Pro-Life is Anti-Choice

The most amazing thing happened yesterday. It was a small miracle.

I was walking to work. I happened to be taking a different path than normal. I found myself passing by Iowa City’s Emma Goldman Clinic. And I noticed two protesters. One looked like a preacher with a Bible in his hand and the other was a younger guy with a sign that told everyone to repent.

I couldn’t help myself. I told the preacher-looking guy that countries that ban abortions on average increase the abortion rate. He said that wasn’t true. I told them that studies have shown it to be true. Then he did the most amazing thing in all the world.

For a brief moment, he was honest. It wasn’t just that he was honest with me, but that he was also honest with himself. Though it was just a flicker of honesty, I was almost shocked.

He told me that, “It’s irrelevant.” So, decreasing the abortion rate and saving the lives of fetuses is irrelevant. Good to know his actual position.

He then got straight to the point. His only concern was my soul. His ‘pro-life’ stance has nothing to do with the actual lives of people with actual bodies. You could be tortured horribly to death and that isn’t what he worries about. No, the only life that matters is the Everlasting Life of the afterlife.

This explains why fundamentalists simultaneously claim to be pro-life while supporting policies that lead to more people being miserable and dead. They have higher support for war, capital punishment, torture, etc. And lower support for anything that makes people lives easier such as welfare and healthcare, the kind of healthcare provided by women’s health clinics.

He worships an evil God of hatred and fear. Then he tries to use emotional bribery to say that he can save my soul from the torture and damnation his evil God is threatening me with. And fundamentalists wonder why most Americans have turned away from such extremist views.

This guy was an extreme example of an extreme position. But it is the same basic mentality of even many moderate conservatives.

They aren’t just against abortions. They are also against all the policies that would decrease abortions by decreasing unwanted pregnancies—besides women’s health clinics and family planning centers: birth control, sex education, etc. And if a pregnant woman (especially if single) goes to term, they are against anything that helps her and her child.

Their concern is punishment and social control. The last thing they want to do is support anything that promotes self-determination and freedom of choice, which happens to be the very things that improve people’s lives in concrete practical ways. If you don’t act according to their beliefs, you should be punished. A single woman who gets pregnant, from their perspective, is being punished. A woman’s only role is to be a wife and a mother. That is what they consider ‘family values’.

Abortion was the first issue that got me to more fully understand the conservative mindset. It helped me develop my theory of symbolic conflation. I was surprised again and again that self-declared pro-lifers wouldn’t change their views even in the slightest when told that banning abortions doesn’t decrease abortions, doesn’t save lives. I finally realized it never had anything to do with life. It was symbolic ideology, obscuring and pointing away from some deeper issue.

Conservatives see the only way to create their ideal world is through punishment, either through divine threat or through laws. Everything in the conservative worldview comes down to social control. Occasionally, a conservative will be honest enough to admit this.

This is why those who claim to be pro-life are really just anti-choice.

10 thoughts on “Pro-Life is Anti-Choice

  1. This article pretty much mistakes American protestants for representing the entire pro Life cause. While Catholics do not support contraception nor “safe sex” style teaching, it has historically supported the poor more than any other organization in the history of the world. They consistently push for universal healthcare and modern state sponsored subsidies and protections for the poor.
    Another thing is your ‘obvious fact’ that allowing abortions decreases abortions is for one: a bad moral argument as the end justifying the means is based on a certain utilitarian ethic that pro Lifers don’t agree to in the first place. It’s like saying, “this group is a bunch of hypocrites because they don’t believe in the system of ethics I support because they don’t see the inconsistencies that I see which are only inconsistent if you agree to my system of ethics in the first place.”
    Usually Benjamin you have a panoramic view of things but in this post you show your ignorance.

    • No, you misunderstood where I’m coming from. I never spoke about all Christians, all Protestants, or whatever. I most directly referred to Fundamentalists. I’ve noted in other posts that the majority of young Evangelicals and Catholics are liberal and progressive, including about abortion.

