March 21st, 2012

Being Pro-Life Means Being Anti-War


photo credit: sfPhotocraft

Double standards are found everywhere in the words and actions of the political class. One of the most striking examples comes from the religious right which likes to claim that it is “pro-life” while usually also being in favor of war. This hypocritical position renders meaningless their claim to supporting life—you cannot be pro-life without also opposing war.

One of the GOP’s most ardent advocates of military might is Senator John McCain, who in an attempt to frame himself as a pro-life candidate declared on the campaign trail of his 2008 presidential bid that “for 24 years, I’ve fought for the rights of the unborn.” Rick Santorum’s spokesman says that the former Senator “was always a solid pro-life vote, wrote and passed pro-life legislation, and consistently received the highest rankings from pro-life groups.” These and many other supporters of military intervention abroad claim to be among the most ardent defenders of life.

George Bush, his father before him, Mitt Romney (the current version, not the Massachusetts one), Jim DeMint, and any other rising or current star in the conservative Republican field adopts the rhetoric that the supposedly pro-life ideology requires. One of this group’s leading figures, Ronald Reagan, summarized the entire pro-life message this way: “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life—the unborn—without diminishing the value of all human life.”

To be consistent, Reagan’s quote cannot simply be applied to unborn. Rather, it must apply to all categories of human life, not just the babies-to-be that rightly receive so much attention. But it seems that many in the pro-life crowd would amend Reagan’s words to say “American life” rather than “human life.”

In other words, they myopically value only the lives of their own countrymen, giving little to no thought for the lives of the foreign, faceless masses they need not be worried about. Should the life of an American be valued more than that of, say, someone in Afghanistan? Should a pro-life person add qualifiers to convey that they’re not really in favor of every life?

The outright fraud of the pro-life claim by advocates of war is exposed when pondering the results of the interventions these politicians support: millions displaced, hundreds of thousands of innocent dead, untold starvation, sickness, and destruction. It is logically impossible to support the cause of such fiendish butchery and still be thought to support life.

Ignoring these heartbreaking problems—and with them, the rest of the non-American world—does not diminish the claim that those who support war are not pro-life. Think of the lives destroyed domestically through war: dead and maimed soldiers, failed marriages, fatherless children, PTSD, suicide, and a lengthy list of other consequences of war wreak havoc on the lives of soldiers and their loved ones. Life is damaged and destroyed through war. To support and protect life, then, requires opposing war.

As with any rule, there are exceptions; sometimes war is absolutely necessary. This (ideally rare) exception, however, does not justify the non-defensive, unconstitutional, perpetual, and costly wars being waged abroad by the American government at present. Yes, a few thousand innocent Americans tragically died on 9/11. No, their deaths do not justify killing other innocent individuals—especially magnitudes of order more.

If we genuinely care about life, then we cannot regard our own life as having any more worth than the life of another individual. Each innocent person’s life is of equal value and worth protecting. The pro-life crowd will not legitimately earn its self-imposed title until it consistently opposes unjust and unnecessary wars, thereby supporting not just the life of the unborn, or of the American, but all life.

This group has a compelling opportunity to correct their hypocrisy and become legitimately pro-life. Last week, 16 innocent and unarmed Afghanis were brutally slaughtered in their homes by an American soldier. Imagine the outcry from conservative Republicans if a gun-toting Muslim invaded the homes of a quiet suburban neighborhood and massacred an equal number of Americans!

Unfortunately, relative silence is all that can now be heard. The event is being covered by the media, sure, but it has not generated the controversy and protests that would occur in the opposite scenario just described. This specific circumstance illustrates the double standard prevalent in the pro-life movement. Perhaps if 16 mothers decided to coordinate the abortion of their babies weeks before their due dates, the pro-lifers would be called to arms, demand justice, and flood the media with sound bytes expressing the need to support life. That such a situation has not occurred with the Afghanis murdered at the hand of an American is quite telling.

Being pro-life means just that—it does not mean only being pro-unborn life or pro-American life. The Declaration of Independence notes that all men are created equal, that they all are endowed with unalienable rights, and that they all have the right to their own life. There is no footnote or exemption for individuals living half a world away; categorizing people as “collateral damage” does not diminish their rights nor justify their death.

To be truly pro-life, then, one must oppose the wars that unjustly harm or end the lives of innocent individuals. Mother Teresa, a vocal supporter of life, noted that in every abortion “there are two victims: a dead baby and a dead conscience.”

So, too, with war.

28 Responses to “Being Pro-Life Means Being Anti-War”

  1. Ana B Lau
    March 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    As usual, I appreciate you (or anyone) exposing hypocrisy. Thanks for bringing forth light.

