Pro-Life? How do you respond?

Pro-life: n. code word for (usually) Christian conservatives meaning that you oppose abortion.

Mike Huckabee called me the other night. Well, Mike, the former gov of Arkansas, former fattie, former presidential candidate and current talk show host (of course… what better way to stay in the public eye in preparation for his next run) didn’t actually call me in person; his robot did.

“Hi,” said his computer voice, “this is Governor Mike Huckabee – I want to ask you a couple of questions… Did you vote in the last election?”

Since I always want to hear what Republicans are currently spinning, and because it’s true, I said yes.

“Do you consider yourself pro-life?” Huckabee’s voice asked.

Now this stumped me for a minute, because I’m “pro” lots of things. I mean who wouldn’t be pro “LIFE”? It’s better than the alternative, as Woody Allen once said.

Framing the anti-abortion movement as being “pro-life” was a stroke of linguistic genius because the most natural oppositional phrases are “pro-death”, “anti-life” or “pro-abortion” – all of which sound bad, even though none of them are accurate descriptions of those who believe women have the right to choose whether to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or not.

Planned Parenthood used to have a brilliant slogan: “Every child a wanted child.”  It conveys the heart of the matter: a woman should be able to control her own fertility because who knows better her ability to bear, love and raise that child? No child should have to bear the burden of being born to someone who doesn’t want him. God knows, in this world a kid has a hard enough time getting the love, support, health care and education he deserves being raised by parents who wanted him. Unfortunately every community around the world has growing populations of homeless men, women and children who lacked that nurturance.

Anyway, back to Mike and me.

He took my stammering for a YES and plunged on with the true purpose of his call – to pass along the scary lie that Obama’s top priority was to pass a law to make it possible for anyone to perform an abortion on any woman anywhere anytime.  Now, if I had known Mike was going to call with such a load of codswallop, I’d have figured out how to record the call so I could quote him exactly and could parse the statement phrase by phrase…

The message was paid for by Americans United for Life, but I believe he’s done various versions of the message for other pro-life groups as well.  They are nothing if not well organized and well-funded.

I totally deplore fear-mongering as a persuasion technique – and the Right specializes in it – that and reducing the issue to its most simplistic even if the truth must be twisted or ignored to get there.  Those of us on the left have a greater interest in facts , even if they’re messy and complex to communicate.

So back to “pro-life”.

Our standard catch phrase response is “pro-choice”, which, though truthful,  lacks the emotional impact of “pro-life.”  We are certainly not “pro-abortion”; we’d much prefer the pregnancy be avoided thru the use of contraceptives. But contraception can fail and women do get raped.

Some of us believe we could call the pro-lifers “pro-fetus, anti-child,” because once the child is born conservative ideology says taxpayers shouldn’t have to support “welfare mothers” who can’t make ends meet raising kids alone.

We could also call them the “forced pregnancy” squad.

My own definition of pro-life means we respect the mother’s right to choose to give life or not. And if she does, we as a society are there to help her succeed as a parent and to help her child grow up to be a healthy, responsible, educated and contributing member of society.

14 responses to “Pro-Life? How do you respond?

  1. “My own definition of pro-life means we respect the mother’s right to choose to give life or not. And if she does, we as a society are there to help her succeed as a parent and to help her child grow up to be a healthy, responsible, educated and contributing member of society.”

    –So the baby doesn’t get to choose? If it is aborted, The child will not get an opportunity to live a “grow up healthy, responsible, educated and contributing member of society (as you said).”

  2. RedCentral – I doubt we’ll be able to see eye to eye on this, but I do think the mother has priority over the fetus…

    If God can determine that some fetuses shouldn’t be born and cause them to be spontaneously aborted, does that make it all right then? Why shouldn’t the mother be able to make the same determination?

