The pandemic lockdowns had not been lifted before riots broke out across America, unrest which then spread throughout the Western world. Sparked by the stomach-churning video of a black man being suffocated by a white cop, the fires of outrage which led to these riots have since cooled, and have now become smoldering piles of suspicion. In corporate, academic, political, and celebrity networks, statements of support circulate as much to express solidarity as to signal virtues and expose the ideologically impure. The bended knee and the repeated phrase “Black Lives Matter” have become shibboleths, tests by which racists are purportedly exposed.
It goes without saying, of course, that nothing could be more precious than life – this fact is the bedrock on which our own crusade on behalf of the unborn is founded. Black life matters dearly, especially in the womb, where it is menaced and maimed with disgraceful impunity. Thus, if the “Black Lives Matter” movement were true to that name, its supporters would not have converged on police precincts nor would they be toppling the statues of forgotten confederates or Renaissance-era explorers. They would, instead, have headed to the places where black life is being destroyed on an almost unthinkable scale, to the places where black bodies are torn apart every day and their tiny organs trafficked for profit – a practice which draws uncomfortable but clear parallels with the slave trade of old. “Black Lives Matter” activists should be working tirelessly to purge the memory – and stop the ongoing work – of one of the 20th-century’s most virulent and destructive racists, Margaret Sanger, the still-lauded founder of Planned Parenthood. But, instead of working to prevent the daily destruction of black life in the womb, this movement has taken aim at something called “systemic racism.”
An intentionally vague term, systemic racism is in the eye of the rebellious beholder, and it has been used to indict everything from social structures and psychological patterns. Two important consequences follow from its use. First, by making a nebulous “system” the elusive source of evil, social activists with radical left-wing agendas have convinced those in the demoralized, guilt-ridden West that everything from their culture to their individual psyches are in need of extreme changes. But – and this is the second point – systemic racism makes such extreme changes necessary precisely by collapsing the vital distinction, so central to Christianity, between agent and action, sinner and sin. This distinction is the basis for redemption on a personal level and reform on an institutional one. Without it, there is no hope. In such a paradigm, mobs are only placated when scapegoats are broken or when the extant system is smashed.
Here, a telling contrast can be made with the pro-life movement. If any system might be charged with irredeemable corruption – to say nothing of its complicity with the destruction of black life – it is the abortion-industrial complex. And yet, faced with the heinous evil of pre-natal infanticide, the pro-life movement has recourse not to riots but rosaries: Marches for Life, in Canada, the U.S., and across the world, are peaceful and prayerful, conspicuous for their cheerfulness and joy. We sing hymns; we walk with hope; and we see the perpetrators and supporters of abortion as the second victims of that terrible crime. In our view, the parents, the medical and legal professionals, and the politicians who participate in or support this odious evil have themselves been wounded and deceived. They, like the unborn victims of abortion, are the objects of our love and prayers. To them, we hold out hands of empathy, compassion, healing, and forgiveness.
We in the pro-life movement know that there is no such thing as “systemic” injustice, because we know that sinful acts – of racial prejudice or even murder – are always the acts of individuals, and they can, therefore, be forgiven and amended. Those who have been harmed by the evil of abortion are not beyond redemption. Indeed, former members of the abortion industry from Bernard Nathanson to Abby Johnson have become the loudest, clearest voices on behalf of the victims who suffer silently in the womb.
To contaminate any system with an indistinct accusation is to lay the groundwork for more injustice, not less. In fact, while the slogan, “Black Lives Matter” can be charitably read as a protest, an objection to the shameful fact that some lives are implicitly excluded from the statement, “all lives matter,” one can also hear, in the insistence of a distinction, a fracturing of the universalism that makes us all members of the same human family. Nothing good can come from such a rupture. Last summer, for instance, the student protestors on the streets of Hong Kong reacted with prescient alarm when the state police began referring to them as “cockroaches.” They rightly drew the troubling parallels between previous genocides in Rwanda and Germany where dehumanization in language preceded barbaric programs of real extermination. And we in the pro-life movement know all too well that the dehumanization of the unborn, with euphemisms like “clump of cells” or foreign-sounding technical terms like “fetus,” have enabled their murder.
We cannot, therefore, give any ground to social forces that admits exceptions to the human family. All lives matter; and the murder of anyone be they black or white, born or unborn, is intolerable. It is the height of hypocrisy for political radicals to exploit victims of violence to advance their agenda, all the while ignoring the daily plight of the unborn.
Western culture is in desperate need of healing, but not because an undefined demon lurks in the shadows of its systems. Rather, we have been harmed by decades of corrosive violence against the unborn and, more recently, by provocateurs who conceal that very violence and who stoke only the flames of outrage that further their own purposes. But peace on the streets starts with safety in the womb, and our unravelling world needs the pro-life movement’s unifying message of universal justice now more than ever.