The first time I heard it, I actually wanted to cheer. Then I realized they actually meant it as an insult. The accusation and term is now flung in comboxes and rallies, "debates" and memes. The pro-life movement is only "pro-birth," don't you know? Not really caring about mothers or babies as long as the baby makes it out of the womb alive. There's much I could say about that as a 99% specious and ignorant charge as the accusers mean it, but instead I'd like to point out why the pro-life movement and a culture of life could and should be all about being truly pro-birth.
Life requires birth. Be it metaphoric or literal, the two are intimately united and it's almost ridiculous to suggest otherwise, though it seems people on both sides have allowed themselves a cognitive dissonance that disconnects the two.
A true respect for life, though, requires a respect for birth. A true respect for birth demands a respect for life.
As a people who profess to believe in the dignity of every life, we should expect that every mother, baby, and father be treated accordingly, perhaps most especially so as they do the invaluable work of welcoming that precious new life into the world. In fact, as people who claim to believe that every mother and baby have infinite dignity and value and that families should be open and generous to life, we should be the ones at the forefront of the birth culture, pushing for evidence-based birth and better maternity care, working for healthier outcomes and recognizing the beauty of birth. It almost seems cruel to expect families to be open to life and generous in their family size and for mothers to welcome children in crisis situations and then not meet the births of those babies with love, dignity, and informed and evidence-based care. As a Church and as a people who claim to value and reverence motherhood and life, our approach to birth must reflect that.
- A culture of life must care that every single mother, baby, and father be treated with dignity, compassion, and real evidence-based care.
- A culture of life recognizes that a woman's body is beautiful and good and is inherently designed for motherhood. It believes her fertility is a gift not a liability.
- A culture of life cares that both the maternal mortality rate and the infant mortality rate are on the rise in the United States.
- A culture of life is sickened that that the infant mortality rate for black babies is double and in some places triple what it is for other races even when social conditions are accounted for.
- A culture of life is wise to the fact that the same medical system that shoves artificial birth control and sells sterility is the same philosophy that is managing most births.
- A culture of life views women's bodies as beautiful not broken.
- A culture of life realizes that the time of birth is physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually profound for a woman. It is a moment inherent and pivotal to her womanhood and vocation and should be treated with reverence and respect.
- A culture of life recognizes that real research, natural law, and personalized care for the unique individual and circumstance trump profit, efficiency, and outdated and disproven methods of managing birth.
- A culture of life remembers that every life, and therefore every birth, matters regardless of race, gender, health, ability, religion, family situation, or otherwise.
- A culture of life cares that our cesarean rate is about three times what is recommended as safe by the World Health Organization meaning women and babies who don't need surgery are being put at greater risk for complications and even death. It cares that mothers and fathers may be forced to limit their family size when they otherwise would not have or when future babies are put at risk because of this.
- A culture of life demands that women who do truly need extra intervention or a cesarean should get one without fear of cost, coercion, and from the most skilled providers possible.
- A culture of life cares when women are talked down to, coerced, manipulated, rushed, dehumanized, and treated with factory model care rather than personalized and loving care based on real evidence.
- A culture of life cares when babies are treated as objects and their experience of the birth is disregarded.
- A culture of life cares when women are embarrassed, feel ashamed, or experience judgement for their birth choices.
- A culture of life should be quick to change when new evidence presents itself to always work in the best interest of the lives in front of them.
- A culture of life demands that every woman be presented with real information about risks and benefits of different choices so that she can make the best decision possible in her unique situation.
- A culture of life should be outraged when a woman's body is violated by an unnecessary episiotomy or vaginal check that she didn't want.
- A culture of life cares when babies and mothers are given medications that they don't need.
- A culture of life cares when mothers are bullied into treatments for their babies that are not truly necessary, their choices made out of fear that their baby will be taken rather than with respectful conversation, research, and open and honest personalized care for that particular situation.
- A culture of life should be infuriated when a baby is taken from a mother without permission.
- A culture of life cares when the role of the father is ignored, dismissed, or rejected.
- A culture of life should shake with rage when parents experiencing miscarriage are treated brusquely or their grief discarded. It should be unthinkable that office hours and available appointments would dictate whether a life lives or dies or that parents could be denied their babies' remains.
- A culture of life cares when postpartum depression and psychosis are becoming more and more common and that the experience of birth plays a role in a mother's risk.
- A culture of life protects the postpartum time and works to help mothers heal their bodies and raise their babies rather than be forced back to work and separated from their babies before either of them are ready.
- A culture of life does everything it can to help a mother, father, and baby leave a birth knowing that it may have been hard, yes, but it was amazing. It does everything in its power to help women walk away from a birth feeling confident, strong, capable, and unafraid.
A culture of life doesn't end at the doorway to the birth room. The dissenters have a point in that a not-dead baby is not good enough. We have to be concerned that every baby and mother are given the best possible care and respect during birth and after. We are obliged to do everything we can to help babies and mothers to be truly healthy and able to thrive. To be truly pro-life is to be pro-birth...pro-respectful, dignified, beautiful, healthy, amazing, empowering, evidence-based-birth. Our goal should be that every baby, mother, and family be given the care necessary before, during, and after birth not just to survive but to live the fullest life possible.
A culture of life is a worldview and active response where every single life is treated with dignity, respect, appropriate care, and love. It is a culture that may sometimes (oftentimes) be messy, inefficient, unplannable, uncomfortable, and inconvenient but it is the way of true beauty and the way of true life.
"A civilization inspired by a consumerist, anti-birth mentality
is not and cannot ever be a civilization of love."
Pope John Paul II
Mulieris Dignitatem, 13