  2. jimz
    March 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Connor,
    That is at least more consistent than most ‘pro-lifers’. However, most prolifwea do generally support wars that they think are just, and only condemn the taking of ‘innocent blood’. However, no comment at all against the taking of guilty blood. The O.T. has a number of capital offenses, like breaking the sabath, witchcraft, rebellion etc…I think there is also something against planting seeds of different types in the same field.

    In addition taking of a human life is justified in LDS scriptures in some instances. 1 Nephi 4:12-13
    “And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

    13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”

    Theologically, taking a biblical stand against abortion is kind of weak in a way. Using the biblical story of adam, he did not become a living soul until he took his first breath. Gen. 2:7 . Is there any evidence in the bible that a person is really a person until they take their first breath?

  3. Clumpy
    March 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    @jimz

    Eh, the “birth” divide is sort of arbitrary anyway – the one thing that I wish we’d all agree on is that abortion is an issue where to take any extreme or overly confident opinion is presumptuous. Yes, a few cells meets the biological definition of “life,” but the question is when we begin to associate personhood with that life and assign it legal protection, to hold its rights as equal to or at least comparable to that of the mother. Despite the Culture War dichotomy we often like to talk about, most polls show that “pro-choice” individuals often draw a line at some point of gestation, while most “pro-life” individuals are willing to tolerate legalized abortion under certain circumstances. It’s entirely consistent to be “pro-life” and yet support the morning after pill or abortion during the blastocyst phase, literally a few dozen cells with nothing approaching a consciousness or any sort of personhood.

    Similarly, LDS theology allows for war or killing in certain instances. Do I have a problem with the modern-day equivalent of Teancum essentially assassinating Amalickiah and Ammoron, two warlords about to attack his city and dedicated to the destruction of his people? Definitely not. Is invading another country or assassinating a leader (particularly one not besieging your people) essentially the equivalent of partial birth abortion, to be used only in the most dire of circumstances and only to prevent much greater loss of life? Absolutely.

  4. outside the corridor
    March 22, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    the sanctity of life is such a basic concept. Amazing how confused humans get over it.

    Another good ‘article’, Connor–

  5. jemron
    March 22, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Good article! But I feel like there’s big difference between defending innocent lives of tiny children that cannot be given the choice on their own, and stopping the “wicked” who fight against freedom and good.

    That being said, I don’t think that most war is justified. And, as my father-in-law always says, “The first person recruited in war on every side is God.”

    We have to be careful to claim that it is “right” to go to war because “God says so.” I’ve not heard a prophet of God telling us to go to war in my life time.

  6. JJL9
    March 22, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Clumpy, I appreciate your honest and thoughtful discussion about abortion. I will however note that your comment about holding the baby’s “rights as equal to or at least comparable to that of the mother…” really only applies in a situation in which one of them must die, either the baby through abortion, or the mother if she continues to carry the baby. Otherwise any consideration of taking the baby’s life obviously does not even begin to hold the baby’s rights as equal to or even comparable to that of the mother.

    In my opinion, that means the vast (vast, vast, vast) majority of abortions certainly don’t consider the baby’s right to life at all.

    Which brings us to the point brought up by jimz. I doubt there will every be any consensus regarding the question of when exactly the baby becomes a “person”, as jimz put it. I know a lot of LDS people who believe it is likely that when the mother starts feeling the baby moving (kicking, etc…) that the baby has taken its first “breath of life”, and that what that really means is that its spirit has entered its body. There is no proof of this, medically or even theologically, but it certainly makes sense.

    Assuming for a moment that we don’t know (and I think that we can all agree on that) when the fetus becomes a person, or when the spirit enters the body, or however you want to term the change from “literally a few dozen cells with nothing approaching a consciousness or any sort of personhood” to a human being, it seems that, excluding the morning after pill, or abortion during the blastocyst phase, perhaps all other abortions might be ending the life of an actual living human being.

    Of course, the abortion debate is really not the point of this blog post.

    More to the point of the blog post, jimz, you said, “most [pro-lifers] do generally support wars that they think are just, and only condemn the taking of ‘innocent blood’.”

    The term “that they think are just” of course absolves them from the responsibility of having supported the taking of “innocent blood”. I think the point of the post is that an objective, principle-based analysis of most wars (and Connor noted specifically the “wars being waged abroad by the American government at present…”) would conclude that the wars are not “just” or justified, or moral, or righteous, or defensable, and as such, a self-proffessed “pro-lifer” has no such real identity.

    Although Connor focused on the Christian right supporting foreign wars and that they generally value American life, but not foreign life, I think there is an exception to that rule. I think the same group generally (of course this is just a generalization) support heavy-handed law enforcement within the US and they view the loss of life associated with that as just and they view the loss of innocent life associated with that as just collateral damage that is necessary.

