How can you be pro-life unless you are also pro-marriage? I’ve been thinking about that question ever since I moved over from pro-life activism to pro-marriage activism. Since that transition, my conviction that the movements are essentially one has only been reinforced.
Pro-life is in my blood. My parents met at an event to welcome pro-life activists who had been recently bailed out of jail for conducting a peaceful sit-in at an abortion clinic. When I moved to Washington, D.C., five years ago, I knew I would be a pro-life activist, and so I was.
But as my activism matured, so did my conviction that the pro-life movement must become explicitly pro-marriage or risk its future. The Guttmacher Institute tells us that 85% of women who opt for abortion are unmarried. The community most afflicted by abortion, African-Americans, is also the community that suffers the lowest marriage rate.
Single women who choose life are heroic, let us be clear, but many of these single mothers would admit that their choice would have been made easier if the father of their child had made the marriage commitment to them. Marriage means that fathers will be far more likely to support the mother of their children, in good times and bad.
What we have now in the modern pro-life and pro-marriage movements when it comes to strategy are two separate data sets with no meaningful integration. The pro-life advances on the state and local level have largely been ineffective at reducing the abortion rate in America simply because at the same time the out-of-wedlock child birth rate has been on the rise. All the advancement of pro-life culture and support is currently being nullified by the breakdown of marriage.
The path to a stronger, more vital pro-life movement must include a new emphasis on the role of healthy marriages in fostering a pro-life culture which makes pro-life choices practically possible.
Sadly, some talking heads still fail to see the connection between the pro-life cause and our cause of building up the marriage culture. They will say America is becoming more pro-life but is becoming less pro-marriage. I’ve even seen some claim that the pro-life movement needs pro-gay marriage voices to support its progress. Nothing could be further from the truth and here is why: Gay marriage represents a denial of the biological origins of the next generation; it says children do not need or deserve to be raised by their mother and father.
Gay marriage therefore always erases the unique contributions of fathers and mothers — contributions that wealth and privilege may make less essential on the Upper East Side, but which nonetheless make the difference between life and death when, as is far too often the case, low-income women face the prospect of a difficult pregnancy and lack a supportive husband.
Here’s one way the logic of gay marriage impedes the pro-life message: How can we ask young men to stand by the women they conceive children with and impress upon them their unique role and responsibility to be present in their children’s lives if gay marriage simultaneously proclaims that mothers and fathers are irrelevant, because a child raised by two women is just as well off, we are told, as a child raised by his or her biological father or mother?
Pro-lifers rightfully celebrate the widespread polling consensus that the next generation is majority pro-life. But all the gains of the pro-life movement will be erased if they allow the pending Roe v. Wade of marriage to transpire. If the Supreme Court decides to use either the Proposition 8 case or the DOMA case this spring as an opportunity to redefine marriage, the pro-life cause will be set back again, and permanently so.
That’s why, as an ardent pro-life activist, I’m calling on my fellow pro-life warriors to formally join in the pro-marriage cause. One concrete action we can take in the next months is to show up for the March for Marriage (www.MarriageMarch.org) on March 26 in Washington, D.C, the same day the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case.
Pro-lifers once needed a scientific instrument — the ultrasound — to renew their cause. Today I believe they only need a bit of encouragement to acknowledge the deeper truth embedded in the biology of the human beings they defend — the truth that unborn children are conceived by men and women. The cultural question which every civilized society before us, and our nation throughout most of its history, has resolved is that this new life deserves to be born and raised by its parents who are united in marriage.
What could be more pro-life than that?
Thomas Peters is the communications director for the National Organization for Marriage.