In light of the Colorado Springs shootings, some people have blamed the pro-life movement for creating a climate that would make the violence possible. The conversation has prompted me to re-examine the question: What does it mean to be pro-life?

A consistent pro-life ethic is one that respects, values and promotes the intrinsic dignity of all persons. Seen from this vantage point, a true ethic of life extends far beyond the realm of abortion and into all domains of life. A consistent pro-life ethic, in my view, also extends to opposing the death penalty, ending physician-assisted suicide, providing for the needs of the less fortunate and integrating the marginalized into society.

The pro-life position, therefore, does not belong politically to either the right or the left, to either to Democrats or to Republicans. It transcends political divisions in its mission to uphold the sanctity of all life, without exceptions. It is less a political issue and more a question of fundamental human rights.

From this perspective, the tragic Colorado Springs shooting that left three dead at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Nov. 29 should be unequivocally denounced as evil. There is an obvious contradiction between a consistent pro-life ethic and the actions of the shooter. One cannot build a pro-life world through violence or the destruction of life. Even if one strongly feels that abortion is mass murder, the ends do not justify the means

Why did the shooter act? Perhaps we will never fully know. Some have claimed that increasingly strident rhetoric from the political right created a climate that made the shooting possible. As of yet, authorities have reported no motive for the crime. Clearly, the shooter had a violent past, a history of domestic abuse and unresolved anger. At first glance, his motivations appear to stem more from his troubled past and psychological instability rather than from political threads. Of course, that question remains for the courts.

What is certainly true, however, is that the local pro-life community in Colorado Springs had a history of dialogue and peaceful non-confrontation with the Planned Parenthood clinic. For example, Garrett Swasey — one of the slain police officers who responded to the shooting and who also served as an elder at a local evangelical church — was pro-life. He died defending those with whom he deeply disagreed.

Less than an hour before the shooting, moreover, members of the local Catholic community celebrated Mass and prayed outside the clinic. When the Catholic priest, Father Bill Carmody, heard about the shooting, he immediately called the clinic’s security guard, whom the clinic hired to oversee Carmody’s activities. Carmody asked the security guard how he was and the two talked together briefly. The security guard asked the priest to pray for him and a relative of his with cancer. Carmody also called other members of Planned Parenthood to express his sorrow over the shootings.

Peaceful dialogue is necessary to heal our culture and resolve the abortion debate. Mother Teresa, for example, often spoke out in favor of the pro-life position with great charity. Her message was credible because it came from a woman who lived a consistent ethic of life. She served the poor and marginalized, opened homes for pregnant mothers and offered to take care of any unwanted child that a mother could not care for.

Of course, dialogue does not require a compromise with the truth. If one truly believes that life begins at conception, then abortion may be rightly seen as the greatest evil in the world. Indeed, at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, Mother Teresa declared that “the greatest destroyer of peace today in the world is abortion, because it is a war against the child.” Her words out of context may seem harsh, but her vision was that the human person is created to love and to be loved. She saw adoption and the choice for life as a truly humanizing force in the world.

In the context of the abortion debate, a pro-life ethic also appreciates and is deeply sensitive to the needs of women considering an abortion. Using shaming tactics or manipulating the emotions of women through threats of damnation is no way to start a conversation. The goal should be to move hearts to greater love in truth. That is the example that Mother Teresa gave, along with the pro-life community in Colorado Springs.

We, who declare ourselves pro-life, would do best by following in their footsteps.

Daniel Gordon is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at daniel.gordon@yale.edu .

  • dailyyalie

    Thank you for presenting this charitably and with kindness.

  • vincent

    Good article. One of the more cringe worthy tactics of both the right and left these days is to try and silence opposing views or discussions of uncomfortable, even painful, truths by imposing a kind of sociopath’s veto. We saw it in when people on the right tried to prevent the revelation of the abuses at Abu Ghraib and with our drone program by saying they would inspire more terrorism and we see it on the left when they try to silence pro-life voices by claiming that shinning a light on the evils of abortion leads to events like Colorado. The reality is that both may be right, to some degree, but if we allow the most unstable and deranged among us to define the acceptable topics and means of public debate we are not only sacrificing our highest ideals, but also the only real mechanism we have to to correct our wrongs and mature as a society.

