As a pro-choice advocate and a woman who's had an abortion, I'm no stranger to the persistence of the pro-life movement (also known as the anti-choice movement). Pro-life advocates — from friends to family members to strangers on the internet — haven't shied away from telling me abortion should be outlawed because of "babies and children and the sanctity of life." I've endured the repercussions of attaching morality to a legal medical procedure I had (and continue to have) the right and choice to make for myself and my body. Though I am outspoken when it comes to how I feel about the pro-life movement and the things they get wrong, I also know there are things pro-life advocates can actually do to fight for the lives of children; tangible things that will actually protect "babies and children and the sanctity of life."
According to The Guttmacher Institute, 396 anti-abortion laws were considered in 2015. That's 57 anti-abortion laws enacted in 17 states. On Jan. 12, 2017, Iowa’s Republican Representative Steve King introduced a bill in Congress known as the "heartbeat bill" that would constitute a total abortion ban on a federal level. During his introduction of bill H.R. 490 — which would ban abortions country-wide as soon as a fetal heart was detected — King evoked an age-old pro-life talking point: the lives of children "lost." King claimed that nearly "60 million innocent babies' lives have been ended by the abortion industry," since Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973. Of course, King is talking about the number of abortions that have reportedly been administered since the historic ruling. What King fails to mention, however, is that 88 percent of all abortions occur in the first trimester. Children are not dying; an unwanted pregnancy is being terminated; very, very few children are being "ripped" and "cut" from the womb.
Still, pro-life advocates like King know whittling a woman's right to choose as "right versus wrong," and evoking the lives "lost" because of those choices, are powerful tools when trying to legislate women's bodies and stifle essential reproductive healthcare. Instead of pointing out the facts regarding abortion — like 61 percent of women who obtain abortions are already mothers with one or more children, or that 7 out of 10 Americans believe abortion should remain safe and legal, or that more than 1 out of every 3 women in the United States have had an abortion by the time they turn 45 years old, or that 13 percent of women who have abortions say they're Born Again or Evangelical Christians — pro-choice advocates and women who have had abortions are tasked with defending a decision that's legal and protected in the eyes of the law.
By conjuring words like "decency," "principle," and "ideals" when describing (or attacking) reproductive healthcare, anti-choice advocates perpetuate the stigma of abortion while simultaneously proclaiming themselves to be the protectors of life. However, as the country gears up for the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), a legislative move that would strip an estimated 13 million children of essential healthcare coverage, I think it's time our culture questions the pro-life movement's mission. When more and more Targeted Regulation Of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws are enacted, making it more expensive to have an abortion by mandating waiting periods, counseling sessions, and unnecessary travel, it's time our culture questions the pro-life moment's position. When an estimated 5,000 American women died every year as a direct result of unsafe abortions before Roe v. Wade was law, it's time our culture questions the pro-life movement's goals, as well as term "pro-life" itself.
Because if you really care about babies and children and the "sanctity of life," here are ways you can actually help that have nothing to do with policing women's bodies and their access and right to safe, effective, and personal reproductive healthcare:
Aid The Reported 15 Million Children Living In Poverty In The United States
According to the National Center For Children In Poverty (NCCP), an estimated 15 million children — 21 percent of all children in the United States — live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. According to the same center, "Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses." That means, according to the same research, a reported 42 percent of children live in low-income families.
NCCP states that research has shown poverty is the single greatest threat to a child's wellbeing: "Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor physical health as well as mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty."
There are numerous organization a pro-life advocate can donate to in hopes of ending child poverty and aiding children facing what research suggests to be life's greatest roadblock. Organizations like UNICEF and NCCP, for example, will take donations that are both protected and tax deductible.
Help The Reported 2.5 Million Homeless Children In The United States
The American Institutes for Research released staggering statistics on children's homelessness in 2014. A reported 1 out of every 30 children are now homeless in the United States, which totals to an estimated 2.5 million children. From 2012 to 2013, child homelessness reportedly increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia. In every city, every county, and every state in the country, there are homeless children.
If you value not only the life of a child, but the quality of life that child will live, you can donate to your local homeless shelter. Of course, you can also take it a step further and donate to organizations working tirelessly to combat the homeless epidemic across the country, including the National Alliance To End Homelessness.
House Or Donate To The Reported 8,000 Syrian Refugees Admitted To The United States (So Far)
According to the State Department, as of Aug 2016 over 8,000 Syrian refugees entered the United States. Of those reported 8,000, an estimated 58 percent are children.
If you truly care about the lives of children, regardless of their circumstances, you can donate to the International Rescue Committee, currently working to save Syrian refugee families across the country. (Your donations are 100 percent secure and tax deductible, according to their website.)
