Why don’t these ‘antiabortion’ kids today like ‘pro-life’?

Pro-life demonstration at SC State House -- from SC Citizens for Life site.

Pro-life demonstration at SC State House — from SC Citizens for Life site.

I started to read with interest the WashPost story headlined:

Why these activists don’t like calling themselves ‘pro-life’ anymore

It was about how younger opponents of abortion, unlike their elders, often prefer to call themselves “antiabortion.”

The trouble is, the piece never really delivered on the first word in the hed: It didn’t really explain “why.”

It tried to, but it didn’t add up at all. For instance:

Many Americans are confused by what “pro-life” even means, and assume they must subscribe to a conservative agenda on many social issues, not just abortion, to join a “pro-life” group. “Maybe they’re pro-gay marriage or they’re pro-marijuana legalization. So they feel like, ‘I can’t be pro-life.’”

She thinks using the word “antiabortion” might help recruit those people.

The angst surrounding “pro-life” goes beyond the association with conservative politics, and beyond the confusion that makes people do a double-take as they try to remember: Which side is “pro-life” and which side is “pro-choice” again?…

What? If people are that confused, maybe they should avoid engaging the subject at all — it might sprain their brains.

And “the association with conservative politics?” What the what?

You’d think “anti-abortion” has more of an association with “conservative politics,” assuming one accepts the facile labels of our day. It suggests a very selective approach — and distances the activist from more liberal ideas. “Pro-life” suggests Bernardin’s Consistent Ethic of Life, which includes such things as opposition to capital punishment or to unjust wars.

I have no problem with being called “antiabortion” myself. As far as the one issue goes, it’s certainly descriptive. That’s why I’m cool with most news organizations’ style on the matter:

The Associated Press, The Washington Post, New York Times and most other large mainstream news organizations have long made it a matter of policy to refer to “antiabortion” vs. “abortion rights” activists, instead of the terms “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice.”

But why would any abortion opponent oppose “pro-life?” There’s just no understanding these wacky kids today…

13 thoughts on “Why don’t these ‘antiabortion’ kids today like ‘pro-life’?

  1. Karen Pearson

    Perhaps it’s because, as Joan Chittister noted, that anyone who was anti-abortion while not showing concern for the child after birth is not truly “pro-life” but simply “pro-birth.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author


      So the reasoning doesn’t make sense.

      If you’re just a right-winger who’s against abortion but doesn’t care, for instance, about healthcare for that kid, and who still supports capital punishment, then “antiabortion” make more sense for you than “pro-life.”

      But this story says these kids are choosing “antiabortion” over “pro-life” because they don’t want to be associated with conservative causes.

      It’s backwards…

      Of course, I’ve always thought the way we use these terms is all screwed up anyway.

      There’s nothing more bleeding-heart liberal than sticking up for the unborn, who are utterly helpless and can’t speak for themselves.

      And if words have meaning, you’d think a “conservative” would be completely opposed to capital punishment. A careful person — a conservative person — would never want to take the chance of letting the state execute the wrong person, and the only way to avoid that with complete certainty — to act with the utmost conservatism — is not to have capital punishment.

      There are a lot of issues that work this way, which is why I really don’t like the terms “liberal” and “conservative,” except when they’re used specifically and logically — which they almost never are…

  2. Karen Pearson

    The outlawing of abortion does little to prevent abortions. Rich folk simply take a trip to wherever abortion is legal and safe. The poor try to self abort or go to back-alley “practitioners,” usually with disastrous results for both themselves and their fetuses.

    1. bud

      We’re going down this rat hole again. I’ll just ask for the gazzilionth time, what punishment do you impose on a woman who has an abortion? If your answer is none, that makes you pro-choice. No bs about punishing the doctor since you don’t need a doctor to have an abortion. No, you have to sanction the mother otherwise your arguments are just rhetoric.

  3. JesseS

    Well we do live in a world where if you are against abortion you must love the idea of drilling for oil in the national parks, or if you are in favor of transgender rights you must love gun control, of if you support VA funding you must also be against school lunches, or if you are annoyed by gender-neutral pronouns you are for the Confederate flag. It goes on and on. How does any of that make sense?

    So yeah, maybe going “antiabortion” is dumb, but if it’s dumb then the old activist duopoly was schizophrenic. Personally I’m fine with seeing the slow motion car crash death of the latter.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “How does any of that make sense?”

      It doesn’t. It doesn’t make sense at all. Which is why I don’t see how anyone is comfortable being labeled “left” or “right,” or “Democrat” or “Republican.”

      I just don’t see how anyone can buy a whole set of unrelated positions wholesale, rather than thinking about each issue.

      There’s tribalism involved. The comfort of belonging to a crowd. I’ve often thought it might be soothing.

