What does it really mean to be pro-life?
Some are calling Donald Trump “the most pro-life president ever.” He’s definitely been anti-abortion. But he’s hardly pro-life.
The “consistent life ethic” gets closer to the heart of what this means. Originating in the Catholic Church, it expands the pro-life concept to include opposition to capital punishment, humane treatment of immigrants and even the wearing of face masks during a pandemic. Trump subscribes to none of the above.
“Why aren’t all pro-lifers pro-maskers?” writes James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America, a Jesuit magazine. “This should be a no-brainer.”
He goes on: “Some people think these precautions are not just inconvenient but an infringement on their civil liberties. I could give you all sorts of arguments about all sorts of other public health measures designed to protect people — food-safety rules, turn signals on cars and so on — that people seem fine with. But in these politicized times, even caring for the other person has become political.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I believe that women have the right to an early abortion — with later procedures permitted when a pregnancy goes catastrophically wrong. But I do respect a consistent pro-life position.
From his mocking of those who wear masks to his disdain for social distancing (himself excepted), Trump has worsened a health crisis that has claimed 200,000 American lives. He says that he knew from the get-go that COVID-19 would become a plague but just let it rip.
With just over 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States has suffered nearly 20 percent of global coronavirus deaths. The pandemic has been bad elsewhere, but no rich country has done as little to stem its damage as we have.
And Trump still downplays it, telling people in Ohio that the disease “affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. … That’s it.”
We see Trump supporters menacing store employees who tell them to wear masks. To be pro-life should mean reverencing the life of the checkout clerk as well as the terminally ill child. And even if these thugs don’t believe the expert advice on masks, you’d think they’d have the decency to not harass stressed-out retail workers.
It is intellectually impossible to consider anyone who would take health insurance away from millions of Americans as “pro-life.” As we speak, the Trump Justice Department is supporting a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that would blow up the Affordable Care Act. Some 20 million Americans would lose coverage as a result.
From 2014 to 2017, the Medicaid expansion part of the ACA alone saved the lives of at least 19,000 Americans ages 55 to 64, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study. Yet, Trump no longer makes even a pretense of fixing the ACA, much less offering a replacement, as he promised in 2016.
A true pro-life stance would also recognize the moral duty to care for the Creation, a stance many religious leaders do take. This would extend to concern over the threat that global warming poses to life on our planet, including human life.
The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that if climate change is left unchecked, higher temperatures could lead to 85 deaths per 100,000 people globally per year by 2100. Counting from today’s world population, that comes to a hard-to-imagine half-billion lives lost.
Trump doesn’t give a rat’s tail about climate change or health coverage or protecting Americans from a deadly pandemic. Accusations that he is running a death cult may sound overheated but are not without basis.
That’s who Trump is. Americans claiming to be pro-life should ask whether that’s OK with them.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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