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.

Claims of US Becoming Pro-Life

I had someone make the argument that US public opinion wasn’t entirely liberal because of some recent Gallup poll supposedly showing decreasing support for pro-choice. I should point out that I’d never make the argument that Americans don’t hold any conservative-leaning opinions. However, a single poll doesn’t dismiss years of polls that show a reliable pattern. I don’t know if this particular poll is meaningful, but it’s obviously meaningless if looked upon in isolation from the context of all other available data. Looking at various data and commentary, here are some thoughts I had:

Pro-choice and pro-life are like liberal and conservative. They are labels closely connected with identity politics. But labels don’t necessarily reflect specific opinions. Most Americans identify as conservative. But most Americans are becoming more socially liberal. The confusion comes from changing meaning of labels. Also, most Americans remain in the middle of the spectrum even as the spectrum is shifting left.

The younger generation is more socially liberal than any generation before. But the data I saw on abortion opinions of younger generation is mixed. It wouldn’t be surprising if the younger generation wants more regulation of late term abortions. The younger generation likes government regulation in general. That doesn’t, however, mean they are anti-choice.

There isn’t a contradiction between government guaranteeing abortion rights and regulating the practice of abortion.

Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion.
Pro-life doesn’t mean anti-abortion.

These labels are confusing and emotionally charged, maybe to the point of being useless.

Most Democrats are moderates in being more supportive of compromise than Republicans. Democrats, unlike Republicans, are supportive of government even when the opposing party is in power. Maybe it’s to be expected that support for abortion rights will go down slightly during Democratic administrations.

Most importantly, the statistical differences may not even be significant.
Despite fluctuations, support for abortion rights has been fairly stable for many years. Polling is complex and often misleading, but patterns across polls are more reliable. Demographic differences and shifts are more significant in determining patterns.

As far as I can tell:

  • Most Americans support abortion rights.
  • Most Americans don’t want to repeal Roe vs Wade.
  • Most Americans support either complete free choice or limited choice for women.
  • Most Americans who support pro-choice also support some degree of regulation.
  • A very small minority of Americans are against abortion rights and are for repealing Roe vs Wade.

As an example of the complexity, data shows that there isn’t even an anti-abortion consensus among Christians, only one Christian demographic showing a strong majority:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2012/03/30/149717982/christian-is-not-synonymous-with-conservative

Christian Opinion On Abortion

Christian opinion of abortion

Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Fewer Are Angry at Government, But discontent Remains High,” March 2011
Credit: Julia Ro/NPR

If anyone wants to look beyond mere ideology in order to understand the complexity of the issues, let me provide links to various data and commentary:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_the_United_States#Public_opinion

http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/feature/2009/05/18/gallup_poll

http://trueslant.com/franjohns/2010/05/27/abortion-wars-pro-choice-forces-question-accuracy-of-new-poll/

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/29/opinion/la-oe-cohen-abortion-20100529

http://jezebel.com/5256256/has-a-pro+choice-president-made-more-americans-pro+life

http://pewforum.org/Abortion/Pro-Choice-Does-Not-Mean-Pro-Abortion-An-Argument-for-Abortion-Rights-Featuring-the-Rev-Carlton-Veazey.aspx

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/05/abortion-poll-roundup.html

http://nortonbooks.typepad.com/everydaysociology/2009/06/measuring-abortion-beliefs.html

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/behind-the-numbers/2009/10/poll_check_a_shift_on_abortion.html

http://www.pregnantpause.org/numbers/gallup01.htm

http://www.womensenews.org/story/health/010226/polls-abortion-can-be-misleading

http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/abortion-polls.shtml

http://mediamatters.org/research/200507220007

http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/media/press-releases/2010/pr03122010_research.html

http://kinseyconfidential.org/study-finds-majority-young-adults-prochoice/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-swenson/pro-choice-catholic-biden_b_120811.html

http://ncronline.org/node/12194

http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com/2006/09/majority-of-us-catholics-are-pro.html

http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/CatholicsSupportHealthcareReform.asp

http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/catholic-nuns-and-bishops-clash-over-abortion-funding/blog-281069/

Beck vs Moore & other examples

I heard Michael Moore interviewed on NPR the other day. It was the best interview of him that I’ve come across. He spoke about his personal life which gave the background for what motivates him. He was raised in a politically active family, but fairly conservative. His grandfather was a Republican politician who taught him the values of conservatism such as conserving the environment. He grew up Catholic and still goes to church. He has been married to the same woman for something like 3 decades. He tries to be a good person and live by the principles that Jesus taught. Moore is one of those social justice Christians that Beck thinks are the worse of the worse.

