Playing Battleship in the Abortion Discussion
January 22nd marked the 39th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. In the nearly four decades since the decision was handed down, how has the discussion surrounding the subject changed? Abortion has been and remains a hot button political issue the entire time, with a politician’s position on the issue serving as something of a litmus test for how conservative they are. In more conservative districts and states it’s nearly impossible to get elected unless one is pro-life. This issue is the main one associated with the voting bloc known as Evangelicals. And more than anything, the issue is still marked by rhetoric and misunderstanding, with both sides talking over each other and not often enough engaging their opponents’ arguments.
The use of rhetoric in place of actual engagement in the political arena is not unique to the abortion debate. Nevertheless, as a member of the coveted Evangelical voting bloc who makes this his main issue, I feel compelled to point it out. The two sides, by branding themselves pro-life and pro-choice, respectively, have put forth what they believe to be the main issue as it relates to abortion. For the former, the life of the unborn child is the bottom line; for the latter, the woman’s reproductive freedom and right to do with her body as she chooses is the ultimate issue. The reality of the situation is that the two sides hold irreconcilable perspectives. As Albert Mohler points out, those who try to advocate for a moderate position are having a difficult time gaining traction with either side.
Take notes, pro-choicers: The pro-life position is that a human being exists from the moment of conception and to abort that life is nothing less than murder. When one believes that abortion is murder, there can be no softening of the position. President Obama’s talk of trying to lower the number of abortions that are performed isn’t good enough. It misses the point. If the only issue was women’s health and safety and abortions were deemed to be an unsafe medical procedure, then reducing its occurrence would be an admirable goal. But that’s not the issue, and his position will not earn him favor with pro-lifers.
Similarly, pretending that the pro life position comes down to anything other than the right to life is either naive or dishonest. Merle Hoffman, founder of New York City abortion clinic Choices, writes in her upcoming memoire, Intimate Wars, “The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that’s why it is so strongly opposed by so many in society.” In an interview with Salon.com, Hoffman seems to indicate that she understands the pro-life movement better than this remark would suggest, but her statement propagates a misrepresentation of the motives of her opponents on the issue. Abortion rights activists may believe the pro-life position oppresses women, but to assert that this is the real goal of the movement is simply wrong.
At some point those in the pro-choice camp need to come to terms with the pro-life position. Is the fetus a human being or a lump of cells? If it’s the former, then the killing of this unborn child is murder, and someone’s subjective “choice” is not a justifiable motive. Continuing to argue that a woman has a “right” to abort will not earn any inroads into the pro-life camp. You must first convincingly argue that a fetus does not deserve the same right to life that the rest of us do. Only then can the issue begin to shift to women’s rights. Until then, abortion is murder.
There seems to be some reason for optimism for those of us that hold to the sanctity of human life. Recent Gallop polls seem to indicate a society that is slowly trending pro-life. There’s a long way to go to ensure the right to life of the unborn in America, but this may be a start. My prayer is that future generations will look back on the period in American history when abortion was legal the same way we look at slavery today. Society will collectively look back and think, “I can’t believe a civilized society would legalize the murder of its most innocent and vulnerable citizens.” No longer will we commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.