I’m a Pro-Thriver

By Penny Smith

Obviously, to be a pro-thriver, you have to be pro-life. You can’t thrive, if you’re not alive. So, I must also be pro-life and that’s true. Life is better than the alternative. But I have a very different notion about what pro-life means than the people whom President Trump addressed in Washington DC on January 19.

Young people have a right to thrive. That means they get adequate medical care. They are able to go to a dentist. If they have hearing or vision problems, someone helps them address those challenges.

It also means they have adequate housing with hot and cold running water, sufficient room, functioning utilities, and an absence of rodents and cockroaches. Paint on the walls is lead free; it’s neither chipping nor peeling. That housing is on a safe street in a safe neighborhood. Children can walk to playgrounds that are furnished with well-maintained equipment. They have access to clean water and unpolluted air.

Children need decent food to thrive. They should live in a world without food insecurity; they know there will be a next nutritious meal when the time comes. Thrivers reside in a food oasis, not a food desert populated by islands of highly processed meal options.

And to live out the American Dream, they need good schools, not testing centers. Those schools provide more than standardized training services; they have a range of educational options tailored to specific needs. They are open throughout the year and include the counseling help that young people whose lives are likely to encounter traumas need.

To thrive means that everyone has access to a modicum of opportunities – good libraries, recreation centers, museums, and computers. Each child should also have access to caring adults who provide mentoring, guidance and time to listen. They deserve role models who look and sound like them.

Children own their bodies; they should not be misused or abused. Just as we proscribe certain forms of child labor, we shield children from abusers and bullies. Society also accepts some responsibility for reducing their fears, minimizing their encounters with random shootings, drug overdoes, spousal violence, and despair.

Children deserve a realistic sense of their world. They should be neither overly sheltered from nor thrown to the wolves. We have an obligation to provide them with wolf-taming tools while they are young.

Pro-life, at least the thriving variety, isn’t simply about respiration. Existence is a necessary, but not sufficient, pre-condition to thriving. It means living in a way that allows you to become the best you that you are capable of being. Too often our nation’s pro-lifers are really pro-embryo or pro-fetus. After gestation the living become someone else’s responsibility.

People who vote pro-life are sometimes the very people who vote anti-thrive. No to affordable housing. No to CHIP. No to DACA. No to repairing the Flint, Michigan, water system. No to pollution controls. No to a living wage. No to food programs. No to job retraining. No to extra funding for schools in impoverished neighborhoods. No to diversity. No to affordable college educations. No to a thousand things. No.

Yep, I’m pro-life, but only if by that you mean pro-thrive. Once you convince me you love all God’s children, are believers in the beloved community, and you will work to ensure equal opportunities to thrive in that community, only then will I talk about embryos and fetuses. And at that point, I’ll want to consider what right any government has to enslave the body of a citizen.