Is Social Distancing Pro-Life?

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Written by Isaac Busby, Programs & Training Coordinator

As we’re now months into the crisis of COVID-19, we’re feeling the weight of the trials that we’ve been anticipating. The novelty of this “once-in-a-lifetime” scenario has largely worn off, and society is groaning for things to return. It’s my prayer that the church has been able to grow in hope, peace, trust, love, and thankfulness as we face this mixed bag of emotions. I hope to strengthen your resolve in light of all of the sacrifices that you’ve been making. There is a strong rhetoric of life in our policies of social distancing and isolation.


Pro-Life Means Social Distancing

The world has been paying close attention, and we’ve seen the terrible consequences of neglecting the threat of COVID-19. Hospitals overflow, medical professionals get sick or fatigued, loved ones are lost, and funerals are banned. The impact is devastating, and we’ve all made drastic sacrifices to prevent this from recurring. The general thought goes: “It’s not just about you staying healthy. It’s about keeping others safe!” And to this we say, “Amen!”


Usually, when we hear the term “pro-life” we’re drawn to the issue of abortion, and for good reason. I would contend that the unborn are by far the most exploited category of people, as they are completely incapable of defending themselves. Nevertheless, we cannot stop there.


Being pro-life means being pro-sanctity of life. We recognize that the worth of all people comes from our image-bearing nature (Gen. 1:26). With each person comes the semblance of the Creator, and we respect all people out of the fear of God. Respect for life cannot end at birth.


“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Although it involves more, we can look and see within His living and dying that He came to serve His own (Mk. 10:45). Though often tired, hungry, and homeless, Christ put others first. Christians bearing the Spirit of this Jesus, though faulty, will begin to consider others as more significant.


“More significant” means more than respect, but it implies sacrifice. It says, “when it comes down to my good versus yours, I’m going to build you up at my own loss.” It communicates to others that we aim to protect them from loss of life and health insofar as we’re able, even at cost. “Because of what Jesus did for me, you and your family are worth my loneliness, joblessness, suffering a difficult or abusive family, and worth wearing this uncomfortable mask.”


Surely, it can be easy to miss the severity of COVID-19 and think that many of these precautions cross the line. We do not intend to harm others. Even further, this is an invisible threat, and the unseen can be difficult to take seriously (not unlike abortion). But, we need to recognize our neighbors and count them as more significant than ourselves.


I don’t aim to suggest exact guidelines or enter the debate of how far we should go into isolation. We have to simultaneously recognize that being pro-life means trying our best to preserve families financially and get people out of abusive situations. The point is that we have to use wisdom and serious precaution as we make these sacrifices for others, because the threat is real.


Pro-Life Means Sacrificing for the Unborn

Conversely, we have to recognize that the same logic that defends those at risk of COVID-19 is the same logic that defends the unborn. I’ve heard it said on the abortion clinic sidewalk, “They’re sacrificing so much in COVID-19, but look at how hard they’re fighting to kill their own children!” We praise God and thank Him that society respects life in the capacity that it does. Yet while rejoicing, we grieve the selective logic that honors some and discards others. 


An apology for unborn life extends beyond this article, but put shortly, the unborn are people with dignity (Ps.139; Lk. 1:41), that life by all scientific knowledge begins at fertilization, and that it’s unhelpful and unconvincing to make arbitrary distinctions between “life” and “personhood.” From zygote to birth, the unborn are as worthy of sacrifice as those at risk of COVID-19, and we have to apply our same zeal for social distancing toward the lives of the most vulnerable: our children.


Of course, a new baby is no small thing! Having a child is life-altering. In the same way that social distancing has brought suffering, people face real difficulties in pregnancy and parenthood. Mothers may face difficult finances, abusive or coercive relationships, embarrassment, or a number of other fears and trials. Nevertheless, we understand the lives of people to be worth sacrifice, and we need to be willing to help provide whatever is necessary both for parents and children.


The Culture of Death

What if we looked from the opposite perspective, understanding the at-risk of COVID 19 as an inconvenience that we shouldn’t be “forced” to bear? I do not intend to be abrupt, nor to push the bar with these statements, but I do believe that these would mirror consistent pro-abortion thought.


“Surely we have less responsibility for strangers than for our own children in the womb! Yeah, we might not want them to die, but why should we be forced to bear the needs of strangers?” They might say, “Yeah, it would be good to socially distance, and I personally do, but who are we to decide whether others should care about the health of strangers? We don’t know what’s best for them!”


These words are strong, weird, and I hope they’re understood as repulsive. I praise God for the respect given to life through this crisis, but this is the rationale of abortion, and this is how it would be applied to COVID-19. This worldview is antithetical to life. This is the culture of death.


Just as being pro-life means holistically promoting and defending all life, prosperity, and goodness, so this mindset of death when fully realized is all-encompassing. We might be seeing it flower in new ways (to us), but life has been exploited for millennia. Whether it’s abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, racism, theft, murder, rape, abuse, pornography, or anything similar, the culture of death is anti-life, anti-gospel, and it exploits others for self.


True Life

The church understands these distinctions as nothing new. From the fall, we’ve rejected God the Life-Giver. Wanting to be God, we use others for our purposes and distort His design. But God in Christ preserved us, and while we were yet sinners Jesus died for us (Rom. 5:8). God our Restorer has made a way so that we once again can have True Life!


This is why the church must reject the culture of death and defend life. We advocate for life because Jesus advocates for ours (1 Jn. 2:1)! Considering others as more significant than ourselves, we socially distance, refuse to steal, share the gospel, care for the homeless, fight to end exploitation and trafficking, and speak the truth in love on abortion clinic sidewalks, offering real help and gospel hope wherever there is need.

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