The Great MAGA “Prolife” Sleight of Hand

Abby Johnson writes on Facebook:

Why is the prolife movement expected to pick up and take on every single societal ill that plagues us?? Homelessness, immigration issues, poverty, healthcare, war, death penalty…the list is endless. Why is no other group or movement expected to do this?

Why is no one upset at the American Cancer Society for ONLY focusing on cancer?? Why not diabetes, too??? Or hey, why is Habitat for Humanity only focused on housing??? Don’t they know people need clothing, as well?? Or even better, doesn’t Planned Parenthood know that women need housing, food, clothing, and things besides abortion and STD tests???

You see, these other groups are laser focused on their goals and that is why they are so effective…including Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood knows their product. It is abortion. They use ineffective birth control and STD testing to sell it. No one is more laser focused on selling their product and pushing their movement forward than Planned Parenthood. We could honestly take some lessons from them.

I personally have followed a whole life perspective since becoming prolife, but I recognize that the prolife movement should be about one thing and one thing alone…


Our movement is not responsible to cure every tragedy that burdens our society. There are many parts to the body of Christ. We are the part that fights against abortion and builds up women who choose life. When we get bogged down with all of these others issues that we aren’t responsible for, it weakens our message and gets us off task.

Do we care about other issues? Absolutely. Do I do work at the border and care about immigrants. You bet. Do I personally work with the homeless and provide aid to those who need help? Yep, as often as I can. Do I feel like that is part of my personal prolife mission? Yes, I do. But that is not part of our movement. Our movement is to end abortion.

We will be successful when we are directly focused on that ONE. MAIN. THING. Just like Planned Parenthood, we have a product to sell. It’s life and it’s life to the fullest. That’s the main thing. ❤️

Yeah. About that. Here’s reality: It would be great if the MAGA “prolife” cult actually focused on abortion. But here’s how it really works, Abby. You focus, not on defending the unborn, but on defending Trump and on defending his eugenics approach of abandoning the weak (including, by the way, pregnant mothers) to COVID. Remember?

Nor are you alone. The whole MAGA cult is 100% committed, not to focusing on abortion, but to focusing on attacking the Church whenever the Holy Father says anything they don’t want to hear. You remember?

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I talk about this sleight of hand in The Church’s Best-Kept Secret:

The argument works, or seems to work, this way: Why should we spend time and energy on things like capital pun­ishment or deportation or the fact that the United States is now a gigantic prison state when 1.5 million babies are dying each year? The same objection is typically advanced for nearly everything listed above. All these things are (goes the objection) “prudential judgments” and not gravely and intrinsically immoral as abortion is; therefore we can pass over them and, as the saying goes, “focus on abortion, which is non-negotiable.”

But the problem with this approach, as the language about “diluting the brand” hints, is that the Church’s teach­ings about these issues are not really passed over in favor of defending the unborn by those who use such language. On the contrary, the Church’s teachings are actively opposed by those who claim to, but do not, “focus on abortion.”

Here’s the deal: There is plenty of room in the Church’s tradition for specialization and focusing on specific issues, needs, and ills. Dominicans specialize in preaching. The Sisters of Providence specialize in healing and building hospitals. Jesuits found schools, and so forth. As Paul says, different members of the body do different things (see 1 Corinthians 12). So somebody who truly wants to focus on abortion and the protection of human life from conception to birth is perfectly free to do so.

But healthy members of the Body of Christ do not declare that other members “dilute the brand” by focusing on other issues or by caring about multiple issues at once. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Somebody who says “We need to address the sadistic cruelty being meted out to refugee chil­dren, snatched from their parents at the border and disap­peared into a concentration camp system that cannot even figure out how to unite them with those parents again” is not “diluting the brand” of the Church’s teaching, nor “dis­tracting” from abortion. They are simply being consistent about the Dignity of the Human Person from conception to natural death.


If your focus is on abortion, fine. Focus on it. But do not pretend to focus on it while actually spending your time and energy fighting against the Magisterium and in favor of capital punishment, fighting against Laudato Si’ and in favor of policies that harm the environment, fighting against a living wage and in favor of laissez faire capitalism (condemned since Rerum Novarum was written in the 1890s), fighting against a century’s worth of mag­isterial calls for universal health care and denouncing the Church as “socialist” to shout down that call. None of that is “focusing on abortion” and none of it is prudential judg­ment. It is weaponizing the unborn in order to fight the rest of the Church’s teaching by making the unborn the opposite of and competitor to all the human lives harmed and even killed by sins in these other areas.


