A conservative religious organization with ties to the oil industry is lashing out at health-conscious evangelical leaders for supporting new federal rules on mercury. They assert that protection of the unborn from toxic pollution cannot be called pro-life because the term does not mean “quality of life.”
The Cornwall Alliance is a group of conservative evangelicals devoted to spreading disinformation about climate change through its mission of “free-market environmental stewardship.” In its Declaration on Global Warming, the organization says “we deny that carbon dioxide … is a pollutant” and that “we deny that alternative, renewable fuels can … replace fossil and nuclear fuels.”
Think Progress conducted a lengthy investigation of this pollution-pushing evangelical group in 2010.
Responding to a new video and radio ad campaign from the Evangelical Environment Network that encourages lawmakers to support new mercury standards in order to “protect the unborn,” the Cornwall Alliance issued a statement explaining its view that being pro-life does not denote “quality of life.”
The term pro-life originated historically in the struggle to end abortion on demand and continues to be used in public discourse overwhelmingly in that sense. To ignore that is at best sloppy communication and at worst intentional deception. The life in pro-life denotes not quality of life but life itself. The term denotes opposition to a procedure that intentionally results in dead babies. (Bold not our emphasis.)
This doesn’t mean we should ignore environmental risks. It does mean they should not be portrayed as pro-life. Genuinely pro-life people will usually desire to reduce other risks as well—guided by cost/benefit analysis. But to call those issues “pro-life” is to obscure the meaning of the term.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the new mercury rules will prevent 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma attacks each year. And the impact of high levels of mercury in unborn children are well documented:
For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development. Impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb.
Outbreaks of methylmercury poisonings have made it clear that adults, children, and developing fetuses are at risk from ingestion exposure to methylmercury. During these poisoning outbreaks some mothers with no symptoms of nervous system damage gave birth to infants with severe disabilities, it became clear that the developing nervous system of the fetus may be more vulnerable to methylmercury than is the adult nervous system.
A growing number of religious leaders — including the U.S. Conference of Bishops — has come out in favor of reducing mercury emissions because of their impact on the health of children.