The other day I came across a most interesting viewpoint on the sanctity of human life. I usually don’t weigh into social issues because I feel they are shaped by personal beliefs, and each of us should take a stand by listening to our own conscience and following our own values. I condemn only acts where individual beliefs go against the common good or infringe and impose on others’ views and behaviors.
I try to keep an open mind, listen to other perspectives and learn from them. It is in this vein that I want to comment on a recent New York Times Op-Ed written by Scott Arbeiter. It’s a brilliant moral exploration of what being “pro life” ought to entail for someone who genuinely treasures human life. In part of the headline he says he’s “Pro Life.” (I, myself, am “Pro Choice.”) Yet the headline continues, in a surprising way, when he asserts he’s also “pro refugee”.
By the end of the headline, I was less wary and dubious, and a lot more more intrigued. He had me hooked. The story he told was indeed rewarding and insightful.
He reports that as an evangelical Christian, he holds all life sacred, and therefore opposes abortion. He has honored his faith by acting on behalf of the unborn for four decades, participating in prayer walks and by donating to crisis pregnancy centers. Like many other evangelicals, he was heartened to know that President Trump considered himself pro life.
Yet he doesn’t stop there: Arbeiter’s intellectual and moral honesty leads him to see many imperatives others like him may not recognize. Because he considers all life sacred, he believes he has a responsibility to the mother of a new baby as well as the baby itself.
I must be ‘pro” everything needed for that child not just to be born, but to flourish. This means that I need to be pro education and pro job growth, and pro many other things I never considered connected to my pro-life convictions. And I need to be ready to stand against every form of economic injustice, racism and individual or corporate greed that destroys the life of a family and a community.
In other words, Arbeiter sees the logical and moral consequences of insisting that all unborn children be allowed to have a life. That should be the case whether one is pro life or pro choice. Our responsibility, as civilized people and people of faith, doesn’t end when the child begins to breathe. To be pro life, as Arbeiter suggests, it means one should support and encourage policies that ensure the welfare of all mothers and all families as a child grows up: funding for better education, day care, and ample maternity leave. And then more public support for education in general, and for families struggling to rise out of poverty and give their children the attention and care they need to be motivated and focused enough to study.
Arbeiter doesn’t stop there. His self-examination leads him to see even broader implications of being pro life: anyone who believes all human life is sacred must support programs to help minorities and welcome refugees. As he says, “How can I demand absolute security for myself . . . while 65 million people are fleeing the very terrorism, war and persecution that are the antithesis of life?” He points out that we hardly need to be afraid of refugees. At present, they already have to undergo a gauntlet of vetting that can last nearly two years before they are allowed into the country. Since 1980, only three million have been resettled in the U.S. and not one has taken the life of an American in an act of terrorism.
Reasoning like this—and a willingness to see all of the obligations that follow from a principled opposition to abortion—is exemplary and encouraging. While he didn’t persuade me to abandon my pro choice stance because I am firmly in the camp that women must have the human right to control their own bodies, I salute him, and agree with the responsibilities we all have toward a born child. No reasonable person relishes abortion. Choice yes. But on this most divisive issue, there are responsibilities that all sides can agree on. It is in that vein that I salute Scott Arbeiter’s views of our individual and collective imperative to support future generations, the marginalized members of our society and as much as we can, human kind.