At Human Defense Initiative (HDI), all of our contributors consider themselves “pro-life.” However, there is a great amount of diversity in the pro-life movement and different understandings of what that term means, therefore we surveyed our contributors on what it means to be pro-life, what the movement stands for, how life experiences have influenced their understanding of the term, and how being pro-life has influenced other areas of their life.
Whether we agree or disagree on what the term “pro-life” must entail, all definitions have at least one thing in common: elective abortion is a grave moral wrong. To end abortion both legally and culturally, I believe the pro-life movement needs to have room for a variety of voices. Our differences make us stronger, not weaker. Our differences can help us approach the problem from different angles and come up with multiple solutions which may work in different scenarios. For example, not all pro-lifers agree that the movement is inclusive or that inclusivity is a strength. And guess what? That’s ok! We can respect each other even in disagreement, and still work to invest in understanding each other and finding the common ground from which to work together to end abortion.
The article is set up like an interview or a virtual panel, with each contributor answering the questions I posed them. So first, let me introduce the virtual panelists:
Kayla H. is a 21-year-old college graduate who works in healthcare. She enjoys volunteering and learning new skills. She was raised in church and continues to go. Kayla is part of a large family that has very different opinions about abortion.
Nicholas Kirby is a Christian, a charismatic, a molinist, a believer in rational scientific and philosophical thought, a conservative, a republican, and a southerner. One of his hobbies is Christian apologetics.
Katherine Ranck graduated with highest honors from Belhaven University with a Degree in Biblical Studies in 2017. In 2018, she got married and spent two years and a half years traveling nationally and internationally with a full-time Christian ministry. In 2019, she started a website and social media page dedicated to pro-life apologetics and began volunteering with her local pregnancy resource center. Katherine has written articles which have been published by Live Action, The Christian Post, and has been with HDI for over a year. She and her husband currently live in Mississippi where she works in classical education.
Daniel Gump uses his background in technical writing to interpret and summarize source materials in ways he hopes will allow others to concisely see the truth.
Sadie-Megin Daniels is a 31-year-old white Protestant woman from California. She has been registered to vote as a Republican since she was 18 years old. She has been a committed Christ-follower since her mid-teens. Sadie recently completed law school and was admitted to the practice of law in California in January 2020.
Skyler Lee is Executive Director of HDI. With past experience as a client advocate (counselor) at a local pregnancy center and PR officer of her college pro-life group, she now oversees HDI’s contributors and manages the crisis helpline. Her favorite part of the job is counseling the clients including expecting mothers, and families with young children who are in need as well as parents or siblings dealing with post-abortive grief.
Will is a 30-year-old discerning a vocation with the Dominicans.
Sarah is in her early twenties, and currently has work experience in writing, editing, social media management, and content marketing. Her education consists of a B.A. in Writing and Rhetoric with a minor in Linguistics. She is a "cradle Catholic," but has had a reinvigorating of her faith in recent years. Sarah grew up as an only child (one aborted older sibling and another miscarried before her), primarily with a single mother. She had a more financially stable childhood, but experienced poverty and homelessness later. Her interests are pretty diverse, including music, languages and language learning, photography, anime, and Disney.
Petra Wallenmeyer is 27, was homeschooled, and has an M.S. in Chemistry (biochem focus). She considers herself a nerd, she talks a lot, and she laughs way too loudly. Petra works at a pregnancy helpline and has grown quite comfortable talking about sex, pregnancy, STIs, etc. on an everyday basis...and sometimes forgets not everyone is so comfortable discussing these topics so normally and regularly. She is also HDI’s Content Director.
How would you describe your religious views or lack thereof?
Kayla: I believe that Jesus died for the sins of mankind because He loves us. I believe that all humans are created in His image.
Nicholas: I’m a traditional Christian who ascribes to Molinism, and outright rejects Calvinism, etc.
Katherine: Protestant Christian. More specifically, Reformed Baptist.
Daniel: Evangelical Christian with a thirst for historical evidence.
Sadie: I am a Protestant. I grew up Southern Baptist, but I have become far more conservative than even my Southern Baptist upbringing, in the sense that I believe in the historical doctrines of the Reformation: By Grace alone (Sola Gratia), Through Faith alone (Sola Fide), In Christ alone (Solus Christus), According to Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura), For God's Glory alone (Soli Deo Gloria). Scripture is my sounding board; my goal is to test everything by it and that the Bible would inform my opinions and the way I live my life in every respect.
Skyler: Christian, specifically Baptist.
Sarah: Christian, Roman Catholic.
