What does “pro-life, pro-family” really mean?
For many who work for these organizations — or who vote for candidates endorsed by them — being “pro-life, pro-family” is not a euphemism for opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. It acknowledges that protecting children, including ones not yet born, often requires protecting and supporting their mothers and families too.
We are in the midst of a serious crisis for vulnerable children and families, though, and these “pro-life, pro-family” organizations have been largely silent.
The crisis is the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from undocumented parents, even when the families are asking for asylum. In one particularly horrific case, a mother said that her baby was taken from her while she was breast-feeding.
The number of children being taken is so large that the administration, using the fear these children must feel as a means of deterring undocumented immigration, is apparently building “tent cities” around military bases to house them.
Given their support of the administration, and an unwillingness to speak critically about immigration policy, “pro-life, pro-family” organizations now risk being tied to these and other horrific practices.
Some church groups and leaders have followed their broad pro-life commitments in condemning these practices. Evangelical leaders like Russell Moore and Samuel Rodriguez have signed a public letter of protest to the administration. “The traumatic effects of this separation on these young children, which could be devastating and long-lasting, are of utmost concern,” they wrote.
On Wednesday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, denounced the Trump administration’s immigration policy. “We urge courts and policymakers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life,” he said.
Catholic bishops in border states and cities have been particularly scathing. “Separating immigrant parents and children as a supposed deterrent to immigration is a cruel and reprehensible policy,” Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Tex., recently wrote.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, I spoke with Bishop Flores about mass deportation. He called the policies intrinsically evil. Because it regularly forces children into places where their lives are under threat, Bishop Flores argued, it is “not unlike driving someone to an abortion clinic.”
So why can’t the biggest pro-life organizations join these religious leaders in condemning the administration’s treatment of children?
The leadership of the Susan B. Anthony List, one of the most powerful pro-life groups in the country, originally had harsh things to say about Donald Trump as a candidate. They were “disgusted” by the way he treated people, and “women, in particular.” It was “anyone but Donald Trump.”
But after his nomination, the group promoted him as someone its supporters should vote for. Going well beyond “the lesser of two evils” language, it even made Mr. Trump the keynote speaker at its annual gala last month.
It is true that the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, seems likely to be anti-abortion, as do several federal judges who have been confirmed under Mr. Trump. His appointments and policies with respect to the Department of Health and Human Services have been similarly anti-abortion.
But this is nothing like a turning point for the movement. People opposed to abortion got some short-term gains, all of which could be easily reversed by the next administration, and some judges about whom they must wait and see.
And these modest gains have cost the movement greatly.
In standing by President Trump and his administration — and, indeed, in now honoring him as their standard-bearer — traditional pro-life leaders have put short-term and uncertain political gain ahead of consistent moral principle.
Because of their support of the president and general silence on his administration’s actions, the major players in the pro-life movement are now tethered to his horrific border policies. This presents a real threat to the broader movement’s capacity to be taken seriously by young people and people of color.
The silence on the border policies is not a simple question of groups keeping a focus solely on abortion. Many pro-life organizations also do extensive work opposing euthanasia. There is nothing in principle compelling such organizations to ignore anti-life and anti-family border policies.
If the traditional pro-life movement is to regain credibility as something other than a tool of the Trump administration, it must speak out clearly and forcefully against harming innocent children as a means of deterring undocumented immigration.
These groups have extraordinary access and influence in the White House. They have to use it.
Read more at You Can’t Be Pro-Life and Against Immigrant Children.