Ah, life; where would any of us be without it? Newborns, Spring, music that stirs you, small or large triumphs, escaping from a near disaster, they all remind us of the wonder and power of life.
And we are all for it.
And choice; choosing where to live, what to say and how to say it, voting. And with whom to say it. Choice is freedom, the precious freedom that millions have fought and died to gain and preserve for us.
And we are all for it.
So what’s with the people on either side of the abortion question repeating these two, two-word clichés with ever increasing volume and frequency, somehow thinking that yelling PRO LIFE is somehow more convincing than simply saying pro-life, or that repeating Pro Choice!–Pro Choice!—Pro Choice! is more persuasive than simply stating they are pro choice.
Doesn’t repeating slogans with mounting enthusiasm, more likely mounting anger, show the poverty of the speaker’s argument?
Can anger on one side do anything but produce anger on the other side?
Can anyone who does not already have strong feelings one way or the other do anything but walk away, shaking their heads?
And is anyone who has already taken one side or the other likely to learn anything, or gain even the tiniest amount of respect for the other side from the yelling and sign waving?
Given that all of us are truly pro-life and pro-choice in the original and powerful definitions of life and choice, how then do we have an honest debate about this critical issue? If we can decide where we stand on the two following questions, I think we’ll have it:
- When does life begin?
- When is it appropriate for the state to sanction the taking of a life?
The answer to the first question is vital–a life and death question–and slippery. If you couch the answer in viability outside of the womb, then you have a moving target. It has changed with advancing medical technology, and varies from country-to-country, and even from state to state. And likely even from one doctor to another. And from one mother and child combination to another. And unless we are willing to be cavalier and not worry about getting the answer right each and every time, we need to have a thought process that gets it right every time. Importantly: is this a legal question, or a moral one?
The second question may appear startling at first, but all governments sanction taking lives; war, law enforcement and self-defense are some examples. Now, is it OK to take a life for reasons like the life of the mother, or the convenience of one or both parents? Or because the child might grow up to be greatly disadvantaged? Or be a burden on the taxpayers?
Hypocrisy, illogic and misplaced arguments can rear their ugly heads here. For example, some pro life folks, while making the argument that all life is precious in support of their case, may drive aggressively and inattentively (dangerously?) on their way home, while venting their anger at those “baby killers.” Or they might support the death penalty without ever having given any thought to question 2 above. Their logic—or lack thereof—might be that all life is precious when arguing against abortion, and that society’s and the victim’s family’s need satisfaction (revenge?) when supporting capital punishment. Of course, the ultimate—and thankfully extremely rare—pro-life hypocrisy is killing pro-choice people to save lives.
Similarly, pro-choice supporters often defend the right of a woman to do with her body whatever she chooses. I can’t do that; why should anyone else? I can’t go into a convenience store and shoplift—even if I do it with my own body. In the same vein, “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose starts.” (Often attributed to the famous Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes.) And, of course, this argument assumes the answer to question 1 without discussing or defending the conclusion.
Rub your nose in the two questions posed above. Challenge yourself about why you believe your answers. No, really challenge yourself to see how well your answers hold up to inspection. Real answers, not clichés. Now, can you present your thoughts to others without resorting to clichés and anger? Can you listen as intently as you talk? When we can do those things, we will be well on our way to a calmer, more productive life. A life filled with less stress and more progress—for ourselves and everyone around us.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200 feet in Colorado Springs.