Last month, on the 33d anniversary of Roe v. Wade, protestors and celebrators flooded Washington. The protestors called themselves pro-life; the celebrators called themselves pro-choice. Both felt strongly about legalized abortion.
Although I, like those people, feel strongly about legalized abortion, I won’t be taking sides on the issue this year. Instead, I’ll be protesting the language that is used to frame both sides of the argument.
“Pro-choice” and “pro-life” are both obnoxious terms. They are simplistic and help the people who use them forget what they really support. It’s easy to get behind a slogan like “pro-choice” or “pro-life” and to repeat it as a mind-numbing mantra. Both terms, in the heads of their proponents, get translated from “pro-choice, pro-choice” or “pro-life, pro-life,” to “I’m right, I’m right.”
Instead of giving into the hype, a closer look should be taken at what these terms really mean. Since we’re on a college campus, we’ll start with the term “pro-choice.”
This one sounds positive enough. Having a choice is great. We are in America, after all – a land where words like “choice,” “liberty” and “freedom” cause us to feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
But how many women who have abortions really feel as if they had a choice? An abortion is usually what women get when they feel they have no choice at all – when they are backed against a wall for reasons of poverty, shame, fear or health. There aren’t many women who proudly hum patriotic anthems as they walk to the abortion clinic. Women who get abortions most likely feel (dare I say it?) regret and sadness.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are those obnoxious people who call themselves “pro-life.” You might recognize them by the look of self-righteous conviction in their eyes when they rail against abortion. They are some of the biggest expenders of hot air that I know.
If they were really pro-life, they wouldn’t waste their time and energy protesting abortion. Instead, they would spend that time volunteering to help poverty stricken and/or frightened mothers who would otherwise be forced to have an abortion. Of course, if they did that, they would have to abandon their ideals and admit that there are terrible conditions that practically force mothers to have abortions.
Speaking of helping mothers who feel practically forced to have abortions, isn’t that also what the pro-choice people should be doing? If they are really pro-choice, then they should do something to make these women feel as if they actually have a choice.
Otherwise, they ought to drop the fancy name and admit what they really are: “pro-legalized abortion.” Or, if that term is too long, they could shorten it to “pro-option.” Because under Roe v. Wade, abortion is always an option, but almost never a choice.
The pro-life people should also consider a new name. Abortion is a tragedy, but it will never go away. If it were made illegal, back-alley abortions would proliferate, as they did before Roe v. Wade. If pro-lifers have never done anything to help a downtrodden mother feel secure enough to keep the fetus she would have aborted, they are not pro-life. They are “anti-legalized abortion” and nothing more.
If we call ourselves pro-life or pro-choice, we should ask if our actions give any truth to the terms we use to describe ourselves. If they do, good for us. If not, then we should really consider being more honest with ourselves.
Daniel J. Kristie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.