You’re not really “Pro-Life”. You’re merely Pro-birth. How do I know that? Because you don’t care about people after they’re born. And how do I know that? Because you oppose the expansion of government programs to provide government funding to children and adults in need. You’re also pro-war and pro-death penalty. Myself, on the other hand, am much more “pro-life” than you. Although we disagree on abortion, I am much more holistically pro-life because I am passionate about expanding universal health care, avoiding war, and providing for children in welfare.
There is so much wrong with this “argument” (if you can even call it an argument) that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Yet, it pops up everywhere. It is a favorite argument amongst social media abortion-supporters and as a go-to in the media when an abortion-supporter doesn’t know exactly where to go next in an interview. While there are certainly many other talking points from the abortion-supporting crowd that are similar in respect to their lack of intellectual depth, one of the interesting and notable things about this particular talking point is that it often is also espoused by many who are anti-abortion. It is used by both some pro-choice advocate as a way to demean pro-life advocates and by some pro-life advocates as rationale for supporting pro-abortion political candidates. So let’s dissect this, piece-by-piece.
- This talking point betrays its user by revealing a gross misunderstanding and ignorance of what the pro-life stance actually is. If you believe there is a logical requirement compelling anyone who opposes abortion to also be equally passionate advocates for government welfare and food stamps, I invite you to consider the possibility that you may not understand the pro-life stance as accurately as you believe. Allow me to attempt to define it as clearly as I can: That it is objectively wrong to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being. For someone who holds this belief, and understands the science of embryology, they are compelled to oppose abortion. It means they are opposed to someone being killed. That does not logically require the same person to be equally passionate about providing all the necessities of having a fruitful life. It is the same distinction between desperately wanting to save a child from a house fire but not being equally dedicated to paying for that child’s future college tuition. This argument is equivalent to telling firefighters they must spread out their time and dedication equally to healthcare reform, adoption agencies, education reform, etc. as they do to putting out fires and saving children from burning buildings.
- The point is not that caring for children’s entire livelihoods is unimportant. It is entirely possible to argue that pro-life advocates must also desire improvements to children’s well-being in order to be consistent. The point is that just because all these issues are to be desired does not place them on equal levels of urgency or priority. You can at least have life without an education; but you cannot have an education without your life.
- This talking point shows a depressingly narrow scope of knowledge of ways to help our society. It assumes, without even realizing, that government must be the only way to help the disadvantaged of our society. This seems to be a startling failure of education. Have we completely forgotten that people are capable of freely giving out of their own love and charity to others without government coercion? Are we simply ignorant of privately run charities and outreaches to the disadvantaged in our society? There is a whole debate to be had over what the most effective and efficient ways of helping the disadvantaged in our society. The argument at the top of this article seems to suggest its users are simply ignorant of any non-government-run ways of helping people. How extremely depressing.
- It is an argument over terms; which ultimately is nothing more than semantics. Nothing in this talking point actually addresses abortion. This strong concern amongst many abortion supporters about disliking the label of the Pro-Life Movement is interesting. It might lead some to suggest there could be an underlying, maybe even subconscious, insecurity from the abortion-supporters about what these labels imply about their own beliefs. But nevertheless, want to debate terms and labels? Fine. The Pro-Life Movement would be a lot more comfortable being called the Anti-Abortion Movement than the Pro-Choice side would be if they were called the Pro-Abortion Movement. We are completely comfortable proclaiming that we are anti-abortion; are our adversaries willing to do the equivalent? Want to switch the terms up? Fine by us. But you have to be fair about it; and apply the change to both sides. And the central issue for the Anti-Abortion movement is not concerned with ensuring a birth takes place. Such a notion is a caricature created by those committed to falsely portraying the movement as misogynistic and obsessed with controlling women. The movement is centrally committed to ensuring no one is killed (a radical commitment, I know). In no way is “pro-birth” a fair or true representation of the movement. The truth is that we are “anti-death”.
- This talking point falsely stereotypes and generalizes. The assumption that pro-life advocates don’t support the laundry list of programs/issues mentioned isn’t even true. Many pro-life advocates don’t support those programs as fiercely as they advocate against abortion. But many of them do. This, again, demonstrates that this argument against pro-life advocates does not touch upon the central premises of why abortion ought to be considered a great wrong.
So here’s the point: This is a silly argument to make. To any abortion supporters reading this: please don’t use this talking point. You have much better arguments available. I believe the better arguments still fail, but they’re at least more substantial than this. My challenge to abortion supporters is, instead of using this type of rhetoric, actually engage in the substantive arguments about abortion. Engage in the central, morally relevant issues, such as a clear defense of a definition of personhood, or a structured explanation of bodily rights related to abortion. If you really are confident in your abortion advocacy position, you ought not fear making an honest assessment of the pro-life case, right? You shouldn’t need to resort to this kind of nuanced, semantical argument. Intellectually grapple with the central elements, not this petty peripheral stuff. That’s our challenge to you.