An Open Letter to my “Pro-Life” Friends

To all of my fellow Catholics, Christians and Pro-Life Friends, and anyone who will read, Post March-for-Life day 2,

Admittedly, I used to consider myself Pro-life……and I still do, if I am correct on what that term means.  However after recent Executive Orders by President Trump and the consistent message I saw while following the “March for Life” that really it was solely about unborn babies lives, I just don’t feel comfortable calling myself Pro-Life.  Obviously I am making some generalizations and the media focused on abortion as the primary issue at the march (as it always does) and I realize that.  I’m hoping to clarify how I reached my current impression of the label “Pro-Life” and reach out to my pro-life friends as an olive branch to help me not feel this way.  Because I know all of my friends who attended the March for Life are loving, holy, beautiful people.  While our FB relationship is our main mode of contact these days, I have at some point lived near (or am related to) each of you and gratefully gotten to know you on a personal level and what Grace-filled people you are.  But here is what I don’t understand:

Is the term “Pro-Life” meant to only refer to those lives that are in the womb?  Because I am really confused.  I watched the coverage of the March for Life, and the only mention I saw of other life issues was was a brief clip of someone interviewing people, and a tiny minority of those mentioned the other issues (like helping the lives of the poor, the outcast, the immigrant, the refugees).  All of the signs were just about abortion.  That’s it. I understand the theology, philosophy, and teaching behind life starts at conception.  Since I’m also a physician trained broadly I also understand the physiology and science behind it.  I totally agree.  Human life starts with conception. And ALL human life is equal in dignity, and we should defend the dignity of natural life from womb to tomb until our dying breath.

So here is where I am confused.  If we agree on the above bits, which I think we really do, then why do I get the overwhelming impression that those who ascribe to the “Pro-Life” mantra and attended the March (or would have if they could) only did so for the dignity of lives within the womb?  I realize I am vague here.  Let me explain how I get that impression.  First of all, I recognize Facebook is not the perfect sample, but it happens to be one of my only avenues for connection to my friends and family far away and what they think, feel and prioritize (and to see their joyous moments and rejoice for them).  I’ve also not subscribed to other social media outlets because, well, they can be pretty addicting and I discovered facebook first (although I am rethinking this strategy).  And for a good 90% of my Facebook friends and family that attended this year’s March and have, I know, attended in years past, the sole political and/or life related thing that is ever ever posted on their wall is regarding abortion.  Likewise, the sole thing on my facebook feed that ever gets any likes from them are posts against abortion.  Otherwise it’s fun family and personal photos for both posts and likes.  I know facebook feeds us what we want to see based on our history.  I totally get that not everyone can advocate for everything and so prioritizing and focusing on a cause of utmost importance is necessary.    It’s similar to medicine.  The majority of American Doctors specialize and get a narrow focus because it is really hard to do a bit of everything and know one’s limitations.  We also don’t get paid well to be Generalists, so it’s less fiscally rewarding for more burden.  Within the wide umbrella of pro-life causes, it is good that we have some who make their specialty fighting against abortion and it’s also good that we have generalists for the pro-life cause.  I see some parallels though to those who have made eliminating abortion their pro-life cause at the exclusion of all else to a certain ilk of specialist I have come across in the medical field.  Being a family medicine doc first and then a geriatrician who is a generalist in all things aging, I have found two types of specialists.  The first type are for their patients first, and therefore appreciate and communicate with me for what I add to our mutual goal of caring for patients even if it means our patients don’t need their specialty services for a time.  Then there are the second type of specialists who find me threatening (fear me) because they know, particularly for the Geriatric population, if our mutual patients don’t need a procedure they offer that the patients will consolidate all their medical care with me (because it’s safer and more convenient).  And they will lose patient volume until a procedure is necessary, at which point I will instead refer to one of the first types of specialists who I know communicates with me.  Thus the second type of specialist also looses the lucrative procedure that I otherwise would have referred them.  The second specialist approach is actually self-defeating.  They are unwilling to concede that perhaps anyone other than themselves might benefit the whole of the patient.   They eventually lose business and word gets out that they don’t play well with others. Yes, I’m using the well-being of a patient as a representation of the Pro-life movement as a whole.  To date, I have never seen any of that 90% I referred to ever even acknowledge that there are other issues that greatly threaten the dignity of human life.  I’m not asking to make those issues your specialty within your advocacy for life, but some appreciation of those other issues is indeed helpful and crucial to the whole of the “pro-life” cause.  And without communicating it, I can’t tell at all that you have that appreciation.  Which baffles me, because I know you love and know the gospels and also recognize that there is far more to the defense of the dignity of life than the defense of the unborn.

