The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Why pro-life should mean anti-poverty

with 18 comments

Rarely have I quoted someone else’s post in its entirety, but this one has so many excellent and quotable points that I wanted to give it as much daylight as possible. Please do visit God’s Politics and take part in the debate there. They might lose a few visitors by my printing more than an excerpt here – help me make it up to them.

Tackling Abortion: The Cruel Connection (by J. Christopher LaTondresse)

There is a cruel link between poverty, race, and abortion in America. Unfortunately, many pro-life advocates fail to meaningfully address this connection. Aside from age (the abortion rate is highest among girls under the age of 15) the most predictable indicator of whether or not a woman will have an abortion is her income level and ethnic background.

Before Roe vs. Wade decriminalized the procedure, many American women still had abortions, though the procedure was radically unequal in its accessibility and application. Those with available resources traveled abroad for safe procedures while low-income women relied on dangerous illegal clinics operating in the poorest neighborhoods in America.

As someone who lives and works in such neighborhoods in Washington D.C., I can tell you that simply making something illegal does not keep it from happening if there is a serious demand for it – as evidenced by the rampant drug, weapons, and prostitution trades still plaguing these communities.

I strongly believe in the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death; that all human beings are created in the image of God and are therefore of immeasurable worth. However, I also believe that we should spend more energy advocating policies that might actually reduce the abortion rate and spend less time challenging a judicial precedent unlikely to be overturned.This is especially true if criminalizing the procedure does little to reduce the abortion rate and actually puts more lives at risk, as a recent study and the personal experiences of those who have lived and worked in these district neighborhoods much longer than I have would suggest.

Tackling poverty, providing healthcare for all low-income women and children (especially for prenatal and postnatal care), reducing teen pregnancy by promoting abstinence and making contraceptives widely available, and increasing the child tax credit for low-income mothers and families—all represent solutions that, as part of an integrated approach, would curb unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions.Americans on both sides of the argument have been trapped in an endless debate. Continuing liberal and conservative politicking has failed to meaningfully address the issue. Meanwhile, the abortion rate essentially stays the same.

This tired exercise continued as the entire lineup of Republican presidential hopefuls addressed the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C., an event co-sponsored by the Family Research Council Action, Focus on the Family Action, and other conservative Christian organizations.

In a room filled with the would-be kingmakers of evangelical politics, the candidates touched on issues ranging from gay marriage to the future of federalism, but the single issue gaining the most traction with the crowd was clear. Candidates hoping to do well with this audience had to address abortion—specifically, offering their best plan to eliminate it once and for all. I was disappointed to hear the same old polarizing terms that have gotten us nowhere in the past 30 years.

Many people agree that the estimated 3,500 abortions taking place in America every day are unfitting for any caring society. Significantly reducing the number of abortions in this country—ideally to zero—should be an urgent moral priority for those of us who take the sanctity of life seriously.

As we move into the 2008 presidential election cycle, let’s quit demonizing each other and get to work meaningfully addressing the cruel connections underlying America’s heartbreaking abortion statistics. The most important debate is not between “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but between those who will continue to be demagogues on this issue and those who will choose to pragmatically work together to save unborn lives.

J. Christopher LaTondresse is the special assistant to the CEO at Sojourners. For the most recent U.S. abortion statistics, visit: U.S. Center for Disease Control.

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Written by Monte

October 31, 2007 at 11:25 am

18 Responses

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  1. Oh boy!

    I can only determine that some of your readers are disinclined to think, but I do very much thank you for calling them forward and for your even-handed “gentle” approach to the issue and your readers.

    Can anyone tell me the last time hate was a laudable approach to anything? Haven’t we seen enough of all of this? Might we please immerse ourselves in the obvious superiority of non-violence, love and charity? Does it disturb anyone that torture, violence and intolerance seem so closely tied to “religion”?

    Stand your ground, Friend! Those of us of the “far left” have all the respect in the world for this view and for your courage to air it.


    May 3, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    • Thanks, old friend!

      One would think that it would be worth pondering – even to those who have no scruples about hatred – whether it ever works in the long haul. I can’t recall when the last time was that my mind was changed by someone who appeared to despise me!

      Monte Asbury

      May 8, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  2. Working together IS Pregnancy Resource Centers – they are NOT PP funded and they are not interested in making money on these women who are in crisis.

