'Consistent Life Ethic' needed to change attitudes on abortion

‘Consistent Life Ethic’ needed to change attitudes on abortion

‘Consistent Life Ethic’ needed to change attitudes on abortion

A pro-life message is written on the snow-covered window of a U.S. Capitol Police patrol car parked in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during the March for Life January 22, 2016. (Credit: Gregory L. Tracy/The Pilot-CNS.)

In a cultural climate and society that so often dehumanizes fellow members of our human family in the name of "autonomy" or "the common good" or "justice," we must be voices that rehumanize our fellow human beings and seek to restore to each and every human the respect, value, and protection that should be common sense. The Consistent Life Ethic is for everyone, because the rights, life, and dignity of each human being is our foundation.

[Editor’s Note: Aimee Murphy is the Executive Director and one of the founders of Rehumanize International, the leading Consistent Life Ethic magazine. The mission statement includes her words, “We must realize that the most important issue of our day is the neglect of the dignity of human life. Those on all sides of the political spectrum, and from all angles of belief and religion should be able to put down their arms and join together on these issues.” She spoke to Charles Camosy about her work.]

Camosy: You recently changed the name of your organization from “Life Matters Journal” to “Rehumanize International.” What does the name-change tell us about the organization you lead?

Murphy: When we founded this organization, back in 2011, we thought it would be a simple side-project for our team members: A magazine published quarterly to share ideas about human life and dignity in the larger context of the Consistent Life Ethic. I don’t think any of us anticipated it growing to become what it is now.

When re-evaluating our mission and vision statements earlier this year, we understood that we are so much more than a magazine, and we have been for a long time. So we wanted to adopt a name that was active: A verb that would demonstrate the thing most central to who we are and what we do as an organization.

We settled on “Rehumanize International.” We believe that this new name speaks to the thing at our core: The inherent and immutable dignity and worth of every single human being.

In a cultural climate and society that so often dehumanizes fellow members of our human family in the name of “autonomy” or “the common good” or “justice,” we must be voices that rehumanize our fellow human beings and seek to restore to each and every human the respect, value, and protection that should be common sense.

This mission does not only reach within our borders, but stretches to all, regardless of nationality.

We believe that this new name shares our non-partisan, non-sectarian perspective that welcomes all in a movement of radical inclusivity in a short, simple way.

When we understand that all of the major political parties participate in certain forms of dehumanization, and that this belief in human dignity is based in a common-sense respect for our shared humanity, it makes sense that Rehumanize International would stand for being inclusive not only in whose rights we seek to protect, but also in whom we work with to achieve that goal.

So this falls along the lines of the Consistent Ethic of Life approach?

Certainly. Our whole underlying philosophy is the inherent dignity of every human being, from conception to natural death.

As such, we oppose all forms of aggressive violence: Abortion, unjust war, torture, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, capital punishment, human trafficking, abuse, and the list could go on… You asked if it’s the “Consistent Life Ethic approach,” however, I wouldn’t just call it an “approach”: We believe it because it is true.

We firmly believe that every human being has intrinsic worth and that every human being deserves protections both in the culture and in the law against all forms of violence.

Yes, this perspective is especially effective at planting seeds and changing hearts and minds, but it is not a mere “approach” it is the truth, and the truth, on its own, should be attractive.

You promoted these ideas at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Any stories to share?

I’m sure we could fill a book with all of the interesting stories from our times at the RNC and DNC. We were interviewed by Reuters, Vox, Playboy, Catholic News Agency, Jezebel, Mother Jones, Roll Call, and The New York Times. But I will share one story with you in particular.

There was a man attending some of the protests outside the DNC. He aligned himself as a Democrat, but was dissatisfied with the status quo in the party.

He was very curious about our signs with the “Politics Kills” design on them and stopped me to talk. First he was curious, then once he found out we were pro-life, he was angry. He went off about how “it’s not even alive” and “it’s not a human being.”

I gave him one of my pamphlets on why Democrats should embrace the Consistent Life Ethic and showed him the citations on it that discuss prenatal developmental biology and embryology. After about half an hour, he brought up rape as a reason to keep abortion legal.

I shared with him my story of how I became pro-life; how I was raped at 16 and months later thought I was pregnant by my rapist, no less… how my rapist had threatened to kill me if I didn’t have an abortion… how I had realized that I couldn’t be like my rapist and use violence against those who were inconvenient or smaller than I and how I rejected abortion as an option.

After hearing my story, this man confessed through watery eyes and with a choke in his voice that he had pressured his high school girlfriend to have an abortion. I gave him my condolences and we stood quiet for a moment. I gave him the URL for AbortionChangesYou.com, in hopes that he might find the healing he so obviously needed.

