Today will be an emotionally charged day in our State.
I am unashamedly pro-life. I have friends on both sides of the issue. I have friends who have had abortions and friends who have carried babies to term who died within moments of birth in their arms. This is a hard issue. It’s an uncomfortable conversation. And as Conservatives, it’s a conversation we navigate poorly.
As our Nation and our State wrestle with the issue of life, the GOP, conservatives and the Christian Right, have to make a shift. Perhaps for some it’s merely a messaging shift. But, for others, it is perhaps a foundational shift. We shout “Pro-Life” from the proverbial rooftops (AKA the pulpit, Facebook, Twitter, etc…), but we are physically unmoved by our own talking points.
It’s not enough to champion mothers to carry their babies to term and deliver. We don’t get to say “Hooray! We saved a baby!” and then walk away. Our job isn’t over. If our goal is to make abortion unimaginable in this state and in this country, if the “brand” of the GOP is “life”, then we have to create a talk that we walk. We have to look at women and say “You already have everything you need to be an amazing mom AND we are going to walk with you.” And I don’t mean just financially or simply referring them to a government agency, although we can and should be doing more in these areas. I mean doing life with these mothers and their families and supporting them as they navigate motherhood. Helping them to juggle work, parenting, and a budget. It’s more than dropping off diapers at your local pregnancy clinic and it’s more than donating money to “the cause”. It’s about community. We should be taking DFCS classes and becoming certified to be foster parents, resource parents, and respite parents. We should be committed to walking through life with our neighbors as they raise their babies.
We talk about “breaking the cycle”; the cycle of poverty, the cycle of one parent families, the cycle of drugs and addiction. But where are we? How are we actively, physically, as individuals addressing this issue?
And this “we” I am referring to is not the royal “we” or a “we” that rests it’s haunches on the Government. I mean me and you. I mean me and you and our Sunday school classes and our churches at large and our County GOP and your group of parents at your kid’s school and our next door neighbors. How are we as communities, churches, corporations, civic organizations, and charities a part of the solution? Do you have a YoungLives or YoungLife organization in your area? Are we spending time with folks in our communities and mentoring young people? Are we aware of who our neighbors are and what their challenges might be?
If we are truly pro-life, we must change the conversation. We, as Conservatives, as the Church, as people, have to make a cultural shift that takes us from condemnation to mercy and grace. We have to have hard conversations with more love and grace and less judgement and condescending overtones. We have to make space for those who think differently than we do. We have to shift the conversation from babies to life in all areas. We have to be for the heart beat from conception to death after a long life on this earth.
Recently I was told “If I had heard from society that there was a support system for me as I raised my child, I might not have had an abortion.” My heart stung. We can talk about personal responsibility all day long. We can talk about conservative principles until the cows come home. But until we are a society that shifts away from a nation of strangers mentality to a society that is willing to roll our sleeves up and get our hands dirty along side our neighbors, our words will ring empty and fall on deaf ears. If we want to shift the conversation from Women’s Rights to Human Rights, then the Conservative movement must tackle the issues within the foster care system and our healthcare system, we have to work with our judicial system to keep families together, and take on personal responsibility in a way we never have before.
We can be Pro-Life. But we have to love more than the baby phase. We have to love them in elementary school, middle school, and high school. We have to love them through first jobs, home work, and bad decisions. And we have to love their moms and dads too. We have to love people and be willing to admit that we are not all born with the same opportunities.
The General Assembly has some great legislative initiatives this session that strengthen the family and focus the mission of the Department of Family and Children Services. But, let’s take it a step further. Let’s be a state with people who are committed to life. All life. Let’s be in it for the long haul. If we are the party of Life let’s be committed to personally, as individuals, making a foundational shift that’s more than messaging and throws us into life changing action.