    • yaleyeah

      Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are doing when it comes to discussions on race and racism.

  • Phil Ostrand

    We know why the shooter did this, he said it at his arraignment. He said he did it to stop the slaughter of babies at Planned Parenthood. He is a right wing christian terrorist follower of the founder of Operation Rescue Troy Newman. Newman calls for the execution of all abortion providers and the women who have them in his book “Their Blood Cries Out”. Sen Ted Cruz accepted Newman’s endorsement for President and proclaimed him a great example of a Pro Life Christian.

    • ShadrachSmith

      Your hate is so sincere. If I close my eyes you sound like Hillary 🙂

      • Phil Ostrand

        No hate. Truth telling…

    • antioch1098

      The murdering of unborn babies and the defense of this barbaric practice is evil.

    • grant_cook

      Yes, and the Manson family did it because the Beatles told them to in the song Helter Skelter.. don’t be a simpleton..

  • yaleyeah

    Excellent! Good article. However it was not the voices on the right that have driven the debate recently, it was the voices of those within the Planned Parenthood org who openly described reaching into the womb and puncturing a baby’s skull. We have an entire political party in this country that has refused to even watch these videos, as if that is going to absolve them of any part in funding what is going on in these clinics.

    It is a very dark and ominous turn of events that the release of these videos, in all their graphic detail, has not stirred the soul of our nation to re-examine our values.

  • branford73

    I commend you on a nice article, even though I’m “pro-choice” on this spectrum.

    I would add that a consistent pro-life position would promote wide availability and use of contraception, to which the lowered abortion rates over the past few years is properly attributed. A pro-life position does not have to be anti-extramarital sex, although we often see those positions together.

    • yaleyeah

      You mean like the racks full of condoms on every drug store shelf in America?

      • bigjuicygrapes36

        no forget those, brah. gotta take the free ones found in little baskets in laundry rooms

      • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

        And the FREE prophylactics at any health center or Planned Parenthood or YHS (or super-cheap via Amazon, just sayin’).

        And “the pill”: $4/month (?!) at Wal-Mart.

        Please don’t (continue to) confuse Pro-Life with Victorian prudery.

      • branford73

        No. More like inclusion without protest of hormonal birth control as part of preventative health care under the Affordable Care Act. Stop fighting and lying about the morning after pill (not an abortifacient). Include advice on contraception in school sex education classes, particularly in those states which stick to abstinence-only education but have higher than average teen pregnancy rates.

  • DZMLSIENCE

    One very important distinction that should be made in the “pro-life” position is the concept of innocence. It is INNOCENT human life that is absolutely protected to the greatest extent possible. There are plenty of pro-life people who support the death penalty and have a robust conception of “just war” as well as personal self-defense. There is no inherent contradiction in this whatsoever. I do find contradiction in many pro-life people’s lack of interest in the suffering of innocent animals just as I find contradiction in many animal rights advocates’ curious pro-choice enthusiasm.

    There is an epistemic question when it comes to taking a life that is rarely discussed. Some people clearly believe that the developing child inside the womb is an innocent human being deserving of respect and protection by law and custom. Others feel that the fetus is a worthless cluster of cells that can be disposed of as we might dispose of any other unwanted bodily product. One side has got it right and the other side is wrong. Neither side knows with absolute certainty that they are right. So the pregnant mother and the abortion doctor take a life without knowing for sure if they just committed murder. The pro-life avenger, on the other hand, takes an undeniably human life in defense of something that he cannot certainly say is human life.

    The abortionist and his murderer are treated very differently for what is, ostensibly, the same act – killing something or killing to defend something that may or may not be a human life. I believe that the unborn child is a human being but I’m not prepared to kill in order to defend it. If a person could be certain, however, it would be a monstrous thing indeed to allow the practice of abortion to continue. Unpardonable.

  • antioch1098

    This is an excellent article. It is well written and very well thought out. I am pro-life and have never met any other pro-lifers who are not as kind as Daniel Gordon. This contrasts with the other article written a few weeks ago by a pro-abortion student. It was very misleading and filled with information that simply was not true. Good job Daniel.