The annual March for Life in Washington -- which, as Melinda Henneberger of The Kansas City Star correctly notes in this column, is more complicated than just expressing opposition to abortion -- has left me wondering (again) about the labels we use, such as "pro life" and "pro choice."
These simplistic labels, like almost all labels, hide more than they reveal. To be pro life should mean much more than just being opposed to abortion. If it doesn't it's proceeding as if ending pregnancies were the only possibly evil thing happening to affect life. And pro choice should mean much more than being in favor of letting women chose whether to end a pregnancy. That sort of limitation fails to acknowledge how messy life can be and how the very preciousness of life should lead to deep soul searching before electing to have an abortion.
If pro lifers are focused only on abortion, the pro life label gets emptied of meaning. Where, after all, is the concern about life after birth? About health care for all? About economic justice so life is not spent just in brutal poverty? About stopping capital punishment so we're not arbitrarily ending life, sometimes of innocent people? About protection of children from abusive educational, welfare and other systems that can ruin and even destroy young lives?
Once again we find ourselves moved by such massive events into binary thinking. And that's exactly the kind of no-gray thought process that destroys nuance and that, in the end, fails to describe the world in a fair and accurate way. Binary thinking leads to what Donald Trump's aide Kellyanne Conway calls "alternative facts." (No wonder George Orwell's book 1984 has surged in popularity recently. As of yesterday morning it was Amazon.com's No. 1 best seller.)
This Atlantic piece delves into some of this in a helpful way.
"For most Americans, though," the piece reports, "the Trump administration won’t be judged on a single issue. As the leaders of the pro-life movement cheer on the new president at the March for Life, they risk associating the movement with all of his policies — including the exclusion of refugees, immigration restrictions, and a newly undermined health-care system. They also risk alienating the people who have often been their most enthusiastic marchers: the young women and men who turn out by the thousands to march against abortion every year."
Many of those young people did not vote for Trump and seem to have a more accurate, more complicated view of the many issues that touch on abortion.
I sometimes tire of hearing me say this, but the reality is that life and political issues are complex, sometimes convoluted. And when we fall for simplistic descriptions of them we open ourselves up to simplistic answers that, in the end, will be divisive and unhelpful.
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THE VOICE OF THE FAITHFUL IS LOUD
The profoundly controversial Trump travel ban on refugees from certain countries has stirred tremendous protest across the country. As this story reports, few seem to believe the president when he says that it's not a ban on Muslims (the ban he promised in his campaign). And as this story reports, American Christians have not welcomed the president's preference for allowing persecuted Christians (over others) into the U.S. In the end, Trump has spent an enormous amount of political capital and goodwill on this poorly thought-out policy, and people of faith have done the right thing by telling him he's on the wrong track -- even though all Americans want policies that protect us from terrorists entering the U.S.