Petra: Christian, Protestant. Grew up in fairly charismatic Assemblies of God and Pentecostal churches but now attend a church within the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. While I may differ in doctrinal issues with other Christians, I hold to the basics of the faith any professing Christian holds, namely, Christ's virgin birth, His perfect life, His atoning death, and His resurrection 3 days later. I am a bit of a skeptic and I firmly believe one should know why they believe what they do and be able, as Paul says, to give reason for their hope, so I also am really into Christian apologetics.
How would you describe your political views?
Nicholas: I’m a conservative but I’m not sure which kind of conservative. See, I believe in conserving our founding philosophies that lead Alexis De Tocqueville to describe us as speaking like Locke and acting like Burke.
Sadie: I am a Republican. Politics is only important as I can glorify God in my politics. Where the Republican Party's platform disagrees with the Word of God, I have to go with the Word of God.
I voted for Donald Trump in 2016. He is not a paragon of virtue; nor do I believe he is a Christian, but he was not Hillary Clinton AND he promised to be anti-abortion and to elect pro-life judges and Supreme Court Justices — a promise I believe he has largely kept.
Skyler: Conservative although I disagree strongly regarding many current events. Both parties have their faults but I vote pro-life so I vote Republican.
Will: Moderate Republican.
Sarah: Generally more right/conservative-leaning, and I am a registered Republican. However, that's mainly for the benefit of voting in primaries. I don't see myself as exclusively conservative since I do think some things like social programs to assist families and individuals in financial need are important for our society to have. At the same time, the right/conservative side generally supports my core beliefs in regards to family values and the somewhat more minimal role government should play in the daily lives of the people.
Petra: Political-views tests show me mostly center, slanted slightly right and libertarian. I think government control and oversight should be taken from the Federal level and given back to the State and even lower levels of government, which would make people more invested in their communities and States and more invested in voting on the local level. I consider myself Independent rather than Democrat or Republican, but because of the strong views I have on select issues (like abortion), I usually end up voting Republican and/or third-party; however, I will vote for whoever I think most aligns with my values, no matter their party affiliation.
You consider yourself "pro-life." What does that term mean to you?
Kayla: It means that I believe all life has intrinsic value from conception.
Nicholas: In my mind, it describes the movement against killing innocent babies, particularly against abortion in modern countries like the United States or France.
Katherine: It means that I believe it is wrong to kill innocent humans.
Daniel: I see the the pro-life viewpoint as falling under the non-aggression principle. For this viewpoint, the only allowable violence is that of a necessary level of responding force — lethal, if needed — to protect oneself or one’s family from impending danger.
Sadie: Anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia. More specifically, against the intentional killing of innocent human beings.
Skyler: Pro-life means I believe abortion is wrong under all circumstances and that we should support families in need to make abortion unthinkable.
Will: To promote the full human dignity of every human person.
Sarah: Being pro-life for me means upholding the right to life of every human being from the moment of conception to natural death. However, this goes beyond simply stating what I think is right. I also believe that being pro-life requires working towards creating a culture/society that inherently sees the value of every human life at every stage. This means caring for women in need who feel like abortion is their only choice (when never truly is), caring for children after they have been born, caring for the sick and dying by compassionately helping them live as long as naturally possible, and caring for even the worst criminals who "deserve" the death penalty by not giving them the easy way out of a quick and senseless death (killing another doesn't bring back the lives of those who were lost) — just to name a few examples. To me, being pro-life is a state of action, not just a personal belief.
Petra: It is synonymous to "anti-abortion." That's it. And by abortion, I mean the intentional killing of a human embryo or fetus, OR an elective or induced abortion (as opposed to a spontaneous abortion, which is also called a miscarriage; or death of a preborn human which comes as a side effect of treating the mother for a life-threatening condition).
Have your political, religious, and/or moral/ethical worldviews changed at all as you’ve gotten older?
Kayla: No, I have become more rooted in my ideals.
Nicholas: Yes, I used to be an atheist and I would say I was more left because I used to support things like progressive taxation. I’m center-right but I would say there was a period where I was farther right than I am now. As for religion, I am leaning towards the conservative Lutheran tradition because progressive Christianity isn’t Christianity.
Katherine: I grew up in a conservative, Christian home. My views have grown in the sense that they have become my own. I have studied, researched, and prayed and come to my own beliefs and convictions. My beliefs and ethics have become stronger as I’ve grown and made them my own.
Daniel: I have shifted more in the libertarian direction after encountering individuals over the years who have harassed me by proxy through filing false reports with law enforcement. Though I encountered both honorable and corrupt law enforcement during my experiences, I would prefer overall that government take less part in these proxy battles that are waged by spiteful cowards.