      But I can’t go for it…

      1. JesseS

        “But I can’t go for it…”

        You only get so much choice in the matter, a lot of it is hard wired in us. It’s soothing, but it’s also more than that. It’s rapture seeking.

        I hate to pull from the left, but take student demonstrators for example. After the chants and signs what is the first thing they demand? Halting the problem? No. The first thing “we” want the Lugal figure to do is to count their sins. After they counts their sins? “We” want them to feel shame. What if they don’t feel shame? “We” sack ’em.

        We don’t even do it to change the Lugal, we do it to affirm our own status. Mao did it with Struggle Sessions. Cromwell did it in the name of the Lord. Even hills tribes with almost no outside contact do it. Whether or not we like it, a lot of our politics is built into us.

      2. bud

        Brad you astound me some time with your complete, total and utter inability to see yourself. You go on and on and on about how we absolutely MUST impose our will on other nations. And yet you can’t even begin to see how that puts you in a tribe, the neocon tribe. You find comfort with that. And you can’t see how your blind enthusiasm for this doctrine leaves you incapable of dealing with reason. Take Israel. There really is no coherent reason why we continue to veto UN resolutions that deal with the settlements. You even acknowledged they were “problematic”. You couldn’t name one single risk we were sustaining by NOT having a damn aircraft carrier on the high seas yet that didn’t stop you from lecturing me about how obvious it was not having one. Then there’s TPP. Is it not possible that the agreement really isn’t a good one for the American people? The damn thing had flaws. It just did and even though I love Obama he was wrong on this.

        Yet you have the audacity to criticize others when they adhere to a different philosophical bent that that person may find perfectly reasonable. As for me, I don’t view the Democratic party as some would view a sports team to blindly follow no matter what they do. Lord knows they have their flaws. (For one thing they’re a party of Donald Trump grabbing parts) But they’re all we have. The Republican party is just not a rational option. It’s just not right now. And I consider that a shame. I’d love to have a difficult decision in the voting booth. But I could not in good conscience even consider one of their candidates for congress or senate until they get their act together. And it’s not JUST Trump. Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio are all terrible people. Lindsey Graham may be the worst of the lot with his mania for world conquest.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well first, this isn’t true: “You go on and on and on about how we absolutely MUST impose our will on other nations.”

          Secondly, what you’re saying doesn’t make sense.

          Some neocons will agree with me on national security, then disagree with me on a hundred other things.

          Some lefties will agree with me on single-payer, and disagree with me on a hundred other things at LEAST.

          You’re missing my ENTIRE point, which is that it’s impossible for me to ever be comfortable with a large crowd, because in order to form that crowd, people have to subsume their ability to think to the group’s pre-packaged positions.

          I don’t know why you don’t get that. Your saying a bunch of people agree with me on THIS and a group of people agree with me on THAT in no way negates what I’m saying. You’re failing to notice that, depending on the issue, it’s different groups of people.

          Why, you can even find issues where I agree with Trump voters. I just disagree with them on their central, colossal error — the insane notion that Donald J. Trump is somehow the answer to the problem.

          Unless I take completely insane positions — and I don’t, because my general tendency is centrist — you will OF COURSE find groups of people agreeing with me on this issue, or that one. How could it possibly be otherwise?

          The whole POINT of my comments here is that I can’t agree with this group or that group on enough things to ever feel like a member. And if I did start to feel that way, I’d worry about myself.

          Increasingly, being a “liberal” or a “conservative” according to the stupid ways we define those words today means almost absolute adherence to those groups’ entire sets of positions. Which is what I cannot imagine giving in to.

          The point I’m making isn’t all that complicated. Unfortunately, a lot of folks — brainwashed by the conventional ways of speaking of politics today — have trouble connecting with it…

  4. Harry Harris

    I suspect that there are many like me who don’t favor abortion and would like them to be further diminished, but not abolished in the law as an option. Bill Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” wish as well as Jimmy Carter’s personal opposition coupled with a dislike for legal prohibition are quite sincere and widely-held positions. The consensus-guided compromise positions are defeated by extremism on both sides and theological beliefs that should not determine public policy. Hence the labels dominate. Proponents of legal options are straw-man attacked as wanting late-term just-before-birth child slaughter. Opponents are painted as solidly in tune with the extreme no-exceptioners, doctor punishers (or assassins), and extreme patriarchists. It has become a useful the political rallying tool for partisans on both sides who will polarize almost anything to hold power. It may be the most useful one most Republicans have and consistently use no matter how they really feel (eg Trump) about the practice.

    1. Bob Amundson

      The latest CDC data is for 2013, when there were 664,435 abortions reported to CDC (200 abortions per 1,000 live births). That is the fifth lowest total number and rate since 1970 (only 1970, 71, 72 and 73 have lower total numbers/rate per 1,000 births).

      1990 had the highest total number of abortions reported (1,429,247) and 1984 had the highest ratio (364 abortions per 1,000 live births).


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