  3. “My own definition of pro-life means we respect the mother’s right to choose to give life or not.”
    You nailed it with that definition. I’ve given this argument much thought: the food co-op I belong to has many members who are stridently pro life, and who seem quite content to vote on just that issue, no matter how badly the Republican agenda then messes up the rest of their life.
    My biggest problem with the pro-life forces is that they so often are not willing to stop at just making abortions illegal (which would not put a stop to abortion, just drive women back into the hands of the back alley abortionists or into attempting their own abortions: but the pro life forces don’t seem concerned about that) but that they also want to take away all manner of birth control other than abstinence or the really ineffective rhythm method. While they may have valid moral arguments against most abortions, the only possible reasons against the use of birth control must be religious ones. And they have no right, moral or constitutional, to insist that all women follow their religious precepts.
    I find it especially ironic that some Pro Life sites mention Margaret Sanger and her work as leading to the “terrible situation” we find ourselves in today, when according to what I’ve read, she worked to make birth control legal and accessible because she saw first hand the terrible situation so many poor mothers found themselves in, either dying from too many births too quickly, or from self administered abortion attempts. Cheap, reliable and easy to obtain birth control (provided women have enough control over their lives to use it) would do so much more than all the right-to-life marching to cut the number of abortions.

  4. The paradox is many of the “pro-lifers” also are very supportive of war and the death penalty. Reason and logic implies they are then “pro-death.”

    Many people voted for GWB because of his so-called “pro-life” stance. Yet anyone who voted for him, especially the second time around, also voted to continue two wars.

    Pro-war = Pro-death.

    It’s all about words and how they are used. And why.

  5. Susan – I can’t even go along with accepting that a religion has a right to tell its adherents that birth control is a sin (unacceptable). It’s a way of keeping women “barefoot and pregnant” – in other words subservient to men.

    As a side note on Margaret Sanger – she got involved in the issue originally because she watched her own mother, a devout Catholic, weaken and die after 18 pregnancies and 11 live births. She spent much of her youth doing household chores and taking care of her younger siblings (she was #6 live).

  6. Paul – the “pro-war” stance of many “pro-lifers” reinforces my point that they care more about the fetus than the already alive. Ditto many are for the death penalty.

    But ideology doesn’t have to make sense…

  7. Well, if we’re going to start talking about what religion can or should be, we could be running you out of server space. I don’t think that any human being should follow anyone or anything blindly: any religion that doesn’t require it’s adherents to take full responsibility for their own actions, instead of blindly following someone else’s interpretation of what they think the first preacher of that particular sect had to say is bound to become more interested in it’s (the Religion’s) success than in the welfare, well-being, and moral development of it’s followers. To my mind, a religion should be used as a road map, or a framework for creating a better person/life/society. Instead it is mis-used, to keep not only women subservient, but usually anyone not in the upper echelon of the religious hierarchy. Sometimes the menfolk get a little reward (like being told they are the head of the household) to keep them in line, and keep them willing to do the church’s dirty work.

  8. You’re right, a discussion of religion could run us out of server space. A discussion of abortion can do that too… So far only a couple of hate emails.

  9. There may not be enough server space for an adequate discussion of religion, but there’s plenty of room for it in heaven – given how sparsely populated it is.

  10. I used to get so confused by the term pro-life; it just never made sense to me. If you support a woman’s right to choose, then you support life. One of the things that really gets me are the anti-abortion bumper stickers, they’re are so insulting and arrogant, they know what is right and those who don’t agree are murderers.

    How about Choice ‘r Us?

  11. “Pro-Life” IS a totally confusing (by that I mean misleading) term. But it’s typical of right-wing framing – think Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” which lessened air quality standards, or their “Healthy Forests Initiative” that was all about logging old growth forests.

    It’s enough to make one cynical…

  12. Well, now Mr Thisisthatis, how do you know how sparsely populated heaven is? Were you there to check it out during your last incarnation?

    I’m told that everyone’s nekkid because when they were raptured they left everything, including their shoes and undies, behind.

  13. How do you two sides to take one step toward each other? — not easy! Here’s a question some folks have been asking anti-abortion activists lately: “If abortion were illegal, what should the penalty be for having an illegal abortion?”

    The video:

    I can’t tell if this is entirely helpful. Once people have said “I’m not really sure what the penalty should be”, where can you go from there?


  14. Carl, I’ve seen that video. You make a pro-life person think too much and their head explodes.

    I heard a really terrific interview on today’s “Talk of the Nation” with two men who were on opposite sides of the gay marriage question (Jonathan Rausch and David Blankenhorn – see NY Times editorial Feb. 21 by them).

    What was so fabulous is that they have been able to have a deep conversation about the problem and come to a solution that (although not perfect for either of them) is a compromise they can both live with.

    I’d love to see such a conversation happen with abortion.