Truly being pro-life would rationally mean being pro-child, and also pro-parent and pro-family, but that’s not the way the term is typically used. (See this previous post for a discussion of this.) A similar disconnect exists with the term “family values” as it’s used by many right-wing politicians. Pro-child and pro-family (i.e., truly pro-life) state and federal policies would, among other things, provide economic supports for families with children. Economic security, self-sufficiency, mobility, and well-being are all linked to better outcomes for children, mothers, and families. They are also linked to abortion rights, so being truly pro-child and pro-family means supporting abortion rights.

(Note: If you find my posts too long or too dense to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making and the most important information I’m sharing.)

States where abortion is legal and accessible have lower rates of poverty, family financial hardship, teen births and marriages, and maternal mortality, especially for Black women. These states also have higher labor force participation, earnings, and educational attainment, again, especially for Black women. As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said, “Eliminating the rights of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.” [1]

The states that are restricting abortion rights while also providing limited supports for children, mothers, and families (see this previous post which identifies MS, LA, AL, AR, OK, and WY as the worst ones) would seem to be engaged in an intentional effort to disempower and economically subjugate women. [2] As Meyerson writes in his analysis of the misuse of the term pro-life, “There is, however, one plausible explanation for their determination to compel women to carry unwanted pregnancies through to birth and … make sure that life after birth … will be hard. The common thread … is a punitive misogyny,” [3] in other words, a desire to punish and control women.

Legal and accessible abortion is essential not only to women’s economic well-being, but also to their humanity, dignity, life, liberty (freedom to make important decisions for oneself), and pursuit of happiness. Therefore, being truly pro-life means supporting economic justice and reproductive justice.

As an example of truly pro-life policy making, President Biden recently announced a major initiative to end hunger in America by 2030 while also increasing healthy eating. [4] Pandemic relief measures were also critical pro-life policies that supported children and families. They reduced child poverty and food insecurity by roughly 25% from pre-pandemic levels. However, the enhanced Child Tax Credit, which was one of the pandemic relief policies, was not extended when it expired in December 2021. As a result, food insecurity in households with children is up 12%. The expiration of other pandemic relief measures has pushed food insecurity well above pre-pandemic levels. Lack of access to good nutritional meals can have negative consequences for children’s cognitive and social-emotional development, for their ability to learn in school, and for their health, with potentially lifelong effects. [5] Therefore, efforts to address hunger and nutrition are definitely pro-life and the failure to do so is anything but pro-life, despite the fact that some politicians who claim to be “pro-life” and to support “family values” are stingy when it comes to funding programs to reduce hunger.

As a bit of an aside, the number of intentional abortions in the U.S. has been steadily declining for 30 years. It has declined over 40% from roughly 1.6 million per year in the 1980s to about 900,000 in 2020. There has been an even bigger decline in the rate of abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age (between 15 and 44) from 29.3 in 1980 to 13.5 in 2017, a 54% decline. [6] One might think that “pro-life” people would be celebrating this accomplishment but they aren’t. The causes for this decline aren’t known definitively. Access to and use of contraception is undoubtedly an important contributor to reducing abortions, however, “pro-life,” anti-abortion people are typically opposed to promotion of contraception. Reduced sexual activity by teens is another contributor to the decline, which “pro-life,” anti-abortion people generally support. These positions are driven in large part by religious beliefs: sex outside of marriage is wrong and access to contraceptives encourages sex, so contraceptives are bad. Some religious beliefs go so far as to assert that sex should be engaged in only for the purposes of procreation, and contraception is antithetical to this belief.

The assertion that a fertilized human egg is a person and should be given all the rights of personhood and, therefore, that all abortions should be banned is typically based on religious beliefs. Interestingly, the only religious group where a majority of members oppose abortion rights is white, evangelical Protestants. Perhaps surprisingly, 64% of white Catholics support abortion rights, as do 75% of Hispanic Catholics.

An examination of the history of evangelical opposition to abortion reveals a concerted effort by Republicans to convince evangelicals to take this position. As recently as 1976, the Southern Baptist Convention, a centerpiece of white evangelical religion, passed a resolution declaring that having an abortion was a matter to be decided by a woman and her doctor. In general, evangelicals oppose government intrusion into individuals’ beliefs, decisions, and actions.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Republicans realized that their pro-business and pro-wealth policies weren’t going to capture a majority of voters. So, their strategists identified “culture wars” as a way to broaden their support and get people to vote against their economic interests. Core elements of the culture wars were abortion, homosexuality, and racism, with racism initially raised with innuendo and dog whistles so it was disguised and could be denied. The culture wars were a key component of the Republicans’ “southern strategy” to turn southern Democrats into Republican voters. The Republicans’ southern strategy, particularly subtle racism, was used in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign and Nixon’s campaigns in 1968 and 1972.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Republicans began a long and ultimately successful campaign to convince evangelicals to oppose abortion. They did so by claiming that abortion rights were part of a women’s movement that sought to upend patriarchal control and the traditional family. In 1979, a right-wing, Republican consultant, Paul Weyrich, and minister Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority organization. Its goal was to move southern and evangelical voters away from Democrats and President Jimmy Carter, who, ironically, was a southern evangelical Christian. Abortion, feminism, and their supposed undermining of traditional values and families were core wedge issues of the Republicans’ culture wars. [7]

The bottom line is that for five decades Republicans have used anti-abortion rhetoric, and a false “pro-life” moniker, for political purposes. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned the right to an abortion, the hypocrisy and insincerity of their political rhetoric is being exposed as Republican candidates are disavowing their past anti-abortion rhetoric to try to win in November’s elections. Some candidates are dramatically flip-flopping, while others are just eliminating their opposition to abortion from their talking points and websites, because, having won their primary elections, they now want to appeal to a broader set of voters. These candidates have been claiming to be “pro-life,” and defining it as meaning anti-abortion, solely for political purposes.

[1]      Banerjee, A., 5/18/22, “Abortion rights are economic rights,” Economic Policy Institute (

[2]      Banerjee, A. 5/18/22, see above

[3]      Meyerson, H., 8/26/22, “ ‘Pro-life’: America’s most patently absurd misnomer,” The American Prospect (, page 6

[4]      The White House, 9/28/22, “The Biden-Harris Administration announces more than $8 billion in new commitments as part of call to action for White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health,” (

[5]      Stancil, K., 5/20/22, “Millions more kids going hungry since GOP, Manchin killed expanded child tax credit,” Common Dreams (

[6]      Diamant, J., & Mohamed, B., 6/24/22, “What the data says about abortion in the U.S.,” Pew Research Center (

[7]      Meyerson, H., 8/26/22, see above


Comments and discussion are encouraged

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s