GOGEL: Pro-life inconsistency

Even though the election is over, I am still alarmed by the inconsistencies of the far-right’s supposedly “pro-life” platform.

Despite the deceptive terminology for positions on abortion, conservative politicians in this election cycle touted pro-life policies that claimed to respect the sanctity of life. Yet many of their policies seem to actually disregard the sanctity of life after birth — or at least ignore the lives they were once determined to protect.

Many Republicans intend to preserve the sanctity of life by banning abortion. For some, this debate hinges on religious belief that defies debate. But still, some pro-life politicians decline to continue government support for the supposedly sacred lives. To me, it seems as though some on the right arbitrarily narrow the definition of who deserves our help. This is certainly inconsistent, and it undermines their pro-life position.

A few weeks ago, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman made a powerful case for how inappropriate the Republican moniker of pro-life is — it misrepresents larger attitudes and beliefs of the right, differentiating Republican and Democratic principles into overly polarized categories. Friedman argued that the most pro-life politician in the United States is Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He respects a woman’s right to choose but promotes several policies that improve the quality of life from beginning to end. Many other pro-life politicians, he said, are against abortion, but also against gun control, the Environmental Protection Agency and other policies that are likely to enhance the quality of American lives. These stances are contradictory.

What I admire about Bloomberg is his consistency. He is willing to make unpopular decisions — such as the New York City soda ban — but he can defend them since each is a smaller component of his larger plan. There is coherence, and thus there is rationality and reason.

Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, meanwhile, were not consistent in the rationale they gave for their so-called pro-life arguments. According to the Romney campaign website, “Americans have a moral duty to uphold the sanctity of life and protect the weakest, most vulnerable and most innocent among us.” If that is truly the case, then why did they promote specific reductions in federal aid to struggling school districts, children and low-income women?

As a prime example, Chicago serves as the third largest school district in America, and the city receives 24 percent of its revenue ($1.2 billion) from federally funded government programs. Under Ryan’s plan, Chicago would have lost $224 million. This loss would have adversely affected many of the low-income students in Chicago, like those on the Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARM) program, which helps students from low-income families in school districts across the country.

Gov. Romney also promised to cut federal funding for programs like Planned Parenthood, and though it provides abortion services, Planned Parenthood also serves low-income populations with education programs and health care services not related to abortion, offering family planning, HIV counseling, cancer screening and STD treatments. These services all sustain and improve the quality of human life.

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, the debate about the sanctity of life should not end at conception. As someone who supports an individual’s right to choose, I would more easily respect the pro-life position if it reflected a consistent and concerted effort to actually protect the lives they fight to defend before birth.

With another four years in the White House, political leaders on the left have the opportunity to protect a woman’s right to choose — a right I believe should be free from idiosyncrasies of political debate. They also have the opportunity to reaffirm their support for government assistance to those who need it, defying the logic that pro-choice is not pro-life.

If political leaders can accept a woman’s right to choose, we can instead focus our energy on supporting “the weakest, most vulnerable and most innocent among us.”

Brooke Gogel is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact her at brooke.gogel@yale.edu .

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