You Pro-Lifers Care Only About Birth, He Says (A Facebook Adventure)

By Ismael Hernandez Published on June 2, 2019

A man posts an accusation with a link. The link describes the elimination of a given welfare program funding. The accusation? That pro-lifers care only for birth. This was my response:

There are absolute rights, inalienable rights embedded in the very nature of the human person. These rights do not allow certain things under any circumstance. The right to life is one — it is even in our Declaration of Independence. That includes the absolute right of every human being from the moment he begins to exist to the day he dies not to be directly and unjustly killed.

What is forbidden by that inalienable right? Things like the murder of people by crime and attacking civilians during war. Things like killing people suspected of great crimes but not tried properly, using people to harvest their organs so that other people can live, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. The right to life extends all the way from conception until you die of old age.

And All the Other Rights

We have other rights that assume the foundational right not to be killed. The Declaration says that we have an inalienable right to pursue our well-being, which it calls “happiness.” You must be alive to have a quality of life to pursue. This important right includes to right to seek shelter, food, health care, opportunities to work, and so on.

Notice that the Declaration doesn’t guarantee our well-being or happiness. It makes only our pursuit of happiness one of our inalienable rights. 

Now, here the pursuit of these goods do not require only one instrument or one way of doing this. There is nothing in the right that says the one way to affirm these good things is to support a government program.

Why? Philosophy helps us here. There is a distinction between negative prohibitions and positive commands. A negative prohibition is the one that tells you, “Don’t do that.” That applies to the pro-life position. The pro-life position says, “Don’t kill innocent people.” This is an absolute rejection.

A positive command is one that tells you to pursue something good. Here’s the crucial point: Positive commands cannot be absolute. As there can be various ways to pursue something good, there can be fair disagreement on how to do that.

Almost always, there are different ways to pursue that good. People reasonably disagree on the best way to pursue it. Making the problem even more complicated, sometimes there are two goods in question at the same time, but you can only do one.

The pro-life position says, “Care for people.” It doesn’t say how. Maybe that given welfare program I mentioned would help people. But maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe other programs or other forms of aid would help them more. People who care for others can disagree. 

Pro-Life is Pro-Life

This soundly demonstrates the falsity of saying that being pro-life is just being pro-birth. First, the pro-life concern only starts at conception. It continues all the way till natural death. Second, a pro-life person must care for the quality of life of people, but not necessarily to a specific policy prescription.

HIS RESPONSE: You are a hypocrite.


Ismael Hernandez, is president of the Freedom & Virtue Institute, an organization dedicated to the promotion of the ideas of liberty, faith, and self-reliance. A noted expert on effectively serving the poor and race relations, he’s the author of the acclaimed book, Not Tragically Colored: Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America. Ismael is a regular lecturer with the Acton Institute, and has spoken at Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education, and many other organizations.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
How Are You, Really? Confronting the Other Pandemic
Annemarie McLean
More from The Stream
Connect with Us