In the Dec. 20, 2016 issue of Commonweal magazine, this sentence appeared in an article entitled, "Abortion and Social Justice": "Nothing would do more to energize social-justice movements than a broad-based coalition that was able to break through the impasse of abortion politics in the United States."
How true that is. We would have to admit that "impasse of abortion politics" pretty much describes exactly the situation in our current political climate. Partisan politics being what they are, both Republicans and Democrats have exaggerated their positions and platforms to the point where, as the U.S. bishops remind us, we find that we cannot fully align ourselves with either party.
Abortion has become a lightning rod in partisan politics, but as Catholics, we are obliged to oppose it as an unacceptable assault on human life and dignity. The point of the article cited above, however, rings true for us - our Catholic ethics unquestionably assert the value of life from the moment of conception until natural death. But we often find a strange and unwarranted opposition between "pro-life" positions and "social justice" positions. In truth, there should be no divide, no disagreement and no dispute.
A number of thinkers on this issue are calling attention to a new pro-life movement that attempts to integrate the entire viewpoint of Catholic social teaching - and surprisingly, some of the organizations that support this position are purely secular.
This perspective can go by many names - a consistent life ethic, a seamless garment perspective, a whole life movement. Regardless of how it is described, the groups that have this outlook all have one thing in common. They are adamantly opposed to abortion, as well as all other assaults on human life and dignity like the death penalty, domestic violence, war, poverty and environmental injustice.
One group is actually called The New Pro-Life Movement. One interesting aspect of their opposition to abortion (which they assert as "completely, totally and without reservation"), is that they focus more on the demand issues of abortion, rather than supply issues. In other words, their emphasis is on addressing the factors that cause women to seek out abortions, rather than focusing only on restricting access to abortion. A group with a similar perspective is called New Wave Feminists, who declare themselves as "anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-torture; and we extend this philosophy to our earliest moments of existence by also being anti-abortion." While they do not emphasize working to make abortion illegal, their efforts instead are to "work to make it unthinkable and unnecessary."
There is also an organization that makes it clear that they have no religious affiliation: Secular Pro-Life. They describe themselves as "proud pro-life feminists" who "believe that every woman deserves quality health care that is affordable and ethical" and are horrified by Planned Parenthood's betrayal of women." Their efforts have resulted in something called fundwomenshealth.com to establish and support community health centers for women as alternatives to Planned Parenthood.
Deacon Don Weigel is the associate public policy coordinator at Catholic Charities of Buffalo and is a Global Fellow with Catholic Relief Services.