In the last few weeks, the abortion movement has been having a very public identity crisis. Some prominent voices in that movement, including Planned Parenthood, argue that they should drop the label “pro-choice.” The debate is playing itself out in outlets like Alternet and the Washington Post, among others.
If not “pro-choice” (and not, they vehemently protest, “pro-abortion”), what do they want to be called? The answers vary, but there’s a common theme: they want to ride on the coattails of genuine good causes. In the Alternet piece, Planned Parenthood talks about supporting “economic security,” while abortion advocate Monica Simpson, whose efforts are focused on the Black community, wants to link abortion to a “safe and healthy environment” for children and freedom from domestic violence. And of course, there’s the time-tested method of hiding abortion in the tent of “women’s health.” Because as everyone who’s never met a pro-lifer knows, there’s nothing that we love more than poverty, battered wives, and breast cancer. (That’s sarcasm. Don’t you dare quote me out of context.)
Why they think the 40-something-year-old term “pro-choice” is suddenly responsible for pro-life success—as opposed to more recent developments like the increasing ubiquity of ultrasound technology, pro-life groups harnessing social media, and the pro-life trend of treating the right to life as a human rights issue rather than a religious one—is beyond me. But I don’t much care what they want to call themselves. Frankly, the loftier they try to be, the starker the contrast we can draw between their language and the bloody reality of what abortion does to an unborn child. I like the way Jill Stanek phrased it: they’re seeking a “euphemism for a euphemism.”
Meanwhile, in faith-based-land, I noticed an interesting piece in the Christian Post arguing that the pro-life movement has the exact opposite problem: “pro-life” is being overused! Specifically, the authors worry that the use of “pro-life” messaging by Christian environmentalists is diluting the term. Myself, I’m not too concerned, because I suspect 1) that any conservatives who would abandon the pro-life movement because they see the term used by a cause they don’t support likely aren’t our movement’s greatest assets anyway, and 2) it may have the beneficial side effect of busting the stereotypes that the abortion movement pushes about who pro-lifers are and what we do. But in any event, it’s quite the contrast to what’s happening across the aisle.
So where does that leave us? We’re in a good position, but the conflict is far from over, and we need to remain on high alert. Based on the signals we’re getting from pro-choice media commentators, we need to be particularly vigilant in our charitable endeavors. Pro-lifers are as active in charitable organizations as anybody else, so we have the ability to impede the pro-choice strategy here. Whatever causes you are involved in, be on the lookout for activists looking to co-opt them in the name of abortion—and when it happens, speak out against it, quickly and loudly!