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The Far-Right Fringe Embarrasses the Pro-Life Movement -- Again

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I can't help but wonder: Are some pro-life advocates hermetically sealed in a ghettoized world of circular logic? They must be. It's the only explanation. No one else would spoon-feed the opposition with ready-made quotes for their publicity brochures. Sweet-smiling pro-choice convention receptionists can now hand out pamphlets featuring pictures of frowning, stereotypical finger-waggers. Captions blare: "We've always said they don't care about babies once they're born. Now we know they're not exactly charitable about fetuses."

The most recent wave of circuitous reasoning came in reaction to the sound arguments of Mitch Hescox, President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, who testified before the House Energy and Power Subcommittee on the merits of Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at reducing mercury pollution from coal-fired plants (research indicates that one in six children are born with threatening mercury levels). Essentially, Hescox stood on a solid "Consistent Life" foundation, which places the protection of the unborn within a broader pro-life context: All human life is sacred, from conception to the grave which means curbing mercury levels is a pro-life issue: "Let's not endanger our children with a substance we can control," said Hescox. "We must protect the weakest in our society, the unborn, from mercury poisoning."

The spigot of ghettoized logic broke and the rush flowed. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), who has previously speculated that we live on a planet starved of carbon dioxide, quoted from a statement on the Cornwall Alliance website: "The life in pro-life denotes not quality of life but life itself" and only refers to "opposition to a procedure that intentionally results in dead babies." Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) scoured for straw men: "I find it extremely ironic that Rev. Michell Hescox and the Evangelical Environmental Network think that the pro-life agenda is best aligned with a movement that believes there are too many people in the world, actively promotes population control, and sees humans principally as polluters."

Read the attachments to Hescox's testimony, Senator. See the announcement from the US Conference on Catholic Bishops, which quotes Bishop Stephen Blaire. He and his colleagues "welcome" the new EPA standards: "In the end it just makes good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breathe and for future generations."

Last I checked, the good bishops still frowned on population control.

And notice the signatories on the "Evangelical Call to Stop the Mercury Poisoning of the Unborn" (which, again, is appended to Hescox's testimony): Leith Anderson, Andy Crouch, Gordon Hugenberger, Joel Hunter, Rick Joyner, Gordon MacDonald, Richard Mouw, Bruce Norquist, Tri Robinson, and Ron Sider -- to name a few. It's a veritable Who's Who of evangelical VIPs. That, coupled with EEN's cooperation with the National Association of Evangelicals on this issue, should mute sweeping, unfounded, guilt-by-association denunciations.

Both Shimkus and Inhofe were taking their cues from the Cornwall Alliance posting (the organization supposedly promotes a "biblical view" of environmental stewardship but rails against theories of human-induced global warming). The declaration, "Protecting the Unborn and the Pro-Life Movement from a Misleading Environmental Tactic, A Joint Statement by Pro-life Leaders," inveighs against "some environmentalists" using pro-life language: "As leaders of the pro-life movement, we reject that portrayal as disingenuous and dangerous to our efforts to protect the lives of unborn children... The term pro-life originated historically in the struggle to end abortion on demand and continues to be used in public discourse overwhelmingly in that sense. To ignore that is at best sloppy communication and at worst intentional deception." Signatories included Tony Perkins, Gary L. Bauer, Richard Land, Tim Wildmon, and others normally associated with the Evangelical Right.

I long to ask them: Just how does reducing pre-natal mercury levels endanger the lives of our children? But, perhaps more important: Where have you been? Have you not heard? Have you not seen? Do you not know? Do you still live in that hermetically sealed world of ghettoized, circular logic? Have you been... left behind? The bulk of the pro-life movement has long since tipped its hat to critics: The term "pro-life" is intrinsically positive and conveys more than fetal preservation. Our true "leaders," listed in Hescox's appendices, understand that -- especially the Catholics, who anchored themselves in their Church's laudable social teaching before evangelical Protestants joined the fold.

A little less hubris and a little more humility, ladies and gentlemen -- especially when you sample the comments on The Hill's article about the controversy on its Energy and Environmental blog: "Evangelical Christians aren't truly pro-life," says one; "They're pro-life as long as you're a fetus. When you're born, you become fodder," says another. And it goes on: "Apparently 'pro-life' can only mean one thing, and that's not protection from deadly pollution,"... "Because God hates clean air... "

Who is really damaging the pro-life cause? Is it those who are listening to the movement's inner lucidity? Or is it those who have cloistered themselves in their own subculture and dole out embarrassing, pro-choice fodder for years to come?

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