Many opponents of the pro-life cause stipulate that I am hypocritical, wrong, and wicked. Hypocritical because while claiming to be pro-life, I support the death penalty, am critical of our big government welfare state, oppose most gun control, and support President Trump (albeit reluctantly and belatedly).
This hypocritical wrongness results from wickedness: I am selfish, greedy, power-hungry and hateful. If I were really pro-life, I would be fighting for migrants, promoting socialism and social justice, protesting the death penalty, handing in my guns, and agitating in the streets for Trump’s impeachment.
Suppose all of this indictment to be true: Concede every criticism. Abortion is still a grave moral evil, regardless of whether I, or any other pro-lifer, is the worst of sinners or the most sanctified of saints, whether we are consistent or hypocritical, generous or miserly.
Logical Fallacies Lobbed At Pro-Lifers
Shifting attention from the developing human person who is killed by abortion to the flaws and inconsistencies of those advocating for protecting human life in the womb is a textbook example of a logical fallacy. This tactic––call it the “Ugly Pro-lifer Argument”––is often insincere and always irrelevant, but it is commonplace.
Part of why much of the left was so eager to demonize the boys from Covington Catholic was because they were participants in the March for Life, and therefore their invented misdeeds could so easily be used to attack the pro-life cause.
Even some pro-lifers buy into the fallacy. Consider Michael Gerson, the ostensible token conservative evangelical at The Washington Post, who recently criticized the pro-life movement for its transactional alliance with Trump. Gerson admits that Trump “has governed as a pro-life president.” But as he sees it, to work with Trump is to sell one’s soul for political gain, and it will not be worth it in the end.
Perhaps he is right. It is possible to imagine an alternate timeline in which Trump losing would have been better for the pro-life movement in the long run; it is possible to imagine many things.
Gerson’s concern-trolling condemnation of pro-lifers for working with flawed politicians and parties—as if there is any other sort to work with—is one variety of the Ugly Pro-lifer Argument. Other common variants are the claim that “pro-lifers are hypocrites,” which is often tied to the canard that “pro-lifers only care about babies before they are born.”
Pope Francis Is Never Given a Pass, But He Should Be
This form of argument’s insincerity is revealed by the many counter-examples that abortion apologists ignore. For instance, the current pope is almost perfectly aligned with what critics of the pro-life movement claim to want from us. Those demanding a pro-life leader who opposes capital punishment, worries about global warming, preaches social justice, criticizes capitalism, and so on have found their man in Pope Francis––except that they haven’t.
Pope Francis incorporates his pro-life convictions within a left-leaning social justice framework, but this does not seem to win over any of the abortion apologists demanding precisely that from pro-lifers.
Nor are those of us who lean right necessarily hypocrites. For instance, it is not clear that support for capital punishment, which is presumably doled out only to those who have committed the worst of crimes, is inconsistent with opposing abortion, a procedure that ends an entirely innocent human life. Believing that government must protect human life in utero from violence is compatible with skepticism about the efficacy and justice of a large welfare state administered by the government, and so on.
There are undoubtedly genuine inconsistencies and hypocrisies among pro-lifers, but there is also a lot of space for good-faith disagreement over everything from environmental policy to criminal justice. Nor do claims that conservative pro-lifers only care about children before they are born hold up, as one need not look far to find them engaged in all sorts of efforts to help the poor and downtrodden, especially children.
The Knights of Columbus, who were recently vilified by the left for their Catholic views, engage in an immense amount of charitable work and are only one such example. There are many more religious organizations engaged in the exact type of work that supports widows, orphans, the sick, and the homeless.
Pregnancy Centers Are Signature Pro-Life Charities
Such efforts are mostly ignored, but there is one sort of pro-life charity that abortion advocates notice and abhor: those that help women keep and care for their children. Pro-life crisis pregnancy centers provide women with everything from ultrasounds to diapers to parenting classes to advice on adoption (Christians adopt at twice the rate of everyone else, by the way).
They are a concrete rebuttal to the claim that pro-lifers do not care about children after they are born. Consequently, the abortion lobby hates these groups, and constantly defames and harasses them. Until the Supreme Court stepped in last year, California even tried to force these pro-life charities to promote abortions.
Pro-lifers can often offer compelling defenses to the charges of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and indifference to the poor, but these accusations are not made in good faith. Turning the debate away from the reality of abortion to questions of whether pro-lifers are sufficiently consistent or charitable is just a diversion, a tactic used to try to smear us.
Abortion apologists do not want an actual, honest discussion of the intersection of pro-life views and other policies. They certainly do not want to acknowledge pro-lifers’ efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and so on. They want a quick soundbite that will put pro-lifers on the defensive and take the focus off of the undeniable evil that is abortion.
The greatest proof of the insincerity of these arguments are their irrelevance. Even if all existing pro-life persons and institutions are fatally compromised by hypocrisy, this is no excuse for supporting abortion. Even supposing that we are all flawed beyond hope of redemption, this does not justify abortion. If we are too this or too that to be a consistent pro-life witness, then show us what we should be.
The issue is not about us, good or bad. It is about the lives that are violently, but somehow legally, ended by abortion. None of my sins, real or imagined, nor those of any other pro-lifer, justify abortion. I will have to answer for my sins, but pointing to them does not, and cannot, excuse the evil of abortion.
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”