I Don’t Trust the Pro-life Movement

I don’t trust the pro-life movement. I am a part of it, but I do not trust it.

My distrust does not come from the fact that the movement is focused on opposing abortion rather than opposing everything that violates the sanctity of life. I am fine with that because I can be part of many movements.

My distrust arises from the fact that the movement is based on opposing abortion rather than supporting life. The pro-life movement is largely about self-righteous anger. There is certainly a place for anger, but it is nothing short of devastating to realize that a movement you thought existed to support life really only exists to make people feel better about themselves.

I have hinted at a lot in other posts: I have a complete distrust for those who claim to care about the pill causing miscarriages but then never bother to mention things such as NSAIDs and breastfeeding. Apparently risk of miscarriage only matters if we are trying to fight contraception? But this is only part of my mistrust of the pro-life movement.

I was never naive about the pro-life movement. In my early teens I would serve at pro-life fundraisers. I remember being more than a little critical of the speakers. It went without saying that the fundraising atmosphere was more about privileged people enjoying a nice evening out with their privileged friends rather than about doing anything to actually reduce the frequency of abortion.

In college I was part of a more savvy pro-life group. We did things such as show up at the state house for photo ops so that it wouldn’t look like all pro-lifers were middle aged men. I remember one speaker talking to me about the fact that abortion could have been severely restricted in her state if only the pro-life groups could work together.  One group had supported a law which would have made abortions very difficult after some early date, while the other group had refused to support anything other than a complete ban. Thus the more permissive law remained in place.

It is fair to say that I never had an idealized view of the pro-life movement. But I suppose I thought that more good was done, that we valued life more than we actually do.

Last year Josh and I gave money to support various local pro-life efforts. We ran in a race to raise funds for a medical practice that claims to support women regardless of their socioeconomic status and to provide medical care for women with crisis pregnancies.

In the fall I tried seeking help from these same organizations and got none. I called one organization at 4:45 pm when their website said they closed at 5:00. I got an answering machine, and no one ever called me back.

I called the medical practice the next day. I was seeking help for a woman in a crisis pregnancy who was having brown bleeding, possibly a sign of an impending miscarriage which might be prevented by progesterone supplementation. I did not know, I am not a doctor, but I had to try. They told me to go to the emergency room. I questioned. They said that they would have to schedule a time to meet with us to discuss a payment plan since the mother was uninsured, and it did not matter that I was willing to just cover the costs out of pocket. The woman relented only a little and said that she would refer me to a nurse for consultation since I was a patient at the practice. The nurse told me that we should go to the emergency room if we thought it was serious, but that maybe it was nothing so we did not really need to go to the emergency room unless the bleeding got out of control.

If this had been my baby, my body, I would have at least had hormones tested that day and been given a “just-in-case” prescription. But this was not my body, and it was not my baby, so it was not valued.

I called a third pro-life center, one with which I had no previous interaction. Their website said that they provided medical referrals and I thought that meant that they would be able to suggest an alternate medical provider who would care about the life of an unborn child. They returned my call promptly and told me to take the woman to the emergency room if she was bleeding. They were very kind and helpful, but they did not actually provide the resources listed.

All of these organizations wanted to make sure that the woman did not have an abortion, but no one cared if she had a miscarriage.

A few months later our parish poor box was dedicated to the organization that never bothered to return my call. Somehow I could not come up with extra money to give that month.

The pro-life medical center sent us multiple requests for donation, most poignantly an appeals for expanding  ultrasounds. I wanted to spit, as I thought about the fact that they raised funds to use for “fun” ultrasounds for privileged women, but would not give an ultrasound to a woman without medical care who needed to date her pregnancy before it was too late to get an accurate date. Correctly dating a pregnancy is important for health outcomes, among them reducing the rate of stillbirth. But who cares if the baby dies, so long as it is not aborted?

It is true that abortion is especially grievous. There is a difference between killing someone, and simply watching her die.

But I care so very much about saving people that the difference between direct killing and negligence sometimes feels smaller than it actually is.

It hurts to see so many resources focused on things that are only about making pro-life individuals feel better. People mean well, but their good intentions do nothing to actually help.

So why do I identify with such a pathetic group? Why am I still a part of the pro-life movement?

I care.

Unlike those who are only looking to argue, I can’t abandon truth and life simply because everyone stinks at promoting it.

And I do take some minor consolation in the fact that the pro-life movement is good for one thing: it has raised up a group of young women who are significantly less likely to choose abortion than their peers. That is a tremendous victory that I have never seen recognized, let alone sufficiently celebrated.

I pray. I do what I can in my own little sphere. I give less money to pro-life organizations and more to food pantries. I make certain to second-guess myself because I know that I am part of a larger group which is completely unworthy of trust.

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12 thoughts on “I Don’t Trust the Pro-life Movement

  1. Rebecca

    I think so much of it boils down to this: If we could stop being blinded by our “issue” and focus on honoring the human dignity of each person we come in contact with, I personally think so much would change, so quickly.

    We’ve lost sight of the forest for the trees. And this is why we live in a society with over-crowded prisons, increasing numbers of people living in poverty, and abortion on demand, without apology. I can only think, what if the money that will be spent on Friday were spent on pregnancy care for all women? Or to help women who’ve been abused or raped to heal? Or a whole list of other truly pro-life actions? I’m not saying the March for Life is a horrible thing, don’t get me wrong, I just see an event that the lawmakers probably could care less about; that if the MSM covers at all it will be to focus in on the vile pictures of sweet babies whose lives were ended in a horrific manner, traumatizing children and post-abortive women in the process; that costs more money than I can even imagine, money that could be put to better use IMHO.

