Jackson: Unite 'pro-life,' 'pro-choice' movements under 'pro-family' banner

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Jesse Davis holds a sign before boarding a bus in Winchester, Va., for the March for Life rally. JEFF TAYLOR / Winchester Star

I think of myself as pro-life. I believe too many abortions occur for convenience, not for medical reasons. But it's naive to think protests, court rulings, or any president will ever end abortion.

References to terminating a pregnancy can be found at least as far back as the Bible's Book of Numbers, which says an adulterous woman should be "made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell, and her womb will miscarry."

Legal or not, there will probably always be abortions in America, even if it means returning to dangerous procedures that could be just as deadly to the women who seek abortions as they are to an unborn child. If the antiabortion movement really wants that to change, it must shift from being pro-life to pro-child.

Instead of putting their faith in the power of politicians or Supreme Court justices to shut down abortion clinics, pro-child advocates should push for public policies and programs that not only help pregnant women make the right choice, but provide readily available and adequate assistance to rear children in safe, healthy, nurturing environments.

It's upsetting that some of the same hypocrites who rightly criticize the prevalence of abortion in America are the first people to raise sand at the notion of spending more tax dollars on prenatal services, adoption, day care, nutrition, early childhood education, Medicaid, and earned income credits.

Many of the same people who weep at the number of teenagers aborting babies rise up in arms at any thought of high schools having health clinics that distribute condoms or provide day care for student mothers. They believe making it more convenient for teen mothers to stay in school encourages sexual activity. Sex-education classes are frowned upon for the same misguided reason.

Urging teens to abstain from sex until marriage should be part of sex education, but taking that vow doesn't guarantee chastity. Conversely, easy access to contraception helps to reduce teen pregnancies. And treating girls who do become pregnant like students, rather than lepers who might infect others with some promiscuity germ, could be the difference in their choosing not to have an abortion.

A pro-child movement would elect a Congress that makes it easier for women to choose motherhood. It would recognize that the pro-life movement has spun its wheels for more than four decades trying to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made most abortions legal. Every time a Republican becomes president, the pro-life movement believes it's closer to its goal, only to be disappointed.

By now it should be clear that even conservative jurists appointed to the Supreme Court have had a hard time finding enough fault with Roe v. Wade to overturn it. Maybe President Trump will eventually stack the court with enough right-wing justices to reach a different outcome? But nearly 50 years after Roe, that seems unlikely.

Unable to overturn Roe, the pro-life movement has placed more emphasis on closing abortion clinics. It has had success in states whose legislatures have imposed expensive hospital-quality rules on abortion providers, which has caused many to close. The irony is that most abortions are performed at clinics because most hospitals wanted to avoid carrying that politically hot football after the Roe ruling.

Considerable pressure has been put on Congress to remove federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. Trump even made that one of his campaign promises. But just as they're doing in attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans haven't offered a viable plan to replace what they are trying to end.

Planned Parenthood provides clinical services other than abortion, including tests for cervical, ovarian, and breast cancer. Where will women go for those services if Planned Parenthood is shuttered?

Tax-averse Republicans aren't promising to redirect the federal money they want to take away from Planned Parenthood to open additional health clinics across America that would provide medical services other than abortion. Without such a plan, one must conclude that many of the politicians attacking Planned Parenthood are more interested in getting elected than promoting women's health or saving babies.

Instead of labeling each other, people who believe in both efforts should unite under a common banner. Call it pro-child, or even better, pro-family. The aim would be the same: to start electing people who agree that instead of continuing to spend billions elsewhere, including to manufacture weapons that are already obsolete, America, with its shrinking birthrate, needs to invest in supporting families and women who would choose life if they knew someone had their back.

Harold Jackson is editorial page editor for the Inquirer. hjackson@phillynews.com