Acton Institute Powerblog

For pro-life poverty fighters, political objectives and policies are different things

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If you’re a pro-life conservative Christian you’ll eventually hear someone on the left assert that you can’t be consistently pro-life if you don’t support government policies to reduce poverty. If we truly cared about life in and out of the womb, they say, you’d support government intervention not only to ban abortion but to make abortion unnecessary.

They are right to call us to be consistent. But they are wrong to assume consistency requires supporting their preffered government interventions. As Stephen Wolfe writes in an essay for Mere Orthodoxy:

Each conclusion − securing the lives of the unborn and enriching the lives of the post-born and their mothers− though related in some ways, has very different considerations as to policy and policy effectiveness. Governmental action might be the most effective solution for one issue; for another, however, the government might make matters worse.

Many have concluded that governmental action for poverty relief generally does more harm than good. After all, anti-poverty policy in the United States has, at times, been disastrous. Perhaps an emphasis on private charity and other non-governmental means, such as church involvement, would be more effective in reducing poverty and helping poor mothers. Perhaps the best possible way to apply the conclusion today is getting government out of the way of, or cooperating with, civil associations and ecclesial ministries. Or perhaps the best solution is a significant restructuring of anti-poverty programs around encouraging work and self-sufficiency, as Oren Cass has strongly proposed, among others things, in his recent book The Once and Future Worker.

Of course, one might disagree with these all these policy determinations. Nevertheless, the traditional pro-lifer as a pro-life advocate is at least formally consistent with his pro-life principle, if he determines that these are the best solutions in our circumstances. He has not abandoned poor mothers; he has simply determined that non-governmental solutions for these issues are more effective.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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