Legislate For Common Sense Gun Laws That Could Save An Estimated 17,383 American Children Every Year
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Brady Campaign, a reported 48 children die every day from gunshot wounds. Every day, 40 children are shot and survive, 32 shot in an assault, one child will survive a suicide attempt, and eight kids are shot unintentionally. In one year, 2,647 kids die from gun violence, and 116 children are killed unintentionally.
Still, and even though a reported 44 percent of Americans identity as pro-life, one out of every three homes with children have guns. Nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun.
If you truly care about the life of a child, you can contact your local, state, and federal representatives to demand common sense gun laws be passed on the federal level.
Donate To The Estimated 13.1 Million Children Going Hungry In The United States
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2015 an estimated 13.1 million children lived in food-insecure households. A "food-insecure" household, according to USDA food security report, is a "household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food."
In 2014, according to the USDA, 20 percent the child population in 30 states and the District of Columbia lived in food-insecure households.
There are children — living, breathing, struggling-to-survive children — who need the passion, advocacy, and relentlessness of the pro-life movement. Those children need your "moral high ground," need your emboldened pleas for people to think of the babies and the kids and the potential lives "lost," and need the same amount of effort many put towards attempting to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
There are numerous organizations that take donations in fighting child hunger in the United States, not to mention the world. Organizations like Feeding America will not only accept your donations, but will assist you in finding a food bank in your local area.
Teach The Reported 1 In 4 Children Who Don't Know How To Read
According To DoSomething.org, 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. A reported two-thirds of American students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Nearly 85 percent of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. According to Save The Children, more than 60 percent of low-income families can't afford to have books in their homes.
If you want to help children and care about their futures, you can donate your time, money, or any books you have laying around your own home. With Save The Children, you can become the sponsor of a child. You can also donate to the First Book Marketplace, which give books to children in low-income homes.
Aid The Reported 5 Million Children Who Witness Domestic Violence Each Year In The United States
According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association (CDV), and as of 2014, a reported 5 million children live in homes where domestic violence is prevalent. Children who grow up with domestic violence are six times more likely to commit suicide, and 50 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. The CDV also reports that "children in homes with violence are physically abused or seriously neglected at a rate 1,500 percent higher than the national average."
The CDV lists numerous ways an individual can work to combat the epidemic of domestic violence. You can donate directly to CVD to, according to their website, "aid education and awareness initiatives." You can also "volunteer your time, host a community fundraiser, partner to scale the solutions, start a chapter, or join the dialogue and help build awareness on our social channels."
Adopt One Of The 415,129 Children Currently In Foster Care
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), in 2014 there were 414,129 children in foster care across the United States. That's more than 15,000 children than the previous year. Of course, adoption is not cheap by any means and many of those children cannot be adopted if parental rights have not been waved or taken away. However, of the over 414,000 children in the foster care system in 2014, a reported 60,898 were waiting to be adopted whose parental rights (for all living parents) were waved.
There are different requirements to becoming a foster parent, depending on where you live. You can look up what it takes to become a foster parent via Transitions Children's Services (TCS) or, if you don't believe foster care is the right life choice for you, donate to extend their services and provide transitional care for children who phase out of the foster care system.
Donate So That 5,000 Children Under 5 Don't Die Every Day From Unclean Drinking Water
According to UNICEF, globally a reported 5,000 children die every day due to "diarrhoeal diseases." Of those 5,000 deaths, an estimated 1,800 are linked to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Almost 90 percent of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water.
Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene program, stated in 2013:
The numbers can be numbing, but they represent real lives, of real children. Every child is important. Every child has the right to health, the right to survive, the right to a future that is as good as we can make it. If, in the development community, we are not looking daily at the faces of little children, we will miss the mark by a considerable distance.
You can donate or sponsor a child with World Vision, who will give clean drinking water to a child who needs it, donate to The Water Project, provide reoccurring, monthly donations, or give your money to The One Foundation.
There truly are so many places to donate, ways to give your time and energy, and pieces of legislation to advocate for in order to truly protect the sanctity of life. There are children — living, breathing, struggling-to-survive children — who need the passion, advocacy, and relentlessness of the pro-life movement. Those children need your "moral high ground," need your emboldened pleas for people to think of the babies and the kids and the potential lives "lost," and need the same amount of effort many put towards attempting to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
If those part of the pro-life movement donated to any of the aforementioned organizations, they could help more than 50 million children. If they continue to focus their time, money, efforts, and energy to ending abortion and reproductive care, they'll put an estimated 157 million women (the number of women currently living in the United States) in danger.
If you truly "choose life," the choice seems pretty clear.