Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reclaiming the pro-life mantle

Thomas Friedman has an excellent editorial in the New York Times on the need to redefine and reclaim the mantel of "pro-life." Personally, I've always used the term "anti-abortion" instead, because that names the issue more specifically. The only problem with that term is that it implies that the opposite is "pro-abortion," which no one is, in spite of the accusations to the contrary.

Friedman discusses the recent spate of hard-right conservatives spouting on about rape and abortion, He laments the decaying influence of the "ever-more-aggressive far right Republican base" that is pushing the abortion issue hard and doing everything in their power to push out moderate Republicans. Friedman encourages those of us who are worried about the safety of women's right to choose to own the issue and name it...and not allow those who seek to vilify women's rights to call themselves pro-life. They are not pro-life, they are against a woman's right to choose and control her own body.

"In my world, you don’t get to call yourself 'pro-life' and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself 'pro-life' and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself 'pro-life' and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a 'pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.' I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as 'pro-life.'
'Pro-life' can mean only one thing: 'respect for the sanctity of life.' And there is no way that respect for the sanctity of life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s body, no matter how that egg got fertilized, but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon. I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a 'legitimate' rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax.
The term 'pro-life' should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society."
Perhaps instead of referring to those who oppose a woman's right to choose as "pro-life," we should call them  "pro-conception-to-birth," unless they support programs that help those children who are born into poverty and neglect...unless they fight against war...unless they fight to combat climate change.

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