      I’m also not promoting a simplistic utilitarinism. My own pro-life stance isn’t just about crude results. It’s about compassion, fairness, justice, and other similar principles. It’s about caring about actual people, which can be measured according to real world results, but isn’t limited to that.

      Still, if your beliefs consistently lead to results that contradict your beliefs, then it should lead you to question your beliefs. I say this to everyone, not just conservatives. I criticize liberals as well, especially Democrats. LOL I’m an equal opportunity critic of all forms of inconsistency or hypocrisy. And I’ll hold myself up to the same standard that to which I hold others.

      I’m not arguing that there couldn’t be a principled, consistent, and non-hypocritical stance against abortion rights. My point is that this preacher guy and those like him don’t hold such a moral stance. That seems a fair assessment to my mind. But feel free to disagree with me.

    • By the way, I wanted to say something. I defend and uphold your right to call me ignorant in my own blog. If you think I’m ignorant, you should always tell me so. I’m not perfect. Maybe I was being unfair in this post and ignoring some important issues and facts. That is fine. Let’s discuss it, in that case. I’m always willing to listen and take seriously other people’s viewpoints, to the degree they are moral and reasonable. I’ve been known to change my mind.

    • I’m curious. What did you expect? Why do you think it’s strange that I’d judge as hypocritical those who speak one way and act another? As a Catholic, that seems particularly odd. Unlike Protestants, good deeds are more prioritized in Catholicism.

      Evangelicals in particular can simply ignore results because in a sense good intentions are all that matter, as it is all about the personal relationship to God, something that doesn’t need to be proven by good deeds. An Evangelical, therefore, can speak of pro-life in a way that doesn’t require them to actually support behaviors in this world that are pro-life, as it truly is about immortal life before all else.

      But it is odd for a Catholic to argue that deeds don’t need to match intentions. And I don’t see why caring about actually helping people, rather than merely holding the right theological beliefs, is ‘utilitarianism’. Don’t you care about the impact you have on actual people’s lives, beyond merely believing the right thing to ensure your personal salvation? I’m sure you do and, if so, your argument seems odd.

      If your beliefs don’t support and promote actual life, then how is it pro-life? What does it mean to be pro-life in belief but not in practice? If results don’t matter, what purpose does the belief serve? Just because God said so? Really? Well, there is nothing in the Bible about banning abortions and that abortions endanger one’s immortal soul. As for Jesus specifically, he wasn’t really pro-life in any clear way and if anything is teachings were the opposite of culture war family values. He didn’t put much value on family, often quite the opposite.

      If one’s Christianity isn’t based on the Bible and Jesus’ teachings, then what kind of Christianity is it?

    • You seem to not understand the kind of person I am and where I’m coming from.

      I’m anti-dogmatic. It doesn’t matter if it is Fundamenalist dogma, Catholic dogma, or whatever. I’m not an atheist nor anti-Christian. I simply was raised in a non-dogmatic form of Christianity. I criticize dogmatic Christianity from the perspective of my own Christian upbringing. I have no respect for people who worship a God of fear, hatred, and authoritarianism. That wasn’t how I was raised, and by the way I was raised by conservative Christians, although neither Fundamentalists nor Catholics.

      I’m the same way with politics. It’s why I wrote a recent post about partisanship making Americans stupid, as partisanship often is just another form of dogma and usually superficial at that, but the same groupthink as seen in too much religion. My criticism was partly directed at people I personally know. I don’t hold back my criticisms for the fear of hurting people’s feelings. I care about making the world a better place, i.e., results. The greatest power I have on an individual level is my writing. I speak truth as I know it, which involves confronting dishonesty.

      My panoramic view is genuine and it is because of my agnosticism about everything. I treat all dogmas equally. I put compassion and truth before any dogma. Maybe you’ve mistaken some particular dogma for truth. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. For that reason, I don’t believe telling other people what to do.

