Thursday, May 30, 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.


  1. I disagree. I think pro-abortion and anti-abortion are really the most descriptive titles. I think pro-choice and pro-life are more emotional and mostly rhetorical.

    The quip I've never gotten to use is:
    Them: "No one is pro-abortion."
    Me: "Great! Then let's outlaw it!"

    But since all this leads to is stupid arguments that have nothing to do with whether or not a fetus is a human being with equivalent moral worth to a toddler, then I agree, just call people pro-choice and pro-life and move on.

    1. I think "pro-choice," "pro-life," and "pro-abortion" are all rhetorical. "Anti-abortion" is descriptive.

      It's kind of like how I think the WBC should be able to spew their hateful garbage because I think it's important to protect free speech. If you called me "pro-WBC" that would be misleading, because I actually think the WBC sucks. In a similar way, a person can think abortion sucks but also think bodily integrity is so important we must keep abortion legal. That wouldn't make them pro-abortion. I guess it would be pro-bodily integrity?

      Obviously I disagree with their reasoning, but I don't like assigning motive.

    2. Honestly, outside of the 1% of the population you and I have talked to on internet forums about abortion, I highly doubt most self-described pro-choice people would even know what "bodily integrity" means. I think for most people, it seems to be more about whether it makes them feel more sad to think of a baby being killed, or a baby born to a single woman in the U.S.'s definition of poverty.

      But none of that is actually relevant. There might be people for whom abortion only ever makes them feel more sad than the other situation, but who want to see it kept legal anyway. I still think "pro-abortion" is a more descriptive label; especially more so than "pro-choice".

      If there were actually a debate in this country about whether or not to outlaw hate speech, such as that of the WBC, with about half the country for, half the country against a ban, I would gladly call myself pro-hate-speech. Even though I think hate speech sucks.

      I think it's almost insincere to say I'm not pro hate speech. I am pro hate speech. If I didn't feel that any good came from it, or that it was sometimes necessary in a free nation, but rather that it was only ever evil and led to badness, then I'd want it outlawed so quickly. But it is necessary. Alternate opinions, no matter how detestable, are necessary to steer the direction of public discourse in a nation, and allowing them to be vented in a free marketplace of ideas rather than under rocks and in caves keeps the ideas subject to open criticism. I mean, arguably, the WBC protests have been the greatest boon to the gay rights cause, ever; if they had never protested, or if their protests had been shut down, we might not have the first president ever to support gay marriage.

      People who are "personally pro-life" are in the same boat with abortion as you and I are in with hate speech. No matter what evils they associate with abortion, they still ultimately think it is necessary to allow abortion in a free society and that this allowance leads to more good than bad. Maybe it leads to more good directly (less poor kids stealing and going to jail?) or maybe it leads to more good in an abstract sense (freedom itself is a good); but it is better than the alternative of no abortions. Which is why I think "pro-abortion" is a perfectly reasonable epithet, especially in contrast with anti-abortion.

      But, really, I don't think it actually matters. If saying "pro-choice" can get people to shut up with slogans they heard on the Bill Maher show or a DNC rally and face the actual issues of human life and when it begins and what rights people should have, then I'll gladly call people by a less descriptive name.