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Protection vs. Preservation of Life, or "Why Pro-lifers don’t care about kids after they are born"

Posted by Chance on December 4, 2006

A common criticism I have heard of those who hold a pro-life position is that they “don’t care about kids once they are born.” In other words, those who are pro-life are typically conservative. Those who are conservative typically favor less government action and involvement when it comes to things like welfare and health care. In a Texas Monthly a couple years back, an interviewer asked Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe), why conservatives are pro-life, yet voted against funding in the state of Texas for health care for poor kids.

This is a reasonable question, and I will do my best to answer it in a few different ways.

1) Conservatives/libertarians believe government should be involved in the protection of life and less so in the preservation of life. In other words, the government must act to protect people from being harmed against others. However, libertarians believe government should not be involved in preserving life, because doing so will agress against the freedoms of other people (i.e. forcing people to pay for health care against other people). Conservatives may hold this belief, although, to a lesser extent. This is not to argue for one point of view over the other, I am just saying that philosophically, there is a difference between protection laws vs. preservation laws. Libertarians, especially, tend to view life as a negative right, not a positive one. As far as conservatives…
2) Many conservatives till believe in government actions to preserve life, just maybe not to the extent that liberals do. Most conservatives that I am aware of do not want to end welfare or government programs addressing health care, it is just that they do not support them to the extent that liberals do. Life-preserving measures are extremely open-ended, and it is a question of money and resources. It is, in my opinion, impossible to create a risk-free society in which people’s lives are never in danger. That is not a good argument against trying, but the point is, at what point does someone “care about the kids.” Is it when the government spends $1 billion, $10 billion?
3) Many conservatives/libertarians believe that the best way to preserve life is through less government involvement. The argument that if there are not more health care programs, kids will die seems to trump all other arguments. After all, who doesn’t want kids to live. However, someone such as myself believes that less government involvement in health care makes health care better for everyone. It is not so much an issue of me paying higher taxes – if I thought universal health care was truly the way, I would support it. However, I genuinely believe a less constrained health care system is the answer.

The point is, I am not trying to argue for a pro-life position or justify anything, I am just addressing the reasonable question that many liberals have concerning the pro-life position. For one, one can be philosophically consistent by supporting life-protection measures and not life-preserving measures. Secondly, many pro-lifers do support the preservation of life to some extent, just not to the extent that liberals do. Finally, many conservative/libertarians believe that less government, not more, is the answer to helping people, especially in the health care arena.

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12 Responses to “Protection vs. Preservation of Life, or "Why Pro-lifers don’t care about kids after they are born"”

  1. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Yes, this goes to the very purposes of government. The minimalist view of libertarians is consistent though stupid and wrongheaded. But non-libertarian conservatives are not consistent: They don’t care how intrusive government is if it is banning condom use (lobbied for by conservative Catholics and now Protestants like Al Mohler!), forbidding same-sex marriage, or misdiagnosing a brain-dead woman on national television. They only shout, “government intrusion,” and heavyhanded loss of “freedom” when it attempts to save the lives of children and the poor–like every other industrialized democracy.

    Then there are the big-business conservatives who want a nanny state–but one that benefits business over ordinary people.

    This is sin, pure and simple. God judges nations according to how well they treat the poor. By this standard, the secular nations of Europe do far better than America which 87% of its people poll as Christian and 95% poll as believing in God. I want to puke.

  2. Velvet Cowboy said

    I think one thing to keep in mind is that all parties for the most part are “Pro-Life” regardless of what their stance on abortion is. They just have different means of bringing the government into involvement.

    One of the things that drives me nuts about “Pro-Life” Conservative Politicians is their spin off of the opposite of “Pro-Life”. Many don’t use the word “Pro-Choice” when describing liberals. They use the word “Pro-Abortion”. That can’t be right… Who is actually for abortion?

    Good post, Chance.

  3. japhy said

    George Carlin ranted about this in his routine some years ago. Here’s an edited version:

    Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus, from conception to 9 months. After that they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No neo-natal care, no day care, no HeadStart, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare! If you’re preborn you’re fine, if you’re preschool, you’re [screwed]!

    These people aren’t pro-life, they’re killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? What, they’ll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to a doctor they just might have to kill it?

