Anti-Choice or Anti-Life?

Recently this question has been thrown around in some of the circles I frequent…although it’s usually phrased as “are you PRO-choice, or PRO-life?”  While I appreciate people’s attempts to ruin a perfectly cordial dinner-party, I have to say I object to the premise of the question entirely.

I’m looking at my blog…it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.  I had been awaiting some action on my “what kind of religion won’t let you quit” post, so I could do a follow-up, and I have been looking at topics for this and upcoming posts.  Abortion keeps coming up.  I have to get it out of the way, and many people won’t want to hear it.  Perhaps they won’t even CARE, it has come up so often in the past few years of presidential campaigning, and recently in the Sotomayor inquisition.  But I think that my take may be a slightly novel approach to the topic, and I’m going to hit it from several angles (no sexual innuendo intended…or IS it?).  Hopefully, in between posts on the subject I’ll talk about stupid myths that Utahn’s and Mormons believe in, and why they are utterly false, or why I think smoking should stay legal but selling tobacco should be outlawed.  Perhaps I’ll discuss the disturbing trend of pedophiles living next door to every school in my town.  Hopefully that teaser will sucker some of you back later…

But for now, we’re talking abortion, and this is episode 1. 

Why do I puke in my mouth a little every time someone asks the abortion question?  I support abortions in at least some cases, and depending on how my thinking goes in the near future, I may make room to support abortion in all cases.  I’m piecing my arguments together.  But I’m not pro-choice.  In fact, I think taking on the title “pro-choice” is terrible PR.

I used to feel that anyone who opposed a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion was, necessarily, anti-choice, hence the first part of the title.  When you think in terms of choice versus right-to-life, you tend to see things in that light, and wonder how on Earth anyone could tell a woman in this day and age of enlightenment and civil rights what she can do with her body.  It seems absurd.  So absurd that all you do in a debate with an anti-choicer is tell them that they are wrong, let them rebut, and then tell them they are wrong again a little bit louder, ad nauseum.

What I want to do is issue a plea to the “pro-choice” croud to stop calling this an issue of choice.  WTF, right?  I know.  But if we want to make any headway, politically, and win the support of a larger demographic, we have GOT to understand the pro-life mindset, and adjust our position.  Pro-lifer’s very often see those who support abortion as “anti-life.”  This insenses us, but it makes absolute sense.

We want the law to protect abortion, or at the very least we want the law to NOT prohibit abortion.  They think abortion is murder – the unjust killing of a human being.  In other words, they think we want the law to protect, or at the very least NOT prohibit, murder.  And that just doesn’t make sense to them.  Sure, we allow legal exceptions or leniencies for some types of killing; executions by the state, war, crimes of passion, accidents.  But when it is unjust, we call it murder, and we don’t make exceptions.  We don’t protect a person’s right to choose to unjustly kill another human being at whim, and if we did protect that right we’d be dooming ourselves.  So when we claim to be pro “choice,” what they hear is “we want the choice to commit murder.”

It’s nice to attach a cute name to your position, but it’s actually hurting our efforts a great deal.  We need to abandon the “choice” language and begin to focus on destroying the idea that abortion is murder, and to do that we have to ask,

1) is a human being‘s life being terminated, and/or

2) is it unjust?

I say no, but I’ll go into that another time.  Any of you pro-choicers out there reading this (both of you) please consider this.  We have to change the direction of the discussion, because currently there is no dialog, and without a dialog we cannot make any progress, and we CERTAINLY can’t make any converts.

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6 Responses to “Anti-Choice or Anti-Life?”

  1. Hey, I did not realize this was your blog. I thought you just wrote “What Kind of Religion Won’t Let You Quit.” I will follow it from this point forward. You know that I am reevaluating my world views, thanks in large part to the book Don’t Believe Everything You Read. Anyway, I have always been staunchly “pro-life.” And anytime I debated it those were pretty much exactly the same two points I thought were most important and all the rest was just filler. I would love to hear your answer. Later. Good blog and great interview on the podcast.

    • Oh feel free to follow it, but uh…you may notice I haven’t been too active on it lately. But for you, I’ll try to keep up.

      Are you still a “staunch pro-lifer?”

      • Well right now I am not staunch anything because I have spent my whole life only looking at one side of the argument and I recently found out how misleading that can be. LOL! But as far as I can reason it is alive, it is human, and it would be unjust to end that life, which again as far as I can reason is innocent. But I do not hold those things staunchly.

  2. Travis Hansen Says:

    Nice post–provokative and original. Please excuse me for writing a response which is surely less original. The idea of washing ourselfs of this term “pro-choice” is–for reasons you outlined–a good one. But I feel it is insufficient at the level of paradigm conflict. If you really beleive that after the moment of conception the blastocyst truely and literally has a god-given soul (as the majority of pro-lifers do), you will be very likely to want to preserve that soul (hence, the oppositon to stem-cell research). As long as the religious beleive that a soul is a divine gift that all of us are fortunate to have, it will be very difficult to get them focused on what ethics is really about–sympathy and sentiency. The conversation about suffering is cut off by a scientiffically ignorant religious dogmatism.

    Free-thinkers are in a possition to engage in intelectual conversation concerning the costs and benefits (in terms of suffering) in each individual abortion case (or whatever ethical dillema is put on the table for that matter). The problem with the pro-life paradigm, as with a good deal of religious absolutism, is that it does not have this intelectual freedom–it is prematurely shackled by a kerfuffle of doctrinal and/or revalatory make-beleive. (On a more general level, this is why faith in unsupported propositions–humans have “souls” for example–necessarly curtails free intelectualism. It is a “conversation stopper”.)

