Author’s note: January 22, 2018 is the 45th Anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across America.
When I tell you I’m pro-life, this is what I mean.
I mean I believe in the right to life: that every living human being deserves to live. That if there are any universal human rights at all, the first and most fundamental must be the right to life. Without life, no other rights matter. That’s not to say other rights aren’t important. Liberty, free speech, etc., are great but they won’t do you any good if you are not alive. It is the prerequisite to all other rights.
When I tell you I’m pro-life, I mean you have a right not to have your life ended by the culpable actions of another person. In other words, I am anti-killing. More broadly, I generally see violence (and especially deadly force) as a really bad solution to most problems. This means, I stand against police brutality, drone assassinations, and capital punishment. This means I’m usually against war except in rare circumstances. I think using war to solve socio-political problems is like trying to do surgery with a spoon: you had better make sure that this really is the least bad option because if you go in, it’s going to be very messy.
When I say I’m pro-life, I mean I see all human lives as radically equal. That’s why I speak out against human trafficking, racism, sexism, religious discrimination, and all forms of abuse and unjust discrimination. Anything that says that one human life is worth more or less than another is to be resisted. This means when I see individual instances of this abuse and discrimination I speak up. It also means I work against systemic abuse and discrimination that is built into our society culturally and legally. Because of this fundamental human equality, I believe that we have a duty to give the most help to those who are most vulnerable and in need and to structure our society in a way that favors the lost, the last, and the least. The fancy Catholic term for this is the preferential option for the poor. It’s why I stand up for the homeless, the poor, immigrants, orphans, single parents, and refugees.
When I say I’m pro-life, I mean I believe that human life is valuable in and of itself. That means, even if no one is actively violating your right to life, I will work to help you live your life to the fullest. That’s why I support affordable health care for all. That’s why I think we should responsibly care for our planet. It also means that I don’t think you need to accomplish anything or have any special qualities to make your life worthy of respect from others. By virtue of existing, your life is precious. That’s why I advocate for those with special needs and disabilities. It’s why I stand up for women and men, and for children and the elderly. It’s also why I will work for your good even when your opinions are wrong and your choices are destructive. I hope you will do the same for me when I’m wrong and destructive.
It’s also why I believe that the good of living is bigger than the evil of suffering. No pain or struggle that you go through can make your life less valuable. This is why I am against suicide and euthanasia. If you are suffering and in pain, I will always tell you that your life is worth living. That no matter what trials you are going through, you matter to God and to me. Please don’t give in to those dark voices that tell you otherwise. That tell you to give up. That tell you that there is nothing more for you in this life. And please remind me of these same things when I face those voices.
When I tell you I’m pro-life and that each of these issues breaks my heart, none breaks my heart more than abortion. Abortion falls into every one of the above categories. Abortion says violence is a solution to the problem. Abortion says that some lives are worth more than others. Abortion says that a life is not valuable unless it satisfies certain requirements. Abortion says that it is better to kill someone who will probably suffer than to let them live. Beyond this, the sheer number of abortions dwarfs all other issues.
High estimates of the number of total deaths during the last Iraq War are around 300,000.
Predicted future deaths each year from climate change worldwide? 60,000 - 260,000.
Deaths of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border since 2000? About 6,000 - 7,000.
Annual deaths from malnutrition and starvation in the US? 1,800.
Deaths from capital punishment in the US since 1976? About 1,400.
Abortions in America? More than 2,000 a day. More than 900,000 a year.
More than 50 million since Roe vs. Wade, 45 years ago today.
When I tell you I’m pro-life, and about all the life issues that I am for and against, I don’t pretend to know exactly how to achieve these goals culturally or politically. I have some opinions, but if I’m honest, I don’t know for sure what problems would be best addressed by greater personal virtue, increased charitable giving, a stronger economy, a larger social safety net, a different tax structure, or a greater/lesser amount of government regulation or funding. I know that other people define being pro-life in other ways, and I don’t presume that everyone who calls themselves pro-life would agree with everything I’ve written here.
But when I tell you I’m pro-life, this is what I mean.
Mike Tenney has spent the past 15 years speaking, teaching, and leading worship and retreats for youth and young adults of various backgrounds and faiths. Mike has been a featured musician and speaker for national, regional, archdiocesan, and parish events including the Couples for Christ National Youth Conference, Catholic Underground, Life Teen XLT's, Theology on Taps, and Christ in the City. He has shared the stage and worked alongside Matt Maher, Jason Evert, Steve Angrisano, Jesse Manibusan, and Chris Padgett. You can find more about Mike and his ministry including online talks at www.MikeTenneyMusic.com and follow him @pkMikeyT.