Monday, January 26, 2009

What's in a name?

Pet peeve of mine: pro-life folks using the term "pro-abortion" to describe someone who's pro-choice.

The term "pro-abortion" implies a desire to see the rate of abortion increase. That is not true of most people who describe themselves as pro-choice. So the term is inaccurate, and borders on slander. Moreover it's not really effective, and just makes the user seem all the more shrill and desperate.

Now it is true that the pro-choice position advocates a scenario in which legal abortions will continue to happen, albeit perhaps at some reduced rate. This is where we get the "pro-abortion" rhetoric. Because the pro-choice position advocates continued legal abortions, the argument goes, it is more accurately described as "pro-abortion".

But we should ask: what does it mean to be "pro-" something?

Consider the term "pro-life". What is it thought to mean by those who use it to describe themselves? Basically it implies the belief that human life has intrinsic value. That life should be preserved for this reason alone, not because of its utility.

But if that's the meaning of "pro-" then the vast majority of those who support continued legal abortion are not "pro-abortion". They don't consider abortion to have intrinsic value. If its utility were to disappear, they would be quite content to see abortion vanish as well.

So here's my appeal: stop muddying the waters of the abortion debate with unnecessarily inflammatory rhetoric. And that cuts both ways, by the way, for those accustomed to the term "anti-choice".


  1. Hi Two Bit Hack - Thanks for your post on this. I think you are largely correct, but it may be a bit more complex than you describe here. For example, if a president opposes the Infants Born Alive Act which protects the life of a baby that was supposed to be aborted but was actually born alive, doesn't that make him pro-abortion, or worse, pro-death. I take the "pro" here to mean "in favor of." If one is "pro-life" I've taken that to mean that one is in favor of life and against unnecessary death. If one is "pro-abortion," then I would say that such a person is in favor of them happening, whether they find them regrettable or not. Further, in my research, it seems clear that some organizations, Planned Parenthood for example, are in fact pro-abortion. They want abortions to continue. There are various reasons for this, but they would not be in favor of a society where there are none. That may sound absurd but I think I could make a very strong case for it if necessary.

  2. Pro-choice people believe a woman has more right to not be pregnant, then a baby has to live.

    They are pro-"it''s-my-pregnancy", and anti-it's a baby.