Why Pro-Life Stops at Birth: Who Really Supports Life and Why by Winifred Nathan

The patriarchal Catholic Church claims to be pro-Life.  But is it pro-Life?  Or is it pro-Birth?  A Catholic Benedictine sister outed the pro-Life movement. Her position: the pro-life crowd shows little if any ongoing interest in life after birth.  They’re pro-birth, but not pro-life.  Legislators who enact laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion, but then stand firm against funding  programs that assist the mother and her baby once the child is born are not pro-life.   Too often the goal of anti-abortion advocates is for the fetus to make it to birth. Birth is the important value, life not so much.

I propose the starting point for deciphering this puzzle is to look at our desire as human beings for immortality.  We want to defy death believing that there is a spiritual continuation of who we are after our bodies shut down.  We want death to be a new beginning.

A great deal of effort goes into seeking  an answer to the question what comes next.  A question we presently lack the capacity to answer. We honestly do not know what if anything happens following death.

Are we going down the wrong path when we pursue the spiritual avenue for the answer?   Ironically is it instead our bodies that continue to exist?  Consider that our genes are passed from parent to child.  If the answer to immortality lies here, then why don’t we think about the passing on of our DNA as a type of immortality?  Perhaps because it is not me the individual who achieves immortality, but rather me genetically that is passed on and on.  This immortality does not give me reward or punishment as promised by some religions.  Regardless, our DNA does live on in our progeny and is a recognizable path to immortality.

If biology provides a path to achieve immortality, arguably biology takes on new meaning. Our bodies which are often viewed as inferior to our intellectual/spiritual life are elevated.  When sex is viewed as our path to immortality, sex becomes far more than erotic pleasure.  If we are to grasp this quest for immortality, exploration of our sexuality takes on new importance.

I propose that given the male’s role in reproduction he is more inclined to support pro-birth.  The female is inclined to support pro-life given her role.  The male’s strategy is both quantitative and qualitative in assuring the continuance of his genes.  The female is confined to the qualitative strategy.

The human male has an abundant renewable supply of sperm.  Given the opportunity the human male can potentially impregnate several females in any one day with low to no negative impact on his body other than fatigue. After he impregnates the female, he is free to leave. This isn’t necessarily the best choice, but it is a choice available to him.

By contrast the female supplies a nutritious rich egg and the use of her body for nine months.  She produces typically one egg a month, and if impregnated, she will give birth to a full term baby nine months later. Her likelihood of reproducing is reduced at best to once every nine to ten months.  If she has multiple births she can do slightly better. Additionally pregnancy and childbirth are not without risk. The bottom line, males have a quantitative edge in reproduction which the female does not share.

The female has no alternative, her presence is required at the birth of her child. If she wants to abandon the child or give the baby up for adoption, her action is required.  This is after months of intimate awareness of the growth of the baby and her experience at birth.

There is no requirement that the father be present at the birth of his child. He has the option of being totally uninvolved with his offspring. He may impregnate multiple  females relying on some portion of these females to produce full term babies and nurture and raise them so they will continue his genes in new progeny.  The father is not excluded from the role of nurturer, but he can avoid whatever responsibility he has.  He can take his chances that some of the females that he impregnates will successfully raise his progeny and his genes will continue to exist.

The male has both a quantitative and qualitative strategy available to him to insure the continuance of his DNA.  When pursuing the quantitative route he may attempt to limit any interference with his opportunity of impregnating females (birth control), and once the female is impregnated he will want to prohibit termination of the fertilized egg (abortion).

The female is restricted to the qualitative route. Since she is limited in the number of offspring she can produce and has a meaningful investment already by the time of birth, she typically makes the most of her investment and raises the child.  She is far less likely to terminate her relationship with her baby..  Even if her choice is to not raise the child, she does not by this action significantly increase the number of offspring she can produce.

The bottom line: those wittingly or unwittingly who would prohibit birth control and abortion are enabling the male’s strategy of a quantitative approach to reproduction.

In summary, I write not only to put forward a biological explanation for the inconsistency of those who interfere in women’s reproductive choices and then not follow through with assistance after the baby is born.  I write also to advocate that women be able to choose birth control and abortion which can be a part of their reproductive qualitative strategy.  A woman best knows when she is able to take on the awesome responsibility of pregnancy, birth and child rearing.

And one last thought … everyone involved in raising a child can benefit from support.


Winifred Nathan BA, MSW, JD, is a retired attorney. Her resume includes in chronological order sworn police officer, mother, social worker, and psychotherapist.  Her bachelor degree was in philosophy and sociology.  She lives with her husband in South Carolina but her heart is in Wisconsin where she was born, raised and lived for most of her life.  She was born a feminist.


Categories: Activism, Ancestors, Body, Childbirth, Children, Death, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Gift of Life, Reproductive Justice

Tags: , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Winifred Nathan, this is the sanest thing I have read about the whole “pro-life” double-speak-debacle. Thank you for taking the sentimental hysteria out of the argument and making it real. Bless you.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reblogged this on aunt polly's rants and commented:
    Common sense, here. I couldn’t agree more.


  3. A logical, reasonable, and factual argument. Has no one ever expressed these ideas before? I keep hearing about men and religions and (alas) even some women who proclaim themselves to be “pro-life.” But after a child is born, either wanted or unwanted, who’s going to take care of that child? You give an excellent argument. But will any patriarch (male or female) pay attention??

    Thanks for this eye-opening, brain-stirring post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many of my thoughts are influenced by Charles Darwin, particularly his writing about sexual selection in the Origin of Species and the Descent of Man, and Richard Dawkins the British evolutionary biologist. Some of this thinking shows up in this piece of writing.


  4. You nail the issue with these words : Legislators who enact laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion, but then stand firm against funding programs that assist the mother and her baby once the child is born are not pro-life. What a crazymaker. Anyone who is pro – life is at this point participating in the delusion that this planet can continue to sustain the explosion of humans that are taking over the Earth and destroying ALL LIFE. I find your arguments sound. However, how can we continue to argue these philosophical points when we have so many starving children in the world? If we are serious about honoring the sanctity of life we need to restrict HUMAN reproduction. Period.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Yesterday on YouTube, (where there are some very good videos including talks by the Benedictine Sister Winifred mentions at the beginning of this post), I came across a Monty Python song: Every Sperm is Sacred https://youtu.be/nal8YXIesA8
    Somewhat irreverent but very true!

    “The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” is a quote from one of our Prime Ministers. (Justin’s father, Pierre Trudeau) Neither does the leadership of a church – especially one so lopsided. I think the roots of the “pro-life” thinking go back to Genesis 38, where Onam is “killed by G-d” for spilling his sperm on the earth rather than impregnating his widowed sister-in-law and “raising up children” for his deceased brother’s line. We no longer need to create more people. Be better to improve the ones we already are.


  6. I have been saying this for years and appreciate this well-articulated essay. I actually will discuss abortion with people who are anti-abortion as long as they are 1) antiwar, 2) anti-capital punishment, and 3) very supportive of public housing, education, nutrition, and health care for everyone. I will not discuss abortion with people who go to rallies in Kansas carrying signs that say “Support Our Unborn Troops” (this actually happened), who want to deny the coverage of basic needs to other people, and who prefer to have their conversations with those who cannot talk back, such as fetuses and people on life support.


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