Sadie: I was a little wishy-washy because I wasn't always sure what I believed and why I believed it. As I have gotten older, I've been able to consider what I believe and why I believe it, and I have become more and more convinced that what the Bible says is true.
Skyler: My political views are slightly shifting but nothing too drastic. I still wouldn’t vote for any person or party who supports abortion. Although I've never questioned my religious beliefs, I have become stronger in my faith as I’ve learned how to defend what I believe and witness to others
Will: Absolutely. The core values I was taught as a child have become much deeper. As a result, I am more motivated to live them out well and to help others experience the same depth.
Sarah: Yes, somewhat. I grew up believing that being conservative/Republican was the "right" thing to be because of my mom's beliefs, but I think that's pretty normal for kids to at first take on the positions of their parents. Over time, I began to research and think for myself, coming to mostly similar conservative-leaning beliefs as my mom. However, I do think I am more open to genuinely seeing and hearing out different political opinions compared to how my mom could be. In regards to faith, I never considered myself not Christian/Catholic, but there were quite a few years where my views and actions drifted greatly. As I came back into my faith more seriously, my pro-life views did not change, but my beliefs about gender, sexuality, and the family did change to become more "traditional." This switch also came out of many personal lived experiences.
Petra: Yes. I grew up in a home with a very conservative, very religiously strict, very controlling influence. That was all I knew and therefore believed for a while, but my views have steadily changed since I was about 11 or 12 and started reading and studying more for myself.
For example, I am politically more center and libertarian than I used to be. My position on the death penalty has changed quite a bit from what I was taught growing up. Religiously, I moved from Arminianism (due to upbringing) to Reformed theology, only to find out Reformed theology is just another name for Calvinism. Imagine my surprise upon finding out I had been a closet Calvinist for years...
Have you always been pro-life?
- If not, when did you change your mind and why?
- If yes, are you any more active or vocal about your beliefs now than in the past? When did that change, and why?
Nicholas: I have, but I’ve become more vocal and I’ve thought through it more. It changed when I met my friend Autumn, who was recruiting for HDI. I was digitally stepping out of my small town and I quickly realized I needed to understand my own position and my opposition’s position in order to adequately discuss this topic.
Katherine: I have always been pro-life. I don’t remember when I first learned about abortion but I have always believed it was wrong. I’ve always had a burden for this issue but never knew what to do about it. I became more active/vocal in early 2019 after New York passed its expansive abortion law. I was so angry to see people celebrating such a culture of death. I also realized that many people around me were pro-life but didn’t know how to defend their views. My heart was to equip people to be able to understand and defend their pro-life beliefs and educate others on abortion as a human rights violation.
Daniel: I have always been pro-life, but I wasn’t vocal about it until 2012, when my wife and I had a stillborn son at 35 weeks gestation. When I saw people on social media arguing in favor of abortion-on-demand until birth, I couldn’t remain silent any longer.
Sadie: I'm not sure. There might have been a point in my life when I was just completely ignorant of the issue. I know I was never pro-choice, though. I have become much more active and vocal about the issue of abortion over the years, as I have become increasingly convinced of the truth of the anti-abortion position.
Skyler: When I was younger I was sort of pro-choice by default. I had heard about abortion but didn’t know about abortion. I just thought it made you unpregnant and I gave zero thought to HOW that happened. Once I got into high school, I somehow learned about abortion procedures and that’s when my viewpoint started changing. I didn’t realize what happened to the baby before! That’s when I decided I was against abortion in all circumstances for myself. I’m a christian and once I truly realized abortion destroyed life I was not okay with that. Other than that, I was indifferent.
Then in college, during the 2016 election, we were strongly encouraged to vote. I started watching the debates and got politically active. I really did soul searching about what issues I cared most about and realized the answer was abortion. I researched it more and wrote papers on it. It was then I truly had my eyes open to the human rights violation it is. I realized life truly begins at conception according to science and all humans deserve the right to life. Something just snapped. I realize today there’s no such thing as “personally pro-life” and there’s no room for indifference. I never looked back. Shortly after, I became a counselor at my local pregnancy help center and joined my pro-life campus group. Upon graduation, I joined HDI when it was just launching. I’ve advocated for the preborn ever since and founded HDI’s crisis helpline.
Will: I have always been pro-life, but I have not always been so aware of both the scope of importance and reasons behind the movement.
Sarah: I have been pro-life since I knew pro-life was a thing to be. When I was in middle school, my mom shared with me that she had an abortion long before she met my dad and before I was born. It was the first time I really learned about abortion, and seeing her emotionally/mentally/spiritually struggle with the effects of having an abortion for decades afterwards cemented within my heart just how much abortion damages far more than just one life. I feel like I was more vocal on social media about being pro-life in past years, but I've come to a point where I rarely post on my personal social media at all anymore for a number of reasons. I think the push back and confrontation from pro-"choice"/abortion supporters made me too stressed because I don't deal well with confrontation. Now, I instead prefer to just do the work of amplifying the voices of other pro-life advocates through HDI or by doing what I can within my own means to help women and families in need.
