Lately it seems like abortion proponents have fallen in love with pointing out what they see as a glaring hypocrisy in the pro-life position: that those supposedly pro-life types are only pro-life when it comes to a fetus, but hate the lives of those who are already born. You’re not pro-life, they say, merely pro-birth. So let’s call this “the pro-birth objection.”
It’s tempting move because like so many rhetorical tricks, it seems to easily settle the question. Why debate a pro-lifer when they don’t even care about living people? But, of course, it is a trick. And a dirty one at that. And the use of such tricks must be called out.
One problem with the pro-birth objection is that it tends to assume that everyone who is pro-life people is a traditional political conservative who holds a whole suite of other supposedly non-life-affirming positions such as opposition to gun control and support of capital punishment. Of course, as supporters of Secular Pro-Life well know, those with a pro-life stance are not necessarily uniform in their other politics or beliefs. I’m pro-life — how do you know I’m not against capital punishment?
To show just how absurd the pro-birth objection is, imagine if the same trick were applied to the term “pro-choice.” If we said one cannot be pro-life without being in favour of all life, we could argue that to be pro-choice we must be in favour of all choice. Everyone’s right to choose anything, at any time. Thus, while some have argued that a pro-life proponent must support gun control because guns take away life, we might just as easily argue that one cannot support gun control if one is pro-choice. After all, owning a gun is a choice. How can you ban smoking in restaurants if you believe people have the right to choose? What about teachers who choose to beat their students? Are you in favor of choice or aren’t you?
But of course, one can value choice when it comes to seeking an abortion and still, without hypocrisy, maintain that some choices may be constrained. Choice is not an absolute value. It must be evaluated in the light of the particular circumstance.
The same holds true for life.