Is It Time to Dump the Term 'Pro-life'?

January-February 2010By Leo Hunt

Leo Hunt was born in Portugal in 1987 and converted to the Roman Catholic faith in 2006. He is currently finishing his final year of undergraduate studies at Seton Hall University where he serves as "political liaison" for the student pro-life group — with such misgivings as are expressed in this article.

The time is ripe for defenders of preborn human children to face a nearly unbearable fact: The pro-life movement is going to fail miserably. Is it due to the relentless propaganda of the abortion lobby and the embryonic-experimentation lobby? The appalling degeneracy in education, which renders most minds weak enough to swallow it? The stranglehold of a contraceptive and anti-child culture? Evil politicians? Well yes, those things too. But the surest guarantor of failure is the weakness and lack of principle endemic to the pro-life movement itself. In her incisive article in the February 2009 issue of the NOR, seasoned activist Judie Brown, president of American Life League, called for principled political action that focuses on the personhood of the preborn human child, rejecting any and all provisions for the murder thereof. She wisely tempered the recent optimism about a supposedly growing "pro-life" public by pointing out that nearly all Americans tolerate abortion in some cases. To which I would add that a decidedly unimpressive minority seriously opposes potentially abortifacient methods of "contraception," in vitro fertilization, and experimentation that kills human embryos.

And yet, as Brown anticipated, her call is viewed as extreme or unrealistic by most of the pro-life movement. In the political sphere, most pro-lifers support not politicians who unequivocally champion the personhood of human children, but those who tolerate killing them in fewer cases. We support exception-laden legislation. We throw our energy into half-hearted causes such as conscience clauses or parental notification or mandatory waiting periods, and we allow ourselves to become accomplices in the relativization and trivialization of abortion by describing such measures as "reasonable" and "common-sense." We have come to believe that the abolition of all child-killing is somehow not reasonable!

But what is worse is that most pro-lifers really do support abortion in cases of rape, or if the child has been diagnosed with a disability, or to safeguard the life or even mere health of the mother. To remain pro-child in these cases is to be branded an extremist. Nearly everyone would rightly condemn a man for running out of a burning building and leaving his wife or child to perish. Yet, to condemn a woman for premeditating the murder of her child to save her own hide is considered insensitive at best, and more often insanely hateful. This truly signals the crippling weight of injustice that feminism has foisted upon our society.

But laments will only take us so far, and we must seriously ask how it has come to this. Could part of the problem be with the very phrase "pro-life"?