I saw many posts from Facebook friends from the March for Life and consistently only the unborn were mentioned.  Check that, I saw a friend note first their enthusiasm for ending abortion, and then tagged on that they were in defense of the dignity of natural life from womb to tomb.  I find the “tomb” bit vague.  The “Right to Life” coalition where I currently reside has diabolically miscommunicated to the masses that they feel defending life at the tomb end means using artificial and invasive means to maintain people having a heartbeat for as long as feasible.  Instead of celebrating and dignifying natural life, it has lead to horrifically undignified, artificial and unnatural means of intervening with what is clearly God’s will to bring His creation home to Him.  That’s possibly a pet peeve of mine due to my profession in Geriatrics and witnessing first hand the ramifications of certain types of propaganda at the end of life.  Still, there’s this thing I can’t figure.  If we are Pro All Life, womb to tomb, regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion or creed, then why are none of the Pro-Lifers as the March for Life (that I know, and I know quite a few) speaking up for other life issues, at all.  I mean, again, I get that your specialty and priority within pro-life is ending abortion.  But does that also mean you can’t say anything against the recent Executive Orders that have literally denied refugees, the poor, immigrants just looking for somewhere to have the freedom of dignity of life?  Can you not acknowledge other life issues?  Will you counter President Trump with his other anti-life policies, like restricting refugees (Matthew 25: 35-40) from specific countries that he deems a threat (but interestingly not the countries where the most terrorist have originated that he also has business dealings with)?  Or like suggesting he’d keep a running tally of all the crimes committed by immigrants or Muslims (this is exactly what Hitler did to the Jews to kick off the Holocaust)?  Will you speak out against gutting the Affordable Care Act before an iota of an idea for a replacement plan exists, thus ripping basic LIFE-saving healthcare from millions of Americans?  Will you not speak out against the type of “locker-room-talk” and objectifying language that President Trump has routinely uses that certainly does not bring women (the well being of which predicates a successful pregnancy and birth as women are the vessel of the unborn life) up?  I have been paying attention, and while perhaps you also feel at your heart these other issues are important and maybe even prayed on it, the very clear image you have presented to the world is one that makes pro-life solely about abortion without any communication to suggest you acknowledge the other issues.  And I, frankly, really just want to know if you do?  If it was part of the March for Life, if you discussed things that were important to the dignity of every human life other than only abortion, could you please just say so, make one comment about some other than abortion life related issue in your postings and advertisements about your participation in the March, or even like this when I post it on Facebook?

Pope Francis’ gracious message to President Trump concluded in this way, “Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door.”  The reference to Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke, I believe, is crucial here.  Luke 16: 19-31 is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  All we know about the rich man from the Gospel is that he was rich, dressed fancy and ate quite well……….and also he is the only person in all of the parables of the Gospels who definitively landed himself in hell.  What landed him there?  Nothing other than being rich and not opening his door to Lazarus, the poor man.  I don’t know why, but I do know that the only person the Gospels suggest is undoubtedly permanently separated from God was a man whose only sin was to be rich and get too comfortable (not a murderer, a sexual deviant, or a democrat), and in doing so ignore Lazarus.  I’m not a huge fan of fear tactics as fear of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (all of humanity) only breads anger and hate.  But fear of God is worthy fear.  So I ask those who marched for life, can you not see the parallels between Lazarus and the poor immigrants and refugees of the world knocking at our door?   Do you acknowledge that there are many other issues just as important as ending abortion to the Pro-Life cause?  If so, please say so.  It doesn’t need to be your main thing, but by ignoring the other issues or refusing to acknowledge them due to your devotion to abortion, it seems as though you are acting like the second type of specialists I referenced.  That type of medicine is detrimental to the well-being of patients.  My fear is that the type of Pro-Life activism which emphasizes ending abortion through legislation and Executive Orders at the exclusion of all other life issues is similarly self-defeating and detrimental to the Pro-Life cause as a whole.  Enlighten me, clarify this for me, and really just acknowledge that there is more to being Pro-Life than the issue of abortion.  And if not, just tell me so I can separate myself from the Pro-only unborn life movement and work to create a Pro-All Life movement based in the truth and love of the Gospels.


4 comments on “An Open Letter to my “Pro-Life” Friends

  1. Pierrette Grondin

    May 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm Reply

    Thank you for stating so eloquently what so many of us strive to explain to others and to understand our own feelings about this truly challenging question.

  2. Shielding Cournoyer

    May 28, 2017 at 5:10 am Reply

    “I don’t know why, but I do know that the only person the Gospels suggest is undoubtedly permanently separated from God was a man whose only sin was to be rich and get too comfortable (not a murderer, a sexual deviant, or a democrat)”

    Brilliant. I wish you’d come back to cws. Many nice things are being said there about this piece.

    • Shannon Tapia MD

      May 28, 2017 at 1:26 pm Reply

      Thanks for commenting! I’ll be back in time, just need to focus on some other stuff right now.

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