Have you ever come across someone who vehemently supports the criminalization of most or all forms of abortion? Chances are that person opposed with equal fervor President Obama’s health care reform bill and most, if not all forms of public assistance to those in need. It is also quite likely that that person supported the Iraq War, which we waged on a nation that had never attacked us and was not a significant threat to us. That person probably also whole-heartedly embraces the death penalty the way it is applied today in our criminal justice system. I find it incredibly disturbing when so many conservatives claim that they value the sanctity of life, yet show no concern for the living.
I’m not trying to criticize the “pro-life” position that advocates restrictions or complete prohibition of abortion. I wrote two posts (here and here) where I articulated my views about abortion and the role of government in regulating it. I do, however, have a problem with people who claim to value the sanctity of life, yet do not care for the most vulnerable living among us.
The next time someone who is “pro-life” grumbles that they don’t want their tax dollars going to subsidizing health care for the poor (in the form of Medicaid, SCHIP, Obama’s health care reform, etc), ask them if they think that children in poor families whose parents cannot afford medical insurance deserve access to good medical care. If their answer is no (and they will probably start talking about twisted definitions of “liberty” to justify why poor people shouldn’t get access to health care they can’t afford), you’ll know that they really don’t value the sanctity of life. If conservatives are content to let the uninsured die simply because they cannot afford insurance, as Ron Paul noted in a GOP Presidential Primary debate, and are loathe to allow “redistributive” taxes pay for life-saving treatments, do they truly care about life? Should a poor child who has a debilitating condition such as asthma not be entitled to receive medical treatment simply because their mother or father’s employers don’t provide health insurance benefits and the parents can’t afford insurance on their meager wage? The truth is that many conservatives possess an incredibly selfish and unchristian political ideology where they would rather their fellow poorer citizens go without life-saving or life-sustaining treatments than allow tax dollars provide such assistance.
President Obama’s health care reform bill didn’t even target the poorest Americans, who in fact have health care coverage from Medicaid. The reform bill does the most for the class of Americans called the “working poor,” those who work full-time, but are employed in low-skill fields that provide no health benefits and very meager wages. So the common conservative claim about those receiving government assistance being “doleful” and “lazy” obviously doesn’t fit in this case.
What about ensuring that uninsured pregnant mothers get adequate pre and post-natal care? Is a pro-life conservative willing to have their tax dollars pay for that, especially after they advocate forcing women with unwanted pregnancies to carry their pregnancies to term? How about poor children who get free or subsidized lunches at school? Isn’t it hypocritical to claim you are pro-life when you don’t support such school lunch programs for poor hungry children? “Let the poor little bastards starve,” is the tacit message of that ideology, which is hardly emblematic of one who values life.
Then there is the issue of war and peace. The LDS cannon of scripture speaks of war only in self-defense scenarios and generally notes we should “renounce war and proclaim peace.” By now, it is more than clear that the U.S. waged war on Iraq not in self-defense, but for neoconservative geopolitical aspirations. Even back in early 2003, it was clear to most independent experts that we were not going to war as a last resort. Support for war when it is not a last resort and is not in self-defense completely contradicts the notion of valuing the sanctity of life. (Although I do think there is an argument for limited military operations to prevent genocide and similar atrocities, like we did with Libya and the former Yugoslavia.) The Iraq War resulted in over one-hundred-thousand human deaths, mostly of Iraqi civilians.
The death penalty also comes to mind when considering the infinitesimally narrow conservative definition of being “pro-life.” While I theoretically do not object to the death penalty in cases of murder and where there is zero doubt of the guilt of the accused, the law only requires evidence “beyond reasonable doubt” for conviction, and experience has shown that many people have been wrongly convicted of serious crimes. The Innocence Project is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA evidence. Their website is full of case files that clearly demonstrate the innocence of people who would otherwise have been executed. The recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, whose case was called into serious doubt after seven of nine eye witnesses recanted their testimony and after the Georgia State Government conceded that the ballistics evidence used against him was unreliable, shows that our criminal justice system is in need of significant reform. Texas Governor Rick Perry likely permitted the execution of an innocent man, preventing an exculpatory forensics process from taking place. Perry would have allowed the execution of another innocent man were it not for an exhaustive investigation by a news organization.
It is difficult to take someone seriously when they claim to value the sanctity of life yet do not support the kinds of programs that save and sustain many lives. I noted in my last post about Iraq how I attended a pre-Iraq war debate at BYU where it seemed like most in the auditorium were jubilant at the prospect of going to war against Iraq. I wish a deeper, more sincere, and profound “culture of life” existed among conservatives who seem to care so much for the unborn, but yet care so little for many of the living.