Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Abortion and pro-life credentials

Matthew Lee Anderson argues for abortion being an important focus of the pro-life movement. He titles his article "People criticize pro-lifers for focusing so much on abortion. But there’s a reason we do."
Beneath these disputes lies a simple charge: Pro-lifers care about what happens in the womb, and nothing beyond it. Such a depiction is almost certainly a caricature. And yet it aggravates a real phenomenon: The pro-life movement has emphasized embryos in the womb for reasons that go to the heart of being “pro-life” itself.
And he makes some interesting arguments for why this is the case.

Yet I think that this is a problem with applying reason to something that is intended to be rhetorical. "Anti-abortion" used to be a term used by groups who oppose abortion. But it was seen as negative term. "Pro-life" was a more positive term and potentially more rhetorically effective. Perhaps it was. But to expand the term to cover all sorts of other issues takes away the focus from abortion. Now some of the other so-called pro-life positions may be worth addressing: the debate over euthanasia comes to mind. Some are particularly unhelpful, such as opposition to capital punishment or war. This equivocates on killing and conflates innocent humans with those who are not innocent, or those killing the innocent with those who may be protecting the innocent.

But whatever the merit of other "pro-life" positions, the emphasis on everything else except abortion takes the focus off abortion. Wilberforce fought against slavery. Perhaps rather than antislavery we could frame his fight as pro-liberty. And what other concerns should pro-liberty have? Opposing excessive taxation. Opposing laws that limit our freedoms? These other issues have merit and their relationship to slavery may be even closer than many people realise. Nevertheless, such an insistence on these other issues changes the focus of the fight which is reforming and removing laws concerning slavery.

Abortion is a battle worth fighting on its own. A man need not prove his credentials that he is "pro-life" however his opponents define this. Perhaps it is time to re-use "anti-abortion". Do we need to use a positive term for rhetorical effectiveness? God, after all, hates idolatry (Deu 16:22), wickedness (Psa 45:7), false witnesses (Pro 6:19), and arrogant men (Pro 6:17).

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