Petra: Being pro-life was the default position in my household, so I have been vaguely pro-life from a very young age. That abortion kills a human not yet born is a simple fact even a small child can understand. However, I became very convicted to do more concerning my pro-life beliefs in 2017 or 2018, after my pastor said something and then coming across pro-life groups and people on social media, like Dank Pro-Life Memes, Albany Rose, New Wave Feminists, etc. Now I have my hands and feet in a lot of pro-life activities.
What do your pro-life views stem from? [Science, religion, philosophy, ethics, politics, etc.]
Kayla: Science definitely, but also my Christian background.
Nicholas: All of the above. In order to have a complete worldview you need to draw from multiple sources. There are no good scientific or philosophical arguments for general abortions. As for my religion, the only arguments that can be made are ones that abuse, misinterpret, stretch, and read what you want out of scripture.
Katherine: My pro-life views stem from both science and religion. Science tells me that the preborn are human. My faith tells me that humans have intrinsic worth and value and should be protected and treated with dignity.
Daniel: My pro-life views mainly come from science, though ethics and philosophy do play a part in that foundation. I’m sure that my religious views do influence my pro-life stance on some level, but I never use religion when debating abortion or related topics. My politics views are influenced by my pro-life stance, not the reverse.
Sadie: Mostly the Bible. Throughout Scripture, it says over and over again, "God gave conception..." or "God closed her womb" meaning she could not conceive. Conception is the work of God. It is very much like a farmer planting seed and watering it and waiting for it to grow; only God can cause the seed to grow and only God can cause a baby to grow in his mother's womb. Elective abortion is a rejection of God's gift of conception.
Moreover, the Scriptures say: "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13) "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5) "For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." (Luke 1:44) There are many other such Scriptures which point to the humanity of children in the womb.
I am also anti-abortion because of science, philosophy, ethics, and politics, but my faith is what ultimately informs my pro-life views.
Skyler: Religion and science. I recognize that life scientifically begins at conception and that God knitted us in our mothers’ wombs.
Will: They certainly stem from religion. Both the beauty of a person bringing another into the world and the inherent value of a person as such have their foundation in my faith.
Sarah: A mix of science, religion, and ethics. I see no reason for these supporting elements to be separated from each other. Biologically speaking, a human embryo is a human being in his or her earliest stages of development -- stating otherwise is simply scientifically inaccurate. Genetically and physiologically speaking, the moment of conception resulting in the creation of a zygote is the earliest identifiable point that a new human life is creating. A human life cannot form in any other way. To me, that means scientifically a human at the moment of conception is just as real as a human living outside of the womb. Ethically, I believe that every human being is equal in value.
Petra: Originally, from what I was taught growing up. Now, however, this belief is my own. Science, while not a method of investigation which can make value judgements or moral decisions, can and does inform my opinion on abortion. Embryology is an amazing field of study and very valuable in determining what is done in an abortion. To go from acknowledging what is done in an abortion to saying abortion is wrong, however, I must use philosophy. Of course, my faith also plays an important part in my opinion of abortion. To deny that would be silly. However, I prefer not to make or start with religious arguments when discussing abortion with someone of no or a differing religion; it's just not necessary.
Has your pro-life viewpoint affected your opinions on any issue beyond abortion?
Kayla: Yes, as part of my job I'm contracted to work at multiple assisted living and nursing homes. I saw that the pro-abortion arguments that I heard and read could be applied to the elderly, mentally retarded, and those who were paralyzed. They weren't contributing to society and they needed someone to take care of their every need. I saw working with those sweet people that if no one would stand up for babies’ lives what chance did those forgotten in a home have?
Nicholas: My aforementioned viewpoints affected my opinion on abortion, not the other way around. I do treat other topics differently because they’re not all the same.
Katherine: As I’ve grown in my pro-life views, it has also grown my heart for helping women in need and in crises. Being pro-life has grown my desire to help women, not diminished it.
Daniel: There were many topics for which I had no strong opinions before researching more into their relations to abortion. One such example is the strong link between sex trafficking and the pornography industry. I was horrified to learn that much of the industry relates to sex slavery and that abortion clinics have been caught in numerous instances knowingly covering up the abuse to avoid contacting law enforcement. In multiple states, abortion clinics have even joined lawsuits to block mandatory reporting laws, as well.
