Anti-Life vs. Anti-Choice

In every abortion debate, the opposing sides invariably label themselves positively as either “pro-life” or “pro-choice”. This reflects the fact that the different sides typically disagree on what the important philosophical issues to consider should be.

“Pro-life” activists tend to support the point of view that neither pregnant women nor their physicians have the right to kill a fetus, as would be required to abort a pregnancy. In contrast, “pro-choice” activists typically argue that the rights of the pregnant woman should override those of the fetus, which requires the use of her body to survive, such that she has the right to have it killed.

I consider myself “pro-choice”. However, it would be bizarre and wrong to describe me as “anti-life”, as might be expected for a person opposing a movement that calls itself “pro-life”.

I would certainly say that, everything else being equal, it would be better to carry a fetus to term. In this way, I am 100% pro-life. However, everything else is not equal. There is often a physiological and psychological toll involved with carrying a fetus to term, just as there is with an abortion.

Despite this, the goal of the “pro-life” side is typically to make abortions illegal. Whereas it would be bizarre to characterise a “pro-choice” person such as me as “anti-life”, it would be entirely appropriate to brand the “pro-life” movement as “anti-choice”.

I feel as though it shouldn’t be necessary to discuss the more complex issues of this debate, such as making abortions illegal resulting in a higher number of unsafe illegal abortions and scenarios such as rape- or incest-induced pregnancies or pregnancies that threaten the health of the prospective mother, such as some ectopic pregnancies. While I feel as though these scenarios illustrate the importance of keeping this medical procedure legal and accessible, I do not think discussing them should be required in order to conclude that it would be the right choice.

Perhaps the most useful way to see this is that yes, it is a complex issue. Yes, it is a question of morality and yes, like most complex moral issues, the line dividing “right” from “wrong” is very fuzzy. What makes anyone qualified to decide that the answer should be the same in every case? Surely the more moral thing to do is to defer the choice to the people affected most by it.