    Ok, I’m sorry for hijacking your blog, this is just one of those things that makes me want to jump up and down screaming :).

  2. Molly

    While I agree that we should know more about how other things in our world affect our fertility – we should be advocating for healthy pregnancy as much as possible- I think it’s rather severe to equate a woman breastfeeding (and open to life) in a way that might unintentionally interfere with a conception to a woman intentionally taking something that she hopes will interfere with here fertility (and is not open to life). The same would go for someone choose to take a life saving dose of chemotherapy knowing that it will affect his or her fertility. Would you ask a person not to fight their cancer or would ask a mother to deny the health benefits of breastfeeding to a child already conceived and born so that her body is better prepared for a possible conception? Just a little clarification, please. =) Perhaps you don’t agree that intent is important in these decisions?

    As for the short fall of the organizations in general – you see that not just in the pro-life movement, but in many charity organization. Folks are happy to participate in galas and fundraisers – because those are fun- for sick children in my hospital, but few would take a family into their home or “get their hands dirty” in any other way. It’s frustrating no matter what you’re fighting or trying to help.

    As always you always give me plenty to challenge my opinions!

    1. Rae Post author

      Intent is important, but think of it this way: if our intent is to guilt women into changing their decisions on contraception rather than to present the balanced truth, then our intent is wrong, and needs to be changed.

      The paragraph that seems to have troubled you was included for those who have read my other posts in which I argue that the pill (taken properly) is *not* an abortifacient, and it is wrong to claim that it is in order to sway others in their contraceptive choices, no matter how much I might disagree with said choices.

      I have pointed out the ridiculously lop-sided standard multiple times, but I have never suggested that women shouldn’t breastfeed. It is simply an attempt to make people think for just one moment about what it would be like to approach this question honestly, rather than with the intent to manipulate.

      1. Molly Makes Do

        I think, in general we’re in agreement and I’ll admit that I might see things differently because I’m still relatively new to this whole thing and because of that have a completely different (and yes limited) experience with the nitty-gritty aspects of it all.

        I agree that women shouldn’t be scared into using the pill or made to feel guilty if they have in the past. And yes, I think I agree that the term “abortifacient” is potentially missed used since most women who use it are intending to keep a pregnancy from starting rather than actively trying to terminate one. However, an abortifacient could pertain a drug or device, etc. used for Voluntary Abortion (the removal of an embryo or fetus) and Spontaneous Abortion (a miscarriage) (according to the dictionary). While a properly used pill might not cause the former, it could be argued that is does cause the later and thus is still correctly applied term. Abortion, in it’s definition has a modernly applied usage which is a decision and action and a medical definition which can also describe a naturally occurring termination of a pregnancy so that water’s get a little muddy.

        However, that all boils down to semantics and we really have more important things to do right?

        I do know that we’re in agreement that the pro-life movement needs to be more all encompassing in the way that not only are we supportive of unplanned pregnancies, but of all pregnancies by properly informing both men and women of the potential affects of many things in their lives so that they can make adequately informed decisions about how that information may affect their lives. In fact, one thing that deterred me from the “movement” for so long was the fact that this kind of hypocrisy (don’t abort your baby, but don’t come knocking at my door for help kind of thinking) has been so easy to find.

  3. Michelle

    Isn’t that so sad? That if you would have called and said that you had a woman friend who was contemplating abortion, their doors would have been open. Makes me sick to my stomach.

  4. waywardson

    I agree completely.

    I think the pro-life movement lost its way when it became more about politics and the “culture war” than about life.

    Being pro-life is about far more than just voting Republican. And the Republican Party gives the pro-life position a bad name. (As would the Democratic Party. Politics is messy.)

  5. JoAnna

    I don’t see NSAIDS or breastfeeding as comparable to the Pill. The former two aren’t used for the express purpose of preventing or ending pregnacy; the latter is.

    I have a friend who had a similar experience with pro-life CPCs. She was pregnant and scared she was miscarrying again (her previous pregnancy had ended in miscarriage), but had very little money. She called CPCs but no one was interested in helping her unless she was considering abortion. It was very sad and disheartening. (This was in FL.)

  6. Tarynkay

    That is interesting, b.c I recently heard the director of our local CPC speak. She said that mostly, their clients are not women who were considering abortion, but rather women who plan to have and raise their babies and need a lot of help doing so. They get a lot of illegal immigrants, for instance. Anyhow, she also said that they used to provide ultrasounds, but now they’re not allowed to? I am not sure why. They also aren’t allowed to give out used baby items anymore, either.

  7. KJL

    For the record, not all CPCs are like that. When I was miscarrying my second child, I called a local CPC and was treated warmly, with sympathy, and even though I told them I could pay, the director refused to charge me for the three ultrasounds and counseling she provided. She was available to me at all hours of the day, and was the only one to provide me with a picture of my baby, the only picture we have of him.

    I think it is important to distinguish between the prolife movement, and the political seizure of it. I agree with you wholeheartedly when it comes to the distrust of the political involvement of the republican party with the prolife movement; their motives are re-election, not human dignity.

    The bottom line is that human life and the issue of abortion should NEVER have been politicized in the first place, because it is then reduced to something other than life; it is made a thing to be used for certain individuals’ benefit.

  8. Kreine

    It is a myth that breastfeeding will cause miscarriage. Breastfeeding can (in some women) act as a contraceptive in that is temporarily stops ovulation, but I don’t see the relation to the use of NSAIDS while pregnant causing unintended miscarriage or abortion.

    I absolutely agree that many CPCs and the pro-life movement in general are so focused on preventing abortion, they fail to consider how to be truly pro-life in caring for mothers and the pre-born in early pregnancy. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions.

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