Sadie: Yes. Many things. I am anti-euthanasia and anti-eugenics. I do not believe that poor people, foster children, the disabled, the terminally ill, or the mentally ill are better off dead. I wholeheartedly reject the view that death is better than a life of suffering. When we would rather end someone's suffering by killing them, we destroy opportunities for compassion, because compassion means "to suffer with." You cannot "suffer with" someone if you kill them.
Skyler: Yes! I changed my view on euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and the death penalty. I’m firmly against all three. I believe in life from conception to natural death for all humans. As someone who is pro-life, I’ve learned being pro-life is more than just being against abortion, it also entails sharing the message all lives are valuable and rejecting attacks on human dignity. It has also opened my eyes to all the ways we can help make abortion unthinkable, especially through providing support to expecting mothers in need.
Will: Definitely. The flagship of the pro-life movement is undoubtedly abortion. That love for the voiceless applies just as much to every other corner of our culture including criminal justice, immigration, sex trafficking, healthcare, and much more.
Sarah: Yes, I am very much against related issues such as IVF, human embryonic research, physician-assisted suicide, and the death penalty. I see all of these as an attack on the value of each individual human life.
Petra: Yes, actually. While my pro-life view did not directly influence my change in view on the death penalty (i.e., I am not anti-death penalty because I am anti-abortion), the change did come about due to being more involved in the pro-life movement and through discussing the death penalty with other pro-lifers. While I used to believe the death penalty was morally acceptable and even necessary for a just society, I am no longer convinced it is. Additionally, I abhor the idea of killing an innocent person, and wrongful convictions have happened enough times that I do not trust our justice system to decide when killing is necessary. My views on destruction of human embryos, use of fetal tissue in research, PAS and euthanasia, adoption, and sex ed have all been affected, as well.
Do you think a person must be religious to be pro-life?
Nicholas: Absolutely not. Drawing such lines destroys common ground. We can have the debate over the argument for God’s existence from morality another day. If we truly want to effectively fight the culture war then we need to be able to unify with everyone.
Katherine: No. I believe that non-religious people borrow a Christian worldview when it comes to ethics but, either way, the majority of non religious people are in favor of human rights and believe that humans have worth and value. So the pro-life view is not exclusive to religious people, it includes all those who believe in human rights.
Daniel: No, the pro-life stance can be entirely reached through science and logic. In online debates, it seems to almost always be an anti-theist abortion proponent who brings religion into the discussion. It shows that they have the misguided belief that the pro-life stance is solely religious in nature.
Sadie: No. Although I do believe that the non-Christian has to borrow from a Christian worldview in order to consistently and coherently account for why they are pro-life. A truly nonreligious person will of course have morality and believe in some form of objective morality, but has no way of explaining why he believes in objective morality or why anyone else ought to believe in it, too. Without an objective moral standard-giver, that is, God, the only authority is human authority and no one can claim to have a higher authority than anyone else.
Skyler: No. In fact, although I’m a Christian, I usually explain the pro-life view from a scientific stand point. We must recognize that using religion in the arguments will not change the minds of those who aren’t religious. It’s a scientific fact life begins at a conception. Fetal development is a scientific fact. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “wow I can’t believe it’s already a baby,” when going through fetal development worksheets with clients at the pregnancy center. It’s a baby from day one.
Will: Certainly not! The framework for most major religions demands that we care for the helpless, but there are plenty of secular moral frameworks that demand the same.
Sarah: No, because a person can be pro-life on a primarily scientific basis. However, I do believe all Christians have an inherent call and responsibility to not only be personally pro-life, but to also do their part to clearly express the value of all human lives as we believe God values each of us — whether through advocacy, caring for those in need, or simply caring for their families.
Petra: Yes and no. Being religious can be different than believing in a standard of truth and a truth-giver, first of all. So in this sense, no, one does not have to be religious to be pro-life. And in everyday life, there are a TON of great non-religious arguments for abortion, and I use them all the time.
However, most non-religious arguments still depend on there being an objective standard of truth. In thinking about this question from the viewpoint of epistemology, I do think a person must believe in some higher power in order to logically believe in and justify an objective standard of truth and morality. But that can be debated.
Do you think someone must believe in a consistent life ethic (CLE) to be pro-life?
Nicholas: I haven’t really looked into CLE enough to give a thoughtful and honest response.
Katherine: I think it depends on how you define it— what you consider consistent life ethic. Technically, you could be pro-life in your views on abortion without holding a CLE. But your views could become inconsistent if you don’t. I believe that human life and rights should be protected from conception to natural death. But I believe there can be some (slight) variation in how that plays out.