9 Responses

  1. And it’s even prudent and pragmatic to not oppose other issues.
    Why even let others question their motivations? What’s the point of weighing in on “other” issues that they themselves say are secondary to their objective?
    Who “muddies the waters” or “dilutes the brand” more? Those who seek good other than just ending abortion and see pro-life aligned with their goals, or those who actively seek evil and cling themselves to pro-life movements for personal leverage?
    Maybe the former group “muddies the waters” and “dilutes the brand.” Sure. But if that’s the case, then to extend the metaphor, the latter group is **adding cement** to the water and **poisons** the the brand.

  2. And I’m writing this in the wake of the last week’s decision of the Constitutional Tribunal* here in Poland.
    *) A word of explanation: Like most countries in Europe, Poland has statutory and regulatory laws and no provisions for common law. Previous court cases are not basis for law, and precedent does not set the interpretation. The chain of courts, from local, through district, to the supreme, decide on a case-by-case basis against the code of laws and do not strike down codified law as invalid. The two special courts, the Constitutional Tribunal and the State Tribunal, decide on whether codified law is aligned with the Constitution or whether contested actions of an individual were constitutional, respectively.
    In that way, the Tribunal holds a role similar to the Supreme Court of the US.

    The Constitution purports to protect life of every human. (No additional qualifiers)
    Abortion in Poland is illegal except for three circumstances: The unborn is gravely and irreversibly damaged; the pregnancy resulted from a criminal act (rape, incest, etc.), the life of the mother is endangered.

    The Tribunal ruled in a case concerning the first of these three provisions and decided that it is invalid from the constitutional point of view and therefore was struck down.
    There were two dissenting voices and the provision would have been struck down regardless of what group was chosen to rule this case (in fact, the two dissenting voices were known in advance from previous public statements and it can be argued that they were specifically chosen to show that this was not a unanimous decision and that dissent was considered).

    This is the third time that the Tribunal was asked to rule concerning this provision (previous two questions were unanswered because they were delayed until the then-current parliament finished its term and questions were voided).

    It opens up a way to now consider the second provision, and it’s expected to be struck down in the same way. The third provision can then be reframed into a more comprehensive bioethics framework.

    I’m writing this because it is possible to enact effective laws that prohibit abortion. The previous attempts to change the law were foolish attempts at tilting at windmills and were easily struck down in parliament. Even if they would be enacted by one parliament, they would have been struck down by the subsequent term. When the Tribunal makes a ruling that upholds that abortion is unconstitutional (and it is, hence why it is illegal in the first place, except for the three aforementioned provisions), it would require amending the constitution to strike it down and that is unlikely for many reasons.

    And yes, I know that it won’t end abortion. Illegal abortion in Poland is widespread and legal abortion in neighboring countries is easy to obtain. But at least we don’t need to participate in it.

  3. Speaking of sleight-of-hand, notice that Johnson compares the pro-life movement to specific organizations?

    The pro-life movement (in its Platonic ideal form, which may or may not have ever existed here in the US) is about safeguarding human lives and the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. It’s a broad goal.

    Individual pro-life organizations do often have that laser-focus. Some focus on political action, working to elect pro-life politicians. Others focus on giving material and financial support to women in crisis pregnancies. Some have nothing to do with abortion, focusing instead on bioethics issues like embryonic stem cell research and CRISPR babies. (This is all, of course, in theory. The practice is frequently less altruistic, but nonetheless just as laser-focused.)

    The criticism of pro-lifers is not about where they choose to focus their efforts. It’s about what they support, and what they don’t support.

  4. So if Pope Francis is saying what I think he’s saying things are getting mighty interesting. Compare what the
    pope is saying –with the Donald wrinkling his nose and accusing immigrants of not being worthy of entrance to our country because of they are supposedly less intelligent than he is.

    I’ve wondered if citizenship in the heavenly abode works in a “come one come all” –AND *all* of us get locked out of the city on the hill until everyone is home, safe and sound. (I’m reminded of an old Irish friend who loved saying “he’ll/she’ll roast!” with a thick Irish accent.) Of course this means we’d all have to eventually rub shoulders with some SERIOUSLY heinous, former scoundrels.

    I wonder what the Donald would sound like if he was humble, chastened and sincere (?). He might eventually have something interesting to say at the dinner table.

    God: “I’ll leave a light on for you…But don’t knock until everyone is accounted for.” 🙂

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