Foreword: Pro-Life Progressivism and the Fourth Option in American Public Life

12 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2006

See all articles by Thomas C. Berg

Thomas C. Berg

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law


This article is the foreword to a symposium, "Can the Seamless Garment Be Sewn? The Future of Pro-Life Progressivism," held at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and published in volume 2, issue 2 of the University of St. Thomas Law Journal. Pro-life progressivism is an approach that combines opposition to abortion and euthanasia with a number of positions typically deemed progressive or leftward-leaning, such as support for strong anti-discrimination (including sex-discrimination) laws, strong anti-poverty programs with governmental involvement, strong environmental protection, skepticism about the use of American military force, and concern for the rights and dignity of those accused and convicted of crimes. In political debate today these positions are typically seen as contradictory. But this symposium examines the combination of positions, for virtually the first time in legal scholarship, and examines whether the approach has intellectual coherence and political viability. Symposium contributors, both proponents and critics of pro-life progressivism, include legal scholars, moral philosophers, social scientists, political activists, and a member of Congress.

This Foreword introduces the symposium papers by first describing three main streams of thought that flow into pro-life progressivism: the Catholic social-justice tradition, especially the consistent ethic of life articulated by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin; pro-life feminism represented by groups such as Feminists for Life; and the left wing of evangelical Protestantism, represented by figures such as Jim Wallis, the symposium's keynote speaker. The Foreword then notes that this approach faces daunting political hurdles as it seeks to offer a missing fourth option in American public life in distinction to the familiar political options of conservatism, liberalism, and libertarianism. After describing other aspects of the intellectual and political atmosphere for pro-life progressivism, the Foreword summarizes the papers from the three symposium panels: an overview panel with both proponents and critics (from the left and right) of pro-life progressivism, a law and policy panel advancing and critiquing specific proposals in a pro-life progressive agenda, and a politics panel assessing the viability and future of this approach in politics and culture.

Keywords: Abortion, euthanasia, progressivism, politics and culture, pro-life, pro-life progressivism, social justice, Catholic social teaching, pro-life feminism

Suggested Citation

Berg, Thomas Charles, Foreword: Pro-Life Progressivism and the Fourth Option in American Public Life. University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, p. 235, 2005; U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-04. Available at SSRN:

Thomas Charles Berg (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law ( email )

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