January 30, 2007

The upside of being an anti-choice extremist

Last Monday was the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Although it was met with the typical response from both sides—pro-lifers had “The March for Life” while Planned Parenthood cleverly encouraged its members to “donate $34 for the 34th anniversary”—it seemed like everyone was simply going through the motions. The media barely reported it, and President Bush couldn’t even bring himself to mention it in his State of the Union the very next day. It is indeed depressing for us pro-lifers to watch helplessly as the worst Supreme Court decision this side of Plessy v. Ferguson continues to be the law of the land. Moreover, it’s certainly not easy being pro-life on this campus—the U of C Pro-Life Association has about five dedicated members. But although we are perpetually outmanned (especially on the Supreme Court!), outgunned, and outdone, we pro-lifers do have one crucial advantage: Ours is a philosophy of optimism, while theirs is one of pessimism.

To preface this claim, I should first admit that the following is hardly an argument—nor is it intended to be—against abortion, but rather, an exceptionally biased discussion about two competing philosophies.

Like it or not, the pro-life world view is simply a bit rosier than its pro-choice counterpart. While the former thinks a pregnancy is a great gift, the latter believes that it is often a problem to be “terminated.” Where one speaks in euphemisms (choice, reproductive freedom, termination, right-wing anti-choice extremists), the other is usually honest, sometimes brutally so. Whereas one movement perpetually uses alarmist rhetoric in an attempt to scare up its base (one of many hysterical quotes from National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws website: “Making abortion access more difficult and dangerous is a key tactic of the anti-choice movement”), the other speaks in terms of hope (from the National Right to Life Council: “[Women don’t] have to choose between their own lives and the lives of their unborn babies”).

Moreover, one can’t have an abortion argument without hearing the pro-choicer say something like, “Well, abortion makes sure that every child is in a good home. The babies who were aborted probably wouldn’t have had good lives anyway.” Indeed, the National Organization of Women sells bumper stickers saying, “Every Child a Wanted Child.” The optimistic pro-life position, on the other hand, admits that some children who otherwise would have been aborted are brought into very difficult lives. Nevertheless, we contend that not only is living a tough life better than not living at all, but that most—if not all—can overcome challenging circumstances. More importantly, we think that everyone should be given that chance.

I can already hear the pro-choicer thinking, “We’re the true optimists. At least we trust women to make correct decisions with their own bodies.” Although it may technically be true that pro-lifers “don’t trust women,” it is not a particularly relevant point. The reason we have laws in the first place is because we “don’t trust” all of society’s members; we have laws against theft because we don’t rely solely on personal integrity to prevent this wrong. It would be nice if those of us who consider a fetus a human life could depend on women not to have abortions, but not even the ultimate optimist would believe that.

Often times the tide seems to be against those of us who oppose abortion. We want to give up; we think our efforts are futile and in vain. What keeps us going is the pro-life optimism—our inherent belief that usually things will work out for the best. That’s not all that motivates us. Not only do we have optimism on our side, but I believe that we also have truth. But that’s another column, for another day.