The Christmas story, lest we forget, is about a couple struggling to manage a very unusual pregnancy and birth. It didn’t help that those who held power in the surrounding culture were, shall we say, hostile to that child’s existence. (Read: King Herod ordered the death of all the recently firstborn sons in the areas under his control.)
Perhaps because so many of them are Christians, formed in profound ways by this story, nearly every single pro-lifer I know is very conscious of how difficult pregnancies and having children can be for vulnerable people in a culture that is hostile to life. Maybe the paradigmatic example of this are the Sisters of Life — who not only advocate against abortion, but make most of their lives about caring for desperately vulnerable women and their children.
The ridiculous idea that pro-lifers “only care about people before they are born” is held only by people who are (1) dishonest or (2) need to actually meet some pro-lifers.
That said, we should be forthright about what it has meant that the pro-life movement has found its primary home in a party that — quite unrelated to abortion — has tended to be skeptical about federal social programs. It means that, when it comes to such programs, our movement’s cozy relationship with the Republican Party hasn’t put us in the best position to advocate for them. Even when supporting women and families in these ways could dramatically improve the lives of women and save the lives of babies.
But now, whatever you think of Donald Trump (and I continue to believe that his presidency was a disaster for the country and many of our cherished norms), one must admit that, after him, everything has changed — including the silly idea that there is “one side” always on the side of smaller federal government and “the other side” always on the side of bigger federal government.
This was a ridiculously simplistic way to think about the two major parties, even going all the way back to the Reagan era — not least given the massive amounts of money Republicans spend on the federal military. But our politics is even more complicated today: Indeed, various important leaders in the GOP can and do support large child tax credits for parents, paid family leave, subsidized child care (especially when it includes religious organizations), nutrition programs, expanded postpartum Medicaid coverage, and more.
The shift is so palpable among conservatives in this regard that many are attributing it to a broader realignment in our politics that will even more fundamentally shift where the two major parties end up on many kinds of issues.
When it comes to the Republican Party, here is where I call Catholic pro-lifers to get politically active, especially if you have been frustrated with our left/right politics: Let’s help shape where the GOP ends up!
The party needs support of pro-lifers come election time, especially in 2022 and 2024, as they simply cannot win without our support. Let’s make it clear that we will not support them unless they address both the “supply” of abortion (making it illegal) and also the “demand” for abortion (supporting women who feel as if they have no other choice).
For those who know anything about women who have abortions, you know that the majority are economically vulnerable, already have children, and feel like they are desperately pushed into having an abortion they don’t want to have. In addition to making abortion largely illegal (which is what prenatal justice requires), we simply must do what we can — at both private levels (like the parish or supporting groups like the Sisters of Life) and public levels (state and federal governments) to assist these vulnerable women with their primary desire to choose life.
Happily, several different pro-life conservative leaders and activists appear to be gearing up for a push in precisely this direction after the big Supreme Court abortion decision in Dobbs v. Jackson coming this summer. If things go our way in that case, and many states will be allowed to ban many kinds of abortion, pro-lifers have a strong sense that a “post-Roe” world will be one win that government must do more to help vulnerable women in desperate circumstances.
It is good that we are moving in this direction, but we need not wait until this summer to get going. Democrats, right now, are looking for Republicans to work with to pass major legislation on paid family leave, child tax credits, universal access to pre-kindergarten, and more.
Next month, in a special issue of Angelus looking at a world after Roe v. Wade, I’ll explore what the impending political realignment means for the Democratic Party and the opportunities that a maturing pro-life movement could afford.
But when it comes to the GOP, pro-life Catholics who are committed to the fullness of the Church’s teaching on both life and social justice should take the lead in pushing the party to support these programs right away. Forget the summer. Women need help now. Babies’ lives need saving now.