The Rev. Robert Hudak

The year was 1990. While serving as pastor of a church in Greensboro, I became involved in a ministry to the most vulnerable.

At the time, North Carolina was at the top of the list when it came to infant mortality. Politicians who ran a strong anti-abortion campaign in the name of “responsible and accountable government” were hell-bent on restricting, even eliminating, much needed funding for health care when everyone knew that prenatal and maternal health care were the best ways to ensure healthier babies.

Their anti-abortion campaign only weakened the moral fabric of human life in Guilford County because they ignored the humans who were already born.

I can remember standing before the county Board of Commissioners in the old Greensboro courthouse as if it were yesterday. “I would like to speak for the voiceless and powerless,” I said, “the almost 13,000 children living in poverty in Guilford County. Please don’t abort the life of our poor children.”

It was as incomprehensible to me then as it is 29 years later to encounter politicians who strongly oppose abortion —appropriately in my mind supporting laws which protect the invisible life in a woman’s womb — but who don’t give a damn, quite frankly, when it comes to practicing a not-so-subtle form of abortion when it comes to what happens after birth.

Eastern North Carolina is home to a large number of good, hard-working people who have been left behind in what is being hailed as our strongest economy in 50 years. These folks need health care and many of them could be receiving Medicaid benefits if our legislature would accept these funds. Instead, as an only resort, care for them means a trip to a hospital emergency room.

Our tax dollars leave North Carolina and are used to help with Medicaid expansion all over the country in states that receive a 90 percent federal match under the Affordable Care Act. Not only does our General Assembly’s failure to expand Medicaid leave half a million of our neighbors without health care coverage, it also leaves billions of federal dollars on the table — dollars that North Carolina tax payers sent to Washington, dollars that Washington is trying to send back to North Carolna.

Denying health care coverage to nearly half a million people is wrong — and trying to create a “work reporting” requirement makes of Medicaid a jobs program, not a health program. New data released by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides estimates of 350 people in North Carolina who have died because our lawmakers abort responsibility for those born among us, choosing instead anti-abortion rhetoric in the name of political power games. The powerful forces of tribal politics are ripping apart the very fabric of what it means for us to be one people under God with liberty and justice for ALL!

In the words of a Benedictine nun, an insightful spiritual leader named Joan Chittister, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

The inspiring memory of Sen. John McCain leaving his sick bed in his dying days to return to Congress to cast the decisive vote to keep alive the hope of affordable health care may yet become the best legacy of a genuine champion for life, a true servant leader of all the people, especially the most vulnerable among us.

The Rev. Bob Hudak is a retired Episcopal rector and governing board member the N.C. Council of Churches.