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The Essential Pro-Life Argument: Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second story window and into the bushes below.


The girl lived. Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles—and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. A pastor asked if time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator at a local parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from rich corporations. The local Congressman asked if Joe supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk.

Joe just kept looking at the girl.

The above story is contrived, but it’s played out in the real world every day. Only the issue is abortion. The minute you state your pro-life convictions, foes attack. 

Pastor John Pavlovitz is a case in point. According to Pavlovitz, you are not truly “pro-life” unless you engage a host of other issues “as vigorously, passionately, and loudly” as you do abortion. He wishes pro-lifers “actually gave more of a damn” about kids once they are born and that all human beings mattered to us “as much as Caucasian embryos do.” If you were truly pro-life,  “you would want to do more than prevent abortions.”

“You’d want to prevent hunger and poverty. You’d want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution. You’d want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia. You’d want kids in the “bad neighborhood” to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the “good neighborhood.” You’d want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden....You’d want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated. You’d want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness....You’d want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won’t have to replace their daily meals.”


Suppose Pavlovitz is right about pro-lifers. What follows? 

Certainly nothing that refutes the essential pro-life argument. That argument goes like this:

P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.

P2: Abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings.


C: Abortion is wrong.

So, all that is required to be “truly pro-life” is to speak and act as if abortion is wrong. That’s enough for me and it should be enough for any pro-life organization. Pavlovitz presents no argument for why pro-lifers must do more. Instead, he equivocates. He twists “pro-life” to mean quality of life for those outside the womb instead of protection of life for those still in. Then, he attacks pro-lifers as hypocrites for not exhausting their scarce resources fighting every injustice imaginable. 

This is slanderous. Why should anyone believe that because you oppose the intentional killing of an innocent human being, you must therefore take responsibility for all societal ills? Imagine saying to the American Cancer Society, “If you were truly against disease, you’d fight other illnesses as vigorously, as passionately, as loudly as you do cancer.”

Or, consider the gall of telling Black Lives Matter, “You don’t care about Black lives, only those killed by police brutality. If you gave more of a damn, you’d actively defend all black lives, including those harmed by Islamic slave traders, drunk drivers, abortion, gang violence, black-on-black crime, malnutrition, and suicide. But you don’t. You only care about what’s easy for you—picking on white cops.”


Indeed, why is Pavlovitz’s “whole-life” argument never used against other groups who target specific forms of injustice? If an after-school daycare program only receives inner-city kids from 3PM to 5PM weekdays, will Pavlovitz blast them for only caring about people during those hours? 

That he won’t is proof that he doesn’t believe his own argument. He just picks on pro-lifers. 

Moreover, Pavlovitz is mistaken when he says pro-lifers don’t care. According to Philanthropy Roundtable, religious conservatives are very generous. Meanwhile, pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) outnumber abortion clinics by large margins. They provide single moms abortion-alternatives, parenting classes, and baby clothes. According to research published in The Public Discourse, 2,300 PRCs serve 1.9 million women and their children every year. Unlike Planned Parenthood, PRCs can’t count on government money. They are funded largely by generous pro-lifers. 

Finally, Pavlovitz’s leveling attempts are mind-boggling. Are we to believe that denying someone a bigger paycheck is morally equivalent to dismembering a pre-born human being?

If you think that, your moral compass is broken. 

Of course abortion isn’t the only issue, any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or killing Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of their day. 

Abortion intentionally kills a million innocent human beings every year. Given that brutal reality, pro-lifers are right to put greater emphasis on the lives of the unborn than the paychecks of the born. Demanding they do more is like telling an abolitionist in 1860, “You can’t be against slavery unless you address its underlying causes.” 


Slavery is wrong. Abortion is wrong. Neither statement requires further qualification. 

Opposing the intentional killing of innocent human beings in the womb is the very essence of what it means to be pro-life. As my colleague Dr. Marc Newman points out, “Individuals and organizations that make it their exclusive mission to save these human beings from a culture hell-bent on butchering them have nothing to apologize for. They don’t need additional causes; they need additional support.”

I wish pastor Pavlovitz had the heart to step up and give it.

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