My take: Rethinking the pro-life label
A new radio ad takes aim at House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's pro-life claim.
May 13th, 2011
04:31 PM ET

My take: Rethinking the pro-life label

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

The pro-life label isn’t just for abortion opponents anymore.

On Wednesday, 70 professors, priests and nuns at Catholic universities criticized House Speaker John Boehner for a legislative record on the poor that was, in their words “among the worst in Congress.” His “anti-life” budget, they wrote, ignores the “most ancient moral teachings” of the Catholic Church on the duty of the powerful to care for the powerless.

A similar scolding is now being meted out to Rep. Paul Ryan, who spearheaded that GOP budget. In a pro-life ad that will greet Ryan as he returns to Wisconsin this weekend for a congressional recess, Father Thomas Kelley of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, blasts Ryan for proposing a budget that “abandons pro-life values.”

“I’m pro-life because God calls us to protect life at all stages,” Kelly says in the ad, which was paid for by a pair of Catholic and evangelical groups, before arguing that the proposed GOP federal budget offers no such protections.

The budget “makes huge, irresponsible cuts hurts families who are struggling to find jobs and put food on the table, but provides big tax breaks for millionaires and large corporations whose profits are soaring,” Kelly says.

“Saying you're pro-life isn't enough,” the ad concludes. “Congressman Ryan, actions speak louder than words."

According to Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which helped to pay for the ad, “Being consistently pro-life requires more than caring for the unborn, it requires following the Biblical call to care for the poor and the downtrodden. "

On that measure, in his view, the GOP budget “falls far short.”

For nearly a generation, the GOP has enjoyed a monopoly on religion in the corridors of power. Democrats, invoking Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor of a “wall of separation between church and state,” responded the rise of the Religious Right in the late seventies by arguing that religion was a private matter that should have no place in political life.

As a result, Republicans enjoyed a free pass on the religion question. They were the party of God, and a halo of sorts hovered over their public policy positions on "family values."

But just how biblical were these positions?  No one really knew, because neither the public nor the press were religiously literate enough to ask.

After John Kerry’s 2004 presidential election defeat, however, the Democrats decided that in a country where only 2% of the population self-identifies as atheist, it was probably not so smart to be seen as the anti-God party. Over the last few years, Democrats, including President Obama, have spoken freely about their faith.

Following the Republicans’ lead, they have connected the dots between their policies and the teachings of the Bible. “What Would Jesus Tax?” they have asked, even as they scrutinized anti-immigration legislation in light of the good samaritan story.

What we are seeing in the attacks this week on Boehner and Ryan is the beginning of a long overdue public conversation about what it means to protect the sanctity of life.

We are also seeing the mainstreaming of the Religious Left. Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community is no longer a voice crying in the wilderness when it comes to questioning the Republican monopoly on biblical values.

The days when Republicans could simply assert that they are Bible-believing Christians appear to be over. Now they are going to have to show it.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor.”

Do Boehner and Ryan think the poor are the blessed of God? Thanks to these recent provocations, we are going to find out.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Abortion • Bible • Catholic Church • Church and state • Politics • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. Fred

    Looks like "Tom" needs to sit down and shut up.
    See what happens when he is off his meds?

    May 24, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  2. Jason

    Abortion is not only a sensitive issue, it is also an important one. So why are the folks on this comment board directing insults at each other instead of discussing the issue rationally and compassionately?

    May 20, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Jason, that is because too many of my fellow posters are trolls who would rather slam each other than offer intelligent insight. Unfortunately, the abortion question has become one of the "Third Rail" issues. You cannot be considered a viable Republican Candidate even for Dog Catcher these days without coming out as anti-abortion. You can favor forced sterilization of Rapists, you can favor forcing women on welfare to take contraceptive chemicals (despite other problems that may develop), you can even support that ultimate end to life, known as the Death Penalty, but God help you if you say you are not OPPOSED to abortion. Add to that any Roman Catholic Democratic Congressman or Senator that does not publicly state his or her opposition to abortion can find themselves denied Holy Communion by their Bishops.
      For the record, while I am personally opposed to abortion, I do not believe that I have the right to force my moral conviction in anyone else's face. I believe this is an issue between the mother and her doctor. If anyone else tries to deny her the option she was granted by Roe v. Wade, then they should be forced to support any medical bills she has and to provide support for her child until that child reaches the age of majority. Unfortunately, our Republican Controlled House plans on not only forcing the woman to not have a choice, but they also want to take away any support that would assist her in raising the child.
      Soapbox time – there are many people like me who have children of our own, as well as those who are childless, who are willing and waiting to adopt. Most of us do not have the money it takes to go to China, Russia, Korea, etc. for a foreign adoption. Instead, we are on waiting lists through our state, Catholic Charities, Love Makes a Family, or other organization waiting to help us. For those who carry to term because they do not believe in abortion, there are many of us willing to provide loving homes to your children.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  3. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Tom Tom please proof read and send me corrections. I'll revise and repost. Thanks guy.
    You're most welcome. I see you've managed to correct "proofread" in your most recent post. Did you look it up in your picture dictionary to discover that it's one word, not two?

