Many pro-lifers who insist there's no significant difference between the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-abortion," but clearly the other side disagrees. You've probably heard people who support legal abortion get angry or frustrated if others try to label them as "pro-abortion," or insist that "no one is 'pro-abortion'." Why do they react that way?
In an effort to explore our own understanding of the other side's position, we recently asked Secular Pro-Life Facebook followers, "How would you describe the difference between someone being 'pro-choice' and someone being 'pro-abortion'?"
We had many responses from pro-lifers who believe there's no difference between the labels. However, I'm more interested in the pro-lifers trying to understand the other side's point of view. I include excerpts from those pro-lifers here, but first, a few caveats:
- Some of the posts are edited for length or grammar.
- I believe the people I'm quoting are pro-life, but it's possible some are pro-choice, as our Facebook page is public and anyone can comment.
- I'm not suggesting that any one of the below answers is exactly correct. I'm only presenting the answers so we pro-lifers can consider the distinctions and so any pro-choicer reading can see how they may be viewed by those on our side who recognize a difference. It'd be interesting to see a similar compilation but with answers from only abortion rights advocates.
Kim: I believe there are people personally opposed to abortion but who legitimately don't want to impose their beliefs on others.
Grace: "Pro-choice" means they wish abortion didn't happen a lot, but they believe that the option should be open for women in tough spots. "Pro-abortion" means they think abortion is pretty much okay no matter what. There are way fewer of the latter.
Diana: People who are pro-abortion think that abortion has value independent of what the woman wants. For example, they think there's justification for the forced abortions in China. People who are pro-choice think that any woman who does not want to have an abortion should not be pressured/forced to do so, regardless of other circumstances.
Josh: One thinks that abortion should be legal, and the other thinks abortion is a good thing and/or something that should be encouraged or in some extreme cases forced.
Conner: A pro-choice person holds that while abortion may not be a good thing, it's something that we should allow individuals to do because people should be free to make their own decisions regardless of whether or not we agree with them. Judith Jarvis Thompson's violinist thought experiment is an example of a pro-choice argument. ...
A pro-abortion argument, by contrast, justifies abortion by characterizing it as a good thing either in and of itself or because it has a positive consequence. The consequences may be positive for the woman, for women in general, or for society. Some eugenic arguments even characterize it as good for the victim: the child will be born unwanted, might have a birth defect, or there's some other reason he/she will live a life unworthy of living.
Ken: Very few people are pro-abortion, and even fewer self-identify as such. Most are pro-choice.
Nicholas: Arguing that abortion is a positive good or that it should be destigmatised and/or subsidized vs. merely thinking it should be legal.
Stephanie: "Pro-choice" is vague. It can mean someone who is personally pro-life, or supports abortion in extreme circumstances--life of the mother, for instance. It can mean someone who does not want to get involved in others' lives. "Pro-choice" can also mean someone who supports abortion in any and all circumstances.
"Pro-abortion" is someone who is very in favor of abortion and may use it as their sole form of birth control or "If I get pregnant, I will abort no matter what!"
Sanlee: "Pro-choice" is for people making their own choices about pregnancy (even if it favors abortion) and "pro-abortion" is for people who do not respect your choice if you choose life. Pro- abortion people vandalize Facebook and website pages of women who had disabled babies (because they think that those women should have aborted). They terrorize parents of Downs children and vandalize pro-life pregnancy clinics and displays. Basically pro-choice people believe that you should make your own decision and pro-aborts want to make that decision for you, and they want women to abort.
Jacob: "Pro-choice" is supporting choices including abortion but also the choices of child birth, adoption, and birth control and choices regarding your body away from abortion and child birth, such as body piercing, tattoos, and liberty of your own body. "Pro-abortion" is supporting termination of a pregnancy and the removal of a fetus from the womb.
Elizabeth: "Pro-choice" might find third trimester abortions disgusting. "Pro-abortion" says the child is not human until birth and doesn't want "defective" babies to be born.
Sarah: I would probably draw a line in what they think the options are. "Pro-choice" is someone who thinks that when a woman gets pregnant, the woman has several options, one of which includes abortion. Pro-choice people argue that, in the face of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, abortion should be available as an option, but they'll support the woman in whatever she chooses and fight for there to be good options for her. I think that in this way a lot of them are like pro-life people, just with one more option on the table.
"Pro-abortion" advocates argue that in the face of an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, abortion should be the first and sometimes only option. This is where rhetoric like "every child a wanted child" comes in; every child is wanted, just perhaps not immediately. If the desire isn't immediate, I would imagine that a pro-abortion advocate would consider abortion to be the best option.
Laurie: Pro-choice but anti-abortion: might include believing abortion is wrong, but also believing it is an issue that is complicated and should be left as a decision of the woman rather than banned universally by law. Pro-abortion but anti-choice would include China, with women pregnant with one child already, forced by the government to abort a child they wanted.
You can also click here to see the full range of responses on the FB page.