The 2016 March for Life has come and gone, but one thing (aside from the mammoth snowstorm) seemed different this year: I read multiple articles, all pro-life and mostly religious in nature, dedicated to breaking down the simple binaries that our political debates too often propose (examples here, here, and here). This turn seems promising to me for three reasons.
First is the growing pro-life plurality, if not outright majority. For a long time, no matter what level of education a person had received, anti-abortion views made that person imbecilic, backward, and oppressive. But, from its modern roots in Christian activism, the pro-life movement has come to encompass all manner of people: secular and spiritual; gay and straight; single and married. It can no longer easily be written off as “superstitious” or “stupid.” Whatever disagreements might exist between its various factions, the movement finds unity in protecting the least among us. And so, there now exist both an overtly-feminist pro-life group and one for the irreligious. Considering that many early feminists found abortion an intolerable evil, this seems only fitting. In other words, abortion is no longer seen as a women v. men or secular v. religious question; it is becoming a merely human one.
The movement’s growth as manifested this year also gestures toward the destruction of the mother v. child paradigm. The room for making abortion a question of asserting one right to life over another is shrinking. Abortion’s availability has correlated with its becoming an attractive, though undeniably painful, option; the room for coercion must also be taken to account. How many of us actually make any decision without listening to the opinions of those closest to us? And what happens when one option makes everyone around the mother’s life economically and socially easier? In fact, we’re beginning to see that mother and child, when it comes to pregnancy, find themselves in the same corner.
Lastly, there is the dissolution of political binaries concerning abortion. Whether Cardinal Bernardin’s consistent life ethic or the more recent work of “Blue Dog Democrats,” recognition of abortion’s injustice has led to some amount of coalition building, including robust arguments against the common pro-choice refrain: what will you do for the mother after she has the child? These related political ethics have demonstrated that anti-abortion work transcends easy political categorization, that doing God’s work requires more than partisan identification.
And so, we must continue to pray for the success of future marches: rain, snow, or shine. Despite coming from a pro-choice household, I have been pro-life since even before my conversion; it has always been difficult for me to understand how anyone could justify violence against society’s weakest and most vulnerable. I feel relieved to see that that feeling has found some validation in contemporary America, where protection for the unborn has begun to break down our differences and unite us in love.