Daniel: Though most tenets of the CLE align with general pro-life causes, I see it as possible for one to be pro-life but still be in favor of capital punishment, since the punishment follows due-process. A stance against euthanasia seem much more closely linked to being pro-life, however.
Sadie: No. I do not have a robust understanding of the consistent life ethic (CLE). The person I think of when I think of CLE is Abby Johnson. She does not believe in capital punishment, for example. I do not believe you need to reject capital punishment or just war in order to be pro-life. Pro-life has always meant that a person was anti-abortion and that is what it ought to continue to mean. It does not need to embrace other issues.
Moreover, one can be for capital punishment and for just war and still be against abortion. Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being, a human being who has done nothing wrong and is helpless to remove herself from the dependent position she finds herself in. Capital punishment is the intentional killing of a human being who, you hope, is not innocent — they have committed a crime deserving of death. Likewise, in just war, there is the need to punish bad actors. These cannot be compared to abortion--the intentional killing of innocents.
Skyler: No, I believe someone can simply be against abortion and still be considered pro-life.
Will: I do not. We must take up the mantle of one issue at a time. Through practicing love with regard to just a single issue we will certainly come to practice love in others.
Sarah: I answered the death penalty question before this one about CLE, so I think that answers this question in a similar way. Going by the basic accepted definition of pro-life, someone doesn't necessarily need to believe in a CLE — BUT, I personally think someone who identifies as pro-life SHOULD believe in a CLE.
Petra: No. I believe the pro-life viewpoint is a very small umbrella. It logically fits under the very large umbrella of the Consistent Life Ethic, which is essentially a way of rephrasing the Catholic idea of a seamless garment of beliefs concerning issues of life and morality. Therefore, anyone ascribing to a CLE or whole-life worldview must logically also be pro-life. But not everyone who is pro-life must logically hold to the entirety of the CLE platform. This is, of course, due to my historical understanding and usage of the term "pro-life" as associated with the pro-life movement, which I stated earlier.
Do you think someone must oppose the death penalty to be pro-life?
Kayla: No, babies are born innocent. Those up for the death penalty have done something to deserve it.
Nicholas: No. It’s a different topic with its own nuances that demand consideration. I am personally against it but there are very good arguments for it.
Katherine: Not necessarily. Personally, I am not a supporter of the death penalty but I am also not against it. I don’t believe it is inconsistent to be pro-life and support the death penalty. The death penalty is reserved for those who have committed heinous, heinous crimes. The death penalty punishes a guilty party who has committed gross injustice against other humans. Abortion commits an injustice against an innocent victim. In my opinion you can make an argument both for and against it from a pro-life perspective. You can’t, however, be for abortion and against the death penalty. If you are against the killing of a criminal who has committed disgusting acts against others, but are for the killing of an innocent child whose only “crime” is being conceived, then you are a hypocrite.
Daniel: No, since capital punishment follows due-process and the conviction of a heinous crime; I can see pro-lifers differing in opinion on it.
Sadie: No. As I stated above, pro-life means anti-abortion. One does not need to oppose the death penalty to be against abortion. Personally, I am against the death penalty in the US for practical reasons—the cost; the fallibility of our justice system; racial prejudice; and other considerations. But as a matter of principal I am for capital punishment because I believe in the inherent dignity of human life. Because man is made in the image of God, the man who sheds man’s blood ought to pay for it with his own blood, because human life is highly valuable.
Skyler: I think they should but they don’t have to. They only have to believe abortion is wrong.
Will: No. I am personally agnostic on the subject of what justice may require in a particular instance of grievous crime.
Sarah: When considering the current widely accepted definition of being pro-life as being against abortion, I do not necessarily think that someone must oppose the death penalty to be pro-life. This is because a person's beliefs on other issues do not change the objective truth that abortion is still wrong. However, I personally believe that to be fully pro-life, one should also oppose the death penalty.
Petra: No. Again, my use of the term is strictly in reference to killing prenatal human life. The death penalty is outside the scope of the term in the way I use it.
Do you think someone must be for stronger gun control to be pro-life?
Nicholas: No, guns protect life more often than naught.
Katherine: No. Gun control does not equal less gun violence. I am anti-“shooting innocent people with guns.” But I believe in people’s right to protect themselves against violence. Gun control only aids criminals, not law abiding citizens. I don’t think that shooting someone who intends to cause me or someone else bodily harm is at odds with my pro-life beliefs. I don’t think that should be my first option by any means. But my pro-life beliefs lead me to protect human life and sometimes the best way to protect life is with a gun.
Daniel: The belief of firearm laws seems to be outside the scope of pro-life views to me.
Sadie: No. Pro-life means anti-abortion. You only need to be against abortion to be pro-life.
