What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life Now?

On June 24, 2022, the pro-life movement celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, returning the issue of abortion rights back to the individual states. Almost immediately, states took up the issue, demonstrating that the back-and-forth over it is not going away anytime soon.

Surely, the anti-abortion movement will continue in states that allow abortion to remain the law. But what comes next for the movement in states that, following the Supreme Court ruling, shut down access to abortions? In those situations, on what will the movement then focus its powerful voices?

For many, the pro-life movement is seen as one of protest. For years, millions have gathered for the March for Life in Washington, DC. Protesters also frequently gather outside women’s clinics across the country.

What some people do not often associate with the movement, though, is action on other issues women and the children they are encouraged to give birth to may face. In fact, some critics say the organization is more pro-birth than pro-life. Why are pro-life advocates not raising their voices and marching for the everyday issues and challenges these families likely will face, such as poverty, health care, education, housing, and a host of other things?

To say that the pro-life movement has ignored these issues is certainly not fair. There are many organizations that help mothers in need of support and assistance. Unfortunately, this work is all too often done in the background. It surely is not celebrated the way it should be for a movement with such a large backing. Nor does it seem to be the main focus of the cause.

Womb to Tomb

In the 1980s, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin spoke of the concept of a consistent ethic of life, which called for the care of people from the “womb to tomb.” It has often been referred to as the seamless garment.

The concept was introduced in the cardinal’s 1983 “Gannon Lecture” at Fordham University. During his speech, Cardinal Bernardin said that, while abortion is an important issue to address, it is only one of a host of pro-life issues that demand our attention.

“Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us: the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker,” he said.

He went on to state: “We cannot urge a compassionate society and vigorous public policy to protect the rights of the unborn and then argue that compassion and significant public programs on behalf of the needy undermine the moral fiber of the society or are beyond the proper scope of governmental responsibility.”

In that same spirit, after the June ruling, Cardinal Blase Cupich—one of Cardinal Bernardin’s successors in the Archdiocese of Chicago—said, “We welcome this important ruling and the opportunity it creates for a national conversation on protecting human life in the womb and promoting human dignity at all stages of life.”

A Call to Action

At no point in his many discussions on the consistent ethic of life did Cardinal Bernardin back down from the horrors of abortion. He did, however, repeatedly call for the passion of the pro-life movement to be extended to other issues that affect people’s lives. Those issues include poverty, war, capital punishment, and others.

That is why it is now time for members of the pro-life movement to step up and raise their voices regarding those issues as well. For, as the famous quote goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Hopefully, pro-life advocates across the country are ready to take on that challenge.

Enjoy this video from Frank Jasper, OFM.


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