The connection between protecting human life and being a champion of the environment

William Patenaude

As I write this, the Rhode Island pro-life community is reeling from the passage in our House of Representatives of a bill that would — among other evils — hardwire into state law the killing of the unborn at any time before birth.
The irony is that many who voted in favor of this legislation, or who supported it, also champion ecological concerns. But one cannot claim eco-friendly credentials and advance the intentional and often brutal ending of a human life.
In fact, pro-abortion politicians (tragically, some of whom are Catholic), and all those who support such a barbaric practice can learn a thing or two from a true appreciation of ecology and the practice of ecological protection. I say this for two reasons that both have to do with the relational nature of creation.
First, as environmental advocates remind us, the health of the natural world is necessary to support human life. Clean air and water, healthy food and an environment free of toxins are necessary for both the born and, often more so, the unborn.
The first hours and days of a human’s development require precise biological sequences that can easily be disrupted by environmental toxins. The same is true for young children and any adult with compromised health. Altering Earth’s atmospheric composition, which affects our climate and intensifies how our planet distributes moisture and thermal energy, also impacts human lives. As do plastic pollutants in our waterways, the destruction of rainforests, and on the list goes.
In other words, protecting ecosystems — which are comprised of and nurture life — is a moral necessity. That makes the voices for environmental protection champions of life. And yet for that very reason they cannot also approve of the destruction of human life. Any society that considers abortion acceptable can never find within it the means or the desire to adequately protect creation. If murdering humans can be allowed by law, then destroying any other living thing is that much easier to justify.
The relational nature of creation speaks to another reality at the heart of today’s fight against abortion. Groups like Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion politicians are fond of the lie that women who find themselves facing a difficult pregnancy are alone. A similar falsehood is that those who oppose abortion do not also support mothers, fathers and their families.
On the contrary, the groups and the individuals I know that are the most passionate and engaged in the great fight for life are also the most active when it comes to supporting women and children — and yes, men too. The Diocese of Providence’s Office of Life and Family, Rhode Island Right to Life and so many other religious groups, secular pro-family entities and individuals understand the needs of so many because they work with them every day.
Much like eco-advocates understand the innate relational nature of ecosystems, pro-life advocates understand the innate relational nature of families and the greater community. Where they see need, they act. They meet real human suffering with love — not with cold lies or the offer of death in the name of healthcare.
Thus, the heartache felt by so many when our House of Representative’s voted for death. The battle against any approval of abortion is a battle for life itself — all life. It is a battle for a world that is rooted in love, a world that champions a true, relational nature of the human person and of all creation itself.
William Patenaude, M.A., KCHS, serves on the diocesan pastoral council, is an engineer with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and is a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish, West Warwick. He writes at His novel A Printer’s Choice is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.