    You don’t see many of these white anti-abortion women volunteering to have any black fetuses transplanted into their uteruses, do you? Nah, you don’t see them adopting a whole lot of crack-babies, do you? Nah, that might be something Christ would do!

    (If you decide to remove this comment, I won’t be offended.)

  4. Chance said

    The remarks aren’t directed at you, by the way, japhy. I don’t want you to stop coming because of my rant.

  5. Chance said

    Nah, I’m not offended.

    “No neo-natal care, no day care, no HeadStart, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare! If you’re preborn you’re fine, if you’re preschool, you’re [screwed]!”

    But this goes back to my post. Back to Point 2. Part of this is a strawman. To my knowledge, conservatives don’t want to end these programs. Libertarians, yes, but conservatives typically want to preserve these programs, just not to the degree that liberals might.

    Here’s the thing. I’ll try to explain this the best I can, because I can’t quite get my thoughts out in words. In a sense, liberals look at the pro-life view of a conservative and can potentially use it to expand governemnt programs without limits. Liberals see that conservatives support pre-school programs, for instance, to a smaller degree than liberals. Since conservative does so less than liberal thinks should be the case, the liberal points out what seems to be a contradiction. But in many cases, there is no contradiction. Conservatives typically support these things, to my knowledge. More is not always better. Liberals will say they don’t simply want to spend more money, but they use the “less is truly less” argument any time it comes to criticizing conservatives. What I see is a trap. by a conservative stating that they are pro-life, they are morally obligated to support unlimited expansion of government power.

    “You don’t see many of these white anti-abortion women volunteering to have any black fetuses transplanted into their uteruses, do you? Nah, you don’t see them adopting a whole lot of crack-babies, do you? Nah, that might be something Christ would do!”

    No offense, but that is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard. and I realize that is Carlin speaking, not necessarily you. What? I can’t believe that killing a baby is wrong unless I am willing to adopt the baby myself? I suppose people cannot oppose slavery unless they are willing to buy the slave from someone and give them their freedom. I realize it is a (supposed) comedic rant, but such a statement sidesteps the issue and does not address whether or not abortion is wrong.

    and as i said earlier, I fully believe one can consistently support not killing someone and not believe in the liberal’s level of government involvement. To what level do I have to support government involvement in order for my pro-life position to be consistent? Is it food stamps? Is it food stamps and paid pre-school? I mean, at what point is it okay to be pro-life. Obviously there is some thresh-hold. The liberals know what it is, but the line is invisible, and anytime the conservative steps below it, well, they have no right to be pro-life.

    btw, when I say “conservative” and “liberal” I am speaking in generic terms.

  6. Chance said

    Sorry, japhy, saying something was the dumbest thing I ever heard was going a bit too far. I apologize. I can understand where Carlin is coming from, or at least try to, but I disagree with his reasoning. btw, my previous 2 comments are out of order.

  7. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Life cannot be only a negative good. If I have food and watch someone starve, I am just as guilty of murder as if I put a bullet through his or her head.

    In this regard, again, libertarians are more consistant than other conservatives. Libertarians, for instance, generally don’t want laws against assisted suicide. Most liberals do want to prevent assisted suicide, but conservatives go further and want laws that force someone to keep the hearts and lungs of brain dead people going in a cruel mockery of life. That’s far more “preservation” than most liberals ever try for.

    I’m not simply pro-life, but pro-personhood. That which promotes and enhances the flourishing of human persons–including the flourishing of their environments–is right and good. That which retards such flourishing is bad. There are legitimate arguments to be made about the methods and agencies for promoting such flourishing, but societies must do such or fail as healthy and moral societies.

    Conservative pro-lifers cut funds for pre-natal care–so they don’t care how healthy the kid is that is born and then after birth care only for the kids who are white and middle class. Why have so few conservative pro-lifers worked against the death penalty or against torture?

