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A Hijacking in Progress

How did S-Chip become a pro-life issue?

12:00 AM, Oct 16, 2007 • By RYAN T. ANDERSON
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The pro-life jabs are particularly distasteful and destructive. They are nothing more than gross moral equivocation and the intentional hijacking of language. If every poverty-fighting bill under the sun becomes a "pro-life" bill, then the words lose all meaning. According to its website, Catholics United is a pro-life group dedicated to protecting the 1.3 million Americans killed every year by abortion. Yet it is leading the charge to eviscerate the clear meaning that the words "pro-life" have had in the American context for the past generation: opposition to legalized abortion coupled with support for mothers facing crisis pregnancies.

But no one is against health care for poor children. In this debate there is no pro-poor and anti-poor. Everyone is pro-poor. There simply are different ways of being pro-poor: one way emphasizes federal programs and nationalized care, and one favors private initiatives and community empowerment. Extending federally-subsidized state-run health insurance to children in families making eighty-thousand dollars a year is one way among many to meet the needs of children. Drawing largely from Catholic Social Doctrine, the principle of subsidiarity, the autonomy of the family, and John Paul II's moral critique of the welfare state, I happen to think it's a mistaken way. But I won't call you a bad Catholic or anti-life if you disagree.

Ryan T. Anderson is an assistant editor at First Things and a Phillips Foundation fellow. He is also the assistant director of the Program in Bioethics at the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ.