What being “pro-life” really means.
Last Thursday, Governor Bobby Jindal signed two anti-abortion bills that will likely force most of Louisiana’s clinics to shut down. It was the culmination of a frustrating week for women’s rights activists; the Washington Post earlier ran an article blaming women for the sexual violence committed against them just one day after publishing an op-ed by conservative columnist George Will claiming college women desire to be rape victims (But there’s no war on women, right?).
It’s not surprising that Jindal would sign what he and his office are calling “pro-life legislation.” Jindal is considered one of the most pro-life governors in the nation and he has received a perfect rating from the National Right to Life Committee. When you look at the whole picture though, it is clear Jindal is completely undeserving of such a reputation. I’m not going to describe what is wrong with the bills themselves – that’s already been done – but rather to present a better understanding of everything being “pro-life” entails. I will explain this from a Roman Catholic perspective because Jindal is Catholic (as am I) and anti-abortion activism is primarily fueled by religious beliefs. This might seem like a simple case. The Catholic Church has not been shy about their opposition to all abortion, believing it is a violation of the sanctity of life. But for Catholics, to be truly pro-life means much more than just opposing abortion. The Catholic Church promotes what they call a “seamless garment” known as the Consistent Life Ethic. This principle holds that all life is sacred and should be protected from conception until it meets its natural end. It condemns abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research. Jindal obviously checks out on all three of those. However, it also denounces capital punishment. Jindal not only supports the death penalty, but is also in favor of expanding it, a clear violation of the ethic.
Some will undoubtedly argue that abortion kills innocent children while death row criminals committed heinous crimes to land in their position. While that may be true, it is irrelevant. To the Catholic, a life is a life and it deserves protection no matter what. This is hardly Jindal’s only shortcoming. Catholic Social Teaching elaborates on what one must do, especially someone in a position of power like Jindal, in order to adequately protect life. As Pope John XXIII stated in his Pacem In Terris, every human being is entitled to basic, God-given rights, not just the right to life but also to “bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life.” These rights include, but are not limited to education, housing, a living wage, access to affordable and effective medical care and other “necessary social services.” Jindal’s policies regarding education are well documented. He has substantially cut public school funding and is permitting and encouraging schools to teach material that is both false and unconstitutional. He has also slashed the state health care budget and forced several hospitals to close. He strongly opposes President Obama’s affordable care act despite its potential benefits.
Jindal currently opposes a minimum wage increase. Catholic principal is that the minimum wage should be a living wage, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops goes so far to say that to deny workers a “just and living” wage is akin to murder. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a “normal” family of two adults and one child in New Orleans is $19.25 per hour while the poverty wage for such a family is $8.80. The Orleans Parish minimum wage is $7.25. Of course, it would be unfair to single Jindal out. Most Catholic politicians probably would fail to meet all of these standards (though it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think Republicans would fall short more than Democrats would). When politicians so egregiously betray both their constituents and their faith, we should all be concerned, religious or not. For any of my fellow Catholics reading this, you should remember that we have an obligation to protect life, and that means all life. Consider that the next time you step into the voting booth.