Where Is the Pro-Life Movement Headed?

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Last week, Tim Padgett of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview asked me to participate in a Breakpoint symposium with other Christian leaders (Roland Warren, Kristan Hawkins, Ed Stetzer, Bruce Ashford, Scott Klusendorf, and more). We were given the space of 300 words to respond to the following question:

“Some have said that America has never been closer to reversing Roe vs. Wade, but a pro-life culture—in which abortion is not just illegal but unthinkable—appears to be as elusive as ever. How would you describe the state of the pro-life movement today, including its promises and hurdles?”

I encourage you check out the various answers, which offer some good insight into the state of the pro-life cause in 2019. I chose to answer this question by focusing on the internal debate over broad or narrow strategy. Here’s the answer I sent in:

The existence of a vibrant pro-life movement 46 years after the Supreme Court’s sanction of elective abortion marks it out from other social protests. There is no widespread movement to reinstate prohibition, or to revisit the question of women’s suffrage. In contrast, the pro-life cause continues to flourish, especially among younger generations.

But the pro-life movement today is at a crossroads regarding how expansive its focus should be and what strategy will be most effective in ending violence against unborn humanity. What does it mean to be pro-life? Should the focus of the movement be on ending abortion or something broader?

A number of abortion opponents find the vague and ever-expanding definition of “pro-life” to be problematic. They may prefer “abortion abolitionists,” or they may use “pro-life” and “anti-abortion” interchangeably, seeing the latter as a worthy addition to a long history of labels indicating strong and persistent protest of injustice (think “anti-slavery” or “anti-trafficking” or “anti-war”).

The debate over terminology reveals the different lines within the movement as a whole. Should we demand consistency on a number of issues under the big umbrella of being “pro-life” (such as immigration reform, capital punishment, gun control, support for the poor), or should we allow for inconsistencies because we are united around a targeted, more manageable goal of accomplishing one particular achievement (overturning Roe v. Wade)?

By broadening the meaning of “pro-life,” we run the risk of alienating people who would join forces with us against the travesty of abortion. By narrowing the meaning to “anti-abortion,” we make room for inconsistencies that may seem hypocritical and harm the overall cause. While Christians are called to push for holistic thinking in our churches, the question remains whether, strategically and politically, the best approach is to partner with anyone, however inconsistent in their thinking, as long as they want to protect the unborn.

There are a number of good responses to this question over at Breakpoint’s Symposium. I recommend you check out the others also.
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