BY Daniel Harkins | February 14 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

20170127T1742-0143-CNS-LIFE-MARCH-RALLY

Is the pro-life movement in America too aligned with hypocritical politicians?

Following January's March for Life in Washington, Ben Smith argues that embracing Donald Trump may be counterproductive to the pro-life cause.

THE 46th annual ‘March for Life’ rally was held in Washington DC on ­January 18 this year. The ­gathering was attended by thousands from across the world, including from ­Scotland. The March for Life organisation describes its vision as having ‘a world where the beauty and dignity of every human life is valued and protected.’ But it could be argued that the rally has become overly associated with one political party, and with a hypocritical pro-life attitude.

Former Republican ­presidents Ronald Reagan and George W Bush have communicated with the rally by a pre-recorded ­message or by phone, and Donald J Trump became the first sitting ­president to address the rally live, via video link. Right-wing political commentator Ben Shapiro also addressed the masses assembled at the ­gathering.

Since arriving in office, Trump has pursued such ­egregious policies as removing infants from their refugee ­parents at the border, erasing environmental regulations allowing dangerous toxins, such as mercury, to leech into the environment, and he has vociferously tried to remove free healthcare from the ­poorest in America. These policies are certainly not ­pro-life, and they definitely do not contribute to the March for Life’s stated vision of valuing and protecting every human life.

However, the links between the US pro-life movement and the Republican Party existed long before Mr Trump decided he was pro-life when seeking the Republican nomination in 2016. Republicans on Capitol Hill have long enjoyed the financial backing of some of the US’s best funded pro-life ­organisations. In 2018 alone pro-life lobbyists handed over $834,417 to Republican ­incumbents and candidates in Senate and House of ­Representative races. In fact, of the top 20 politicians who received the most in campaign donations from pro-life groups in the US, all 20 were ­Republicans. The Centre for Responsive Politics calculated that since 1990 the Republican Party has received $11,717,480 into their coffers from pro-life campaigners.

One must question the ­validity of the Republican Party being viewed as worthy of such pro-life funding. The Democrats are largely in favour of abortion, but the belief that Republicans provide a contrast and stand up for life from ­conception to natural death is strongly contested by the ­reality of their policies when in office.

Republican President Richard Nixon was in power when the Roe v Wade decision was issued by the US Supreme Court legalising abortion. Since then a further five Republican presidents have sat in the Oval Office and these ­presidencies coincided with 12 years of Republican majority in the Senate and eight years of Republican majority in the House of Representatives. 46 years later, Roe v Wade is still in place.

During those years of GOP rule very little was done to ­protect life apart from the coining of a few phrases, ­platitudes of empty rhetoric and tinkering around the edges of legislation. The darling of American conservatives ­himself, the self-proclaimed pro-lifer Ronald Reagan, when in office tried to cut and often successfully cut funding for initiatives set up to provide new mothers on low incomes with financial support and healthcare.

The Church in America has long supported the March for Life and as recently as 2017 Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, attended the rally. But if the Church and her organisations are to win the hearts and minds of people in America and back here at home in Scotland, she has to reject divisive, apparent proponents of pro-life values—and that includes the right-wing political figures who are too commonly invited to the March for Life.

For the pro-life movement to create a culture of life here in the UK we have to reach out to people with compassion and understanding, while sharing our beliefs with tenderness and being a witness to the Gospel of Life.

We cannot afford to be ­allying ourselves to figures such as Donald Trump and the far right. According to a YouGov poll, only 19 per cent of Britons view Donald Trump favourably. What are the chances of ushering in love for life if the pro-life movement is seen as linked to the divisive figure of Trump? If we are to win the pro-life argument, a path of compassion and ­empathy must be taken instead.

— Ben Smith is from Paisley Diocese and is a student at the University of Glasgow. See tommorow’s SCO for an alternative view from one of the Scots who attended the March for Life

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