    Good boy.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  4. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Impotent little boys. You couldn't come up with a single response to my question. Poor little fellas.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  5. Ryan

    Please proofread, correct and resend.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:31 am |
  6. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I figured that would shut you up, Ryan.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Aryan

      Ey Tom Tom..having some post-menopausal tantrums again?

      May 18, 2011 at 4:29 am |
    • Tom Piper'Sr.


      It couldn't be a post-menoupausal tantrums tha my son is having, but might be the usual results of alzheimers at severe stage.

      to all..

      Don't let my son confuse either deceive you. It may have beeb the size of a silk worm but I was certain that it wasn't a flower and it could never be, unless otherwise he had it cut and sliced.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:59 am |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Oh, and Ryan, thanks for letting me know how much I've ticked you off. It made my day! Kisses and hugs, sweetheart.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  8. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I suggest those who think women should not have the right to choose solve this problem by finding a way to transplant the fetus you so worship from the body of the woman who doesn't wish to remain pregnant to your own body. Until you can do that, or until contraception is 100% effective, nobody ever makes a mistake or is careless, and no fetuses are ever affected by trisomy defects, microcephaly, or other terrible problems, abortion will remain legal and a choice for women.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • dagoda

      the problem isn't that birth control isn't effective it is that people aren't using it enough. Planned Parenthoods own statistician says that 46% of women who were pregnant didn't use birth control that month!

      May 20, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Which indicates that the majority DID use it and STILL GOT PREGNANT.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  9. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Consenting to s3x does not equal consent to carry a pregnancy to term.

    You can judge all you want, but those are the facts. No woman is required to do as you think she "should."

    Too bad for you.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  10. Ryan

    Tom Tom please proof read and send me corrections. I'll revise and repost. Thanks guy.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm not a guy, you moron. I'm a woman. I'm well-educated and proud of it. Unlike you, I don't find stupidity and ignorance admirable.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No problem. It's "bye". See ya, sucker.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  11. Ryan

    Tom Tom the open minded grammar teacher. First off I'd like apologize for any previous grammatical errors they may have offended any fellow bloggers. LOL. I also apologize for misunderstanding you. You're obviously more sophisticated than the simple minded "idiots" on this blog. You should feel empowered...may be even justifiably "arrogant" (irony) after mixing words with such simple people.
    My simple point $ex can cause the fertilization of an egg which causes...? You guessed it, a child. Lets back up though. 2 people made a decision, excuse me "choice", right? Choices have consequences, correct? A fetus does not, correct? Neither does an infant, a toddler. They require nurturing, guidance, etc. Right? So your conclusion is...it's the mother's body she can do what she wants with it, it doesn't matter what it is in the process of or whether it has a heart beat, correct? I know you're probably stuck on grammatical errors but try and focus. I'm sure this is like talking to a brick wall. You're obviously more enlightened than others, might be your self deification process is in full bloom. Guess that explains your beliefs on God. You take care now. okay. by then see you Later.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yes, the woman can do as she wishes with her own body. Was that unclear to you?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • dagoda

      the baby isn't part of her body...

      May 20, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Doesn't matter. It isn't a baby. It's a fetus and it cannot live without her body. It is dependent on another for survival. That other is the only one who grants the fetus any rights at all.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  12. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Oh, yeah, and Mikey? Figure out the difference between "it's" and "its". You aren't bright enough to tell anyone else what to do if you're too dumb to write a simple sentence.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  13. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    It's amazing how blind you are, MIkey. Try figuring out what 'chattel" means and then ask yourself this: Suppose a woman is pregnant. A doctor determines that the fetus needs surgery before birth. The woman does not want to have this surgery. If you think the fetus's "rights" prevail, you would have to force the woman to undergo surgery against her will. Name one time when any person in this country can be forced to have any medical procedure against his will. Go ahead. I'll wait. And while you're at it, try to figure out why someone can be charged with two counts of manslaughter for killing a woman and her fetus. It's not because the fetus has rights-it's because the woman is the only one who can legally make the choice to end a pregnancy.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Isn't it interesting how not a SINGLE ONE of you zealots could address this question? Why is that, you hypocrites? Didn't ever think of the logical sequence of events that would occur in your scenario of love and doves and little white, blonde cherubic infants?

      I'm not surprised in the least. You are nincompoops.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  14. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    You don't get it, Mikey. Women and blacks BOTH have rights. That's why slavery was abolished and why abortion remains legal.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I've posted a response to those who compare the legality of abortion with that of slavery several times, but apparently the moderators found something objectionable in it. Oh, well. Slavery is illegal because it infringes on the rights of people. Abortion is legal because forcing women to continue a pregnancy they don't want infringes on their rights. Two sides, same coin.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Mike F.

      Pro-slavery forces made the same argument, Tom Tom. They didn't consider slaves to be human beings in the same way that their white owners were. And so, it was permissible to own them and treat them like chattel. Similar things are true in regard to the Civil Rights movement. The Supreme Court supported that right . Read. Try looking up Dred Scott and Jim Crow.

