The Bandwidth for Pro-Lifers
It’s not because we don’t care about murdered children. We feel as much anguish and anger as anyone. There’s a reason why even pro-lifers like me, who support common sense gun control, don’t prioritize it. A reason we don’t feel as much passion about that issue as we feel about saving the unborn.
I offer as “Exhibit A” the front page of last Sunday’s Hartford Courant. Almost the entire front page of my state’s major newspaper is given over to a sympathetic report on the anti-gun “March for Our Lives.” In the 40 years I have been paying attention, I have never once seen the Courant give this much space or sympathy to the anti-abortion March for Life that has occurred annually every January for nearly 50 years.
Why Pro-lifers Feel the Way We Feel
Here’s the reason: If you are a pro-lifer focused on saving the unborn child, you know the unborn child relies on your movement and no one else. No one else speaks loudly and consistently for the right of unborn children to live.
Polls show how ambivalent Americans are about abortion. Most favor it in the early months, but a substantial minority still oppose it. More oppose it in the later months of pregnancy. But even so, if the pro-life movement disappeared, the issue would disappear from public discussion and our political life. We’re it, for the unborn.
Elite society — the editors of the Hartford Courant, for example — will not lend a hand. This is true even if they have, as some do, a little sympathy for the pro-life cause or support some limitations on the “right to choose.” They hold those views privately, and quietly. You won’t know about them unless they tell you in a private conversation.
And most of elite society — the editors of The New York Times or The Washington Post, for example — want to preserve the right to kill the children you want to save. Witness the weeks of hard pro-abortion articles in the nation’s major newspapers, magazines, and opinion sites that followed the leak of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Hundreds of them. Everyone had to pronounce on it. The articles kept running long after everything possible to say had been said five times.
The anti-gun cause, though? All of “the commanding heights of culture” favor it. Both the news and entertainment media, our educational institutions, the serious publications, nearly the whole Democratic party, almost everything and almost everyone.
That’s why the very few exceptions in elite culture stand out so much, even when they’re not so strongly pro-life as movement pro-lifers. Like The New York Times’ resident conservative Ross Douthat. See his “How Roe Warped the Republic,” which appeared during the Dobbs controversy, but still analyzed Roe’s cultural effect, rather than making a case for overturning it. His “The Case Against Abortion,” which appeared last year, was stronger.
We have only so much bandwidth. If you favor both the right to life of the unborn child and some form of gun control, it is a perfectly rational choice to focus your energy on saving the unborn child. You can rest easy knowing that lot of other people and institutions, way more powerful than you, are taking up the cause of gun control. In fact, that many of those same way-more-powerful-than-you forces are also actively pursuing the destruction of the unborn child.
Some people, on occasion, can do both. I point you to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s “Abortion, Guns and the ‘Throwaway Culture’” in the Wall Street Journal. But he has a very large staff, including a Department of Public Policy, led by the gifted Edward Mechmann. The rest of us must make hard choices about what we should do.
Using your time and energy as a pro-lifer, and not a gun control supporter, is wise. You fight for the vulnerable whose cause will never get a glowing most-of-the-front-page story in the Sunday edition of the Hartford Courant. Plenty of others will fight the causes that have the blessings of polite society, the causes that win the world’s accolades. You fight for the vulnerable victims that same world ignores or despises.
Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut Action. He lives in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed on The Stream are solely his own.