    As an example, can the taking of life capture on this video really be acceptable to us?

    http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2011/jan/19/video_shows_utah_man_being_kille

  7. Amber
    March 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    It seems to me that so many people really just don’t think things through. They just support whatever “their” party leaders say, without asking questions.

    Here is an article concerning those murdered in Afghanistan, titled “They Had Names.” http://www.commondreams.org/further/2012/03/19-4 It addresses this very double-standard that Osama Bin Laden used to convince others to commit suicide into a building on September 11th, 2001; that, for no good reason, we Americans don’t seem to see the inhabitants of the Middle East as real people deserving to be mourned over when their innocent blood is spilt.

    Ron Paul once said that war destroys/damages the family. I took this to mean that war is anti-family, and it makes sense. The divorces that happen in military families, the mental illnesses, the instability, the suicides, all tear families apart on both sides of the battlefield. That makes two conservative strikes against all of this perpetual warfare.

    And, all of this warfare costs us a boatload of money we don’t have. Three conservative strikes.

    Conservatives may support war, but they do so for reasons that are neither conservative nor justifiable.

  8. JJL9
    March 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Self-professed conservatives may support war, but in doing so they violate the most basic principles of conservatism and as such, neither “conservative” nor “pro-life” is an appropriate label.

  9. jimz
    March 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    I read a critique of the christian faith sometime ago, and it claimed that it was ‘anti-life’. The statement Not having to do with war or terminating unwanted pregancies, but rather from what is given up by following the faith.

    I find it difficult to counter that idea. I know that christians are supposed to believe in the abundant life, or have life more abundantly. I suppose that would be the real pro-life. However, how do the LDS and christians really experience this? do you experience this?

  10. jimz
    March 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    JJL9,
    Thats a possibility as life, breath and spirit are very closely related ideas in the bible. Perhaps its more obvious in hebrew and greek. I know that breath and being alive is very closely associated in my ancestors religion.

    Traditionally the lungs and heart of an animal was forbidden. I don’t think it was expressly stated why, but I think its because of its association with the life of an animal. In addition the bladder of one particular animal was not consumed because that is where the soul was thought to retract to upon death. I don’t know if it was a particularly good part to eat either.

    There was also an appeasement ritual for animals taken to calm the spirits. So in a sense being pro life in that culture also dealt with how you relate to each other, the taboos, animals and nature etc. Modern scientific culture seems to have lost most of this. Maybe the lds people have a sense of that, as at least they thank god for food and shelter. Not so much the animals or materials themselves I guess.

  11. TRON
    March 23, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    I’ll say it again libertarians are pacifists. If Ron Paul were president during world war two we would now be speaking German or Japanese.

  12. Kelly W.
    March 23, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    I just watched a great video on how the Iraq War and depleted uranium have caused absolutely huge spikes in congenital birth defects among Fallujahns and US soldiers’ babies. Surely this can be factored into Connor’s post here.

    http://vimeo.com/38175279

  13. outside the corridor
    March 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Kelly W., that video was deleted when I clicked on the link, but it’s a fascinating topic. I have read that entire communities in Iraq have been almost destroyed with many children being born with mutations.

    TRON, it’s hard to believe that you are serious. :) I’m trying to be light as I say this, but . . . you really believe that? During WWII one of the main arguments in anti-German propaganda in both Britain and in America was that if *we* didn’t fight *we* would be speaking German. So, if you are in your 80s, and you were there and watched those propaganda films, that could explain your opinion. Otherwise, how did you come to this conclusion? LOL!

    If Ron Paul had been president during WWII . . .–war would probably have been declared any way at some point, because congress was in charge, BUT . . . there would have been no colluding between the POTUS and Britain to get us into the war–

    Paul would not have stooped to that level. So, perhaps there would have been no involvement–

    If Ron Paul had been president during and after WWI Germany wouldn’t have been driven to desperation and sunk to the position of letting Hitler take over.

    There may have been conflicts in Europe, but nothing on the level that was seen by those living during the early to mid-20th century.

  14. outside the corridor
    March 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    but, TRON, I think you are a tease. :) You just can’t resist coming onto a blog operated by a Ron Paul supporter and not saying such silly things to people who have an entirely different perspective.

    I have to say that your teasing is good for a laugh. :)

  15. Kelly W.
    March 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    @ corridor,

    Wow, the site I found the link to the video on, said the film had been posted numerous times on YouTube, but removed within minutes every time. It said that there was no guarantee that it could stay posted on vimeo, either, so I downloaded it and saved it to my hard drive. Glad I did now! I believe we have committed genocide on the upcoming generation of innocent Iraqis through the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus. Many innocent lives destroyed by our wicked military machine which Satan finances and buys with gold and silver to reign with blood and horror on this earth.

