I am pro-life. I believe in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death. I am an adoptive parent. I am a Christian. Yet, despite all of this, I feel conflicted about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and at first, I couldn’t understand why. Then I found the answer in Matthew 7:14, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
It may seem strange to say that the 49 years of effort to overturn Roe was the easy path, but in contrast to truly building a society built on the foundation of life, it was, and therein lay my conflict. While there are certainly many who work to support women, in general, by focusing pro-life efforts on Roe, the cost to the apostles of this doctrine was self-determined and the benefits bountiful.
In the coming year, pro-life groups will host fundraising galas, just as they have in years past. Toasts will be made to the defeat of Roe, the defeat of Satan, and the defeat of a culture of death. The clink of glasses filled with wine and champagne will reverberate through the room and then be placed down next to china dishes as the room settles in to hear how their monetary support is still needed to finance the campaign to keep the right people elected, to pass the right laws, and to pay the salaries of the right people employed by the agency. A young woman will be brought up to tell her story of choosing life and how she cannot imagine her life without her child. Napkins will wipe the tears from people’s faces as they happily write a check to help “people like her” without having to associate with “people like her” because the gate to the path of life is narrow and those who truly find it are few.
Huddled near that gate are the drug addicts who can’t find treatment, convicts without tools to rebuild their lives, and homosexual kids who commit suicide after being rejected by their families and churches. Asking to be taken down the path of life are the over 5,000 children in the Virginia foster care system and the one in 11 Virginians who are food insecure. They are the 19 percent of Americans who cannot pay their medical bills and often risk their lives by going without care. They include immigrants, the trans community, and black lives. There is room for all of them on the path, but the sentinels at the gate only have baby-sized keys.
The fixation on Roe as the only path has overshadowed most other pillars of protecting life. For example, 47 percent of Virginians live in “childcare deserts” without access to high-quality, affordable childcare. The average cost for what childcare is available is between $10,867 and $14,063 per year depending on the age of the child. The average salary for a laborer in Virginia is roughly $30,000, meaning that approximately 30 percent to 50 percent of their paycheck goes towards the care of a single child. The lack of affordable childcare puts children at risk as parents are left with few options leading to the endangerment of children’s lives.
By focusing the energy of the pro-life movement on legislation and court cases, participants have been able to claim righteousness while ignoring the aggregate of other life issues. It frames the issue as being against something: against Planned Parenthood, against liberals, against abortion. However, that is different than being for life with its complexities, messiness, and people on the fringes of acceptability.
Furthermore, framing life as a political issue has been the path to power for many. The more simplified the argument made, the more ardently supporters view a politician’s pro-life credentials. It has always been a strange thing to view the proposal of thoughtful nuance or advocacy of extra-legislative measures to preserve life as weakening a person’s perceived dedication to the pro-life movement. Nonetheless, it happens regularly.
All too often, the legality of abortion reduces the issue of life to a limited binary. With legislation and court cases, there is a clear-cut winner or loser, and the parameters of the conflict are finite. The goal is to protect the birth of the child, a fixed moment, a limited engagement, and an easy argument to make to supporters. Fifteen years later, if that same child is struggling, it is a much more complex argument one has to make to protect his life. By reducing the issue of abortion to Roe, one can say they support life simply by being against abortion while also supporting issues that make choosing life more difficult.
As the day passed on Friday, I continued to wrestle with my conflicted emotions. I want to live in a world without abortions. I want to live in a world that values life. I want to live in a world where women choose life because it is the easiest choice not because it is the only legal choice.
I couldn’t share in the joy of those on the steps of the Supreme Court because this ruling didn’t convince me that we had moved any closer to living in a society that values life; all it showed me was that we live in a society that values winning.