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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Response to a Pro-Choice Opinion Piece

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.


  1. Well put. Here is my brief response to the same blog:
    This does not describe me at all. I am pro-life because I am opposed to the murder of anyone who hasn't done anything wrong. To say that a baby is part of a woman's body is a lie because I can prove scientifically through genetics that the baby is a separate person. I am *for* WIC and other social help programs to help children, families and even individuals. I am *not* for anyone controlling anyone, but I am for people taking responsibility for their own actions. I am not against sex in any way but I am pro-choice in that *anyone* (male or female) engaging in sex and not wanting to have a child should make the *responsible choice* to practice 1 or more methods of birth control *before and/or during sex* to avoid pregnancy. As a former victim of abuse, I am not for abuse in any way and I see the value of allowing an abortion if it will save the life of the mother (I do not see the point of two people dying when one can be saved). I am almost militantly *for* the separation of church and state and I appose abortion as a form of birth control on a purely scientific and general moral basis. I don't hate women (I AM one!), but I don't like women who choose to engage in sex without any form of birth control then think that killing someone to fix the inconvenience of that person's existence is a "responsible choice." A *responsible choice* is the choice to engage in birth control methods BEFORE one is pregnant. I am not a hypocrite either. I have been raped twice and in both instances, I knew before I ever found out if I was pregnant that I would carry the child to term and put it up for adoption if I was pregnant. I also knew that if I willfully engaged in sex without any birth control I would be willing to carry that child too.

    1. Thank you for your response! Did you post this comment on the article that I was responding to? It might be good for people there to read.

  2. Perhaps you should re-read #3, below, and note the words "large swathe [sic]." Then, while you're saying to yourself, "Oh, that doesn't apply to ME," note what the representatives that the right so gleefully send to congress [read: "Republicans"] are doing to (a) cut WIC, (b) cut food stamps, and (c) cut other programs which generally help mothers and children. Also observe the well-coordinated movement to destroy Planned Parenthood, which, contrary to the hyperbole from the right, is mainly interested in women's health rights and preventing unplanned pregnancies. And oh, yes, the lawsuits regarding the access to birth control, which (surprise!) also prevents unplanned pregnancies. And then, ask yourself, "How many unwanted babies have I adopted, or fostered, so that they can have a better life?" If your honest answer is along the lines of, "Ooh, that's someone else's problem," then please hold the self-congratulatory back-patting.
    I think John Fugelsang's comment is pretty much right on the mark.

    3. Pro-Fetus: This term works because a large swathe of the “pro-life” movement are the same people who support cutting funding to programs like WIC, food stamps, and other programs which generally help mothers and children. If they were really concerned with “life,” and not just the fetus, then they would aggressively commit themselves to make sure children have enough food to eat, a proper education, and a place to live. Since their concern for the fetus ends as soon as it is born, they are clearly pro-fetus.

    I hope that you can read Mr. Fogelsang's statement (“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.’”) and honestly say that none of those things applies to you. If not, then, as the saying goes, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

    1. I think you're pretty misinformed about everything you're trying to talk about. I'll try to wade through clutter to pick out relevant statements.

      First, I know many pro-life Democrats, independents, Libertarians, etc. One does not have to be a Republican to support the right to life of the unborn, one only has to recognize that the unborn are valuable human beings which don't differ from us in any morally relevant ways in order to justify killing them because they're helpless and in the way.

      I'll never understand why liberals can't wrap their heads around the fact that just because Republicans disagree with their policies, it means they hate women, children, the poor, humanity in general, etc. You've created a false dichotomy. The more accurate position is that Republicans simply disagree that these programs are the best way to help the poor (and let's face it, things like Welfare tend to enable poor people, not help them get out of poverty). In fact, I'm not sure it's accurate that Republicans want to end these programs altogether, just that they think these programs need a major overhaul to be effective.

