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What is the Consistent Life Ethic?

Updated on October 5, 2014

Life and Peace

The Consistent Life Ethic is an extension of pro-life ideas. Those who support the consistent life ethic believe that not only abortion but also capital punishment, war, and euthanasia are violations of the sanctity of human life. They also look at problems like poverty and racism as pro-life issues. Because of this, they often find it difficult to wholeheartedly support either of the major parties in American politics.

Note: I recognize that there are many wonderful people who may disagree with some or all of these opinions. My goal is to describe these beliefs without insulting anyone else's point of view.

Liberal? Conservative?

Even though Consistent Life Ethic supporters are often called "pro-life liberals" (personally, I do use that label), it is completely possible for someone to have conservative views about things like economics, education, church-state issues, et. al., and still agree with the life & death principles of the Consistent Life Ethic. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, for example, is a conservative libertarian who opposed both abortion and the Iraq War.

From the womb to the tomb

It doesn't seem weird to us

When people hear me call myself a pro-life liberal, sometimes it seems like a really strange concept to them. The dominant image of liberalism includes support for abortion rights as a given. But to those of our persuasion, supporting life across the board makes perfect sense.

As Pope John Paul II said, we have increasingly become a society where death is seen as the solution to problems. Unplanned pregnancy, international disputes, crime, chronic disease. Whatever the problem is, the Consistent Life Ethic asserts that we should approach it in a way that doesn't involve ending human life.

There have been many prominent "liberal" voices (including war resisters, humanitarian advocates, and pioneering feminists) who have also been opposed to abortion.

Does that mean you're a pacifist?

Not necessarily.

There are some people who support the Consistent Life Ethic who are pacifists, but there are others who believe that war can be an option, but in very limited cases. For example when another country has attacked yours or clearly stated that they are going to attack yours, this would be seen as using war as a way to prevent the imminent death of others, so it would be similar to attacking a person who is trying to kill you or terminating a pregnancy in the case of an ectopic or some other condition that is threatening the life of the mother. In these cases, violence is possibly the only way to resolve an immediate threat of death.

This conditional support of war would not extend to making a strike at a country just because they have the ability to attack us, even though they haven't said that they intend to attack. To us, that would be like killing a person just because you know they own a gun and they've said that they don't like you, or terminating a normal healthy pregnancy because statistics show that some pregnancies can physically endanger the mother sometimes. None of those scenarios would be supported under the Consistent Life Ethic.

What's poverty got to do with it?

Is poverty a pro-life issue?

Real poverty results in people dying from starvation and from preventable diseases. That is a threat to the principle of valuing all human life.

I believe that supporting the Consistent Life Ethic means that one agrees that issues like poverty and starvation are pro-life concerns. I don't think that all CLE supporters have to agree about what the solutions to those problems should be.

Here's an article I wrote:

The Minimum Wage is a Pro-Life Issue.

And racism, too?

I was puzzled when I first saw racism mentioned in the mission statement of Consistent Life. I haven't heard anyone else's explanation of why racism is included, so I can only express my own theory.

Underlying the concept of racism is the belief that some people are better than other people. That would translate into an idea of valuing one life more highly than another, which is indeed a violation of pro-life principles. So I can understand why opposing racism would be included in the Consistent Life Ethic, even though it might appear to be a stretch.

Find out more

Poll Section

Heard of it?

Have you heard of the consistent life ethic before?

See results

Tell us where you stand.

What are your views on abortion, capital punishment, and war?

See results

An alternative to the Republocrats?

Would it be a good thing if the United States had another political party that was anti-abortion, anti-war, and anti-death penalty?

See results

Keep in mind that this site is not intended to be a debate forum (there are numerous sites on the internet where all of these issues can be debated). I encourage you to express your agreement or disagreement by taking the polls.

If you have specific thoughts about the manner in which these principles have been presented on this site, I welcome your feedback.

Love ya!

Say hello!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Joan, what an interesting lens! I had never heard of the Consistent Life Ethic. I want to give it some thought. Consistency is important to me and I appreciate the attempt to be consistent in all areas. Ayn Rand used to advise people to "check your premises." Our positions should be consistent with the premises that we start out with. One thing I hate about politicians on both the left and the right is their inconsistency - they violate their principles so much that it's hard to know what premises they started out with. Thanks for this lens!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      This was presented extremely well! Two thumbs up!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      @anonymous: Thanks for dropping by! I've been wanting to have some videos on this page for a long time!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I host a consistent life ethic youtube channel called "MrAbolitionist", This is a great explanation of the philosophy.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Great job of explaining the cocepts of the consistent life ethic. This is a very libertarian way of looking at things too.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      You know Joan, througout the past few years my feelings have really run the gamut of emotions and thoughts.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 7 years ago

      Interesting and thought provoking lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great new lens Joan. I always learn something new from you.

      Best wishes,


      P.S. I'll add this as a featured lens to Top 100 Rocket Moms Lenses List / Help for Haiti. Thanks!

    • Brookelorren LM profile image

      Brookelorren LM 8 years ago

      Thanks for donating to Haiti. I would call that pro-life :-)

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 8 years ago

      Thank you for caring, and for adding this beautiful lens to RocketMoms Help for Haiti to benefit the Haitian people. ~claudia

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 8 years ago from California

      Drat, I can't get the polls to load.

      Good lens. I have slightly different views, but the goal is to protect life and try to do no harm (as much as one can, considering we have to eat to live) -- on that we can agree!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 8 years ago from Los Angeles

      @religions7: I'm interested in seeing what combinations of viewpoints people have. The stereotype in American politics is that certain opinions always go hand in hand. But so far in the poll, only a minority of people seem to fit the mold of pure party-line-conservative or party-line-liberal.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens, blessed by a squidangel :) I would personally have made three polls: one about abortion, one about the death penalty, one about war.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 8 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Very interesting and thought provoking lens. 5* and blessed.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 8 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Thanks for explaining this.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 8 years ago

      Great presentation! Excellent resource for learning about the Consistent Life Ethic.

    • Dee Gallemore profile image

      Dee Gallemore 8 years ago

      I, too was not familiar with CLE. Thought-provoking and clearly presented.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I think that you have presented the beliefs of the Consistent Life Ethic very well. Respectfully and honestly. Great lens.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 8 years ago from United States

      I always find your lenses so thought provoking. Once again, we are back to labeling and like you, I agree that we all do not fit into "boxes." People make assumptions and ignorance abounds

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 8 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Great lens! I was not familiar with this before and your presentation is very clear. I find myself in agreement with a lot of these views! I especially agree that "a society where death is seen as the solution to problems" is not what we want. Not sure if another political party is the answer - politics is complicated! The US basically has a 2-party system. To have more than 2 powerful parties it seems that governments become coalitions, since no party has an outright majority. But I am impressed by the Consistent Life Ethic!