific advances, and a shift in public opinion toward a more pro-life perspective.

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The inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation for our work and mission. From the moment of fertilization, a person possesses inherent value simply because he or she is a person and therefore has human dignity. Our human dignity does not depend on intellect, beauty, lack of disability, utility, race, religion, color, or size, etc. It simply is, because of our humanity.

The great physician and bioethicist Leon Kass differentiates between “human dignity” and the “the dignity of being human.” The first, “human dignity,” relates to life and death issues. The second, “the dignity of being human,” refers to living life to the full and the potential for human flourishing. They are obviously both important, but the second is not possible without protection of the first.

Let us resist the temptation to conflate all of these issues in the name of life. As blogger Trevin Wax noted last year, “By confusing ‘pro-life’ with a certain stance on immigration, or a certain view of gun control, or opposition to capital punishment, we lose momentum in maintaining unity around the central goal of protecting the unborn.”

There are many worthy groups, faith-based and otherwise, speaking out on these broader issues of human dignity and flourishing. We applaud them for their efforts and pray that they succeed. But we must also acknowledge the priority of protecting first the most basic human right, life. Without life, nothing else matters.

Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life. Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family.

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