      Planned Parenthood is not interested in womens' rights and prevented unplanning pregnancies. They are interested in abortions, period, which is evidenced by the fact that when Planned Parenthoods are prevented from performing some abortions (like the recent 20-week abortion ban in Texas), they'll close their doors rather than remaining open to provide health benefits for women that *don't* involve abortions. Plus, Planned Parenthoods don't help women. They lie to women in order to coerce them into having abortions (Planned Parenthood counselors have been caught on video providing false information to abortion-minded women -- that's not "pro-choice" at all). Plus, Planned Parenthood has also been caught on video protecting sex traffickers, statutory rapists, and other shady characters who brought their victims in for an abortion (go to for these undercover videos).

      I haven't adopted any children, but that's irrelevant. First, the fact that I have *not* adopted any children is a red herring; it says nothing about the truth or falsehood of the argument that since the unborn are human beings from fertilization, it is wrong to intentionally kill them. Second, it's not up to me to rid the world of all of its ills. That would be like trying to shut down the American Cancer Society because they're not also trying to find a cure for AIDS. Many pro-life people do, in fact, adopt. But I am not in a position to which I can adopt a child.

      So no, John Fugelsang's quote is not on the mark at all. In fact, his quote denotes an extreme lack of nuanced thinking on his part.

  3. It's just a case of bodily autonomy. A woman reserves the right to deny the use of her body to any party for any reason. A fetus requires a woman's body to sustain itself. Haven't you noticed how people can't be FORCED to donate blood/tissue/organs? why is this any different? and yes, pro-life people are often more irrationally focused on the fetus than they are about what happens to it after birth.

    No, abortion is not a method of birth control. If a woman is getting abortions monthly there is a serious problem here. But without taking any other factors into account, yes, a woman has the right to abort if she wants to and no one who isn't involved in carrying the child has any fucking say in the matter.

    Your drivel about "THU BAYBEES R PRESHUS!" is just that: mindless drivel meant to guilt-trip people. If you have to guilt-trip people to convince them of your views, your views are not rooted in reason or logic.

    Yes, the article you're responding to is full of flaws. Its premise is not. Pro-life people are hypocritical idiots.

    So, to summarize: A woman has the right to deny the use of her body to any party for any reason. Just as you do, and anyone else does.

    Besides, SCIENCE! Will get on artificial wombs eventually and the NSA will build a database of everyone who has ever identified as "pro-life" and force them to adopt unwanted children.

    1. I'm sorry you consider pro-life people hypocritical idiots, but I would expect someone who makes such an extreme accusation to provide more than bare assertions to back up their position. If you peruse my other articles on this blog, you'll find that the arguments and evidence for the pro-life position is much more compelling than the arguments for the pro-choice position.

      A few thoughts on your ramblings:

      Pro-life people are not irrational. In fact, the only reason that pro-life people are *more* focused on them before birth than after birth is because before birth it is legal to kill them. After birth it is not. But our concern for them doesn't stop at birth. Pregnancy care centers do for pregnant women what abortion clinics do not: offer them alternatives to abortion, and build relationships with them that last long after birth, and provide free services like parenting classes, free car seats and diapers, etc., to single mothers.

      People can't be forced to give up organ donations because by refusing to donate an organ, no one's rights are being violated. It would be morally heroic to donate a kidney to someone, but if I don't, I am not the one killing them; they are dying from a previous ailment. I am not violating their right to life by refusing to donate an organ. Conversely, by killing an unborn child to make a woman no longer pregnant, you *are* violating the fundamental rights of the unborn child, not just their right to life but their own right to bodily integrity.

      Abortion *is* a method of birth control. If a woman doesn't want to be pregnant, and her birth control fails, she goes in to have an abortion. It's a back-up method of birth control. Now, abortion is not a *contraceptive*, because contraceptives are meant to prevent conception. But abortions definitely are birth control.

      You can cry science all you want, but science has proven the major pro-life premise that a human being's life begins at fertilization. Yes, I believe scientists (these are the people who use science; science doesn't do anything, it a tool used by people to make discoveries) will one day perfect artificial womb technology. But in that case, no one will be forced to adopt babies (you're moving from baseless assertions to crying wolf and conspiracy theories). But the reality is there are more couples waiting to adopt than there are babies to adopt (by about four times as many) precisely because the babies who would be adopted are being aborted.