America: Culture of Life?

Huddled in our COVID cocoons, some of us celebrated Christmas, bade goodbye to 2021, and welcomed 2022 with prudent ambivalence. Wearily clinging to Zoom and FaceTime, we checked in with loved ones scattered across the globe. Some of us, resentful of lives grown small and circumscribed by fear, booked vacations and family reunions in a restless holiday leap back into the deliciously big world we used to love with insatiable abandon. We Americans are greedily accustomed to a life of abundance and freedom as our birthright.

So why, as a people, are we so parsimonious about sharing our birthright with every American? Why have so many of us reduced America’s culture of life to a myopically militant and politicized campaign against abortion? What about life after birth?

Just to be clear: There is no question in my mind that intentionally terminating a pregnancy is a desperately violent act, but, for me, the deeper question is what drives a woman to commit violence when she is carrying within her the promise of new life? Women who are confidently surrounded by a generous culture of life to not need or seek an abortion.

We all need help raising our children…

I’m reminded of the women in the Middle Passage who threw themselves and their babies into the sea rather than subject themselves to the violence of enslavement that extinguished all hope of life. Or the agonized Jewish parents who stifled their babies’ cries to save their families from extermination.

Rather than focus so harshly on the women (and men) who choose abortion as the lesser of unconscionable choices, why aren’t we focused on the relentless structural violence that surrounds so many people who cannot see beyond their fear of life? Why don’t we give them reasons to rekindle their love for life?

There are societies that don’t have an abortion problem; they have universal healthcare, generous paid parental leave, and universal, high-quality, affordable daycare. Of course, they are not Utopias—but the point is that they have public policies that don’t abandon and shame parents who need help raising their children. We all need help raising our children—every child needs the village backing up and surrounding her parents with support and resources to nurture young lives. I don’t understand why Americans are so opposed to government sharing our collective abundance to keep the village heart and backbone strong and stable so that every family can care for their own with love. This is not a culture of life.

The true, barbaric violence of abortion in America is our failure to honor, support and invest in the human dignity and rights of families. It is not simply that women and men don’t want their babies—we are a society that doesn’t really want babies. But we want to force parents to bring children into a society that doesn’t want them and won’t help parents care for them. We would rather pay for a lifetime of punitive policing and incarceration of unwanted juveniles and adults. This is not a culture of life.

Ending abortion will not make America a culture of life. We cannot be a culture of life without love. And justice is the public face of love.

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