    Pro-choicers have their own problems. They talk about abortion as if ONLY the civil liberties of the pregnant woman were important. They too often speak without any awareness that we have one of the highest abortion rates in the world. We COULD follow the model of Belgium or Holland, both of which have liberal abortion laws combined with very low abortion rates–because of heavy investment in sex education, easy access to birth control, easier adoption procedures, full employment economies (men seldom marry unless employed and women are more likely to carry to term if they think the baby has a future in a stable relationship), etc. But every time voices propose such plans here they are attacked by both the Left (NOW, NARAL, etc.) and Right (Catholic Church, Family Research Council, etc.) at the same time. It’s disgusting.

    We can have a society that values life, liberty, justice, caring, and hard work–or we can stay stuck in these stupid, failed, debates of yesteryear.

  8. japhy said

    chance, I should have added a disclaimer of some sort saying that I don’t espouse the views I was quoting. I do happen to be a Democrat, but I consider myself a moderate liberal (I am pro-life, for instance).

    Of course Carlin’s rant is extremist. He uses hyperbole to make a point, but the point is not the exaggeration, it’s the ideology. It’s hypocrisy to say “someone really should do something about all those starving children, it’s the Christian thing to do, you know” while scarfing down second and third helpings at your church’s pot-luck dinner. But we’re all hypocrites, whether we admit it or not. Luckily, Christ came to help us.

    Clearly not every person who protests abortion should be expected to be lining up to adopt unwanted children, but we should do what we have the means to do. For some, that means adopting, but for others that means other things.

  9. Chance said

    “Chance, I should have added a disclaimer of some sort saying that I don’t espouse the views I was quoting. I do happen to be a Democrat, but I consider myself a moderate liberal (I am pro-life, for instance).”

    Yeah, that’s what I figured. Since I saw you were Catholic, I thought there was a good possibility you were pro-life. I figured you probably didn’t support Carlin’s views, or at least not to the same extent. Again, sorry to go off on the rant, I guess Carlin’s bit just hit a nerve.

    I do agree that pro-lifers who are passionate about the issue need to do more than simply working in the political arena, but should get involved in other areas as well, however they feel led to. And Christians of every sort should be involved in helping the less fortunate.

  10. Velvet Cowboy said

    This is my stance on abortion…

    When my wife & I got married, we sat down and decided that for whatever reason if we ever got pregnant we would never abort the baby.

    It was a decision between my God, and my wife & I… no one else. This is how I believe it should be.

  11. Dan Trabue said

    I think you’ve done a fine job of presenting a reasonable explanation of why libertarians and “conservatives” act as they do. I’d still think it’s wrongheaded and disagree with their conclusions, but at least that’s a decent explanation of actions that otherwise seem inherently misguided.

  12. Neil said

    Good points, Chance. You inspired me to blog on this at a later date.

    The “Pro-lifers don’t care about kids after they are born” line is one of my favorite arguments to rebut. I teach people how to do it in pro-life training sessions in a two step approach.

    First, show that pointing out a moral wrong does not obligate you to take responsibility for the situation.

    If your neighbor is beating his wife, you call the police. The police don’t say, “Hey, buddy, unless you are willing to marry her yourself then we aren’t going to stop him from beating her.” You can use child or animal abuse as examples as well. Most people get that pretty quickly.

    As always, we need to explain that killing innocent human beings is immoral and that the unborn are human beings. So pointing out this moral wrong does not obligate us to do anything further.

    But even though we don’t have to help after the babies are born to be able to speak out against abortion, Christians do many things with their time and money – orphanages, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), food pantries, etc.

    When I’m teaching CPC volunteers I remind them of all that they and the center do: Pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, food, clothes, diapers, life skill training, parenting training, post-abortion counseling and more – all for free! And, of course, we share the Gospel with the clients if they are interested (saving lives now and for eternity).

    The workers are mostly volunteers and the leaders make below-market wages because they believe in the cause. Most centers receive no government funding, so all the money comes from donations.

    You can also ask pro-choicers what Planned Parenthood and the like do for hurting women once the babies are born. It is a really, really short list. Do they even do post-abortion counseling? (Of course not, because who would need that, right?) Do they give diapers, formula, etc.? And so on. Hey, they don’t even give free abortions (though they would love for your tax dollars to fund some).

    Pro-lifers have no moral obligation to help the babies and their mothers when they point the moral evil of abortion. But they do help anyway. A lot. And they do it with their time and money, not their neighbors.

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