During the campaign, then-candidate Trump often spoke in support of pro-life and caring for unborn children. Yet once in power, the President has failed completely to keep our children, both born and unborn, safe from the ravages of pollution.
The latest instance of this was on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, when Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stayed or halted the implementation of the EPA’s Methane New Source Performance Standard (NSPS), in keeping with President Trump’s Executive Order on March 28, 2017.
As pro-life evangelicals, we have a special concern for the unborn. We want children to be born healthy and unhindered by the ravages of pollution. The medical community has long known of the environmental impacts on our unborn children. Studies have shown that smog, VOCs, and air toxics have a disproportionate impact upon life in the womb. A study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found evidence of low birthweight babies associated with proximity to unconventional natural gas wells in Butler County, PA, and another study in 2015 linked birth defects to methane production. Eighty-four percent of published medical studies surveyed describe health impacts from natural gas infrastructure.
For most of us being pro-life is more than simply being anti-abortion, it’s about defending life from conception until natural death. As a Focus on the Family video, The Dignity of Life states, “From the formation of a child’s first tiny cell to life’s final breath, all life has dignity and value because each and every one of us is made in the image of God.” The video goes on to say that being pro-life is “not just about a political issue. It’s a world view … it’s a life view.” We applaud Focus’s understanding that is also supported by National Association of Evangelicals and Catholic Social Teaching.
Achieving healthy air for our children is part of what it means to be pro-life, and yet 40% of children live in areas of foul air. For some, their very lives are threatened by staying the Methane NSPS. It’s not just our children; tens of millions of older Americans with respiratory and cardiac conditions are also vulnerable to air pollution. All age groups are impacted. As just one example, in my central Pennsylvania home area, up to 2000 additional asthma attacks are caused by leaking methane from natural gas production hundreds of miles away. Three of our biggest states with significant natural gas infrastructure, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania, will never comply with ozone (smog) standards without controlling venting, leaking, and flaring from our natural gas production, transportation, and storage.
Being pro-life includes not only defending our unborn children, but also the biblical mandate to care for all life. Toxins and other pollutants foul our water, air, and soil, impacting the purity of life God intends for His creation. That’s why creation care remains integral to being pro-life.
In keeping with pro-life values, during the Methane NSPS comment period, my organization, the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), presented the EPA with almost 92,000 supportive comments from pro-life Christians from 21 impacted states. No other group did more. Recently such support was repeated when 95,000 pro-life Christians signed our petition and/or called their Senators to save another methane regulation by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) focused on natural gas infrastructure on public land.
If President Trump truly wants to live-up to his campaign promises, it’s time to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry and defend our children, both born and unborn, by providing them with pure air, pristine water, and a hope for an abundant healthy life. Not only is this in keeping with the pro-life values the President and EPA Administrator Pruitt profess, it is also in keeping with American values as articulated in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Defending life and freedom and the pursuit of the good life is at the very heart of what President Trump and EPA Administrator Pruitt have been given power to achieve. Reducing pollution, including methane pollution, is part of defending these core American values. If they cannot live up to these values, they should resign.
1)For recent studies on health impacts, including for the unborn, see: Jake Hays and Seth B. C. Shonkoff, “Toward an Understanding of the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development: A Categorical Assessment of the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature, 2009-2015,” PLoS ONE, 11 (4), April 20, 2016; Shaina L. Stacy et al., “Perinatal Outcomes and Unconventional Natural Gas Operations in Southwest Pennsylvania,” PLoS ONE 10 (6), June 3, 2015; Gregg P. Macey, et al., “Air Concentrations of Volatile Compounds Near Oil and Gas Production: a Community-based Exploratory Study,” Environmental Health, 32 (2014).