The term “pro-life” has become so heavily affiliated with opposing abortion that many people, including those who consider themselves pro-life, forget to acknowledge the various social issues that also advocate for the protection and preservation of human life. According to Rev. P. Del Staigers of St. Veronica and St. John Fischer parishes, “The bishops have stated that abortion is the preeminent pro-life concern. The problem is that the bishops never intended this stance to put the other pro-life concerns on the back burner…If we are going to march outside abortion clinics, we also need to march for the rights of people whose lives were brought to term.”
Supporting affordable healthcare is pro-life. “In our government right now and our country you see people who are richer have more access to healthcare,” Hands Across Campus president senior Bella Dawson said. “For example, there was recently a man discharged from the hospital after sixty-two days due to [Covid-19] symptoms. He was congratulated by hospital staff when he left, but he was also slapped with a 181-page $1.1-million-dollar hospital bill… A normal person in America cannot pay that price tag. It’s saying that people under a certain median-income don’t deserve healthcare… because they don’t make enough [money]… that’s anti-life.”
Affordable healthcare should also include ultrasounds, testing, and various other resources for pregnant women such as the ones offered at Pregnancy Center East. Rockets for Life officer Anna Rahner said, “More effort could be going to showing that there is that support and advocating for that [instead of only protesting against abortion]. You can’t have one without the other if you truly care about the people involved.”
Advocating for immigration reform is pro-life. Theology teacher Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth said, “More than five hundred children [are] separated from their parents at the border, [and] the federal government has lost contact of where the parents of those children are. That’s not pro-life.”
Treating the incarcerated with dignity is pro-life. “[Being] pro-life includes the person you really don’t want to look at… it includes death-row inmates,” Theology teacher and Hands Across Campus moderator Teresa Davis said.
“Sometimes we dehumanize [the incarcerated], when in reality they are people just like us. We are no better,” Hands Across Campus communications director Emily Taylor said.
Fighting against racism is pro-life. Dawson said, “I don’t think you can call yourself pro-life without giving credence to the Black Lives Matter movement and how it’s been handled by not only police but also fellow Christians… Black people are human beings… If you don’t acknowledge the pain that Black people are feeling and have felt for centuries now, you are basically saying they don’t deserve dignity or that their lives are less than.” Davis added, “There are so many people we put on the margins that deserve respect and dignity that are harmed because of our turning away from them thinking their life is on some kind of hierarchy and [that] they are lower down the rung.”
Wearing a mask is pro-life. As of November 1, 2020, 229, 932 American citizens have died from Covid-19. While wearing a mask has been shown to slow the spread of Covid-19, partisanship and stubbornness have distracted people from the reality that thousands of lives could be saved by wearing a mask. Staigers said in the same Milestone interview, “For a Catholic to think that wearing a mask is taking away his or her freedom, or is disrespectful of them as an individual, cannot be characterized as anything other than sinful. We are all culpable when we do not respect one another enough to take care of one another’s good health.”
So many issues can be considered pro-life that using the term as a misnomer for anti-abortion is misleading. As Rockets for Life president senior Madeline Daley said, “People who are fervently anti-abortion are not always pro-life.” Education, open-mindedness, and empathy are critical to combatting social issues that threaten the dignity of human life.
“I see [education] as a sign of hope that so many of the students I teach possess a deep concern for the common good of all. Especially in reference to the many ways that we see human life degraded and violated in our nation and in the world today. I am encouraged that fewer and fewer young people seem to approach the pressing social issues of our time simply through the false dichotomies of partisanship and political party,” Hutchinson-Smyth said.