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While I appreciate your concern about the spin associated with the Pro-Life movement, it is certainly not a failure nor has it failed to change the mind and hearts of many Americans over the years. We are in an age where spin meisters try to take the meaning of words and render them ineffective by causing confusion. Confusion, however, is mostly effective on those who are not well rooted in their religion and the associated principles of life upon which to base their actions and reason. It is also true that those who attack, using spin on words or bringing in other issues when dealing with abortion, are those who have no arguement of merit - thus causing them to relegate to other measures. Worry not so much about the PC habits but about your faith, reason and committment to the truth. In the meantime, if I think of a term that can improve upon "pro-life", I'll gladly recommend it. Posted by: awunsch
January 23, 2010 08:44 PM EST
I fear that Hunt might class me as a Fifth Columnist, but I think his analysis of pro-life movement's strategies, culture and effectiveness are flawed. It is difficult to adequately deal with all the very real and complex issues he raises in the space of an article. I am absolutely anti abortion, where that means the deliberate destruction of the life of the unborn or birthing child, whether with abortifacient contraceptives or other medications, surgery, neglect or in a physical assault, in the case of rape or even truly serious fetal disability or illness, or for lifesaving of the mother etc. Embryonic stem cell research or organ farming is an abomination. Unjust use of force and death penalties, as defined by Catholic teaching, are also feeding our anti life, utilitarian culture. Demanding and compelling the participation of doctors, nurses and pharmacists etc in such things as well as euthanasia of old or young or disabled is evil. I wish for comprehensive laws against all these things but the law not only moulds culture, it must also come from culture. Everyone knows that the law can be "an ass" if no-one wants to abide by it. "Pro-life" might have its limitations, but to me it does well to highlight the very fundamental differences between mainstream, utilitarian culture of death and the culture of life/civilization of love. We could have any label, but ultimately the culture and formation of those in the movement must be anchored in truth (and Catholic moral teaching, of course). This takes courage, and effort on the part of many. It also takes, courage, effort, patience and confidence in God's providence to wisely direct energies and resources to legislative and political measures that will have stronger chances of winding back the culture of death to one day when abortion is unthinkable and then made illegal; of raising awareness that abortion is an ugly, unnecessary thing; that the life of a beautiful, unique, God given child, is at stake; that abortion ravages the motherhood and inner psyche of women especially, that fathers and siblings are deeply wounded; that society is rotting from it. "Pro-choice" is a lie but we speak the truth, even with a limited catch-cry, "pro-life". Posted by: AConway
January 23, 2010 09:14 PM EST
This is a very good article. You have gotten my attention. I am not sure about the part that says "respect innocent human lives from conception on" as opposed to "respecting all human lives from conception on" Do I really NOT want to respect "certain" human lives? Are these particular human lives the ones I deem as not being "innocent"? I have to think about that one. I can support certain just wars or the death penalty in some cases, and still respect all human life. Supporting those things show that I really do respect life. We have to defend ourselves and others, sometimes, at the cost of the lives of those certain human beings that would destroy the innocent. That is what "just" means. It is not disrespect to say that we respect all human life from womb to tomb, and does not nullify just war or the death penalty. Posted by: mdsmelser
January 23, 2010 09:19 PM EST
Many good points are raised in this article regarding the comprises that the pro-life movement has made in it's attempts to save as many lives of the pre-born that they can. However, expanding the definition of personhood to include the pre-born gives no guarantees that abortion will end. The pro-life movement must remain a seamless garment and work to protect all life from conception to natural death.
To separate out the killing of the pre-born from the criminal or the elderly will only open the door to the murder of all persons based on their productivity in a utilitarian society. The pro-abortion movement morphs and changes with the times, they will have no problem acknowledging personhood and continuing on with the killing. As Cardinal Bernardin once said, ""When human life is considered 'cheap' or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy."
Posted by: cuchina
January 24, 2010 03:56 PM EST
Good comments. A note regarding the coverage by the MSM of the march for life this year. It exceeded last years crowd so obviously it is resonating among the people. However the news media, for the most part, ignored it except to note that both pro and con abortion foes were there. Wouldn't matter what the "pro-life" name is. One might also note that Pres Obama considers the constitution to be too restrictive for what the fed government can/should do for us, the people. He has lots of czars that have indicated belief in a logic for evaluating life on the basis of worth to society. We must be ever alert and contiue to fight in truth for the people do eventually hear and think about what this Nation stands for. We should continue to insist on the Life part of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (which happens in that order). Posted by: awunsch
January 24, 2010 05:41 PM EST
Wilbur Goolkasian
Umpqua, Oregon
Posted by: wilbur006
January 25, 2010 02:38 AM EST
The average catholic attending Mass must be taught in very straight forward terms on any moral issue that is widely misunderstood; and the length of that teaching from the pulpit must be direct and short. I refer you back to the old Baltimore Catechism where the explanations were quite simple; and, likewise, to the Ten Commandments that are short and to the point with little necessary explanations. Whether this is taught during a homely, or in a diocese newspaper, any explanation must not be focused in a lengthy explanation, nor use terms that are theological correct but do not connect and resonate with intellect and conscious. In short, the essence of accomplishing an informed conscious for the average person is by a brief explanation of what immoral act you are referring to, with an explanation that the act is a mortal sin to do, and to reinforce the fact that if one should die with that sin on their conscious they are already condemned by God. It must then be emphasized that we are all bound by this moral law, and further explain that a person is committing a further sin of Sacrilege if they receive Holy Communion while they are in the state of a mortal sin. Please do not attempt at that time to explain all the possibilities on how God might view a persons “subjective” understanding of any immoral act. That is best left for a classroom type of instruction.

Please realize, that not all partitioners will pick up a Diocese newspaper, and for those that do they will merely browse through it and rarely read a lengthily article such as most Bishops write for church distribution. I would doubt that more than 10% of the partitioners would take time to read such an article; and at best “browse” through it.