I bring up Beck for a reason. Beck often uses violence as a theme in his show. One particular example was when he was talking about killing Michael Moore and he wondered if he should kill Moore himself or hire someone. I think that is an extreme statement to make on mainstream tv. Conservatives don’t seem offended by such hate-filled language, but if a liberal said something like that conservatives would go batshit crazy. Moore has never made a statement like that. Moore even said he wouldn’t even say he hated Bush even though he strongly disagreed with him. From Moore’s Christian perspective, hatred and violence aren’t Christian values. Also, he believes religion is a personal matter and shouldn’t be used as a talking point or a wedge issue. Moore chooses to live his values rather than righteously preach down at others.

Moore is considered by rightwingers as the most loony of the leftwingers. So, if Moore is the worst kind of liberal, that is a compliment to liberalism. Compared to the worst kind of conservative, Moore comes off as a moderate. Even if you disagree with Moore’s claims or arguments, at least he doesn’t threaten violence and spout hate speech.

This distinction isn’t limited to Moore and Beck.

There was an interview Buckley did with Chomsky. Buckley threatened to punch Chomsky in the face and it wasn’t the first guest he had threatened in this manner. It’s a rather odd response to have in a televised interview especially with someone like Chomsky who is as cool-headed of an intellectual as you can find. Chomsky is very easygoing and quite understanding of those different from himself. Chomsky even defended Tea Party protesters saying that they shouldn’t be criticized by liberals but instead that liberals should try to understand their perspective. Understand the perspective of someone you disagree with? Why does it take a liberal to point out that sympathetic understanding is better than righteous hatred?

Let me provide two other examples.

Compare Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart. Stewart is fairly easygoing although not the intellectual that Chomsky is. Like Chomsky, Stewart doesn’t come off as mean-spirited and always gives people the opportunity to speak and he actually listens to others. O’Reilly, on the other hand, often yells at people, tells them to shut up and talks over them. O’Reilly isn’t always that way, but my point is that he acts that way quite often and Stewart never acts that way. I truly doubt that Stewart has ever told a guest to shut up.

And compare Ann Coulter and Bill Maher. Maher also lets anyone to state their opinion. He has strong opinions, but he doesn’t bludgeon people with them. He for some strange reason even considers Coulter a friend of sorts and has had her on his show. Coulter is very different. She is the most rude and bigoted person I’ve ever seen on mainstream tv. She either intentionally makes offensive statements or she is almost entirely oblivious, but she doesn’t seem stupid enough to be that oblivious.

Obviously, this isn’t limited to the behavior of people on tv. I’ve discussed this topic before and I mentioned the differences between conservative and liberal activists. A clear example are the two sides on the abortion issue. Pro-life activists have committed decades of a wide variety of violence, but I never hear of violence by pro-choice activists. I’m not saying that all conservatives are violent. What I am saying is that the conservative mindset seems to make one more prone to violence. As a contrasting example, I like to bring up the Weather Underground which is considered the most violent liberal activist group in US history. The difference is that the Weather Underground never killed anyone nor tried to kill anyone. In fact, they went out of their way to avoid killing anyone.

Another example is that of guns. Conservatives bring guns to rallies and protests. Liberals don’t. If asked, many liberals support the right to own guns or even carry guns. But, for whatever reason, the threat of violence bothers liberals more… maybe because the violence is typically turned towards liberals. And yet it’s conservatives who feel the most defensive when violence is used against the country.

There are many explanations for why this difference exists. I tend to favor psychological explanations based on personality research, but there are cultural reasons that could be considered as well. Anyways, the reason for this difference isn’t my concern in this post. I was partly just noting the difference as I just heard the interview with Michael Moore. But what ultimately concerns me or rather what makes me wonder is: Why do liberals notice this difference but conservatives don’t? When I’ve seen this brought up with conservatives they tend to explain it away. If a liberal used violence, even liberals would condemn it. But when conservatives use violence, conservatives often will defend it or try to find some kind of rationalized justification. For example, Palin said a conservative who killed some liberals wasn’t a terrorist even though the killing was politically motivated. Even a conservative politician can defend violence and not be held accountable.

As a liberal, I fear violence by American conservatives more than I fear violence by Islamic extremists. And my fear is reasonable. A large percentage of recent acts of violence have been committed by conservatives and often directed at liberals. It’s a fact of life in the US that conservatives are prone to violence. Maybe it’s a fact of life in all countries.