Abortion & social justice:
“prolife progressive” is not an oxymoron

Commonweal
6 January 2017

It should be easy to be a prolife progressive. If we could somehow start from scratch and map out political alliances and coalitions according to the logic of people’s stated values, social-justice advocacy would coalesce with the defense of the unborn at any number of points: a preference for working at the causes, not just the symptoms, of social ills; a commitment to pursuing nonviolent alternatives, even where many see violence as justifiable; a principled suspicion of any rhetorical move that defines human creatures as outside our circle of regard or rights; above all, an insistence on testing all policies according to how they affect the most vulnerable.

In reality, of course, it is quite hard to be a prolife progressive. The current political cycle offers no shortage of fresh reminders as to why. President-elect Donald Trump was once “very prochoice” but now, in a brazenly opportunistic gesture to social-conservative voters, claims that he has “evolved” and is “very prolife.” Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, both bragged about having the most consistent “prochoice” record. Hardly anyone in either party seeks to stand out from the crowd by proposing to couple European-level abortion restrictions after twenty or even thirteen weeks with robust proposals for paid family leave, which would make continuing pregnancy a more imaginable “choice” for struggling women or at-risk families. In this environment, a politics that is both prolife and progressive might seem like a fantasy.

Still, it is worth continuing to imagine. As Pope Francis has underscored, “everything is connected.” …

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