pro-choice and pro-life

Take a seat, put your feet up, and have a nice calming cup of tea, everybody, because today we’re talking about abortion rhetoric.

Don’t worry: We’re not going to discuss our moral convictions here. We’re just going to talk about how the words we use make it easy for us to misunderstand and misrepresent each other.

As terms that are supposed to describe public policy positions, pro-life and pro-choice are both pretty ridiculous. Pro-life people obviously don’t place much importance on the lives of plants or bacteria or (with the exception of vegetarian pro-lifers) certain animals or (in some cases) people convicted of horrible violent crimes. And pro-choice people obviously don’t think everyone should be allowed to choose whether they obey traffic laws, pay their taxes, or pee on the sidewalk.

But it’s easy to see why each side picked its term. Pro-life people want you to think that opposing them means having a callous disregard for living things. Pro-choice people want you think that opposing them means opposing freedom itself. Like I said: ridiculous. Yet people are so committed to their own version of the story that they won’t even dignify the other side by calling it what it calls itself: They call each other “pro-abortion” and “anti-choice.”

Let’s clear something up, guys. No one is pro-abortion any more than anyone is pro-radical-mastectomy or pro-root-canal. And no one (except maybe Benito Mussolini) is truly anti-choice. Okay? Pro-life doesn’t mean “I hate and want to control women” and pro-choice doesn’t mean “I would murder a toddler if it threatened to inconvenience me in any way.”

I know a lot of pro-life and pro-choice people, and as disappointed as some of them may be to hear this, they agree on almost everything. In general, they love and support women and families. They believe women (and men) should have access to proper medical care. Really, the only thing they disagree about is whether a fertilized human egg/blastocyst/embryo/fetus is a person with rights that can trump the rights of a woman.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. The rest is just shouting.