Recently, in this space, I remarked on the distinction between the claim of being “pro-choice” and the charge of “pro-abortion” and noted, in part:
Very few people are “pro-abortion”. Most people don’t want the state making anybody get an abortion (except for those who supported the One Child Policy in China). What they want is to not be involved in whether a private citizen decides to avail herself of an abortion. Roughly 20% want that on demand and without apology. These are the fanatics like Michelle Wolf, who appall normal people with their gleeful zeal. But even these people don’t want to make anybody have an abortion. They just want to give the finger to those who believe (as I do) that abortion is the destruction of innocent human life. Their universe of discourse simply has no room whatsoever for the unborn child (rather like the Christianist’s universe of discourse has no room for the unborn children of neglected brown mothers at the border who were left to miscarry by an Administration–and its heartless Christianist supporters–who just do not give a rip about that class of human).
Then there are the 60% who dislike abortion and who, like Brett Kavanaugh, have no intention of overturning Roe, much less outlawing abortion. They are not “pro-abortion” either. They dislike it. They just have no intention of telling somebody else what they can and cannot do about it.
I think that distinction between “pro-abortion” and “pro-choice” matters if we have any hope of furthering the prolife cause. Every time a prolife person says, “You just want to kill babies!” the pro-choice person says, “No. I just don’t want to tell some 15 year old kid who is terrified of what Dad will do to her that she can’t have an abortion.” That’s about 80% of the public the prolife movement is trying to persuade. About 80% of the public also dislikes abortion and would prefer it go away or not happen, but does not know what to say to that kid. Calling them babykillers is not the way to win hearts and minds, which is why the polling numbers don’t move on this question and have not moved for years.
I wrote this, in part, in obedience to a point the Chesterton makes in his Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox:
It is no good to tell an atheist that he is an atheist; or to charge a denier of immortality with the infamy of denying it; or to imagine that one can force an opponent to admit he is wrong, by proving that he is wrong on somebody else’s principles, but not on his own.After the great example of St. Thomas, the principle stands, or ought always to have stood established; that we must either not argue with a man at all, or we must argue on his grounds and not ours.
A huge amount of… well, what do we call it now that CatholicVote has come out against being prolife? Anti-abortion?
A huge amount of anti-abortion rhetoric consists of charging those who deny humanity to the unborn with the infamy of denying humanity to the unborn. Pro-choice folk often (not always) grant the charge and see no reason why they need not do so. For many such folk, the unborn are not part of their universe of discourse any more than children forced to drink toilet water and endure sexual abuse at the border are part of the universe of discourse for anti-abortion partisans of the Party of Trump at CatholicVote. And since the born are manifestly not part of the CatholicVote universe of discourse pro-choicers reply, “If you do not love the kidnapped and traumatized child at the border whom you have seen, you cannot love the unborn child whom you have not seen.” The anti-abortion crowd loses the argument because they refuse to meet their opponent on their own ground as St. Thomas would do and instead try to demand the pro-choice person meet them on pro-life grounds.I thought of that as I got a note from a friend on Facebook:
I have made my presence known on our friend Mark Shea’s timeline, for better or for worse! I don’t take exception to opinions that are different from mine, but I find some people are rather dogmatic in the area of just opinion. Well to understand my perspective better, I am going to reveal a few things about myself. My natural mother was a Sicilian teenage girl, who when she learnt she was expecting a baby, attempted to terminate the pregnancy, but was not successful. When I was born in Australia, I was given up to very loving adoptive parents, something I thank God for. (I tried to find my natural mother, only to learn the sad news that she committed suicide in 1994). But all my life I have had a physical disability because of what happened to me. For this reason, I am strongly committed to the Gospel of Life, and believe in its preservation from the womb to the tomb! Because abortion does not only kill people, I lived to tell the tale that it also handicaps them.
He then left a link to the excellent Abortion Survivors Network.
And that brings us to one of the big unpaid bills of the Pro-choice Left. One consequence of our abortion culture is that there are now forty-five years worth of human beings, like my friend, who have survived abortion. People who have grown up and lived all their lives with the message ringing in their ears, “We would all be better off if you were dead.”
Granting all that pro-choice folk have to say about being pro-choice and not pro-abortion, here is the sticking point. Like it or not, pro-choice advocate, “We’d be better off if you were dead” is the message you send to every human being who was not successfully aborted. And whatever your universe of discourse manages to edit out of humanity with regard to the unborn, living, breathing, feeling adult human beings like my friend are undeniably part of the human race even by your lights–and you hurt them every single time you say that abortion is “better than being unwanted”.
The Left has done a really respectable job of raising awareness of the phenomenon known as “triggering”. I mean that. I’m not being sarcastic. Jokes about rape, sexual assault, abuse, and other kinds of trauma are, indeed, thoughtless and do indeed fail to consider that victims of trauma can be deeply hurt by our casual dismissal of their pain.
Well, survivors of abortion are victims of trauma and your casual Better Off Dead rhetoric–especially when the victim bears lifelong disabilities as a result of the abortion attempt–is the especial blind spot of your subculture.
Fine. You don’t grant the personhood of the unborn? Okay. I’m not gonna try to argue that point with you here. But at bare minimum you do (theoretically) grant the humanity of those people who have been born and are now adults. So how can you casually participate in a culture that tells them, every single day, that we would be better off without them and they are better off dead? That is a lie straight from hell and until your subculture faces that squarely and makes serious amends for its casually dehumanizing rhetoric you have a serious moral problem on your hands, not according to my system of morality, but according to your own.