Last January, at my presentation to the Students for Life of America east coast conference, I was asked a question that I don’t recall verbatim but was something along the lines of: “Rather than making the case against abortion in isolation, shouldn’t we instead work to advance a pro-life worldview, like by converting people to Catholicism?” I don’t remember my exact answer; it was probably fine, but it was very off-the-cuff and short because the session was about to end.
The question resurfaced in my mind recently. Eleven months later, with no further ado, here’s my better answer in two parts:
(1) Practicality: What the pro-life movement is asking for is so basic—don’t kill babies!—that it’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews. Not all worldviews, sadly, but many. That’s why you’ll find pro-life Catholics, atheists, evangelicals, Jews, agnostics, mainline Protestants, Muslims, neo-pagans, and so on.
It’s much easier to convince a person that the pro-life position is compatible with their pre-existing worldview than it is to change that person’s whole worldview. That’s especially true in the time-limited situations that activists frequently encounter.
(2) The hidden cost: Getting someone to adopt a “pro-life worldview” sounds great, but what happens if the person’s worldview changes? Time and time again I’ve seen people who grew up in strict religious households abandon their Christian worldviews in favor of atheism or agnosticism, and become pro-choice at the same time—throwing out the literal baby with the metaphorical bathwater. If people are taught that being pro-life is a mere accessory to some larger cause, and don’t have a solid independent basis to reject abortion, we risk tying the success of the pro-life movement to factors completely out of our control.
So there you have it, better late than never! If you’d like to hear me elaborate more on these thoughts, come to the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life on January 20, 2018 at Georgetown, where pro-life student leaders will explore the theme “(Ir)religiously Pro-Life: The Future of the Movement in a Secular World.”