    You may call it as you want – you are the author of this blog – but it just looks like you only want ONE answer that you have and it’s not what others say –

    So just delete whatever comments you DON’T like and get on with your mamby pamby liberalism.

    Pro-life YOU ARE NOT!


    May 1, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    • And bevy, how is it that this kind of put-down contributes to helping little ones and their mothers?


      May 2, 2009 at 10:10 pm

  3. There was no anger or rage in my comment. But I disagree that PP is not the source of abortion. It is the leading provider of abortion and has made itself so by the lies it has told and the funds the govt pours into it. Abortion is not healthcare. If pointing out those facts are ‘anger’ and ‘rage’, so be it.

    Nothing will change until people realize that right and wrong are not fluid concepts.

    Also, I believe I said that the money should be poured into the Crisis Pregnancy Centers instead. Those could be expanded to encompass daycare, living arrangments and other help for women and their children.

    As a society, we need to error on the side of life, not a false ‘choice’.


    May 1, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    • My apologies, Maureen. Upon re-reading your comment, I can see that “there was no anger or rage.”

      But let me go one step further: Was there love? Do you know anyone who works for Planned Parenthood, or are these stereotypes that you’ve read about?

      In my little town is a PP clinic. It does no abortions; it does not even refer to abortion providers. Its staff nurse used to be a woman who cared tenderly for women of all ages through thick and thin. She was part of the church of which I am a pastor, and she would not dream of lying to one of them. It was a tremendous ministry. She becames friends with people no one else loved. She no longer works there, in part because of the animosity received from fellow Christians who responded only to what pro-life publicists had written. She was regarded as a hard-hearted baby killer. She had access to caring for a group of people that no one else in my town cared for, and she did it in the name of Jesus.

      And, even if PP workers were the enemies of all you believe in, does that not merely make them more clearly candidates for the love of God expressed through you? Or do we fight with the weapons of this world?


      May 2, 2009 at 10:05 pm

  4. Bevy – thanks for your comment; both the writer quoted and I are heartily concerned about both child and mother. I don’t see, though, anything that suggests you actually read the post.

    Here’s how the post ends:

    … let’s quit demonizing each other and get to work meaningfully addressing the cruel connections underlying America’s heartbreaking abortion statistics. The most important debate is not between “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but between those who will continue to be demagogues on this issue and those who will choose to pragmatically work together to save unborn lives.

    “To save unborn lives” – hear it?
    Now, with what part of the post did you disagree?
    And are insults the tools through which God works?


    April 30, 2009 at 5:54 pm

  5. Perhaps if the billions that are pumped into Planned Parenthood were pumped into Crisis Pregnancy Centers instead we could take care of both the mother and the child.

    Margaret Sanger was an avowed eugenicist. Think that could be why the abortion clinics are all located in poor, non-white neighborhoods? That is the real crime, along with the lies that women are told: that abortion doesn’t cause breast cancer; that abortion may ruin her fertility; that the murder of a woman’s child will affect the rest of her life; that she has a higher likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors as a result: more promiscuity, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression.. the list goes on.


    April 30, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    • Yes, Maureen, I know all about Margaret Sanger.

      But honestly, does railing about Sanger and PP accomplish any more than venting your anger? Does rage against PP put a plan into place to reduce abortion?

      As the author concludes:

      let’s quit demonizing each other and get to work meaningfully addressing the cruel connections underlying America’s heartbreaking abortion statistics. The most important debate is not between “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but between those who will continue to be demagogues on this issue and those who will choose to pragmatically work together to save unborn lives.

      PP is not the source of abortion. Unplanned pregnancy, poverty, fear of job loss – that’s where the decision is made. Why would anyone who despises abortion not want to work against those very things that are the reasons abortions happen?

      Why stay home and grumble when we can make a culture where abortion simply isn’t needed anymore?


      April 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm

  6. Have you read any Martin Luther? He blew off steam AND changed the world.

    Monte Says: Good comment! And we share a reverence and respect for Luther, true. Luther’s need to blow off steam also laid a foundation for anti-Semitism in Europe, though, forming a theological framework used by Nazis to justify the holocaust. I hope you’ve read some of his anti-Jewish comments – they’ll make you gasp!

    We remember Luther not for his hyperbole, but for his careful brilliance. Jews see him as the apologist for the holocaust. Had he been more careful, he would have contributed all he did to Christian theology anyway, but would not have enabled the terrible disgrace of modern anti-Semitism to be linked to Christianity in the public mind.