We resumed talking about resources that are needed to make abortion unthinkable, and we wrapped up the conversation after I reminded him that all acts of violence are contrary to human rights. He said that he was so grateful that we talked, that I had given him so much to think about, that our holistic pro-life witness was what he hoped to see in the future. And I asked if we could hug as we parted. We did.

I thanked him, and I ran through pouring rain a half mile to take shelter. It was such a powerful experience of human connection and planting deeply rooted seeds of a consistent ethic and watering those seeds with compassion. I will never forget that gentleman in fact, I think of him often.

I hope that he sought and received healing. I hope that he sees both the logic and compassion of our position: one which is rooted wholly in the unchangeable dignity of every member of our human family.

One of the most significant aspects of Rehumanize International is your radical welcome to LGBT pro-lifers, folks who may find it more difficult to engage with other pro-life communities.

When I became pro-life at 16, I was already out as queer. I was an atheist at the time. I was already a feminist.

I had a hard time feeling at home in the pro-life movement, which was so often associated with the Religious Right. So when I became more active in college, I wanted to make sure that any space for which I had responsibility in the movement would be welcoming to all.

When I founded Rehumanize International (then Life Matters Journal), one of my highest priorities was creating an organization with whom I would have felt at home when I was 16, coming into the pro-life movement.

At the time I thought it was both a common sense and a radical departure from the norm of the pro-life movement.

Now, looking back on it, I can see how this radical inclusivity fits perfectly with our mission: Not only do we have a radical sense of inclusion in the humans whose rights we strive to protect, but we also are radically inclusive within the ranks of our movement.

It is every human standing for the rights of every human. Indeed if you want to bring an end to abortion (or any form of violence), you need to have everyone on board. You could outlaw abortion with just the Religious Right, perhaps, but you couldn’t abolish it altogether in the culture without every single one of us understanding the inherent dignity of all.

That includes LGBTQIA+ folks, Democrats, Atheists, feminists. All of us.

This last point is actually double-sided, too. If we want to create a culture of life, that needs to include everyone. We can’t degrade those of us who experience gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction and expect to create a culture where every life is valued.

We don’t need to pick and choose whose lives we value and protect: Every single one of us has inherent worth. Every single one of us is worthy of protection.

My sense is you really have your finger on the pulse of the future of the pro-life movement. What do those of us who are from a different generation need to know?

The polling that has been done on Millennials reveals some pretty interesting stats.

Firstly, back when I was in college 6 years ago, we were the most pro-life generation yet. Currently, similar polling demonstrates that my generation is swaying back towards pro-choice in big numbers.

I believe this is related to the cultural blowback against the rise of Donald Trump, seeing from my own experiences with peers.

Secondly, we are the most politically unaffiliated generation yet: We are by and large sick and tired of the Republican/Democrat political paradigm that makes us choose between a “lesser of two evils.”

Thirdly, we have the highest rate of folks identifying as non-religious or of no faith. And related to the last question, a poll also shows that 20% of Millennials identify as LGBTQIA+: That’s a higher rate than ever before, and it’s not an insubstantial number.

All of these statistics demonstrate things that I have known from the inside of my own generation as personal experiences.

While many young people are pro-life, we are also politically unaffiliated, dissatisfied with the GOP slavishly dragging the pro-life movement behind it, skeptical of religion for religion’s sake, and many of us and our friends are queer. (I would venture to say, actually, that most of my close friends in the movement are in the LGBTQIA+ community — not just allies.)

I think much of this points to something that is profoundly necessary: A radically inclusive, radically authentic, radically compassionate, radically consistent pro-life movement. When a generation is skeptical of ideology for ideology’s sake, or affiliation for affiliation’s sake, they are seeking consistency, compassion, authenticity, inclusion.

I’ve often noted to myself in conversation that the young folks I argue with crave this consistency, this authenticity: Even if they, themselves are inconsistent, they absolutely expect and demand their conversational opponents to be consistent. They are also more likely to admit when they see inconsistencies in their own positions and acknowledge their need to learn more and weigh the arguments.

I do believe that our team at Rehumanize International has what my generation is seeking in the face of such inconsistency and inauthenticity from the establishment voices from political parties, religions, and ideologies.

And I think it’s because, more than anything ideological or political or religious, we are dedicated to human rights and human dignity. It’s because we have a human-centered philosophy that refuses to pick political sides or solely align with one religious background.

The Consistent Life Ethic is for everyone, because the rights, life, and dignity of each human being is our foundation.

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