  16. John
    March 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    The typical liberal is pro-choice and anti-death-penalty (kill the innocent and save the guilty), so the universal constant is hypocrisy.

  17. jimz
    March 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    John,
    The god of the bible must be hypocritical in some instances. Cain is protected by god in Gen. 4:15 against anyone taking revenge on him. (saving the guilty) The death of the firstborn in the plagues of egypt probably would have involved some children less than eight years old. If the event actually took place. (killing the innocent)I am sure there are other examples.

  18. outside the corridor
    March 25, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Jimz, I take literally Joseph Smith’s statement about the bible not always being translated correctly. It is not only LDS Christians who doubt much of the violence that is attributed to “Jehovah” in the Old Testament being done by God–

    I believe there are times when God takes innocent people out of horrific cultures for their own protection, but . . .

    I think there is a lot of mistranslation. I don’t want to get too controversial, but, ironic as it is that Catholic priests (not Jesuits, just regular priests from Ireland) would speak up about this, quite a few Catholic scholars and priests believe the Old Testament was “re-written” by the ‘victors’ to justify their atrocities.

    Which is why some of the O.T. must be taken ‘with a grain of salt’–

    if it is accurate, then I can certainly understand why you (I read this on an earlier post) would question the pro-life stance of Christianity–

  19. jimz
    March 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    OTC,
    Certainly translations can tilt an understanding one way or another, or place emphasis on certain things and not other things. That is something a little bit different from saying that there corruption so bad that people can’t determine that there was ano error. In general skeptics come to that conclusion, not people of faith.

    However, I somehow believe that most of the violence in the bible is an accurate depiction. The corner stone of the christian faith is incredibly violent. God requiring the spilling of human blood to satisfy his demands for sin, thats a difficult one to get around by translation.

    Ironically one could use the O.T. to question that. As I understand it only clean animals were offered as sacrifice. Humans don’t meet that requirement as being either an animal or ‘clean’ as defined in the O.T. However, that still leaves a question of animal sacrifices.

    I don’t believe there is a universal voice for the christian faith. As such there couldn’t possibly be a pro-life stance for the christian faith. Generally christians probably are, but I don’t think its universal. The ideas I presented came from a jewish source, and there isn’t a universal voice for that either. The most significant thing that I found was that by using the torah one can come certain conclusions about abortion that are not comfortably pro-life or pro-choice. Thats all.

  20. Persecuted Mormon
    March 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    What about pro-lifers in relation to capital punishment?

  21. outside the corridor
    March 26, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Jimz, I appreciate your use of the word ‘universal’. I am an anti-collectivist. I am quite glad, really, that there is nothing ‘universal’. :) Honest; no sarcasm intended here–

    I haven’t ‘arrived’–

    I try to learn, but I am afraid my conclusions are incomplete . . . about most things. I’m pretty fuzzy. But I know how I feel about collectivization (generalization)–

    or . . . universality–

    The one thing I think MIGHT be ‘universal’ is smiling; I’m not even sure about that–

    LOL!

  22. jimz
    March 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    OTC,
    Gotcha! smiling whenever possible is a great thing. About incomplete, there was this spiritual order which had a trapezoid as a symbol. An incomplete pyramid, I would find that so annoying, as I like things to feel finished, but there is value and reality behind that. Also some weavings had incomplete borders to allow the work to ‘breathe’.

  23. Sean McLaughlin
    April 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    It is specious reasoning indeed to play with semantics and issues this way.
    Pro life means=and just that– anti abortion and the protection of unborn children through adoption programs, use of contraceptives, etc., rather than eradicating them. Being a pro-lifer infers nothing else, has NOTHING to do with pro war or, being a pacifist.
    If you are anti-war, you are anti-war, period, end of story.
    I personally don’t believe in a good number of our militaristic interventions, but I do believe in “speaking softly and carrying a big stick”.

  24. Clumpy
    April 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    @Sean

    Then we might as well use the terms “pro legal availability of abortion” and “anti legal availability of abortion.” Both terms – “pro choice” and “pro life” – contain implications that their proponents don’t hold the line on in other arenas.

  25. Mahonri
    May 5, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    Pro Life but supports Capitol Punishment. Against Abortion except when it is needed.
    Sounds like Mormons.

  26. Mike
    May 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    As for pro-life relative to our unalienable rights, see the book titled: “Scientific Proof of Our Unalienable Rights,” by M. T. Takac.

  27. Levina
    August 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Thanks for this intelligent, fair-handed post. I think it is particularly relevant in light of the current presidential campaign, where Obama is for abortion, but theoretically less-inclined towards international war mongering and Romney is “pro life” but quite ready to take the military offensive against Iran, a move that could be the beginning of another world war.
    Looks dreary.

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