Today, on the passing of 44 years since Roe v. Wade, many churches are observing Sanctity of Life Sunday. I suspect in many churches this morning, there may have been allusion to the recent election and perhaps appreciation for the election of a “Pro-Life” President. It’s worth using this moment to take stock of where the Pro-Life movement stands today.
As I mentioned, many will regard this moment as a moment of power for the Pro-Life movement, with 1-party rule in Washington. I am very skeptical of this idea. For one thing, it doesn’t make sense to consider Donald Trump winning a triumph of social conservatives. Most social conservatives supported alternative candidates in the primary. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson all had lots of social conservative support, and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have both carried the label in previous contests. All went down in excruciating fashion. This also ignores the previous election and outgoing popularity of a pro-choice President. Any half-way honest review of the evidence easily dismisses the idea that the election of Donald Trump was a result of the flexing of Pro-Life political power.
In addition to looking to the past to examine political power, we can forecast the future of Pro-Life political progress as well. At this point, various sectors of the Pro-Life movement are going all in on Trump. This is evidenced by the invitation of Kellyanne Conway to the upcoming March for Life. Personally, I see no way this entanglement ends well. Either Trump sales out the movement and acts on the pro-choice (or bro-choice) views he has held for almost his entire life, or the movement simply has to deal with the fact that in elections from here on out, it will be associated with the most anti-women, anti-minority, anti-universal human dignity President in recent time who lives up to all of the worst stereotypes of Pro-lifers. Not only does the Pro-Life movement possess little in the way of political power now, but there is good reason to believe it will possess less in the future if the current generation of Pro-Life leaders are allowed to define us going forward.
That’s before we get to the obvious point: Donald Trump is not pro-life. First all, no man who is pro-misogyny, pro-racism, and pro-xenophobia can meet the definition of what it means to be an advocate for human life. Even on the issue of abortion itself, though, he has most likely paid for an abortion, supported partial-birth abortion and even now speaks highly of Planned Parenthood. When asked about his conversion to being pro-life, his Social Darwinist answer was basically that he knew someone gifted who wasn’t aborted, and since you can’t tell the winners from the losers in the womb, they all need to come out. Russell Moore, as usual, sums it up well:
Yes, Trump says that he is pro-life now, despite having supported partial-birth abortion in the past. The problem is not whether he can check a box. Pro-life voters expect leaders to have a coherent vision of human dignity and to be able to defend against assaults on human life in the future — some of which may be unimaginable today and will present themselves only as new technologies develop.
Conservatives have argued for generations that virtue matters. Trump’s supposed pro-life conversion is rooted in Nietzschean, social-Darwinist terms. He knew a child who was to be aborted who grew up to be a “superstar.” Beyond that, Trump’s vitriolic — and often racist and sexist — language about immigrants, women, the disabled, and others ought to concern anyone who believes that all persons, not just the “winners” of the moment, are created in God’s image.
There are positives to consider as well. Young people are currently more Pro-Life than is reported. There are important segments of the Pro-Life community doing important work to advance the issue (see Evangelicals for Life) and pushing a Pro-Life, Whole Life ethic. The question the movement needs to ask itself is are we willing to put all of this work at risk to embrace an awful man who we have no legitimate reason to believe will do anything for us (see Matthew Lee Anderson)? If we become permanently tied to a man to whom the concept of universal human dignity is foreign and who until recently was the worst kind of pro-choice (men who want legalized abortion to promote the ability to use women as sex objects as consequence free as possible), will young people still believe in the movement, and will we really be accomplishing what we espouse our mission to be? There is a lot at stake in how we answer these questions. Let’s take this day that we rightfully set aside to remember the atrocity of abortion to pray for wisdom and the strength and prudence to fight for what is right and to represent ourselves much better in the political arena than we are currently.