I was recently made aware of a pro-choice opinion piece (and, let's face it, it's not a very informed opinion) by a blogger who feels that the term "pro-life" is a misnomer. The article is called "Pro-Life" is a Lie, Here Are 10 More Accurate Descriptions That They Won't Like by Matthew Desmond.
The thesis of Matthew's article is summed up in his title. He feels that the pro-life movement calling themselves by that moniker because they want to make their position sound more appealing, but that it is deliberately misleading. I've already written about the problems with both terms in the abortion issue, so I won't re-hash that here.
He gives a quote by John Fugelsang: "Only in America can you be pro-death penalty, pro-war, pro-unmanned drone bombs, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-guns, pro-torture, pro-land mines, and still call yourself 'pro-life.'" Right off the bat, I can tell that Fugelsang is not a very nuanced thinker. Defending some of these positions is beyond the scope of this article, but I'll take the time to point out that I don't know anyone, pro-life or pro-choice, who is pro-torture (and I don't know much about the unmanned drone bombs, but I personally don't know anyone in favor of them). As for capital punishment, one can be consistently pro-life and pro-capital punishment because one is a far cry away from the other (an abortion unjustly kills an innocent human being and the other puts to death a convicted criminal after a fair trial by his peers). The right to own guns, aside from being supported in the U.S. Constitution, is rooted in a right to self-defense. If someone wishes to take my life, I have the right to use lethal force to protect my own life. Plus, as pro-life philosopher Frank Beckwith points out, the sword cuts both ways. If it's inconsistent to be pro-life and pro-any of these things Fugelsang mentioned, then it's equally inconsistent to be pro-choice and anti-these same things.
Matthew asserts that the term "pro-life" has nothing to do with protecting innocent life, but that's clearly false. If you read any book or article by a pro-life thinker, you'd realize this is just a ridiculous statement to make. Now, I actually considered writing a parody piece, showing why "pro-choice" is a misnomer and choose 10 "more accurate" terms that would describe the pro-choice movement, but I opted against it. I am very interested in having good dialogue with pro-choice people, and trying to use obviously inflammatory terms is not conducive to good discussions. As such I will simply lay this article to rest and move on.
Anti-Abortion. This is the only one that actually works. I am definitely anti-abortion, except in the rare cases in which the woman's life is in immediate jeopardy. I will gladly consider myself anti-abortion, because I think it fairly represents my position.
Anti-Choice. Matthew asserts, again, that life does not even enter into the equation. He says that we "are using that term to describe their position in regards to whether or not a woman can choose to have an abortion and absolutely nothing else." You would think someone who accuses someone else of lying would be more careful with the truth. People use the term "pro-life" to mean many things (there are pro-life vegetarians and vegans, as one example). It's not just strictly in the abortion issue. Plus, the term "anti-choice" is only used to make pro-life people look like fascists. But while pro-choice people are "pro-choice" about abortion, they are anti-choice about other things (like rape and murder). We just believe that some choices are wrong, like the choice for abortion (which unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being).
Pro-Fetus. Now Matthew delves into the "uneducated" category of his uninformed opinion piece. Sure, we believe that since fetuses are innocent human beings, they deserve protection and not to be killed because they're in the way of something we want, but it's certainly not at the expense of born children. First, notice that Matthew doesn't even source his ridiculous claim. Second, you could probably make that argument about some pro-life politicians, but they sure don't represent the majority of pro-life people. Third, the majority of pro-life people actually do support children. I personally know many pro-life people who have adopted children (David Lee, director of Justice for All, has adopted four children). There are also many pro-life organizations that work toward feeding the hungry in other countries. But the problem is not that there are a shortage of people trying to help, but unjust governments who hoard all the food for themselves. There are more issues regarding starving people than simply a shortage of food.
Pro-Birth. Of course we like birth. It's an important event in the life of all human individuals. But the same lousy reasoning applies for this label as the last one.
Pro-Controlling Women. Someone should define "irrefutable" for Matthew because I'm fairly certain he's never taken a philosophy or logic class in his life. It's actually quite obvious that the pro-life movement is not out to control women, especially since, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll, 44% of pro-life people are women (as opposed to 46%, which are men). I've spent several years now in the pro-life movement, studying the issue and talking with pro-life and pro-choice people. I've often found that among people who are pro-choice, women tend to be more in favor of restrictions on abortion than men (e.g. they tend to oppose late-term abortions). It's actually more likely that rather than pro-life men wanting to control women, pro-choice men are actually the ones who want to control women since they can have sex with a woman, then coerce her into an abortion when he doesn't want to deal with a child (which happens more often than pro-choice people like to think it does).