. Henceforth, start using the correct terms for our political positions. We are “Against Murder”, and our opponents are “For Murder”; they are for the killing of a live unborn “person”. By using those words we incite the intellect and the rational mind so it can clearly see what is happening; and the conscious will then be influenced. When such words are heard by the average catholic, or anybody else for that matter, it will wake that person up to listen to what is said.

In all due respect to the 80 or more Bishops who have been vocal since the Pelosi and Biden debacle, most used terms like “A good citizen must support and vote for the candidate who supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life...” In all honesty, theological terms do not resonate with the average catholic, and the proof is our 40 years of failure in stopping this holocaust. Additionally, we have for 40 years erroneously referred to one side as Pro-Abortion, and the other side as Pro-Choice. This has been a dismal failure. By referring to the Pro-Choice side as “Pro-Murders”, this will incite about 50% of society into thinking hatred towards us. That’s exactly what will allow a full correct understanding of what Pro-Choice really means, and not merely an issue of whether a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body. It will eventually be impossible for any individual not to have heard that the issue is the killing of a live person, which is “murder” and not “choice”. They will then understand that a woman has absolutely no right to murder her unborn child since it is alive and is a living human person.

I would pray that all Bishops will not be afraid to confront “Murder” in the face when society is faced with such a holocaust. It should be evident to you by now that a significant number of Bishops, and many priests have been brainwashed over these past 40 years into believing we must be “tolerant of everyone, be compassionate to everyone, and most of all, never ever be judgmental”. This false understanding is so ingrained into our society that it has lead to accepting many sinful actions. “Be compassionate as my Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36) is most often twisted into something that is tantamount to offering people a license to sin. Jesus never once was referred to as “The Tolerant One”, and we also must never be tolerant of anyone who does moral evil. In so living our obedient lives as disciples of Jesus, we must be judgmental of sinful “ objective” acts of others, while holding in reserve any judgment as to how God will judge the severity of the sin due to the “subjective” nature of the sinner.

The average catholic must be spoon fed on some moral issues, and then their consequence will be properly formed through their intellect. We must tell society that killing the unborn fetus in the womb is the killing of a living Person, and that is called Murder under Gods Law, and also the laws in all the States; and we must keep using that word in sermons and all communications. We could successfully compare this holocaust to Hitler's holocaust. Nobody at that time in history would have use theological terms to describe why Hitler’s destruction of life by gas chambers was wrong. We all recognize that his acts were Murders, pure and simple; and our consciousness registered the full disgust for those acts. We would never describe our disgust for those acts as merely not showing the dignity of the lives of those who died.

When we use direct and correct terms for this killing, we discard the term abortion as the “affect”, but only the means of killing. As we can now realize, the average citizen does not equate the word “abortion” to anything other than a benign word. Remember, we usually use that word in describing events such as “to abort something, like a missile firing, and the like”. I believe when we let the word “Murder” sink into the intellect, we then can correctly describe the grave mortal sin by each who vote for that killing; and it would firmly be realized that voting for a politician who supports murders also makes us accomplices to that murder.

Had those words been used before this past election I believe the vast majority of Catholics and the rest of Christians would have voted differently.

I believe any USCCB document on abortions should  mandate  this new phrasing be used in describing the intrinsic immorality involved, so everybody will finally understand what is taking place. It is quite unnecessary to describe the theological reasons why “murders” are wrong, since everybody already knows that. What is really not accepted by about 50% of society, including many catholics, is that (1) life starts at conception, (2) to kill that life constitutes Murder by definition. The only thing that need be proven is that life does start at conception when the egg is fertilized----and most recognized experts in that field of medicine and science will testify to that fact.

When the Church starts this new approach to calling what is taking place by its correct name, the News Media will have a field day in reporting it. However, contrary to some thinking that the Church will be targeted as a bigot, intolerant, and might suffer more harm than good, quite the contrary will result. News Media will debate whether or not life does start at conception, and experts will be interviewed and testify to this fact. There will then be expert testimony concluding that the word “murder” is in fact the correct word since it is the “unjust killing of a human person”. There will begin a huge debate supported by the legislators in Congress, resulting by the majority that the Catholic Church is correct. There will be multiple examples comparing this abortion holocaust to many other past slaughter of humans. The entire non-catholic christian community will get on board and agree with our Church.

