For decades, those who opposed abortion attempted to humanize the growing fetus, the preborn baby. Thanks for years of hard work from dedicated pro-lifers and to ultrasounds, three-dimensional sonograms, and scientific breakthroughs on fetal development, even pro-choicers have admitted that yes, the thing growing inside a woman is a human baby. But what happens when pro-lifers stop there, when they cast aside every other vulnerable human being and focus solely on the baby? A stalled movement.
Abortion is not all about the baby. The pro-life position should not be all about the baby. The mother needs help. She’s in a vulnerable position. The abortion workers are people too, many of whom went into their jobs with good intentions. Dehumanization of any group of human beings is contrary to the pro-life position.
When Abby Johnson, who worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years, rising to the position of director of her clinic, walked out after assisting in an ultrasounded-guided abortion and realized the inherent humanity in the womb, she started a ministry that humanized abortion workers. She loved them and helped them to leave their jobs and find life-affirming ones. She’s helped over 500 abortion workers leave the industry, including seven doctors.
Groups like Feminists Choosing Life of New York, Feminists for Life, and New Wave Feminists have turned the focus from babies to women and all of their needs. They have rightly focused on the value of having a consistent life ethic by cherishing all human life from conception to natural death and abhorring all violence.
Recent news has focused on the challenges that people crossing the southern border of our country are facing. There are no shortage of news stories that have covered the terrible circumstances and conditions families and children are facing. Destiny Herndon-De Le Rosa, who heads up New Wave Feminists, read those stories and decided to take action. I joined her in creating the Bottles2TheBorder campaign, an effort to help children especially who were released by detention centers and sent to a respite center in Texas along the border.
These kids have nothing. Babies have no clean diapers. There are no toys. No one has shoelaces because they were taken at the border when deemed a weapon. Water is a persistent need. We set up an Amazon registry with everything the respite center needed and it sold out in two days. We set up another one and had to close it early to sort through all the donations before we take them to the border this weekend.
The campaign took off totally on its own, organically appealing to the desire of pro-lifers to do something, anything. But then there are the people who commented on our social media posts saying things like "we have enough people here" or "these people (migrants) are entering illegally so we shouldn’t help" or “by helping we are aiding traffickers.”
Whether you’re saying it inwardly or outwardly, you're really excusing yourself from being pro-life. You may simply be anti-abortion. Don’t say you’re pro-life.
We cannot continue to fight for the dignity of human life and dehumanize people - that includes people of any race, sexual orientation, religion, or political party. I can disagree with a person or their actions and still treat them with dignity and respect. Some of the comments I have read from self-proclaimed pro-lifers and Christians have really made me shake my head.
I also understand that many of the people who are making statements may not have thought through what they believe. Maybe they have never really been around a multi-ethnic community. But ignorance should cause us to ask questions, not make statements.
Asylum is a form of protection that is granted to individuals who are fleeing their own country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion. People requesting asylum at the US border have the right to do so without being criminalized, turned back or separated from their children. They are seeking safety. Many asylum seekers come from countries where there is conflict, disaster or a weak rule of law.
To be eligible for asylum, a person must ask for it at a port of entry. There is no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization to enter in advance when seeking asylum; you have to show up at the border. These people are following the process that is in place. They are in this country legally, according to the process of seeking asylum.
Earlier this year, Venezuelans and Central Americans were among the largest groups of people to apply for asylum in the United States. People living in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are enduring violence that mimics a war zone. Many Central Americans fleeing to the U.S. border have traveled together in caravans for safety. The number of illegal border crossings is at historic lows according to Customs and Border Patrol figures. What has increased is people seeking protection. In their eyes, there is no place scarier than their own homes right now.
I live in Houston, Texas, the most diverse city in the United States. Many of my friends migrated to this country to escape guerrilla warfare in Nicaragua, communism in Vietnam,, Christian persecution in Nigeria, and gang violence in Mexico to seek opportunities because of oppression in their homeland. Many migrants have endured harsh treatment and conditions, some have been abused and raped along the way, and yet they are willing to risk it. Many of them know the dangers of the journey, but they come anyway.
True freedom comes when we no longer deny others their rights so that some of us can be "free". There is no freedom in keeping others underfoot, in dehumanizing others, for we will always be bound to them in contempt. True freedom and empowerment doesn't clinch its fists, it opens its hand.
As a person who holds to a pro-life view, I have to ask myself if I lived in a world where abortion was unthinkable, but hunger, homelessness, and hopelessness had increased, would I have accomplished my "pro-life" mission? We must love our neighbor - that includes those who are addicted, abused, abandoned, accessing abortion, working in abortion facilities and yes, those seeking asylum at our Southern border.
Pamela Whitehead is Projects Manager at And Then There Were None.