Counterpoint: 'Right to life' should extend past birth

Defending something as ubiquitous as the right to life seems righteous, but until conservative pro-lifers are prepared to support policies that enhance the quality of life beyond the moment of conception, they might want to honor life somewhere else.

Twenty-two Republican senators could have started by re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a federal law renewed without complications twice after its initial passage in 1994, until revisions included protections for immigrants, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and Native American victims.

The right to life didn’t seem as important to the 22 Republican men who voted against the measure. Apparently, life is less worthy of protection when it is subject to abuse outside a woman’s uterus, complicated by matters of ethnicity, sexual orientation and immigration status.

There just isn’t as much at stake when one is pledging loyalty to the unborn. Passionate defenses on behalf of those who are alive and living require more accountability and more follow-up. Preserving something called the sanctity of life will always be easier than addressing the inequalities of life, particularly those endured when “unborn children” grow up to be people of a low-income bracket.

If life is important, it is said to be most important during the years from birth to 5 years. The implications of universal preschool, providing early childhood education for parents least likely to afford it, were hinted by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address.

Studies like the Chicago Child-Parent Center Preschool Program show that early childhood education makes a positive difference in drop-out rates, juvenile arrest rates and high school graduation rates in impoverished inner cities.

Too bad Republican leaders have largely scoffed at Obama’s initiative, reducing those years to a matter of dollars and cents and snubbing early childhood education as a fiscally irresponsible investment. While abortion remains the so-called indisputable moral issue of our time, a high-quality life that comes with a basic education turns into a matter of monetary concerns that we just don’t have room for in the federal budget.

Appealing to something like the “right to life” is much easier than proposing some tangible things that might actually enhance the quality of life for the sperm-and-egg that inevitably grows up. There’s the Affordable Care Act that would protect children with pre-existing conditions from the insurance companies that refuse to cover them.

There’s the Women, Infants, and Children program that provides free milk, fruits and vegetables to children of low-income families that’s subject to budget cuts if Republican leaders get their way during the sequestration.

Let’s not forget about the crossfires of gang violence, energized by loose gun regulation, that children of urban areas encounter every day when they walk home from school.

Those most adamant in upholding the right to life constricts the definition of life to its very narrowest contexts — the moment of conception — but fall short in protecting it in the most pressing ways with basic health care, nutrition and safety.

If the right to life is legally extended to fetuses in the womb, then they might take care to enjoy it while it lasts, because as soon as they’re born, all bets are off. Those fighting for their right to life inside the womb will be louder about protecting the sanctity of their wallets than the right to live a good life.

That’s ironic too, isn’t it?


Reach the columnist at or follow her on Twitter @ce_truong


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