Pro-life Profile is a new series I am publishing regularly. These brief interviews highlight pro-life leaders in order to dispel the preconceptions that predominate in the mainstream press and the minds of pro-choice people. I’ll begin with my Vita Institute classmates.
Juan Alonso Tello Mendoza
Juan Alonso Tello Mendoza, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow in Constitutional Law at the University of Barcelona and Princeton University
Have you always considered yourself pro-life? If so, what’s your first memory of being pro-life? If not,
tell me what changed your mind.
No, I have not always considered myself a pro-life person. I just grew up without being aware of the abortion debate. Perú, where I am originally from, is a mainly pro-life country. So at that point, abortion was not a political and social concern in our society. Nevertheless, when I started my undergraduate studies, that debate was permanently held in our classrooms. To be more accurate, most of my lecturers used to advocate for the legalization of abortion strongly.
At some point in my career, I needed to clarify my position, and I decided to study both sides’ arguments. I found the pro-life view more sound, appealing, and respectful of human dignity because it considers both the mom and the baby.Of course, when my wife got pregnant, I fully understood how important it is to provide all kinds of support to women in that situation. Finally, when I held my baby in my arms for the first time, I rediscovered why inoffensive and innocent persons must not be intentionally killed and appreciated the beauty of human life one more time.
Tell me a little about your pro-life work, currently and in the past, if you wish.
I am a Law lecturer; consequently, my job is not directly related to pro-life work. But, when we discuss controversial issues about human rights (abortion, i.e.), the law course is an excellent means to analyze and reflect with the students on the contending legal arguments. There is no neutrality here; I always say that to my students. Each scholar has academic freedom to choose a particular approach to critically teach what the legal system says about those controversial topics. The vital and honest issue here is to consider all legal statements in the competing views respectfully, trying to seek the truth behind the
problem. For instance, it’s arguable what kind of punishment, if so, the doctor and the woman involved in an abortion deserve, or which legal branch must have a protagonist role on that general issue (legislative or judicial). But to state that there is an international right to abortion grounded in international human rights law is untrue. No international hard-law sources exist to set that conclusion and, from there, push countries to legalize it.
What brought you to the Vita Institute, and what were some of your biggest takeaways?
The whole legal academic world was expectant of the Dobbs decision at the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. Me too. I decided to apply to the Vita Institute because I realized that the program was an incredible opportunity to discuss the case, the future entailments, the schools of legal interpretation, and the common law system. I was not disappointed; the legal scholars who participated as panelists were competent enough to successfully develop the case and explain it to us.
[However] my most significant takeaway for my memories and life experience was the vibrant and enthusiastic pro-life American community I met in that program. I was astonished by how ordinary people (doctors, sidewalk counselors, bioethics researchers, nurses, former abortion activists, nuns, etc.) may transform their local communities by helping pregnant women in all kinds of crises, supporting baby feeding, providing health attendance, etc. I admire that kind of compromise and solidarity with those in need. That’s a concrete way to show respect for the dignity of the human family.