I really hate the terms pro-life and pro-choice. They’re misleading.
The terms emphatically thrown around to discuss abortion both try to play on the positive aspects of one’s positions, but really are false realities. Because, you see, most people who are pro-life show little or no concern for a child after it is born. And the term pro-choice doesn’t acknowledge the overwhelming life circumstances that leave little room in the mind of a desperate mother-to-be outside of abortion. Let me elaborate.
I am pro-life. Not just anti-abortion, as it has become, but pro-life. Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo recently released an article on RedLetterChristians.org talking about the implications of being pro-life. Simply stated, we need to be concerned about people from the womb to the tomb. To simply protect the life of a baby in utero but show no concern for it’s upbringing or quality of life is not to be pro-life, but just anti-abortion. Our common position on abortion yields the concept that life begins at conception and ends at birth. Of course no one believes that, but we protest and seek policies as though it were true. While protecting the lives of the unborn is crucial, valuing the life of the born is just as important. Supporting children and mothers is a necessity. Of course there are a whole myriad of others issues related to the quality of life and death. Abortion and euthanasia, the death penalty and war, poverty and health care, to name a few. To be pro-life means that we have a consistent opinion on all of these issues that protects the sanctity of life. It is to be against the death penalty and war1. It is to be for health care reform, and aiding the needy (whose quality of life is destroyed by poverty). If we are going to label ourselves pro-life, let us be holistically pro-life.
In contrast, the term pro-choice fails to recognize the very lack of options that spur many women to terminate their pregnancies. For instance, let me share a few statistics from the Guttmacher Institute. 69% of abortions come from women who are economically disadvantaged, while 42% come from women below the federal poverty line. 85% of abortions come women who are not married. 52% of terminated pregnancies come from women aged 15-24. 6 out of every 10 abortions come from women who already have children. Now I make no excuse for abortion, but if you are a young, single, poor women who is struggling to take care of one child, what other options do they feel they have? While certainly this typecast does not apply to every woman who gets to an abortion, many (if not most) abortions are motivated out of desperation. While the label is pro-choice seems nice, many women don’t feel as they have any other choice but abortion.
Fortunately, I feel as though there is some common ground between the two parties. While ultimately people’s conceptions of being pro-abortion or anti-abortion may stand firm, allowing people some options should flourish. Given that many abortions are done out of desperation, the pro-life constituency should be passionately involved in assisting women raise their children. Parenting classes, financial support, and free or inexpensive day care are each examples of way to decreases the mountain of pressure and desperation supporting another child may entail. Additionally, I firmly believe that if you align yourself with the pro-life constituency, you need to seriously consider adoption. It is one thing to say that women should put their children up for adoption rather than abortion, but it is a completely different thing to actually adopt a child. It is not enough to say that someone will adopt the child, but to seriously consider adoption yourselves. It is a matter of being proactive about your convictions.
Ultimately I hope this post is not seen as a debate about abortion, but a conversation on how we can support women who feel powerless to do otherwise. Providing options such as these not only affirm the sanctity of life (as the pro-life group desires), but also gives women choices other than abortion (forming a true sense of choice for the pro-choice). And as the concern to find means to provide for a child slowly settles, and women know where they can find support, the number of abortions will fall, just as the pro-life group is advocating for in the first place.
Let’s be proactive about living out our convictions, and let’s work together with people of differing opinions rather than polarizing an issue. For when we (both the pro-life constituency and the Church) show concern for all people, born or unborn, then the whole discussion will change, as will the public opinion.
1. Even in the necessity of war, we grieve the violence, destruction and loss of life (Both American and foreign). War is never something we hope or wish for.