It’s no secret that there are many slogans used by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates to get their points across in regards to abortion. In a world where memes and Twitter drive our social discourse, it doesn’t take long for a bad idea to get circulated among millions of people.
A common slogan that pro-life advocates have been hearing in some form or another is the remark that someone is “Personally pro-life,” but they would never question another person’s decision to get an abortion. A multitude of justifications abound. Some people state that they would never be able to fully understand what another person may go through, or that they could never tell another person what to do. Other people often resort to a form of moral relativism, saying that while they personally think abortion is wrong, other people think differently, and it would be mistaken to make a person believe the way the do.
Then there are still other people, usually from a religious background or subculture, who will sometimes say that they were raised to believe abortion is wrong, but won’t impose their personal beliefs on other people who think differently.
I have personally heard this remark in numerous forms. Most recently, while sidewalk counseling at a local Planned Parenthood, some people would stop by and would say they agreed with us that abortion was wrong, then they would go inside Planned Parenthood for a different purpose than abortion. Of course, this raised a question: If you have a problem with abortion, then why do you give support through your business to the biggest abortion provider in America? Why not go somewhere else?
While this may be flabbergasting, it is a reflection of a core truth: Many people aren’t thinking very deeply about abortion.
A variety of questions can be asked of a person who identifies as personally “pro-life” but doesn’t believe in questioning another person’s views or actions on abortion.
For one, why does this person identify as “pro-life” in the first place? What is it about abortion that causes them to adopt the label “pro-life” for themself, rather than pro-choice?
It’s reasonable to think that maybe, deep down, people really do know there is something just not right about the act of abortion. Oh, we get justifications all the time, but why go to great lengths to justify an elective procedure that should be no more problematic than having a tooth pulled? No one gets emotional at the thought of breast enlargement surgery, liposuction, getting a tattoo, ear piercings, or having a tooth pulled (well, some people do get emotional over that one). However, there are people who do get emotionally distraught and often come completely unglued when confronted with opposition to abortion.
Why? Well, as the philosopher J. Budziszewski puts it, this is one of the things “We Can’t Not Know.” There are certain truths about the world that are simply undeniable to us as human beings, no matter the lengths we may go to deny their existence.
Deep down, many people know there is something deeply wrong with abortion, and for good reason. We know that human life begins in the womb, and that the act of abortion ends this life. Even abortionists admit this. During an interview with the BBC a couple of years ago, abortionist Leroy Carhart told a journalist that yes, he was killing human life in abortion. He accepted that. He’s not the only one. Abortionist Warren Hern, author of the medical text Abortion Practice, told an audience of abortion providers in San Diego that “There is no denial an act of destruction is taking place. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.” And in his debate with Dr. Mike Adams at UNC Wilmington, the self-declared “Christian” abortion doctor Willie Parker told the audience, “Yes, abortion kills a human being. I agree.”
We know abortion kills a fellow human being; one that is completely innocent and defenseless. Ironically, this means that the act of abortion itself is the lethal imposition of one person’s personal moral values on another.
What people have trouble admitting, however, is that abortion is a serious moral wrong. There are two reasons for this.
For one, much of the culture today is mixed up about morality. Thanks to the influences of worldviews such as postmodernism, any truth claim is often relegated to a mere opinion. “Live and let live” has become the defining rule of the day. So long as you don’t hurt anyone, live and do as you please.
The problem is, again, deep down we know this can’t possibly be true. We know there are acts that are so morally heinous that they are not even open to serious consideration. Moral relativism, and the belief that you shouldn’t “impose” your moral beliefs on someone who disagrees flies in the face of the very notion of justice. You can’t have a world of “live and let live” morality and one that is committed to justice. It’s impossible.
The question then becomes, is abortion an act that is so morally heinous we should take steps to stop it? Think about it for a moment. If abortion is the direct, intentional killing of another human being, then it makes perfect sense to stop abortion through the rule of law, just like we work to stop other forms of unjust treatment outside the womb.
On another note, when someone says they don’t “like” abortion, what exactly do they mean? Obviously, they take issue with abortion, but why? If abortion is a form of unjust killing, then it doesn’t matter whether someone “likes” or “dislikes” abortion. In fact, likes and dislikes are a pretty terrible standard for determining what is right. I might not like the idea of telling the truth; that doesn’t make it okay for me to lie. I may like the idea of cheating on my spouse; that does not make such an action okay.
Even then, the personal circumstances of a person considering abortion doesn’t mean their actions still shouldn’t be called into question. Yes, many people considering abortion are going through the toughest time of their lives. That’s why pro-life advocates created Pregnancy Resource Centers. One can rest assured that every single scenario a pregnant woman may find herself in has been addressed by a pro-life advocate in some way, shape, or form. It’s just not true to say that abortion is needed to help women; the millions of women helped by pro-lifers can attest to that fact. We can and should help women without resorting to killing their children.
Second, it should be mentioned that not every objection to the pro-life view is going to be made in good faith. Very often an objection can be a smokescreen for someone who simply doesn’t want to admit what they know to be true. It can also be a sort of way out, an “exit” for someone who knows that abortion is wrong but doesn’t want to admit it. After all, millions of people have chosen abortion. It can be hard to admit that you did something wrong; it can be near impossible to come to the realization that you or someone you know participated in the killing of another human being. This may explain to a large extent why there are large emotional outbursts when people come face-to-face with what abortion really is; admitting that abortion kills another human being is going to be painful.
On the other hand, not everyone who comes to the issue of abortion or who embraces a pro-choice position is doing so for intellectually honest or noble reasons. Simply put, many people are not on a truth quest; they are on a happiness quest. Abortion allows men and women to live as selfishly as they want to live. Abortion allows you to have the sex life you want without any responsibility. What this means is that people will continue to choose abortion even long after it is made illegal, just like people still choose to partake in sex trafficking, rape, murder, child abuse, hatred, racism, and a whole host of other evils. This is also why civil societies create things like police, courts, jails, and prisons — to protect the innocent from those who wish to do evil and to hold accountable those who really do know better.
Pro-life advocates need to be respectful in their interactions with pro-choice people, but we should also be realistic. Some people aren’t going to listen to what we have to say and aren’t going to care that abortion is wrong. They will continue to make excuses for why they support abortion, or why they won’t question abortion. Tell the truth about abortion anyways and if someone doesn’t want to listen, move on to someone who will. Millions of preborn children are counting on us to do so.