For pundits and activists on both sides of the abortion debate, step one in crafting an argument is choosing the terminology. By deeming one’s self “pro-life/choice” and the opposition “pro-abortion/anti-choice” at the outset, he conveys an immediate sense of who’s fighting for a lofty ideal and who’s standing with something unsightly. Both sets of labels are emotionally-charged, but which is more accurate?
Pro-choicers (at least, those more PR-savvy than Merle Hoffman) swear they don’t particularly like abortions; they just believe it’s not their place, or government’s, to prevent someone from making the choice. President Barack Obama puts it this way:
I am pro-choice, I believe in Roe vs. Wade, and I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion, but because ultimately I don’t think women make these decisions casually. They wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or spouses, or their doctors or their family members.
The problem is that “pro-choice” is so vague as to be meaningless. Everybody’s “pro-choice” on some things and “anti-choice” on others. In a sane world, you’d think that “pro-choice” meant favoring greater personal freedom on a whole range of issues. But whatever else may be said of the Obama Administration’s policies on healthcare, incandescent light bulbs, gun rights, and environmental regulations, they leave people with fewer choices, not more. Obama, like his fellow liberals, is only “pro” one particular choice: abortion.
And even then, the positions of Obama, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the National Organization for Women on conscience protection and taxpayer abortion funding force third parties to participate in abortion against their will. If this is “pro-choice,” then why does choice lose out whenever choice and abortion conflict?
“Pro-life,” on the other hand, specifically denotes a concrete principle: the sanctity of all human life, which entitles every human being to equal protection from fertilization onward. If the right to life of those outside the womb were seriously endangered in our society, pro-lifers would be there, just as we are for the unborn. Pro-aborts sometimes try to delegitimize the pro-life label by calling us hypocrites on issues like capital punishment, but that fails for two simple reasons: first, not all pro-lifers support the death penalty, and those who do believe it preserves life in the long run by deterring violent crime.
It’s natural for political activists on both sides of an issue to use loaded language that benefits them, and there’s no shame in that – as long as it’s still accurate. And that’s what distinguishes abortion foes from defenders: while “pro-life” illuminates and clarifies the issue, all “pro-choice” does is obscure and deceive.