    The most heroic moments are those when we have courage to “speak the truth in love.” Or, as Peter writes, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect … so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Indeed, as long as pro-life rhetoric is abusive, it fuels pro-choice extremism, which says, “See? These are just angry nut-cases.”

    You’re a good guy, Jim, in a world where few stand for much. Now take it all the way, and make it like Jesus, trusting his way to be the most productive possible. It takes guts, for heroism rarely looks or feels heroic. It’s never Terminator; it’s always Jesus. Give life.

    Jim B.

    November 6, 2007 at 11:23 am

  7. Jim B, your point is excellent. The loss of little ones in our care is unspeakably tragic.

    My point is not that emotional response is unjustified; my point is that it doesn’t work. I can’t think of a time when I’ve been induced to change my mind by someone who shouted at me.

    “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves,” Jesus said. And in Proverbs: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Or “Mockers stir up a city, but a wise man turns away anger.” Or, penetratingly, James’ “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

    Consecration, friend! Do you want to blow off steam, or do you want to change the world?


    November 3, 2007 at 1:01 am

  8. “Evidence increasingly suggests that outlawing abortion may not reduce its frequency…” Blah, blah, blah…

    You speak of abortion in such academic and theoretical terms. Have you ever seen an abortion or an aborted human?

    In your utilitarian calculus, what weighs heavier: the potential trauma suffered by an impregnated teen (nevermind the trauma induced by an abortion) or the trauma suffered by a butchered human being?

    The notion that the legalization of abortion has not increased the number of abortions in this country is, on its face, absurd. Do you really believe 40-50 million humans would have died in “back-alley” abortions over the past 34 years had Roe v. Wade been decided differently?

    And I will not stop shouting until you stop murdering innocents.

    Jim B.

    November 2, 2007 at 5:43 am

    • Shout on, man – knock yourself out – I’m going to go see if I can prevent some abortions.

      The lowest abortion rates in the whole world are in countries where abortion is legal and mothers get good support.

      You wanna shout about how mad you are or you wanna do something constructive? I’ll take the latter. You stay behind and blow off some more steam if you like. But don’t be fooled into thinking shouting is constructive. Shouting is merely self-indulgent silliness.

      Monte Asbury

      May 8, 2009 at 7:53 pm

  9. I don’t know. Why don’t you ask a descendant of a slave?

    Jim B.

    November 2, 2007 at 5:36 am

  10. Jim, thanks for your comment, it’s important.

    Evidence increasingly suggests that outlawing abortion may not reduce its frequency, may dramatically increase trauma, and that its consequence falls with special heaviness on young teens. If so – if it only increases suffering – outlawing abortion may not be pro-life in any real sense. Let’s face it.

    What are we really after: a decrease in abortions or an increase in convictions? Solving the problem or feeling like we’ve taken our stand? My hunch is that in order for anything meaningful to happen, pro-life folks are going to have to stop shouting “BS” at people who disagree, stop being so sure law change does anything more than drive the issue underground, and start building a world with enough compassion that twelve year olds don’t feel the need to consider abortion.

    And by the way, it wasn’t the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, for it wasn’t the law of the land in the eyes of half the nation. It was war – and war of horrendous brutality. Can’t we find a more pro-life approach?


    November 1, 2007 at 6:06 pm

  11. “Americans on both sides of the argument have been trapped in an endless debate. Continuing liberal and conservative politicking has failed to meaningfully address the issue.”

    Positioning this as somehow “moderate” or politically neutral is patently dishonest. Soft-pedaling the legal status of a medical procedure that violently terminates the life of an innocent human being whilst promoting an enlargement of an already ginormous welfare system is hardly neutral or moderate.

    Would this kind of argumentation have palliated the horror of African-American slavery? “Yes, slavery is bad… but, we need to eradicate the socio-economic roots that give rise to the demand for African slaves. This bickering between the slave and free states gets us nowhere!”

    B as in “B”, S as in “S”…

    Jim B.

    November 1, 2007 at 5:31 am

  12. As I’ve said before, we can do both. There’s no reason we can’t work on the poverty issue and the abortion issue at the same time.

    Crisis Pregnancy Centers offer lots of help to these poor girls who feel trapped. They counsel them in how to face their parents and the father of the baby. They show them love and concern. They steer them toward the resources the mother needs for herself and her baby.


    November 1, 2007 at 2:25 am

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