Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Let the bickering begin.

I'm pro-life. I get annoyed when people call me "anti-choice," because I am not anti-choices in a general way. I am anti the specific choice to have your fetus killed. 

Similarly, I get annoyed when my fellow pro-lifers call pro-choicers "pro-abortion." There's a difference between thinking a woman should be able to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and thinking a woman should get an abortion. Indeed, I have adamantly pro-choice friends who have discouraged women from getting abortions and helped them find alternatives. There is a distinction.

In fact, I'd go further and say there are pro-choice people who are pro-abortion, pro-choice people who are neither for nor against abortion, and pro-choice people who are anti-abortion. That last group are the ones that call themselves "personally pro-life." They don't want to see their views made law, but they do find abortion morally objectionable. They certainly aren't "pro-abortion."

I apply the term "pro-life" to myself because it's the most common phrase used to describe a person who thinks abortion should be far more legally restricted. I also apply the term "pro-life" in a more holistic sense: I am not only against abortion, but also the death penalty. However, I believe war is necessary in some circumstances, I am not a vegan, and I happily kill mosquitoes. There are many ways in which you could argue I am not "pro-life" in the most general sense, in which case it may be more accurate to call me "anti-abortion."

Bearing all this in mind, I created a Venn diagram to quickly explain how I understand the terms:

The circles aren't meant to convey quantitative proportions, just general subsets.

There are people who are pro-abortion, and they are a subset of pro-choice people. You can't be pro-abortion without being pro-choice, but you can be pro-choice without being pro-abortion.

There are people who are pro-life in a holistic way, and they are a subset of anti-abortion people.You can't be pro-life without being anti-abortion, but you can be anti-abortion without being pro-life in a more holistic sense.

There are people who are legally pro-choice but personally anti-abortion, and they are in the crossover part. 

In the end I think it's simpler to call people by their self-applied labels and move on, but for clarity's sake, the above is how I understand the actual meanings.


Clinton said...

I consider myself pro-life, even though not in a "holistic sense" as you indicate. I consider myself pro-life in a morally relevant sense. I believe that we have an obligation not to kill morally relevant life (that is, life that has a nature as rational, moral agents). I also believe that life that doesn't meet that criteria should generally be protected, that we shouldn't kill or harm animals for sport or fun. But I believe it's moral to kill them for a genuine human need, like food.

Jameson Graber said...

The terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" were evidently chosen by each side of the abortion debate in order to quickly express why they are for or against abortion. In recent years some have tried to expand the meaning of the term "pro-life" to address other political questions, for various reasons. Similarly, the label "pro-choice" means for activists something bigger than abortion--it has to do with a general mentality about sexuality and reproduction. In some sense, then, there really should be some overlap between the two labels, because someone who is against abortion could still be for increased sex education, availability of contraception, etc. and someone who defends abortion rights could also be against war, the death penalty, etc.

But I really don't like bickering so much about labels. There are two options that seem fair to me. One is to use the label that each side has chosen for itself; in this case that means calling anti-abortion activists "pro-life" and activists on the opposing side "pro-choice." The other option to keep the labels as specific as possible: "anti abortion rights" for one side and "pro abortion rights" for the other. And of course we can add any particular nuance if necessary ("pro abortion rights with limits," etc.).

Beatrice said...

Very interesting reflections. Just for the sake of continuing the argument, I think there it is possible, though rare, to be pro-abortion but not pro-choice...I'm referring to those responsible for enforcing China's One Child policy for example, or those responsible for any forced abortion. Just a thought...

Aimee Murphy said...

"pro-life in a holistic way" also includes Life Matters Journal! (

Drew Hymer said...

The problem is that abortion isn't about choice, it's about abortion. But pro-aborts want to pretend it's about freedom so they hide behind the empty platitude "choice".

We shouldn't let pro-aborts hide behind platitudes. If you really oppose calling the pro-aborts, call them pro-abortion-choice.