    This general line of argumentation is not my own, it has been deliniated by Sam Harris and others.

    Trying to steer the conversation from Pro-choice vs Pro-life to what constitutes life and what constitutes murder is a good move. And I certainly agree that using the term “Pro-choice” is poor PR. I’m just skeptical as to wether abandoning it would have much of an impact on a populace who beleives that souls are tangible things.

    • Thanks Travis. That’s actually a nice segue into where I wanted to go next, but, as usual, finding the time for this tomfoolery is somewhat im-fucking-possible. At any rate, I think that if we look at the soul question, as I have done in the past for Professor Kleiner (I think we discussed this before) this actually makes things easier. Because they have no intellectual dexterity the religious pro-lifers have very few moves to make, and taking things to THEIR home court actually makes things EASIER. Ha ha. What I wanted to look at is whether or not there can even be said to be a “moment” of conception. I think the answer is just no. Everything that happens in a body, or even at the chemical level, is a PROCESS, and conception is no different. It may occur on a timescale that is meaningless to us, but don’t WE occur on a timescale that is meaningless to an infinite being? But our actions are presumably no less significant to that being, since we are to subjected to the most horrific tortures imaginable for doing precisely what this omniscient being knew we were going to do, even before He created us. WTF. Now I’m pissed again. Stupid theism.

      Anyway I think that maybe that is just stupid wordplay, because there is definitely a point after which we can say that a woman HAS conceived with surety, and no abortion doc is splitting nanoseconds to beat the conception clock so that his clinic doesn’t get bombed, but I intend to carry that “process” argument forward in some manner. Dammit Travis. Now I’m all screwed up. Might have to rethink my strategy a bit on this one. Thanks for the input though. I very much appreciate your help in, uh, “streamlining” my argument.

      A side note that I think I forgot to mention is that by opposing ourselves to the “pro-life” movement we are, in a sense, admitting to being anti-life. Guilty by opposition. I think I alluded to that breifly in the start of this post and never returned to it, but I think that this is a HUGE problem. Let’s don’t go up against people who claim to be “pro-life” and claim to represent “the other side of the issue” because the other side of pro-life is anti-life. It’s just like the whole “family values” crap that the Christian Right pulls in order to hijack all the positive terminology and to simultaneously cloak a 1st amendment breaking religious agenda in Wash. DC. Goddamnit I went to the library and got a CD for Sheyda of children’s songs…”WHOLESOME” songs. It turns out that what they meant by “wholesome” is that they changed a bunch of well-known kids songs to be more biblically supportive (they changed “them bones them bones them dry bones” to “Ezekial had them dry bones,” WTFSIT?!). Anyway, it is a battle of terminology, and while we have logic and reason, they have rhetoric, and that trumps reason in terms of communicating to the masses. Time to restrategize.

      Love to hear from you more often, bud.

  3. fighting_gravity Says:

    But what if we want to champion Anti-Life? I can understand that there is a word game being played, but i see a different end, or just view the whole issue from a different lense.
    We are dealing with a very undereducated, lazy and spoiled culture who is used to destroying everything in it’s path without consequence (it would be better to say postponed consequences, the chickens have, and will continue to come home to roost). When Thomas Malthus and others started to look at population levels and biomass that suports them, he understood that there are limits to how many people we can have and still have a “good life and environment”. With the advent of chemical fertilizers and fossil fuel transportation we have been able to ignore this law of nature by tapping into nuclear energy that became solar rays that became plant life that became fossil fuels, fuels that are limited and have very destructive externalities that lower the quality of life for those living. Some would argue that we have added quantity at the cost of quality.
    I beleive pro life to be “short term pop gain with long term damage to all of the systems of our environment which support our life, and the life of all other creatures, who in turn build our food chain”. Pro life does not take into account that adding huamn lives to the surface of the planet has an impact that could kill us all! ALL OF US! I can understand he idea of protecting life, but we need to understand the full context of that.
    I don’t think this is an issue to comprimise on. We really need to address our total population issue. I say we confront the issue with the long term, comprehensive study on what impact would be if we adding or subtracting people from earth. If we take the pro-life agenda, where do we end up? In my opnion, overpopulated to the point of extinction. Is pro life really pro death?
    I guess what I’m trying to say is fuck the debate! It’s outdated and silly. I don’t want to win due to a PR move, I want people to change because of the idea, because of the need of our species. If the term Ant-life is the one I have to champion, then I’l take it. I wish not to fight PR with PR. PR can be exposed to be jus that, PR, not a solid idealogy based in reasonable evidence but Public Relations, Image Control. Do we wish to join in a PR battle? If we change our name, we can be acused of re-branding, and we can then say we are playing the PR game. Why not just champion the title of Anti-Life. Your PR will suffer, but your integrity will increase. You may not look as good, but you wil be seen as more legitimate if you don’t let it get to you and still just continue to express the reasons behind your ideas. There is a change we need to make, and if we stop playing with PR we might be better able to undermine those who do.
    For me it stands this way. If we can see the impending crash and we let our PR get in the way of prudet decisions, we deserve to suffer for our stupidity. Give the people the cold facts, and let them choose suicide if they wish, I have no kids so it will only be theirs that suffer.
    I don’t know how flawed my thinking is on this and am open to what others think. Should we bother with the change or embrace the insult and use it against them? I don’t want to talk about abortion, I want to talk about responsibiliy and the full implications of our actions. Abortion is part of a larger narritive, and I agree with Travis that it cannot be tackled alone, we need to open up the battlefield, this is bigger than just abortion.
    Just my thoughts and ramblings.

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