To be pro-life must mean being pro-truth as well. For we believe America’s current theory and practice of abortion rests on two lies: The lie that the unborn human person has no inherent dignity, and the lie that a right to killing an unborn human can be found in the Constitution’s penumbras and emanations. These two great lies gnaw at the foundations of the legal-medical-cultural edifice. But we cannot salve the wounds of truth by uttering petty lies of our own.
It is an exciting time to be pro-life. The political situation, all the way up to the Supreme Court itself, seems ripe for us to make major strides. Religious members of the movement are embarking on our 40 Days for Life campaign, in which we pray, fast, hold vigil, and perform community outreach, all in service of saving men, women, and children from abortion. We enter this season with words ringing in our ears from Vice President Pence’s speech at the March for Life. “I’ve long believed a society can be judged by how care for our most vulnerable,” he said, echoing the humanitarian sentiments our movement has always centered on. “Life is winning again in America!”
But let us not get too sanguine. We, as pro-lifers, should not assume our mission has gotten simpler. We still live in a world beholden to the logic of abortion. If Roe V. Wade were magically reversed today, the putative right to abortion would still inform our social and moral architecture; men and women would still think of abortion as necessary and structure their lives accordingly. David Mills offered a sober assessment of how much of the abortion regime lies outside federal law. But beyond the power of the institution we oppose, there is another danger: We who defend life must not allow our commitment to the truth to be compromised.
When I speak to my pro-choice friends, I’m often able to find some common ground. They do not necessarily admit that human life has a God-given dignity, but they certainly assign it value—and even assign some value to life in the womb, though they leave this contingent on a mother’s choice. Some of my friends are sympathetic to the pro-life movement’s ideal of a world where mother and child are both offered love and support, a world less subject to the cultural and economic forces that can make motherhood unthinkable for women in unplanned pregnancies. The problem is, they don’t trust the broader pro-life movement’s motives. One friend told me he liked the picture I drew of a holistic ethic of life, but would deride it if he heard a pro-life spokesman share it.
Why are we so distrusted by those who disagree with us on this issue? And how can we earn enough trust to persuade the persuadable and find common cause where possible? One important step would be to make the pro-life movement synonymous with scrupulous, incorruptible honesty.