Pro-Abuse. Again, pro-life people are not out to control women, we're out to save the life of the innocent unborn human being. Matthew brought up the case of Savita Halappanavar, a woman in Ireland who died from complications to her pregnancy. However, like the pro-choice media who ran with the story before they had all the facts, Matthew is equally ignorant of the circumstances. It was later revealed that Savita's husband didn't even request an abortion. It is legal in Ireland to abort a pregnancy in order to save a woman's life, so the fact that Matthew brought this up is puzzling because it doesn't add to his case at all. In fact, Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to be a pregnant woman. This case just shows how shameless abortion advocates can be in their crusade.
Anti-Sex. Another baseless claim (shocking, I know). This one commits a simple fallacy, that the exception does not prove the rule. It's no more fair for Matthew, and his friend Justin, to judge all pro-life people based on a conversation he had with a pro-life jerk, than for me to judge all pro-choice people based on the conversations I've had with pro-choice jerks.
Pro-Religious Control. Another example of a lack of nuanced thinking. There are many pro-life people who are not religious (I am a member of Secular Pro-Life, which on top of having myself, has members who are Atheist, Agnostic, Mormon, etc.). The difference is that we focus on making secular arguments against abortion (if you'll peruse the articles on this blog, you'll notice I rarely bring religion into my articles, unless it specifically calls for it). While many pro-life philosophers has a metaphysical grounding in religion (religious pro-lifers tend to view humans as uniquely valuable due to being made in God's image), still even the religious pro-life advocates use secular arguments that appeal to intuitions that we all share, that intentionally killing innocent human beings is wrong.
So it's simply wrong to claim that a lot of the arguments that fuel the pro-life position are religious in nature. It's also not true that we're trying to assert our religious beliefs over others. As pro-life philosopher Scott Klusendorf mentions, the courts do not have to take a position on whether you or I have souls to make murder illegal. Neither does it have to take a position on whether or not the unborn have souls to make their killing illegal. Matthew's lack of nuanced thinking is made apparent by his appealing to Rick Santorum (which, if Matthew actually paid attention, is a very knowledgeable pro-life advocate, who even once schooled Barbara Boxer on the immorality of partial-birth abortions). See my previously linked article for why life-saving abortions are morally justified. Santorum is not inconsistent because his wife received an abortion to save her life (which, by the way, goes to show that most pro-life people don't actually hate women).
Misogynist. Pro-life people don't think women are too stupid to decide what to do with their bodies. But there are two bodies at stake, not just one. Women can do whatever they want with or to their bodies, but not when it comes to killing or harming an innocent human being. Killing an innocent human being is never the "responsible" choice (unless it's to save her life). Calling abortion "the responsible choice" is simply question-begging. Claiming that women have the right to do whatever they want with their own bodies is a very extreme claim and very difficult to justify. Also, while rape is a very tragic situation, having an abortion in the case of rape is not about making a medical decision (unless the pregnancy turns out to be life-threatening). You can see my article here for a reasoned case regarding abortions in the case of rape.
Hypocrite. Again, more uneducated rambling. In fact, now Matthew resorts to blatant misinformation. No, making abortion illegal doesn't get of abortion. But neither does making rape or murder illegal get rid of murder or rape. That's simply bad reasoning. Abortion should be illegal for the same reason that murder is, because life should be protected and killing an innocent human being without strong moral justification is wrong.
Also, the claim that it makes abortion more dangerous and unregulated is simply false. In fact, legalized abortion doesn't guarantee it will be regulated (consider the ongoing case of Kermit Gosnell, who committed many atrocities like infanticide and even killed a couple of women, who was allowed to practice for 20 years or so in subpar conditions because exposing him would mean exposing the reality of abortion). And the reality is that even when abortions were legal before 1973, most abortions were done by licensed physicians in good standing in their community. The whole appeal to "back alley abortions" are simply pro-choice scare tactics. See my article here for more information (under the heading "Bad Pro-Choice Arguments").
Matthew apparently considers himself pro-life, co-opting the term and using it in a way unintended in the abortion issue (which only serves to complicate matters). However, you can't be pro-life and support abortion, because in abortions one human being almost always dies -- the unborn child (I say "almost," because occasionally a child will survive an abortion attempt).
So needless to say, Matthew's entire piece is just an opinionated rant, with no actual reasoning to be found. I do believe that good conversations can be had in this issue (I have had many), but using inflammatory terms because you refuse to consider that the other side may have merit is not the way to go about it.
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