Skyler: No. One could argue both sides to this in the name of “pro-life” if they wanted, much like many other issues.
Will: No, but there obviously should be some common sense restrictions on purchasing weapons.
Sarah: No, I don't think the discussion of gun control necessarily relates to the general pro-life movement. Gun control is a complicated topic, and both of the main opposing sides have valid points when it comes to protecting human lives.
Petra: Of course not. This issue, like the death penalty, is outside the scope of the term in the manner I use it.
Do you think the term “pro-life” should apply to anything besides elective abortion?
Nicholas: No, I feel as if it’s dangerous for the movement to expand it to apply to other things. I have no problem with people personally saying “I am pro-life so I believe in [x]” but it could damage our unity to think everyone who is pro-life must believe in something apart from what they signed up for.
Katherine: I think pro-life applies to protecting life and being against anything that intentionally takes innocent human life. I don’t think it means you have to be involved in every “life-bettering” cause out there. I believe that being pro-life can touch on many different causes. But it is primarily about being against the intentional destruction of human life through abortion.
Daniel: I think the term “pro-life” should apply from conception to natural death.
Sadie: Pro-life doesn't need to apply to anything besides elective abortion. I use it to apply to elective abortion and euthanasia, but it is not necessary to apply it to euthanasia. Personally, I do not find the "pro-life" label very helpful because it no longer means simply "anti-abortion" but means too many different and even contradictory things to be useful. I much prefer referring to the individual issues themselves--anti-abortion; anti-euthanasia; pro-death penalty; pro-2nd amendment; etc. The term "pro-life" has largely outlived its usefulness.
Skyler: I think abortion is the foundation of the pro-life movement, but I also believe euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide should be included. I didn’t always know those were pro-life issues or look at them through that view though, so I totally understand if someone in the movement has a different view and welcome them into the pro-life movement with open arms. I truly believe if you are active in the pro-life movement, opinions on other issues will change. The only issue I think you would have to be firm about coming in is your stance against abortion.
Will: Absolutely! Reducing abortions is our primary aim because they are simply so terribly numerous. Here are just a few other areas where we can be pro-life: criminal justice, immigration, sex trafficking, healthcare.
Sarah: Yes, I believe that it should also apply to being against the death penalty, IVF methods, human embryonic research, and physician-assisted suicide.
Petra: No. Other terms can be developed for different issues which encompass actions and worldviews other than or in addition to abortion. There is no need to co-opt an existing term which historically refers to a specific issue and make it mean something else.
Do you feel like the pro-life movement is inclusive or exclusive? How could the movement do better, and/or what would you like to see changed?
Kayla: I believe it's inclusive. I want everyone to be able to have honest conversations with both sides.
Nicholas: Both, but in a good way. Everyone who believes that a baby is a living being that deserves protection can be pro-life but we take care to police our own to weed out our bad apples, such as antisemites.
Katherine: I feel that it is inclusive! If one believes that it is wrong to kill humans through abortion, then they are welcome in the pro-life community. We may disagree on other issues. But the pro-life community unites around the belief that all humans deserve human rights and that abortion is wrong.
Daniel: The pro-life movement is very inclusive, but there is so much propaganda produced by abortion proponents that the movement is, unfortunately, misunderstood.
Sadie: The pro-life movement is inclusive to a fault. As long as you are against abortion (without specifying even in what circumstances you are against abortion), you are welcome in the pro-life movement. The fact that the movement is so broad and undefined is a weakness. You have people within the movement arguing with each other and working towards goals that are not in harmony with each other but rather are in competition with each other. Pro-life legislators, rather than working on making abortion illegal, bicker with each other about which pro-life laws ought to be passed.
Skyler: I think the majority of the pro-life movement is pretty inclusive and rightfully so, we need all of the voices we can to stand up and help save the babies! I do think the pro-life movement could be more welcoming to post-abortive parents who regret their abortions. These are voices that need to be heard and warnings that need to be heeded. However, in recent years the movement has been doing a better job at this and has also implemented more resources for them whether that be helplines or healing classes through pregnancy centers or other organizations.
Will: From what I've seen it is incredibly inclusive and extremely diverse. We can do better to welcome in dialogue those who promote contraception but who are against abortion.
Sarah: The pro-life movement is inclusive in principle, but it could definitely do more to amplify the more diverse voices in the movement. I think the movement should start with giving more room and attention to diverse voices (those who do not hold religious beliefs or those who may identify with the LGBTQ community) even when some may disagree on other non-pro-life issues. By doing so, it will be easier to express to those outside the movement that anyone can and should be pro-life.