    • Your comment has continued to bother me. I just don’t get your dismissing my genuine criticisms as ‘utilitarian ethic’.

      When right-wingers talk of freedom, is it merely utilitarian to point out that their love of military, war, police state, prisons, corporatocracy, inequality, etc isn’t conducive to freedom for most actual people in the real world? When people claim to be against poverty, racism or whatever, is it not fair to criticize them if they not only fail to combat these things but end up maybe even making them worse?

      Are love and compassion supposed to be treated as abstract ideals that have nothing to do with how we live our lives and a better world we try to create? If Jesus didn’t care about helping people, then why did he feed the hungry and heal the sick?

  2. I try to communicate well. But I don’t always succeed. One way I try to be clear is by using precise and accurate language. You can see some of that cautiousness in wording here in this post.

    I spoke of Fundamentalists, not all Christians or more narrowly all Protestants. I wasn’t even pointing a finger at all Fudamentalists, just most, specifically in terms of polling data that I’ve often discussed elsewhere. I was most careful of all to not broadbrush all conservatives, limiting myself to many, not necessarily even most.

    To understand a post like this, it is important to remember that I don’t equate/conflate political ideology and psychological attitude. There is overlap between them, but they are not the same. There are some liberal-minded ‘conservatives’, as there are some conservative-minded ‘lberals’.

    I’ve discussed my ideas and language use quite regularly over the years. I’ve written entire posts about it. And it comes up in the comment sections of other posts. I can only explain myself so much.

    In my criticism in this post, I never claimed there isn’t and couldn’t be a principled, consistent, and non-hypocritical position against a women’s right to choose. It is resonable that one might prioritize some other value. I’m not attacking that.

    I’m focusing my argument against polarizing extrmists. Fundamentalist anti-choicers don’t represent a silent moral majority. Not by a long shot. Most Americans are Christian, including among the young, and most Americans are simultaneously pro-life and pro-choice.

    There is no way to be one without the other. Anti-choice is a position you can hold, but don’t fool yourself and lie to others about it being pro-life. That would be hypocritical. And yes my principles lead me to point that out.

    It is similar to the gun issue. Most Americans are for both strong gun rights and better gun regulation. There is no conflict in this.

    We are at a point of maturity in our society where we should get past the most childish and simplistic forms of dualistic thinking. Politicians love to exploit this, but it is bullshit. Don’t expect me to tolerate it.

    • Here is something I won’t apologize for. I will always place compassion for life above and before ideological dogmatism. I’m crazy like that. I don’t see it as a failure that I prioritize real world results of helping people over abstract ideals and good intentions. You can call that utilitarianism, but the Buddhists would call it useful means. Even the Bible says you will know something by its fruit.

    • I get your point that distinctions need to be made between different kinds of Christians. I guess I just take such distinctions as a given. I assume my readership is intellgent and informed enough to already know these distinctions.

      That is why I was perplexed that you didn’t recognize I was making distinctions. I thought I was being clear in my language. I specifically referred to Fundamentalists in making my point. Most Christians aren’t Fundamentalists.

      If I had meant to comment about all or most Christians, I would have stated that in no uncertain terms. There is one thing that you can rely on. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I could, of course, be wrong. But you’ll always know where I stand on an issue.

      Let me be clear. I don’t deny that there are Christians who are consistently principled in their pro-life advocacy. Whatever their position on abortion, being genuinely pro-life would require them to be the following: for accessible quality healthcare for all, a strong social safety net, anti-poverty programs, assistance to mothers and families, well funded education and job training, strong environmental regulations, effective gun regulation, etc; and against war, neo-imperialism, neoconservatism, death penalty, torture, mass incarceration, privatized for-profit prisons, military-industrial complex, oppressive police state, etc.

      If that describes someone’s beliefs and politics, then they are actually pro-life. But if not, then they are not. To be pro-life means that this trumps all else. Being pro-life means defending and upholding life as a principle and as actual practice. It really is that simple.

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