Another article in our series “Pro-Life and Political”, in which several writers will explain how their different political opinions shape their pro-life views.
I have always been cautious about giving political allegiances or parties the same weight as moral issues: my moral beliefs come before my political stances. Nevertheless, morality is a political issue. The rightness or wrongness of particular actions occurs within society, and so our actions are necessarily both moral and political. If we value our morality at all, it will guide and impact upon the political sides of our lives. Being pro-life is not a party political issue, and does not even belong on any particular part of the traditional left-right political spectrum. But my ‘small-c’ political conservatism informs, and is informed by, my pro-life stance.
Conservatives generally want people to have a chance in life, what the Australians might call a “fair go”. This is the basis of why most conservatives have an instinctive liking for the market: everyone has a chance to succeed; the best ideas, if things work properly, will produce the best results. There is no “fair go” for the little ones aborted before they are born. The ‘terminated’ are never given a chance in life. They’re not even given a chance to breathe. It can sound silly, but how many great economists, great academics, great businesspeople, great sportspeople have been killed in abortion clinics? They haven’t been given their chance, which violates so many conservative principles.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that, “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of the person,” in Article 3. It also says, “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” These are the ground rules that govern conservative rhetoric, which emphasises liberty and security for all. It seems obvious to me that this extends to the person inside the womb. What are the pre-born if not human? They have their human DNA in its completeness, they are growing, and their dependence on their mother should make us more, not less, compassionate towards them. The unborn child is a ‘person’, as even Hillary Clinton admitted recently, and so has the right to life, liberty, and security as all other persons.
The fight for every person to be equal before the law is a conservative fight: conservatism rails against the disregard for the individual, against the overwhelming power of the state, against the morphing of the individual into one greater collective. The individual person is the most important thing to a conservative; working together with other people, self-sacrificing for others, and fundamentally being recognised as an individual with their own – not just collective – inalienable rights. We must be liberal in giving these rights, and acknowledge that even an individual person whom we cannot see directly (though we can interact with them) has these rights.
Women, sadly, have many pressures to kill their children in the womb. Conservative values instinctively fight for measures to prevent these pressures: building strong family bonds; creating a strong society based on the family rather than the overarching state; creating local support structures; reducing dependence on the state (the same state that will give them an abortion if they ask for it). The conservative looks to the local community, guided by minimal but strong laws, to create environments where motherhood is valued. Creating multiple local environments, where life is respected and valued, requires strong community bonds based on positive ideals rather than state-imposed edicts or class war. Conservatives naturally gravitate towards this ideal.
End of life care is a major pro-life issue that I feel is often overtaken in favour of abortion, but both have conservative aspects. End of life care is where the battle really is: this is where the culture of death is attacking now, and we must be ready to fight it. On this front, too, my small-c conservatism calls for a pro-life attitude: respect the individual, care for them, acknowledge their rights. Even if we talk dispassionately about market forces, where else do we find such a repository of wisdom than the elderly? Where else are caring skills able to flourish more than caring for the sick and the old? These people, with their innate value (as well as their opportunities and mines of valuable thoughts), cannot just be extinguished in the name of ‘progress’ in our throw-away society.
I was asked to write a short article about being pro-life and conservative. I hope this has explained something of how having conservative values and being pro-life go hand in glove. But I know – and am glad – that people from many different political persuasions are pro-life. Ultimately, I am pro-life because I believe in the inherent value of all human life from conception to natural death. That requires engagement in politics, but goes beyond political allegiance.
John Coverdale took his Ecclesiastical History degree at the University of Oxford in 2013, having studied at Campion Hall. He currently works in the heritage sector.