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The Making of a Pro-Life Progressive

It was only a matter of time before the Consistent Life Ethic would find me. But it took a while. I grew up in the 1960s, raised by parents who opposed the war in Viet Nam and advocated nonviolence and civil rights for all. When I turned 18, I voted for progressive political candidates who supported social justice and women’s rights. As a political science major and law student, I attended anti-war protests and opposed the South African apartheid system.

Without hesitation, I considered myself pro-choice. I listened to political speeches and nodded in agreement at every mention of the word “choice.” But I also felt a little envious of pro-life activists and their uncompromising advocacy for the unborn — the most vulnerable among us. I just wished that other life-threatening issues — war, racism, anti-LGBTQ violence — were included in that advocacy.

Caregiving is Pro-Life

During my years as a caregiver to my mother, I began to take another look at the term “pro-life.” I had heard from multiple caregiver support groups that “caregiving is pro-life.” As my mother required more and more assistance with daily living, I kept that statement in mind.

I also kept in mind my husband’s adamant pro-life beliefs. As he dealt with his own health issues and PTSD, he inspired me (and still does!) with his dedication to the value of every human being.

I watched as my mother endured a painful and discouraging chronic wound on her foot. I changed bandages, helped her get dressed, and went to never-ending wound clinic appointments. Meanwhile, congestive heart failure and dementia were taking their toll on her body and mind. My mother could not remember how to use a phone and did not know her address. When she moved to a nursing home, there were moments when she didn’t even know me.

It dawned on me that I wouldn’t think of measuring my mother’s worth according to her capabilities. How, then, could I dismiss an unborn person as a “clump of cells?” Still, I could not reconcile my progressive political beliefs with the pro-life movement, which seemed to align itself with conservative political platforms.

Consistent Life Ethic

I became aware of the Consistent Life Ethic shortly after the 2016 death of the anti-war activist Father Daniel Berrigan. I was surprised to learn that this political hero of mine had opposed abortion and was a proponent of the Consistent Life Ethic. My heart softened a little more toward “pro-lifers” as I pictured Berrigan at anti-abortion sit-ins.

I couldn’t argue with Daniel Berrigan’s assertion that “a decent society should no more have an abortion clinic than a Pentagon.” Finally, “pro-life” began to make sense to me. There was a place for people like me, who believe that all people — unborn as well as born — deserve protection and dignity.

Nonviolence for All Humans

I became consumed with researching the Consistent Life Ethic. I discovered an organization called Rehumanize International and read all I could on their website. A white paper, titled Restore the Heart: Healing the Communal Trauma of Abortion through a Restorative Justice System, caught my eye. I fell in love with the idea of healing and restoration for all who are touched by abortion—including abortion providers.

I was thrilled to find this holistic, top-to-bottom approach to social justice. Finally I had found my tribe: advocates for a culture of life that supports dignity, safety, and life-affirming policies for every human being. I no longer had to dance around the disconnect in my own political views. Finally! My progressive heart had found a home in the Consistent Life Ethic.


Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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