As abortion is one of America’s premier divisive issues, Americans should be pretty clear what “pro-life” means. But I am not so sure; I think that there is a lot of confusion about who really is “pro-life.”
To start, I think that we can all agree that “pro-life” begins with an agreement that life begins at the moment of conception, that a soul is created in that instant. But from there on, things get interesting.
- Are there not women who call themselves “pro-life” because they personally would never (with the possible exception of rape and incest) ever have an abortion themselves? But they understand that this is only THEIR preference, they don’t have an opinion about what other women may or may not do, they just know that they would never have an abortion.
- Then there are those who take that one step further and believe that it is wrong to have an abortion, not just for themselves but for all women. This group considers abortion a sin, but they stop short of wanting criminal penalties for the act: it is WRONG but “government stay away, it is none of your business.”
- And finally there are those, men and women alike, who go the last step: they believe not only that abortion is wrong personally, wrong universally, a sin universally, but it is also a crime, the crime of murder of an unborn human being. And they believe that a woman who aborts an unborn child should be charged with a crime (there is a sub-group here that wants to charge the aborting doctor with the crime; the woman is innocent, she is merely the doctor’s victim. But this is rank hypocrisy so I will not say anything more about it), the crime of murder. This last group wants to roll back Roe v Wade; the first two groups don’t think about Roe v Wade, or if they do they don’t much care.
In the first instance, abortion is a matter of personal preference. In the second instance, abortion is a philosophical and religious scruple. In the third instance, abortion is a matter for the law. In the first instance, for that kind of pro-life person, what another woman chooses is no concern of theirs. In the second instance, abortion is a sin but that kind of pro-life stops short of recommending prison as an answer.
But what about the other side, who is a “pro-choice” person? Does a “pro-choice” person advocate that all pregnancies should be aborted? Of course not. Does a pro-choice person LIKE abortions? Putting aside what that even means, it is clear that many pro-choice people are repelled by the act of abortion, they want nothing to do with it. The only thing that all pro-choice advocates advocate is that the act of abortion should not be criminalized, that abortion is not murder in a legal sense. Whether they share any other philosophical or religious scruples with each other is unknown; what is known is that they don’t want a woman who opts for an abortion to be charged with a crime, the crime of murder.
As we ought to be able to see, from a legal perspective, the first two kinds of “pro-life” people are on the same side as “pro-choice” people.
Politics does not concern itself with people’s individual preferences or philosophical or religious scruples. Politics DOES concern itself with the law, with what actions the state will not tolerate. For many people, the opposite of “pro-life” must be “pro-death,” and who in God’s name is pro-death? And for many their religious scruples compel them to call themselves “pro-life.” But politically, I wonder just how many Americans who call themselves “pro-life” really make common cause with folks who call themselves “pro-choice”; they don’t LIKE abortion, but they don’t want the all-powerful state to take any punitive action. I wonder.