Petra: I think it is a lot more inclusive than people think it is. All you need to believe is that killing preborn humans is bad, and we'll accept you. On the other hand, I think the movement could do better about focusing on the common ground (elective abortion is bad/killing prenatal humans is bad) and working outward from there, instead of gatekeeping who is pro-life enough to be accepted and squabbling about tangential topics. To end abortion both legally and culturally, I believe the pro-life movement needs to have room for a variety of voices. Our differences make us stronger, not weaker.
I truly believe there is room in the pro-life movement for everyone from that weird young bright-hair-colored SJW protesting the death penalty and nuclear war to that weird old religious aunt in the Bible belt knitting baby booties for the tiny local PHC, and everyone in between and outside.
For people who complain about wanting pro-lifers to essentially put their money/actions where their mouth is, is there anything you personally do to support your pro-life views which would feel comfortable sharing?
Nicholas: I am not financially capable of supporting much, other than writing for HDI. For now, all I can do is talk to people at college and write an occasional article.
Katherine: I volunteer at a pregnancy resource center where we educate women in parenting, adoption, and abortion. We provide women with free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, decision counseling, and mental health referrals. We provide them with physical, emotional, financial, and mental health support. We provide parenting classes, post abortive services, diapers, and maternity and baby clothes. My family is involved in an adoption ministry called Hearts of Compassion (they partner with Lifesong for Orphans) that gives adoptive families interest free loans and grants to help with their adoption costs. My husband and I give monthly to an orphan ministry in Africa through our church. My husband and I also donated towards mothers/families in need at the border through the Bottles2theBoarder campaign.
Daniel: In honor of our son who was stillborn in 2012, we decided to sponsor two children in third-world countries who had birthdays near his. As we have been able to afford it, we have added more children. Currently, we pay sponsorships monthly for four children and have assisted in the education costs for a fifth child for two years.
Skyler: I manage HDI’s crisis helpline, set up our registries, and counsel mothers facing crisis pregnancies. Although most of our clients are expecting mothers, we also occasionally counsel post-abortive parents. We’re also one of the only helplines to offer peer counseling to post-abortive siblings (those who lost siblings to abortion). In my private life, I became friends with a teen mom in Indonesia and helped her. In the past, I have also supported moms through ReLOVE and my local pregnancy center.
Will: We spend a lot of time with mothers experiencing fear, peer pressure, and poverty. The pro-life movement has poured time and money into caring for them as our sisters. We provide prenatal care, postnatal care, employment, housing, therapy, parent coaching, nurseries, babysitting, and most importantly community.
Sarah: I give a lot of my free time during the week to HDI, mostly assisting with social media, graphic design, and editing. As mentioned before, I see this as an opportunity to amplify the voices of others who I feel have more helpful things to say (compared to myself) when it comes to being pro-life and reaching others about the value of every human life. I also try to give to the registries HDI hosts for women and families in need.
Petra: Most of what I do is already easily searchable via social media. I work at a pregnancy helpline, I march, I give presentations, I write and edit for HDI, occasionally write for Pregnancy Help News, and support local missionaries who minister to local villages in the mountains of western Honduras. However, what I personally do or don't do has absolutely no bearing on whether abortion is morally bad. It's nice to see people's actions back up their words, but justifications for the morality or ethics of an action are not dependent on whether the person making the argument is seemingly a hypocrite or not.
I’m not sure a blanket way of making abortion unthinkable and illegal exists. Instead of shoving some pro-lifers away from the table because they aren’t pro-life enough or pro-life in the way we want them to be, we should be welcoming everyone with whom we can share common ground as we all work to abolish abortion. Yes, it can be hard and weird and awkward to work with someone who has vastly different views than you concerning politics, religion, the economy, social justice, etc. But I think the benefits of being able to engage in good-faith discussion with pro-lifers who look and think differently than you far outweigh the personal discomfort you may feel.
People should feel like they are welcome in the pro-life movement, and perhaps in reading this interview-style article you can find someone here you identify with, or perhaps you can see for the first time the spectrum of beliefs held by people who consider themselves pro-life. Hopefully, too, you see the common theme for each of them. And if you do not see yourself represented, consider sharing this article and answering some of the questions within it on social media. While everyone who answered these questions is religious, for example, we all acknowledge religion is not needed to argue against the atrocity of abortion, and we know there are many, many pro-life people and organizations which are not religious. We know pro-life democrats exist, and pro-life people who want to abolish the prison system, and pro-life feminists, and the list goes on.
You can be against abortion and for the dignity of all human life no matter your age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or any other demographic or label. And maybe you can be the next person to make another pro-lifer feel welcome in the movement and find their niche area of contribution. We need all the help we can get and HDI would love to welcome you! Learn more about how you can get involved by clicking here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.