Drew Hymer said...

i think you misunderstand the meaning of the phrase pro-life. You seem to interpret the word in a way one might interpret the word "restroom" as "a room where one rests". Pro-life means pro-right-to-life. You could further define it as the pro-right-to-life-from-the-beginning-of-life.

Pro-life has nothing to do with mosquitoes or animals. Nor does pro-life mean that the right to life can't be taken from you for a capital offense. That would need to covered by a different political phrase.

BillSamuel said...

Pro-life in a holistic way would seem logically to include more than 2 issues. It would also seem to include war and fostering the death of people severely handicapped or nearing the natural end of life, and to some degree working against social structures which result in death for many (such as involuntary poverty and racism). This is usually called the consistent life ethic or the seamless garment.

When it's just a couple of issues one is dealing with, then I have a problem with calling that holistic. You can just say you are anti-abortion and anti-death penalty. I know people have been trying to come up with a term which means more than just abortion but not consistent life ethic, but the problem is that the terms always seem to be ones (like "whole life" or "pro-life in a holistic way") that raise a mental image of CLE even though that's not what the people are. Furthermore they are very unclear since it isn't obvious from the terms which life issues the person takes a strong position on and which ones they do not. Different people who are selective on which life issues they are clear about include and exclude different issues, so the invented terms are always muddled.

BillSamuel said...

I also have a problem with using the term "pro-life" to mean just anti-abortion. Life extends past the time someone is in their mother's womb. So many of the mainline so-called "pro-life" groups are allied with an ideology which is generally unsympathetic on other life issues. They don't, for example, support expansions of the social safety net to provide support for pregnant women, mothers of infants, and children. So I don't consider groups like NRTL, AUL, ALL and SFLA to be "pro-life." They are just anti-abortion.

Leslie Sholly said...

It's an interesting discussion. I agree with your evaluation, although I think it's easiest just to refer to people by the names they give themselves rather than indulging in semantic games. For the same reason I still prefer unborn to preborn. For myself, I am "holistically pro-life" which means I embrace the Catholic Church's "seamless garment" teaching--life is sacred from "the womb to the tomb." I am beyond calling my fellow pro-lifers "anti-abortion" when I think they are being hypocritical.

Victor Galipi said...

I am both pro-life and anti-abortion, and I don't know a lot of people who are just anti-abortion. Also, I don't know of anyone who is pro-choice who is anti-abortion.

However, I define some of these terms differently. To me, for example, being for capital punishment does not always and necessarily mean one is not pro-life. There are good arguments for capital punishment. Having said that, I do have an aversion to it personally, though I was not always that way.

In my opinion, unless someone is strictly against elective abortion, not just for themselves but for everybody, they are not anti-abortion.

Also I believe that anyone who who includes abortion in their choices is not pro-choice, because they have left out the most important choice--life. Furthermore, "pro-choice" people I know, like the abortion industry itself, only gives lip service to other choices, and focuses on abortion.

However, in conversations, depending on how well I know someone and depending on the circumstances, I may call them pro-choice if that's what they call themselves. Then I will discuss with them what pro-choice means, and if they are really pro-choice.

Overall, however, I refuse to allow pro-abortionists to be comfortable with the idea that they are pro-choice when they are not.

Coyote said...

What about people who are "ideally" pro-choice, but are politically pro-life due to their dislike of the current misandrous child support laws, et cetera? I know that such people are very rare or nonexistent, but where would they fit on this chart?

Fugazi said...

I have another one I'd like to add to your list - pro-gradualism, this stance is based upon the right to life increasing directly related to the viability of the fetus, which is based upon the current medical knowledge, if, or when, that knowledge grows then elective abortion laws should follow.
The problem I have with both extreme sides of the debate are that neither will engage in debate on what both sides want, a reduction or complete removal of abortion.
I have found the most radical pro-lifers are usually religiously motivated and will not entertain any other thoughts, and contrary to what many pro-lifers think, most of the pro-choicers I have met and talked too DO NOT love abortion and if a way could be found to do away with abortion tomorrow without infringing on the rights of the woman they would support it .. I would.

