photo credit: sfPhotocraft

Double standards are found everywhere in the words and actions of the political class. One of the most striking examples comes from the religious right which likes to claim that it is “pro-life” while usually also being in favor of war. This hypocritical position renders meaningless their claim to supporting life—you cannot be pro-life without also opposing war.

One of the GOP’s most ardent advocates of military might is Senator John McCain, who in an attempt to frame himself as a pro-life candidate declared on the campaign trail of his 2008 presidential bid that “for 24 years, I’ve fought for the rights of the unborn.” Rick Santorum’s spokesman says that the former Senator “was always a solid pro-life vote, wrote and passed pro-life legislation, and consistently received the highest rankings from pro-life groups.” These and many other supporters of military intervention abroad claim to be among the most ardent defenders of life.

George Bush, his father before him, Mitt Romney (the current version, not the Massachusetts one), Jim DeMint, and any other rising or current star in the conservative Republican field adopts the rhetoric that the supposedly pro-life ideology requires. One of this group’s leading figures, Ronald Reagan, summarized the entire pro-life message this way: “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life—the unborn—without diminishing the value of all human life.”

To be consistent, Reagan’s quote cannot simply be applied to unborn. Rather, it must apply to all categories of human life, not just the babies-to-be that rightly receive so much attention. But it seems that many in the pro-life crowd would amend Reagan’s words to say “American life” rather than “human life.”

In other words, they myopically value only the lives of their own countrymen, giving little to no thought for the lives of the foreign, faceless masses they need not be worried about. Should the life of an American be valued more than that of, say, someone in Afghanistan? Should a pro-life person add qualifiers to convey that they’re not really in favor of every life?

The outright fraud of the pro-life claim by advocates of war is exposed when pondering the results of the interventions these politicians support: millions displaced, hundreds of thousands of innocent dead, untold starvation, sickness, and destruction. It is logically impossible to support the cause of such fiendish butchery and still be thought to support life.

Ignoring these heartbreaking problems—and with them, the rest of the non-American world—does not diminish the claim that those who support war are not pro-life. Think of the lives destroyed domestically through war: dead and maimed soldiers, failed marriages, fatherless children, PTSD, suicide, and a lengthy list of other consequences of war wreak havoc on the lives of soldiers and their loved ones. Life is damaged and destroyed through war. To support and protect life, then, requires opposing war.

As with any rule, there are exceptions; sometimes war is absolutely necessary. This (ideally rare) exception, however, does not justify the non-defensive, unconstitutional, perpetual, and costly wars being waged abroad by the American government at present. Yes, a few thousand innocent Americans tragically died on 9/11. No, their deaths do not justify killing other innocent individuals—especially magnitudes of order more.

If we genuinely care about life, then we cannot regard our own life as having any more worth than the life of another individual. Each innocent person’s life is of equal value and worth protecting. The pro-life crowd will not legitimately earn its self-imposed title until it consistently opposes unjust and unnecessary wars, thereby supporting not just the life of the unborn, or of the American, but all life.

This group has a compelling opportunity to correct their hypocrisy and become legitimately pro-life. Last week, 16 innocent and unarmed Afghanis were brutally slaughtered in their homes by an American soldier. Imagine the outcry from conservative Republicans if a gun-toting Muslim invaded the homes of a quiet suburban neighborhood and massacred an equal number of Americans!

Unfortunately, relative silence is all that can now be heard. The event is being covered by the media, sure, but it has not generated the controversy and protests that would occur in the opposite scenario just described. This specific circumstance illustrates the double standard prevalent in the pro-life movement. Perhaps if 16 mothers decided to coordinate the abortion of their babies weeks before their due dates, the pro-lifers would be called to arms, demand justice, and flood the media with sound bytes expressing the need to support life. That such a situation has not occurred with the Afghanis murdered at the hand of an American is quite telling.

Being pro-life means just that—it does not mean only being pro-unborn life or pro-American life. The Declaration of Independence notes that all men are created equal, that they all are endowed with unalienable rights, and that they all have the right to their own life. There is no footnote or exemption for individuals living half a world away; categorizing people as “collateral damage” does not diminish their rights nor justify their death.

To be truly pro-life, then, one must oppose the wars that unjustly harm or end the lives of innocent individuals. Mother Teresa, a vocal supporter of life, noted that in every abortion “there are two victims: a dead baby and a dead conscience.”

So, too, with war.


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