What will really happen is that all students at Universities will be involved in this debate, and it will be impossible for them to conclude that it is not murder when their intellectual analysis confirms the evidence. I would envision that 80% or more citizens of this nation, and other nations, will agree with the Church's position within one year of starting this new campaign.

Within a very short time, after the debates start, the Bishops should unite and express personal communication to all catholic legislators that they not only will be denied communion, but will formally be excommunicated if they do not support the end to abortions. This will have an absolute final conclusion to formal approved Federal abortions, and most likely Roe vr. Wade will be overturned within that year.

Recently a discussion on abortion was held with three catholic women after Mass; and the term “murder” was used in explaining what is taking place by abortions. Those three women accused the speaker of using “hate speech” until it was methodically described why it is murder.
I believe most Bishops do not realize how ill informed 95% of church attending catholics are today, since most of their inner actions with catholics would not indicate just how poorly most understand their faith and the immorality of many actions that are commonly practiced in today's society. We have now seen how dull the consciousness of many in America has become, and it can only again be lightened by using terms that nobody can deny, and are easily understand; rather than theological terms most educated Bishops like to use. Those theological terms would properly best be saved in debates to prove that killing a fetus (infanticide) is in fact Murder.

The average citizen of high school age and early adult life, has a hugh impact in voting,  and most have no clue of our true meaning of theological terms expressing the dignity of life. Properly explained they would finally realize they had to make a choice between accepting Murders of the fetus for the crime of what it is, or to close their eyes to reality. I suspect a small percent will accept murders even when properly understood; since we must acknowledge the devil does influence many in this world; and many will use convoluted reasoning to justify most anything.

Please prayerfully consider my suggestion, since I have personally had good results in chastising some who merely looked upon this issue as a woman choice with no insignificant  moral implications. I would hope you would also have influence with brother Bishops in understanding why the Church has been so unsuccessful in preventing abortions. I frankly do not think the USCCB is capable of accepting my simple solution to this holocaust.

The Church has the greatest influence in persuading any legislator in their vote when that vote concerned “intrinsic immoral legislation. Canon Law backs up a Bishops decision to excommunicate a catholic legislator who refuses to follow the directive of his/her Bishop in grave immoral laws; and it is absolutely necessary to do so to prevent society to look upon the church in a scandalous way. Not only for that reason though, since God demands us to not be afraid of social harm when we proclaim His true morality----which the Church must do.

PS. I’ve violated my own directive to be brief and concise, but the need for full dialog is necessary on such an important issue. I did try to use simple direct words.

Your servant in Christ

Wilbur Goolkasian

Posted by: wilbur006
January 25, 2010 02:49 AM EST
I agree the movement needs a new name. The problem is finding a name short enough to have punch.

How about "Save the Children" movement? This would emphasize that the lives of our children are not safe in the hands of the Femi-Nazis.

Or the "Common Sense" movement. People would naturally have to ask what is meant by "common sense." The answer given could become a national mantra more potent than "Save the Whales": "Save the Children."

What movement can boast of butchering the children?
Posted by: Charlemagne II
March 01, 2010 04:00 PM EST
Great insight:

"But what is worse is that most pro-lifers really do support abortion in cases of rape, or if the child has been diagnosed with a disability, or to safeguard the life or even mere health of the mother. To remain pro-child in these cases is to be branded an extremist. Nearly everyone would rightly condemn a man for running out of a burning building and leaving his wife or child to perish. Yet, to condemn a woman for premeditating the murder of her child to save her own hide is considered insensitive at best, and more often insanely hateful. This truly signals the crippling weight of injustice that feminism has foisted upon our society."

This also recalls how women have coerced men into battle throughout the ages, whether in ancient Troy or the latter century's world wars. Women would brand these men as traitors or cowards and hold them up to public humilation and scorn.
Posted by: j17ghs
February 08, 2010 09:37 PM EST
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