Abortion-rights demonstrators protest in front of the Supreme Court building on June 25, 2022, a day after the announcement of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images News via Getty Images/The Conversation).
By Sandra Strauss
Power should not be concentrated in the hands of so few, and powerlessness in the hands of so many.
–Maggie Kuhn, activist, founder of the Gray Panthers, 1905-1995
Jesus was pro-life. He was known for healing miracles during his public ministry, including healing people who had been cast to the margins of his society for being “unclean”—such as lepers and a woman who suffered from continuous bleeding. He fed a large crowd that had gathered to hear him when it was clear they would not otherwise have been able to get food. He even raised the daughter of a temple official from the dead.
The one-year anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision got me thinking about how some of our public officials define pro-life policies.
I came to the conclusion that for some who claim to represent us, the right to life apparently ends at birth.
Take U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, who represents a broad swath of south-central Pennsylvania.
He says he is pro-life, but his actions do not say the same. It appears that his definition of pro-life is limited to the choices that women, doctors, and their families can make concerning pregnancy, regardless of its viability or the health of the mother. The fact that he has been utterly silent about the efforts of many in his party to ban abortion nationwide should concern those of us he claims to represent.
Over the past year, we have heard horror stories of women—and girls as young as 10!—who have had life-giving choices taken from them. Amanda Zurawski, one of the five women suing Texas over its restrictive abortion laws, was unable to obtain the care she needed when her water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy.
Willow—the girl she and her husband desperately wanted—would never survive to full-term, and Amanda risked life-threatening infection. But the Texas law that required a pregnancy to continue as long as there was a heartbeat left Amanda and her doctors with little choice. Amanda was only able to receive the care she needed after going into septic shock from the inevitable infection—and may never be able to have children as a result. Hers is only one of thousands of such stories.
Then there was Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, whose opposition to abortion extended to instances of rape and incest.
She went so far as to claim that the rape of a 14-year-old by her uncle was the perfect example of why such a choice should be limited, because there would be healing through the birth of that child. Healing for whom? Probably not for the young woman whose future would be dramatically altered by a decision that was not her own or that of her family.
Does what happened to Amanda and to rape and incest victims forced to carry a child to term represent a “pro-life” policy?
Not only is Pennsylvania’s Perry anti-choice, his views on insurance coverage for women’s health are shaped by his desire to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and the fact that he and his wife are done having children.
In 2017, as reported in this paper, he told a constituent that he did not wish to pay for maternity care because his family no longer needed it. Where was the consideration for his constituents of child-bearing age who want children, but who would be limited from having them because the cost of doing so in our outrageously (and needlessly) expensive healthcare system would be prohibitive?
Is limiting care to loving women and families who want to build a family a “pro-life” policy?
Perry and his “Freedom Caucus” and extremist colleagues recently voted against raising the debt ceiling, demanding draconian cuts to programs that help to support people who are having difficulty making ends meet.
Seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers and their families would have experienced drastic reductions or lost access to supports like Social Security, veterans’ benefits, SNAP, and other programs that support and enhance the quality of life for millions. Instead, they focus on ending “woke ideology”—banning books and drag shows, eliminating efforts to understand and embrace diversity, and more.
What freedoms are the Freedom Caucus protecting? Apparently, freedom for Scott Perry and his ilk, but not for the rest of us.
Is denying benefits that people earned—like Social Security and veterans’ benefits—and access to housing and food a “pro-life” policy? Is demanding that all Americans abide by the desires of an extreme minority “freedom”?
Jesus didn’t stop to ask questions or weigh the “worthiness” of those he fed and healed. He did whatever was life-giving—a pro-life policy if ever there was one. We should do the same—and we should demand the same from Scott Perry and all who claim to represent us.
The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss worked for 19 years as an advocate for social justice on behalf of the Christian faith community in Pennsylvania. She lives in Harrisburg.
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