      Science tells us that it is a unique human being from the moment of conception – not part of a woman's body. You're factually wrong.

      And the point on the issue Ryan raises is this: if it is not a human being inside the mother's womb, then it doesn't matter whether or not she "wants" it. If the child in utero is not an actual human being, then charges like "manslaughter" and "murder" are a logical impossibility.

      Yet, a person can be charged with **double murder** for killing a mother and her unborn child. A person can be charged with **manslaughter** for killing an unborn child. Manslaughter and murder apply only to real, live HUMAN BEINGS – not to "blobs of tissue" or "potential life."


      Look up the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. You're factually in error regarding the legal rights having only to do with the pregnant woman and not the unborn child.


      Facts of Life: At the moment of conception, a new, unrepeatable human being is created that has a life-force all its own. It has it's own DNA, as compete as any adult's. At a mere 3 weeks after conception, she will have a heartbeat. At a mere 6 weeks after conception, she will have measurable brain waves. Most all abortions occur after one or both of these milestones because women generally don't know they're pregnant until after their first missed menstrual period.

      Over 50 Million unborn children have been killed in this country alone under the banner of "choice."

      Thankfully, more and more people are coming to a new understanding of the dignity and value of all human life – just as they did in the case of slavery, the Holocaust, and segregation.

      I sincerely invite my pro-abortion rights brothers and sisters to join the right side of history.

      God bless everyone here.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Follow"? "Read"? What an arrogant fool you are. You're the one who needs to read. Maybe you'll figure out how to write. Until then, you're posts are nothing but dreck.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  16. Ryan

    Hypothetical question- Your wife has just discovered she's pregnant. She's thrilled...on the way to work she's assaulted by a man resulting in a miscarriage. Should that man be charged with feticide? Is your first thought, "well how far along is she?" If it is then you're far more poisoned by your political/social stance than any other "zealot" on this blog. Pretty pitiful. Otherwise, why hold someone accountable for material that will eventually/possibly become a life. It has no rights, there's no difference between it and a cyst. Welcome to the land where political agenda and disdain for other's who don't "think like me" outweigh common sense and basic compassion. By the way, you've replied more than most on this page, sounds like you need to pick up a hobby or something constructive to occupy your time. I say all of this with the greatest compassion. Take care.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Another dim-witted post by a zealot. You don't get the concept of 'choice' at all, do you? Every time one of you dolts posts something along these lines, someone has to explain to you that the only choice belongs TO THE WOMAN WHO IS PREGNANT. Fetal homicide laws exist in some states, but none of them are to enforce any fetal rights, only the rights of the pregnant woman.

      As far as your concern about how I spend my time, right back at ya, boob. Look after your own first. If you don't like how I spend mine, guess what? Tough ti-tt y. Like abortion, it's my choice, not yours.

      A further suggestion for you, you moron: learn how to write. Why would any intelligent woman listen to some cluck who can't figure out how to write a simple sentence without a glaring error. Now go find the one you made.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Your claim that those who are pro-choice have "disdain for other's" (sic) who think differently is beyond laughable. Anti-choice zealots like you and your ilk are insisting that not only should everyone think like you do, but their lives should be governed by your beliefs and morals. Sorry, but in this country, things don't work that way. You don't get to dictate others' behavior simply because you disapprove of it. Unless a woman is infringing on the rights of another, you have no business controlling her medical choices.

      The difference between my point of view and yours is that you seek to tell others how they should live their lives. I don't.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  17. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Hey, MIkey, I guess if you're against being taxed to provide others less fortunate with healthcare, housing, and food, you must be all for doing away with the progeny of such people.

    Glad to hear you're pro-choice after all!

    May 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    You know, I just read about another drive-by shooting in which someone was killed. Why aren't some of you self-aggrandizing zealots doing anything to save the lives of people who are already living in this world? Why aren't you adopting unwanted children who languish in foster care? Why aren't you working in NE DC, helping the kids there who are in desperate need?

    Because you're nothing but hypocrites.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Tom Piper'Sr.

      Son, I was one (self-aggrandizing zealots) that's why you live to post here. So you better STFU!

      May 17, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  19. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    @ Mike: fetuses do not have rights. The only rights belong to the woman carrying the fetus. If someone assaults her and it results in the death of the fetus, it is not the rights of the fetus that have been infringed upon but the rights of the woman carrying it. It is her choice, not anyone else's. If she chooses to terminate a pregnancy, that's her right under the law; if someone else terminates it, that is a crime.

    You probably don't grasp that, but who cares? You're not in charge of anything.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tom Piper'Son

      Your mother also cried like a wh0re. I should have listened to her. I shouldn't have had let an assh0le to live.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Tom Piper'Sr.

      Your mother also cried like a wh0re. I should have listened to her and let her choose. I shouldn't have had let an assh0le to live.


      May 17, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  20. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Really, it's laughable to read some of the idiotic nonsense the anti-choice zealots post. Do you people ever use the brains your god gave you?

    May 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
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