Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Alice and the Cheshire Cat - Defining Choice

When the Pro-Life movement began referring to itself as “Pro-Life” instead of “Anti-Abortion,” the justification was that the overall movement was addressing not only issues related to the early stages of life but concerns across the whole spectrum of human existence.

Now - I don’t think most Pro-Life people would argue with the accuracy of the “Anti-Abortion” label so far as it goes - it is just not inclusive of all that the movement and most of its members stand for regarding the Sanctity of Human Life from conception to natural death.

On the other hand, “Pro-Abortion” is not a sign people want to hang around their own neck. One might enlarge that tent I suppose to include some sort of quasi choices in other areas - assisted suicide, euthanasia, etc. But even it that were an accurate generalization, (and I am not asserting that it is,) what umbrella would subsume such a gathering of the minds? “Pro-Death?” Well, that is definitely not an improvement!

And so instead of “Pro-Abortion” - voila “Pro-Choice,” the Big Daddy of all euphemisms was hatched! We in the Pro-Life camp should insist that the “Pro-Choice” banner be successfully defended by those who shelter beneath its wings, or else be discarded. We must insist because the Fourth Estate in general has chosen to accept the “Pro-Choice” moniker at face value. Concurrently, the same media outlets in large part have insisted on continuing to refer to the Pro-Life movement as “Anti-Abortion” - a disservice I might add, which they do not extend to most other social movements. In this regard at least, they are abysmal failures as journalists.

Anyway, onward to an exercise in definition…

“Pro” means “for” – so we have “For Life” and “For Choice.”

“Life” in this case clearly means human life. Although there may be some disagreement on which physical entities are entitled to be included in the category, “living human being” is a fairly concrete concept, easily defined by genetics, etc.

“Choice” on the other hand is an extremely abstract conception, fraught with overtones of free-will and determinism, nature and nurture, influence and compulsion, etc. And parenthetically, “Choice” is assumed to be strictly limited in the current usage under discussion to the termination of pregnancy – for surely no one in the “Pro-Choice” movement is advocating an all encompassing “right to choose” that trumps any and all restrictions on personal actions across the board! (Just applying the concept for a moment even to mundane things like speed limits reveals a completely naked Emperor!)

Though the general concept can be easily shown on its face to be inherently unworkable, the current legal situation secures for women a practically unrestricted right to 'choose' regarding abortion. As a public relations coup, a better cant than “Pro-Choice” would have been hard to come by – for it smacks of liberty, and one can almost smell the apple pie.

In the real world however, the human will is not exercised in a vacuum. Just as every effect has a cause, there are reasons behind every choice we make. To claim otherwise is to treat choice as a flippant matter of no moral significance – meaningless as a chance occurrence, void of intent or volition - like the flip of a coin. In fact, as with Alice and the Cheshire Cat,* it could be argued that without inclination and reasons, one could not even make a true choice at all! And I assume hardly any woman alive would arrive at a decision about a matter so serious as the life or death of her unborn child for reasons she did not find deep and compelling.

So what are some reasons that come into play in the choice to abort? And might we divide them into internal and external reasons? Now I am not sure if anyone can speak for the internal inclinations of another person. But the external pressures are another matter.

At first blush these external motivations would obviously include the attitudes and actions of significant people in a woman’s life, (husband, boyfriend, parents, etc). The posture taken by institutions, (church, school, employer, etc) and societal laws and taboos or lack thereof, would also act from outside a person to influence choice.

And it also should be admitted that it would not always be easy to demarcate between these two categories. For example, take the following admitted simplistic scenario: “I love my boyfriend. He insists he does not want a child. He says he will leave me if I have this baby.” Here the interaction between the internal and external can immediately be noted.

How often the input of by lover, family, friend, classmate, employer, teacher, abortionist, etc., crosses the line into untoward verbal and emotional pressure on a women to exit from pregnancy through the doors of an abortion clinic awaits the efforts researchers willing to accept the incumbent derision that would be heaped on them. But the potential for intimidation is clearly multiplied exponentially by the legality, acceptability, and availability of the option. And most times, a baby carried to term, affects the lives of many other people for years to come - people who can exercise little choice in the matter except by virtue of whatever persuasion they can bring to bear on the expectant mother.

Now consider a pregnant woman in relationship with an unscrupulous man - a woman who does not succumb to his attempts at verbal and emotional manipulation to abort. You know what comes next from a violent man who is anxious to escape the emotional, legal, and financial responsibilities of 20 plus years of fatherhood that awaits him if the unborn child in question ever obtains a birth certificate.

Exactly because the ideal world where “choice” exists in some pristine state is a fairy tale, “Pro-Choice” is one of the most blatant misnomers of all time. For it is sadly apparent that efforts to make and keep abortion legal, to define abortion as morally acceptable, to insure abortion is readily available, to secure funding for abortion services from government and private payers, etc., - all these efforts have only served to proliferate this staggering human catastrophe. For none of these are neutral in their influential effect on the decision a woman makes.

Moreover the availability of legal, cheap, and socially acceptable abortion removes what otherwise would have served as barriers of resistance for a woman under duress from others. And for the same reason, this state of affairs encourages coercion on the part of people and institutions around her that stand to benefit from the abortion of her unborn child.

Therefore, I assert that the “Pro-Choice” flag cannot be defended, because the primary net effect of the movement is not the promotion of freedom, but the propagation of abortion. Thus, “Pro-Abortion” is the more accurate banner.

Ladies and gentlemen of that persuasion, have the courage to fly your true colors on the mast!

* Alice and the Cheshire Cat
Alice … “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
“I don't much care where—“said Alice.
“Then it doesn't matter which way you go,” said the Cat.