Nulono said...

I think you CAN be pro-abortion without being pro-choice, if you support forced abortions.

Coyote said...

What about all of these (additional) unwanted children in the event of an abortion ban that pro-choicers complain about? Somehow I find it hard to believe that they would simply be willing to overlook that, even if the fetus could be transferred to another location. After all, many pro-choicers do not consider fetuses and embryos to be persons/worthy of rights.

Coyote said...

Please define this part: "rational, moral agents."

Coyote said...

Also, while I certainly know of some pro-choicers who consider abortion to be "morally wrong" and whatnot, I also know of some (often scientifically uneducated) pro-choicers who consider fetuses to be body parts and consider killing fetuses to be no worse than killing animals (including insects) and/or flowers.

Clinton said...

As in, we have the ability to recognize right from wrong and act accordingly.

SynerGenetics said...

It is about personal freedom. The right for women to have the right of
privacy with her life. The woman gets to make the choice, her body, her
future, her choice.

If a woman wants to have a baby or doesn't
its her choice, not yours and not the states. Your simply anti-women by
denying a woman her right to privacy and your using pregnancy as wedge
to deny her these rights.

Coyote said...

Oh--you mean that we are able to control our own morality (without outside interference). Yeah, I guess that I would agree with this.

JDC said...

Heavy on platitudes, light on actual arguments. Well done.

newenglandsun said...

I agree with the Venn diagram. I think the choice should definitely be made available whenever there is no better alternative but I am largely against the selfishness of some advocates (not all) of the pro-choice arguments. I don't see why there is so much vitriolicism.

MoonChild02 said...

I agree. Even Abby Johnson has said that calling pro-choicers "pro-aborts" is not helpful, and, in fact, exacerbates the situation. They see it as insulting and inciting.

Lately the media (New York Times, CNN, has been referring to pro-choicers as abortion rights activists, proponents, advocates, or supporters. I've taken to using that phrasing when I talk about these issues on Reddit. So far, no one has mentioned a problem with my word choice, just my personal views.

However, I do take issue with the terms "anti-choice", "abortion foes", "abortion rights foes", "abortion rights opponents", "anti-abortion rights activists", etc. I am pro-life: anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-death penalty, and anti-unjust war. Just referring to me as anti-abortion doesn't cut it for me.

SynerGenetics said...

Your response must be sold in the "lite and less filling" side of the response market.

Coyote said...

The anti-abortion position is not anti-women, since it equally applies to men (including trans-men) if they get/were able to get pregnant.

SynerGenetics said...

Have you ever seen a trans-man (whatever that may be) have a child give birth? No.

Pro lifers which for the most part is religiously motivated in keeping women as 2nd class citizens. Secular pro lifers are no better in their position either. Both groups have no method of outlawing abortions that wouldn't interfere with a woman's right to privacy., considering the majority of the arguments is what lies in a woman's womb not the woman herself.

Coyote said...

Look up Thomas Beatie.

Also, this appears to be an appeal to motive fallacy. Someone's motive for holding a particular position does not make this position any less valid--it's his/her arguments which need to be addressed.

No one is disputing the banning most abortions will prevent the woman from exercising her rights. However, there are certain cases where someone is legally unable to exercise his/her right(s), such as if his/her willing actions create a situation where in order to exercise one right, he/she must violate someone else's right in the process. For instance, I have the right to wave my fist. However, if I come extremely close to and stand right near a whole bunch of people and then try to wave my fist, then I would legally be unable to exercise this right because by that point in time, I created a situation where in order to exercise my right to wave my fist, I must violate someone else's right to be free from aggression (or whatever you want to call it).

And Yes, I am aware that waving one's fist and one's bodily autonomy are different rights, but this is beside my point here.

SynerGenetics said...

Tracy Lehuanani LaGondino is a woman who has some pretty harsh surgery, she is a woman, not a man. Get real.

