Life After Birth

I was a fetus once, does that count?”

I read the question—scrawled on old cardboard—at a gun reform rally last spring, clearly a dig at those in the pro-life movement who remained silent in the wake of Parkland and other school shootings.

I was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, fully enjoying the warm hug that society bestows on women as they bake a small human. Relatives called more frequently, coworkers jumped over themselves to pick up a fallen pen, random strangers asked to help load my groceries. But, as the protest poster implied, I also knew that hug was fleeting. I have two young children, after all, so I am painfully aware of how quickly a pregnant woman goes from being revered to side-eyed in the grocery store for not getting a tantruming toddler in check.

I’ve thought about that protest sign often over the past month—the first month of my third daughter’s life—since news broke of the Trump Administration’s policy of separating families at the U.S. border. The children impacted by these border separations are, in some cases, toddlers—some still nursing—and yet the compassion from many in the pro-life movement feels absent: It is the parents’ fault for bringing them in the first place; the Democrats’ fault for not conceding to more stringent border security. The Bible tells us to follow the law, and these are lawbreakers. What kind of parent puts their child in this situation?

Children are being used as a negotiating tool to build a wall. And while there has been public outcry, some of the very people who support this policy are those who would fervently stand up as pro-life advocates. In fact, a majority of Republicans (55%) support President Trump’s family separation policy—nearly as many as support outlawing abortion. (Quinnipiac)

Which leaves me to wonder: When did being pro-life become solely about life before birth?

And what would it look like if ‘pro-life’ in the United States didn’t stop once a baby takes its first breath? What if we prioritized supporting those babies who become toddlers who become children who become teenagers? What if we supported their parents, including and especially those who have suffered a harrowing and dangerous journey to arrive at our borders. And what if, rather than criticizing their decision, we acknowledged just how dangerous their homeland must be in order to take that risk—that this was actually just the better of two terrible alternatives? What would that pro-life movement look like? What would the life outcomes for all children in our society look like in that world?

After all, they were once fetuses. That should count for something.