Pro-life label must be earned at the border
Thursday, June 21, 2018
"President Trump has diligently and successfully gone about fulfilling his promises to the pro-life voters who worked so hard to elect him, and it has been a privilege to stand with him to defend the innocent unborn," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, at the group's annual dinner about a month ago.
Those words were said in the presence of Donald Trump as he was honored at the event. The Susan B. Anthony List helps elect pro-life politicians to office. I am grateful for much of the work they do.
At the event, Trump said, "When I ran for office, I pledged to stand for life. And as president, that's exactly what I've done. And I have kept my promise, and I think everybody here understands that fully." He subsequently went through a list of pro-life priorities that he had made progress on — involving taxpayer money and judges, on the top of the list.
He talked about the gravity of our liberal abortion laws. He also talked about Susan B. Anthony as "one of the greatest champions of freedom in American history," adding: "She fought for decades to end slavery, to secure women's right to vote, and to respect the dignity of every single person."
Using the office of the White House to elevate these things — including the truth about this history — is something I'm grateful for. The suffragettes were opposed to abortion and believed things about men and women and nature that are becoming harder to say and live by. Just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor, who had to go to court to protect their religious liberty.
But I also worry. There's long been what friends of mine have called a "lazy slander" against pro-lifers: that we cease to care about a mother and child after the baby is born. But that ceases to be a slander and becomes a challenge to rise to when headlines talk about mothers being separated from their children at the border.
Even when it's a slander, some people believe it, and that's in no small part what keeps them from being persuaded to join the fight against abortion. And can you blame them, when a president who describes himself and is heralded as pro-life is also doubling down on "zero-tolerance" and family separation at the border? There have even been headlines about an infant being taken away from a breastfeeding mother.
This isn't exactly the image of a country once known for "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
The political air in America today is, of course, not helped by "fake news." There are many who don't know what they can believe, even as we have access to more information than ever before. The fact that other aspects of Trump's long-term immigration policies have been misrepresented in dramatic ways adds to the difficulty of having a sane, civil conversation about any of this.
The best aspect of Trump's election is the aspirational sense it seemed to recapture. People dreaming, and maybe seeing a little of the Creator's light in their lives. The "Make America Great Again" business isn't all the ugliness that is well covered. It's also struggling human beings and families wanting to believe that tomorrow, they might feel less chained, with a little more breathing room to build their family, their homes, and more.
At the same time, we who call ourselves "pro-life" simply must consider what that means in more complete and enduring ways than midterm elections. It means telling the truth about the inhumanity of abortion to all involved. But it also means inundating people with love. It's out of love, and wanting to help families flourish, that we are pro-life. And so, among other things, what are we doing to help orphans? And are we doing everything we can to prevent more pain and suffering?
President Trump, to his credit, beautifully paid tribute to a couple who welcomed a child born addicted to opioids into their home during the SBA List address. Those are the kinds of stories that capture the best of America. They are some of the best of who we are and who we want to be. That is pro-life.
Let's double down on that. Let's double down on love — at the beginning of life and at the border. It's what gives us credibility and truly makes us great in the most enduring of ways.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.