Waving your fist and the right to privacy are not even close, like your example Thomas Beatie horrible surgery, horrible argument.

Coyote said...

"Tracy Lehuanani LaGondino is a woman who has some pretty harsh surgery, she is a woman, not a man. Get real"

Well, many people will disagree with you on this front. Yes, she was born a woman, but is she a woman right now? Anyway, technology might eventually make it people for people who were born male and perhaps even those who are male (by my criteria/definition) to become pregnant as well, in which case anti-abortion laws would equally apply to them.

"Waving your fist and the right to privacy are not even close"

No, they are not close, but this is beside the point of my argument here.

SynerGenetics said...

Technology might, but it hasn't yet, and since it hasn't yet Thomas / Tracey is a pretty lame argument.

Jonathan said...

It isn't her choice. Her rights end where another person's rights begin..namely her baby. Having an abortion doesn't rid her of just makes her a mother with a dead baby. Abortion benefits MEN and enslaves women. Abortion allows men to get women pregnant and avoid responsibility for his actions. Far from liberating women..abortion is harmful to women AND their unborn children. A right to privacy is not IN the Constitution but the right to live is in the Declaration of Independence.."the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." So why does HER rights trump the baby's right to life? How selfish can women be? Let her abort once then sterilize her..she's unworthy of motherhood.

SynerGenetics said...

The right of privacy in the US constitution as in the
following examples: 1st amendment privacy of religion, 3rd
amendment prevent your home to house soldiers, 4th amendment privacy
of the person, possession, and searches, 5th amendment self

When a woman enters a
clinic to seek medical help in regards to miscarriage, birth control, birth control
information, medical help in general, or even an abortion the government or you
does not have the right to inquire what she does in said clinic.

The “Comstock laws 1873” where it was illegal to send birth
control information through the US
postal system. Prior to 1965 it was
illegal for married couples to purchase birth control “Griswold v. Connecticut. Eisenstadt
v. Barid it was illegal for unmarried couples to purchase birth control. The right
to use birth control and receive information about birth control is about
privacy which means it’s clearly protected by the constitution.

Why does a woman right trump the fetus inside her? Because
its her body, not yours, not the state. You have a right to control your body
as you see fit. If you choose to get a vasectomy or not, its your choice not
the state. If a woman chooses to go full term or not its her choice because she
will be solely responsible for that child. Under the 14th amendment undue
servitude, men cannot get pregnant, the burden of pregnancy falls on the women,
thus because they carry this burden it should be up to them to make that
choice, not the government or you.

Agonizing Truth said...

How about just anti-abortion and pro-abortion? If someone is in favor of abortions being readily available then they're certainly not anti-abortion, they're pro-abortion. If someone is against abortions being readily available they're anti-abortion rather than pro-abortion. It doesn't matter a whit if a person themselves would never get an abortion or if they hate the concept as long as they still favor abortions being readily available they're pro-abortion by default.

A comparison: I myself am pro-drug legalization. I personally only smoke pot here and there, would never shoot up heroin, have no use for cocaine etc. But I absolutely want cocaine and heroin and LSD and magic mushrooms as well as pot and all other "illicit" drugs legal and readily available for any adult who wants to buy them. What does my position make me regardless of my personal feelings about whether I would ever use heroin etc.? Yes, it makes me pro-heroin, pro-cocaine, pro-LSD etc. even if I would never do those drugs, simply because I want them to be readily available rather than not. If I took the opposite position I would be anti-drug, anti-cocaine, anti-heroin etc. Because I stand by what I believe in and I believe in what I'm saying I have no problem whatsoever with someone calling me pro-heroin, pro-cocaine etc. Because that's precisely what my POLICIES that I favor make me. Why can't pro-abortion activists have enough guts to own their own beliefs instead of hiding behind euphemisms like "pro-choice" as if we're talking about choosing a hairstyle and not the life or death of a developing human being?