The Faulty Logic of the Pro-Choice Argument (and why it must change to survive)

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

First off, I have always been pro-choice. I’m of the first generation of women to start and complete my reproductive years completely covered by the right to choose if I want to be pregnant or not.

I was an adolescent girl in the 1970’s, and the legalization of abortion rights was not on my radar. In the 1980’s, however, I remember the rumblings as the far right agenda began to take hold—mega churches, easy answers, lot’s of judgment and anger toward feminists, a big anti-abortion rights wave sweeping through the land, albeit often classified as “fringe”. Also, a lot of hypocrisy emerged as religious leaders exploited folks to line their own pockets, simultaneously jumping in bed with Republican leaders to form what we see crystalized today as their agenda. (Hint: their agenda has nothing to do with the Gospel.)

Susan Faludi wrote a book called Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women published in 1991. (I strongly encourage reading it, as its points are still relevant and nothing has much changed.) I was in graduate school then, and very few people were talking about that book. I also read the The Handmaid’s Tale that same year, and it didn’t seem very far-fetched to me even then.

It’s no wonder that we keep spinning in circles. It’s no wonder we haven’t learned.

Backlash to the Future

Maybe it’s actually that we’ve not been paying enough attention and taking our rights for granted. This is across the board true for most of us. We take birth control options, reproductive rights, the fact that domestic violence is a crime, and even the right to vote, as part of the fabric of our being. In fact, it hasn’t always been that way. All of those rights have only been around a century or less.

And we live in a time, when many stand to profit in some way or another by limiting women’s rights in general. So if you want to stay free as a person and a citizen of this country, then you’re going to have to be vigilant. You’re going to have to be awake. You’re going to need to pay attention to the subtle and obvious things going on. This is only the dress rehearsal.

Become a consumer of as much news as you can, and support journalists and publications that tell the truth. Don’t be swayed by ignorance and leaders that cry out “fake news!” every time they hear something disagreeable to them. You can’t be a social change agent if you don’t know what’s going on.

I know a lot of people right now who are tired of the news, tired of Trump’s antics, tired of trying to keep up with it all. It’s understandable. Unfortunately, ignorance is the enemy of our moral, as well as physical and mental health.

In order to keep our constitutional democracy healthy, we need more real discussion and respect for positions, less posturing and encamped rhetoric. We need a Congress that is willing to stand up to tyranny in all its forms and actually govern with their minds. We need folks who are willing to cross the aisle and look for compromise and shared values. We need courts that are not used as political weapons, and judges who hold themselves to a higher standard than pleasing someone who put them there.

As far as Roe’s future is concerned, we need to start having the conversation that has been missed for years —before it is too late.

What Does It Really Means To Be Pro-Life?

In the spring of 1985, as a young woman in college, I interviewed people who claimed to be “pro-life” for a sociology paper I was writing. I had a series of questions that each were asked. The premise that in order to call oneself pro-life, one must adopt a series of positions that supported life in all ways.

Pro-life defined as not just against abortion, but for sensible gun control, affordable health care for all people, (including all the babies born to welfare moms), anti death penalty, for nuclear de-escalation, willing to use diplomacy instead of escalating conflict or starting wars, etc. In my small study, not one person agreed with any of the premises except being anti-abortion!

Today, we have new challenges and tests— are these so-called pro-life proponents willing to work for Medicare for all? Are they willing to stand up for the rights of immigrants, and children separated at the border? Are they willing to ensure that women have access to safe reproductive health care so their babies are born healthy? Are they willing to ensure that children born into violent or drug-addicted homes have adequate protections through social services? Are they willing to hold perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions?

If they can’t do these things, then they are not pro-life, and that title should be stripped from all ways we describe them.

But you see, for many it was never an intention to be pro-life. It was only ever about control of women. If it were otherwise, the conversation would’ve been different.

Abortion is not a good choice. Limiting or eliminating it as a legal option is not the answer either. Especially if adequate birth control is not an option. The “keep your laws off my body” argument only further drives a wedge. The anti-abortion lobby is dedicated to making pro-choice women look like self-indulgent sluts. The entire argument is flawed on both sides.

If you follow this train of thought to its natural conclusion with the anti-abortion movement, what you find is absolute control of women and children at its root. Some people will be seen as more valuable than others. Twelve year olds who have been abused may be seen as expendable in order have a new baby. But that twelve year old was also a new baby not so very long ago. She is still somebody’s baby.

Change the Conversation—Now!

It’s never too late to be sensible.

Last week, after the Alabama law was passed and Missouri closely following suit, I was listening to an interview in the main stream media. One person was ecstatic about the “pro-life” victory and protecting “babies” in the womb. The other person kept repeating “but it’s about women’s bodies!” in an indignant way that did not further the conversation. Neither party was talking the same language, no one was listening, and the interviewer didn’t bother to notice.

I screamed at the radio, “don’t you see, they don’t care about women’s bodies and they don’t care about the truth!”

As long as the conversation goes this way, then more rights will evaporate in more states. It’s a reactionary world we’re living in. We need sensible, thoughtful debate and conversation.

Take back what it means to be pro-life.

Take back that conversation and define it differently. Dismantle the hurtful dishonest rhetoric of the president and his allies.

In this time of high reactivity, respect for differences in opinions is critical.

Honestly, those of us who care about life, in all its forms including the health of the earth, better get on board and in the conversation. Redefine it now or it will be too late, and what it means to be truly pro-life won’t matter.

servant of social good; practical mystic; working to make kindness and good manners popular again.

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