Cynthia M. Allen is and editorial writer and columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Thanks to the Women’s March on Washington, which predictably devolved into a pro-abortion rally, and in the wake of the subsequent week’s annual March for Life, the debate between those who support and those who oppose keeping abortion legal in the U.S. is beginning anew. So it is worth debunking one of the most persistent (and lazy) myths about pro-lifers that impede an honest and open discussion: the notion that the pro-life community is not really pro-life.
In the words of one reader, “If you have done nothing to make sure unwanted children lead happy productive lives then you are not pro-life, only pro-birth.”
The false claim continues that men and women who oppose abortion but do not favor large government programs that provide support for children and mothers after birth are hypocrites.
It is true that the pro-life community is affiliated with the political right, which generally supports reducing the size and cost of bloated government programs, inefficient welfare programs included. But rejecting government administration of welfare is not the same thing as rejecting its program goals or not supporting alternative methods of achieving them.
And to the extent that people of pro-life convictions are overwhelmingly religious, there is no community in the U.S. as committed to the cause of women, mothers and families.
According to The Philanthropy Roundtable, “religious practice is the behavioral variable most consistently associated with generous giving,” and such giving has had a dramatic impact on the fight against domestic and global poverty.
As Rob Schwarzwalder and Pat Fagan of the Family Research Council explained in The Washington Post last year, the amount of money overtly religious organizations spend on health care, education and anti-poverty programs dwarfs what they spend on “social” causes (like fighting keeping abortion legal) and exceeds or rivals what non-religious foundations and the federal government spend on such programs.
They cited a Roundtable report showing that in 2009, American churches donated more than $13 billion to overseas relief and development efforts, compared with $5 billion sent abroad by foundations in the same year, $6 billion from private and voluntary relief organizations apart from church support and $9 billion donated internationally by corporations. The $13 billion in religious overseas philanthropy also compares impressively to the $29 billion of official development aid handed out by the federal government in 2009.
Compared with the government, many charitable religious organizations are far more efficient with their use of funds. To wit, the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. spends the overwhelming majority of its income on health care and education.
A 2012 analysis by The Economist found that with an estimated annual budget of $170 billion, the Church spends only 6 percent on parish and diocesan operations.
In Fort Worth, Texas, a legion of mostly volunteers runs The Gabriel Project, a ministry of the Catholic Church that helps women in crisis pregnancies long after children are born.
Rachel Ministries serves women and men, including those in prison, who are suffering from guilt and anxiety after abortion. Catholic Charities Fort Worth, through a combination of paid staff and volunteers, administers a variety of programs that serve the poor, the immigrant community and other marginalized populations—and with notable success.
Add to that the robust services of Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services, which provide adoption assistance, financial planning, food aid and disaster relief among their many efforts to assist vulnerable people the world over, regardless of faith.
The debate about abortion will rage on, particularly now under a new president who seems to be making good on his promises to the pro-life community, but the contention that pro-lifers are merely pro-birth should not.