Addressing the Fatal Flaws in the Pro-Life Argument
Pro-lifer, I know your viewpoint and feelings well…it used to be my own. I know the moral outrage, the righteous anger, the indignant hatred toward anyone or anything that threatens the “right to life”, real or imagined. I know how you see the “other” side, the people who identify as pro-choice…you might feel anger towards them, or sadness, or frustration at not being able to get them to see things your way, because it is surely the only right one.
I know all of these things, and I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong…not about the sanctity of life or the seriousness of abortion, but about the pro-choice movement as a whole. I know the story line you’re thinking of, the one about the irresponsible woman-because the responsibility always falls squarely on her, legislatively-speaking-who got herself pregnant and decides one day that she doesn’t want a baby. Instead of sucking it up and going ahead with having and keeping the baby or giving it up for adoption, she decides it would be “easiest” to just have an abortion. She goes back to living her normal life, until it inconveniently happens again-she ends up pregnant with a baby she doesn’t want to have, so she has another abortion. And on and on into perpetuity.
The thing is, that isn’t the case for most women who choose to have an abortion. The idea that it’s being used as birth control is grossly inaccurate, because that characterization would only apply to the smallest percentage of the women affected by this issue. By and large, those who choose elective abortion do so because they either aren’t at a stable place in their life and don’t want to bring a baby into the world; are dealing with substance abuse issues and don’t want to subject an infant to those struggles; are the victim of abuse and/or rape; or sometimes all of the above. Now we can debate all day about the morality of abortion under those circumstances, but the fact of the matter is, most women aren’t just going in for repeated abortions for trivial reasons.
Now let’s say the same woman from the typical cautionary abortion tale decides to have the baby instead. Because she already has trouble supporting herself, and often because her pregnancy and the resulting baby put her job security at risk, she is forced to seek public assistance. Now, the tables have turned. Now, she-and her child-are regarded as part of the “burden” on society by the same people who urged her to give that child life. And if she continues to have more children in the same situation? The public disdain of the burden she presents grows exponentially. Because poverty and all its related issues are often generational, the cycle almost inevitably continues.
I’m going to stop here and say clearly, categorically, that I’m not advocating for abortion as birth control-and neither are the others who consider themselves pro-choice. There are circumstance where I believe an abortion is warranted, and I know enough of the gray areas of life to say that I think provisions should be made for those extreme situations. I align myself as pro-choice for that reason — I simply do not want unnecessary legislation to be an undue burden to those women whose situations already necessitate such tough, life-wrenching decisions. Having had a missed miscarriage and resulting D&C at 13 weeks myself, I don’t view the subject lightly…I will always vividly remember waking up afterwards with tears in my eyes, knowing that our baby was really, truly gone. Even if you believe abortion is wrong, so is the endless cycle of children and poverty that too often results on the flip side. The issue, then, is how that cycle can be interrupted.
In order to get at the answer to that problem, we have to look at the politicization and partisanship of abortion. Prior to 1980, when Ronald Reagan was running for President, abortion was not thought of as a political issue, but a medical one. Roe v. Wade passed in 1973 in a conservative-majority Supreme Court 7 to 2. By the ’80s, though, a conservative Evangelical political movement was emerging under Jerry Falwell Sr. (who also argued in favor of segregation during the Civil Rights era) and pushed abortion to the forefront of the Republican Party’s platform. From then on, pro-life became synonymous with conservative and Republican, the emotionally-charged issue that swung votes firmly to the right.
In the years that followed, though, an interesting trend emerged that many people don’t know about. Statistically speaking, abortion rates have reliably declined most notably under Democratic presidents. Under Republican leadership, they either dropped very little or stayed virtually the same. Why is this? Because “ access to contraception is more effective in reducing the number of abortions than regulation that controls access-and under Democratic leadership, access to affordable contraception has increased.” On the other hand, Republicans have reliably argued for abstinence-only sex education and limiting the access to and coverage of birth control. Basically, reliable access to birth control leads to fewer unintended pregnancies, which then translates into fewer abortions-thus interrupting the cycle-and the opposite also being true.
My proposition, then, is this: if you identify yourself as pro-life, please consider the wider implications of that viewpoint. If you are pro-life, does that include all life? What about the children born into poverty, to drug-addicted parents, or into situations that most of us couldn’t even fathom? The pro-life stance should not end at birth. If you do not believe in abortion under any circumstances, then you must also accept the societal and taxpayer responsibility of providing for that child’s basic needs, without exception. When you vote in favor of drug-testing welfare recipients, you are only hurting their children. When you are affirming policies that require welfare recipients to “get a job”, you are ignoring that many of them are already employed. When you categorize an entire segment of society as burdens or unproductive, you are setting a self-fulfilling prophesy for the children born into those circumstance.
Pro-lifer, I hope that you truly are pro-life. I hope that you are willing to put aside politics and stereotypes and consider what it really means to truly be in favor of all life, as the example set for us by Jesus Christ Himself. Abortion is not to be celebrated or encouraged, but we must also take into account what those children that are born represent to the greater view of life and caring for it. Because if you really are pro-(all)life, you will see that your views (and votes) should extend to measures that not only protect birth, but that also protect existing life and livelihoods.
Originally published at http://sincerelyaformerrepublican.blogspot.com on February 8, 2019.