Thursday, August 30, 2012

Terms of choice

Over the years, there have been many calls (from both sides of the aisle) to do away with the labels "pro-life" and "pro-choice." The terms are "self-congratulatory," over- and under-inclusive, devoid of meaning-- really, the only point in their favor is that we've been using them for 40+ years.

Pro-life agnostic Conner Alford, who is a member of SPL, recently made this proposal:
I think that the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are both Orwellian. I think it would be more accurate to denote the sides as "prenatal rights activists" and "postnatal supremacists," respectively. I'm sure the negative connotations attached to the word "supremacist" will offend those who support abortion, but if you ignore the emotional response it reflects their position well.
"Prenatal rights activists" works for me, and I understand where he's going with "postnatal supremacists." My issue with the word "supremacist" is that it is traditionally associated with race-related prejudice only; there's such a thing as a "white supremacist," but I've never heard of a "male supremacist" or a "heterosexual supremacist."

Borrowing from the LGBT rights conflict, "fetophobe" is an interesting possibility. I know many abortion supporters who are in fact motivated by an irrational fear or disgust toward pregnancy, often expressed in terms of "parasites" and "aliens." But I do not think that this describes the majority of self-identified pro-choicers.

Lately, "abolitionist" has gained popularity as a replacement for "pro-life," largely as a result of the Abolish Human Abortion graphics on Facebook. I quite like this, however, the opposing term "anti-abolitionist" has not seemed to catch on nearly as well. Perhaps "abolitionists" versus "abortion supporters" or "abortion advocates" is a workable option.

What do you think? Are "pro-life" and "pro-choice" the best labels out there? If not, what should replace them?


M said...

I've always thought "pro-choice" and "anti-abortion were accurate enough. Most pro-choicers I know would support a woman who wanted to carry a pregnancy, so they aren't really "pro-abortion." And "anti-abortion" gets at the heart of our movement, without the divergent opinions about euthanasia, the death penalty, etc.

Jameson Graber said...

How about "pro-abortion" and "anti-abortion"?

The only thing that's limiting about "anti-abortion" is that a lot of us "pro-lifers" really do care about other issues along with abortion. That's what I like about organizations like LifeMatters. But it's difficult to come up with a more "objective" description of this philosophy. Perhaps "bioethical inclusivist" would be my hip and sophisticated way of putting it.

An RibĂ­neach (bobby) said...

I actually think both are good and fair. I mean if its self labelling we have to respect what the other side chooses so choosing it for them; supremacist, fetaphobe etc will not go down well.

This group more than any other recognises that the abortion debate is a clash between two competing individuals and their rights

We champion the right to life of the unborn. The unborn is often dismissed, described as a clump of cells etc.
so we champion its cause.
We call ourselves pro life. it may not be all encompassing and it doesnt mean that pro choice people are automatically "anti life" but it does accurately describe the cause we fight for.

Likewise the other important facet of the debate is the mothers right to bodily autonomy. The right to choose who gets to stay in her body or not. they champion this right to choose. its not all encompassing and pro lifers arent necessarily anti choice but it does describe what they fight for.

Both feeds into emotional rhetoic and neglects the other side of the argument. but both are important to emphasise.

LN said...

Pro-abortion implies abortion being favored over pregnancy, which isn't the case for most pro-choicers. It's not a very accurate term overall.

An RibĂ­neach (bobby) said...

Off the bat, pro choicers refuse to be considered pro abortion, because they are not necessarily in favour of abortion merely the "choice", the option to avail of legal, safe abortion. they would not necessarily choose it themselves but feel it should be an option.
In fairness we are vehemently anti abortion but there are those (in this group even) who make the case for abortion in the case of rape...

LN said...

I also prefer the pro-life term because it emphasizes the core of the matter-- the life of the fetus is what's important here. Not just that women don't get abortion. If abortion didn't take a life, it would be no problem.

I also like the term pro-life because it shows that in cases where the mother's life is in danger, it's a toss up morally, and abortion would be the most practical solution to save the most lives.

Kalie N. said...

What about the term 'anti-choice', which is frequently used to describe pro-lifers?

I personally don't mind being called 'anti-choice'.

If the array of 'choice' options included death of an innocent individual, then I am loud and proud 'anti-choice'.

LN said...

I don't like the term "anti-choice"-- it's way too broad.
"And of course pro-life people don’t want to take away all choices. Shockingly, pro-life people make hundreds of choices every day. You can argue that this isn’t about “anti-all-choice” but rather “anti-reproductive-choice.” Yet pro-lifers aren’t fighting the choices to have sex, practice abstinence, have your own children, adopt, put children up for adoption, etc. And while admittedly the pro-life movement is divided on contraception, there are pro-lifers, including many here at SPL, who are pro-contraception. The only choice pro-lifers are consistently against is the choice to kill an unborn child."

Anonymous said...

Also, anti-choice does not poll well, and the movement would suffer politically from that branding. This is why pro-lifers choose to label themselves as pro-life, and why they try to brand pro-choicers as "pro-abortion". It's purely propoganda politics at its worst.

Anonymous said...

Anti-abortion and pro-abortion work for me. That's really what it's about anyway, right? Both pro-life and pro-choice are way too vague. Whose life, the mother or her child? I've met lots of "pro-lifers" who don't subscribe to the Consistent Life Ethic, instead supporting capital punishment and various unnecessary armed conflicts around the globe. Those who call themselves pro-choice certainly aren't interested in giving a choice to the person most affected by abortion, the fetus. I consider myself strongly pro-choice when it comes to lots of things that don't involve killing babies.

I don't see any trouble with "pro-abortion". Just because you support something doesn't mean you're in favor of it all the time. In general, people who support gay marriage don't think all marriages should be same-sex.

On another tangent, even the term "abortion" is a contorted, Orwellian euphimism. Abortion is the act of killing a fetus, thereby "aborting" the pregnancy. It's only accurate in the same sense that shooting all the occupants of a house means the house has been "vacated". You could imagine a line like that turning up in a Terminator movie.

LifeChoices said...

Agreed. A pro-choice person could find abortion either morally neutral, morally positive (insofar as it reduces certain burdens on society), or morally repugnant, and still support it as an individual choice, not to be restricted by government (just as most people don't support criminalizing infidelity, nowadays). Pro-choice doesn't equal pro-abortion.

And anti-abortion is a very straightforward and honest label, one that I doubt many "pro-lifers" would object to.

I suppose you could divide the groups and call one prenatal rights advocates and the other women's rights advocates, but I doubt the pro-life movement would be happy with what that implied, either.

(As a pro-choicer, I can tell you most of us would not like "abortion advocate" for its implication that we push abortion to pregnant women. And "abortion supporter," as with "pro-abortion," doesn't get at the potential moral ambiguity towards abortion of a pro-choice advocate.)