What does it mean to be pro-life? Often, especially in the political sphere, we see pro-life values being touted, only to then have views incompatible with a correct understanding of the dignity of human life be endorsed.

As people worked through the issues brought up by the 2016 presidential election, two entrenched camps within the pro-life movement seemed to coalesce more firmly than ever before. The first being the group who decided that being pro-life strictly meant being anti-abortion, thus allowing them to support politicians and political parties who held certain anti-life stances, so long as they agreed to fight against abortion. The second group decided that being pro-life meant much more than being anti-abortion, and encompassed issues such as healthcare, immigration, criminal justice reform, and the preferential option for the poor.

That second group, to which I would admit to being a part of, celebrated on Catholic social media recently when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina running her first political campaign, ousted 10-term incumbent in New York's 14th congressional district.

The day after the news of her upset victory broke, the well-known America Magazine published a piece from the exciting young politician in which she shared her thoughts on her Catholic faith and the urgency of a criminal justice reform. In the piece, Ocasio-Cortez wrote:

 “Discussions of reforming our criminal justice system demand us to ask philosophical and moral questions. What should be the ultimate goal of sentencing and incarceration? Is it punishment? Rehabilitation? Forgiveness? For Catholics, these questions tie directly to the heart of our faith. 

And let us not forget the guiding principle of “the least among us” found in Matthew: that we are compelled to care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and, yes—the imprisoned.”

I have to admit, her victory and her stance on social justice issues had me excited. A young Catholic woman, rising up in the political world and being unafraid to share her faith and how it inspires her and guides her political thinking? What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived.

A quick study of her campaign website showed her firm belief in “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion…”. I was disappointed and confused to find her holding pro-choice views, to be honest. I was disappointed that a young and exciting Catholic political figure who seemed to clearly understand the dignity of every human being based on her other views, would have a view on abortion that so obviously cast aside the dignity of the unborn. And I was confused that so many Catholics seemed to be excited about her victory, given that stance.

When I brought my disappointment up on social media, I was met with the response that her long list of life-affirming policies would actually serve to reduce the number of abortions, and at this point in our nation’s history, that may be the best path forward for the pro-life movement.

 And while I grant that Ocasio-Cortez holds ideas that I would agree are life-affirming (Medicare for all, assault weapon bans, higher education for all, supporting seniors, seeing housing as a human right, criminal justice reform, immigration justice, mobilizing to fight climate change, paid child and sick leave for all, and the list goes on and on), I find it hard to buy into her as the best option for the pro-life movement given her misunderstanding of one of the most basic social justice issues of our time: abortion.

While some of her policies may serve to reduce the number of abortions by promising a better quality of life for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers, how can I trust that someone who gets it so wrong on the dignity of the unborn isn’t going to abandon the dignity of the poor, the marginalized, and the outcasts when it becomes politically expedient to do so?

In the end, I hope and pray that more Catholics will be inspired to enter into the political world to help bring about changes in our nation that truly take into account the common good as the Catholic Church understands it. I’m just not willing to cast aside the unborn in the hopes of getting there.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Angelus News or the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


Tommy Tighe is a Catholic husband and father of four boys. You can find out more about him at CatholicHipster.com.

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