Labels matter: why we’re pro-life, not just anti-abortion
Did you ever have that frustrating experience in school where a teacher never called you by your preferred name? Maybe she called you “Robert” instead of “Bobby,” or “Jonathan” instead of “John.” No matter what you did, your teacher never seemed to get the message.
That’s exactly how I feel in response to the mainstream media, which consistently fails to label our movement correctly. However, in this case, there’s more at stake than simply a clever nickname. Our movement is in danger of being seriously misunderstood.
Below, I have sampled some headlines from leading news sources related to pro-life issues:
- Anti-abortion marchers in Washington protest 40 years of legal abortion
- Thousands of Irish attend anti-abortion protest
- Anti-abortion group loses appeal over PAC status
- Anti-abortion movement stands by ‘no exceptions’ orthodoxy amid controversy
- Pope tweets shout-out for anti-abortion rally in D.C.
- Justin Bieber’s mom produces anti-abortion short film
It seems that, time and time again, the media refers to our movement as “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-life.”
The examples above are only a handful of the multiple instances that could be cited. That’s not to say that the media never uses the term “pro-life.” But there does seem to be a strong preference for citing pro-life protests and activism as “anti-abortion.”
I hasten to say that, in one sense, we are most certainly “anti-abortion.” We believe that abortion involves the deliberate killing of innocent human beings. It’s not as if there’s any shame in being against abortion.
However, a media portrayal that consistently depicts what we’re against rather than what we’re for is incredibly misleading. Are Protestants “anti-Catholics”? Are Democrats “anti-Republicans”? Are conservatives “anti-liberals”?
Just as a Protestant’s theology consists of more than his disagreements with Catholic theology and just as a Democrat’s ideology consists of more than his disagreements with Republican ideology, so a pro-lifer’s position consists of more than his disagreements with NARAL Pro-Choice America or Planned Parenthood.
Therefore, I would like to provide some observations as to why we are pro-life, not just anti-abortion:
1. We promote a positive agenda, not just a negative agenda.
It is certainly true that, in order to be for something, you have to be against something else. Even if you’re for love and happiness, you have to be against hate and bitterness.
Naturally, if we’re pro-life, we are against that which causes the destruction of innocent life.
However, it’s a serious misnomer to assume that all we’re looking for is more red tape. We’re not just looking to make abortion illegal (as great as that would be); we’re looking to promote a culture of life and peace.
The pro-abortion crowd will respond, “You just want to ruin women’s lives by making them give birth to children when they’re not ready yet.”
In actuality, we’re not out to ruin anyone’s life. We’re out to save the lives of those who are too weak and vulnerable to save themselves. We’re out to protect women from the shame and guilt of terminating a child’s life.
A police officer doesn’t just arrest criminals; he makes our streets safer. A firefighter doesn’t just eliminate fires; he rescues people from the flames. There’s a negative aspect to any noble line of work, but there’s also a positive reason why those negative actions must be taken.
And though we have much to oppose as pro-life people, we also have many things to support. We support helping women through crisis pregnancies, not hastily rushing them into abortions. We support loving and caring for children, not brutally murdering them because they cause an inconvenience to one’s lifestyle. We support adoption, education, and counseling as healthy alternatives to abortion and deceit.
2. Our message involves more than abortion.
Abortion is not the only means of terminating life. There are other ways that human life is devalued, under-emphasized, and even extinguished in our world.
To say that we’re anti-abortion is to focus on only one part of our message. The truth is that we’re against murder in any form. We’re against the selfish actions of Christopher Dorner, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and other cold-blooded killers who shamelessly terminate innocent human life. We’re also against euthanasia, suicide (assisted or otherwise), terrorism, cloning, extreme poverty, unjust war, human trafficking, and anything else that threatens the sanctity of human life.
3. We use positive means to advance our message, not negative ones.
As I have previously pointed out, there are so-called “pro-life” individuals who advance their message through bombs and guns. These individuals are not really for life at all, but against it.
Contrary to what pro-abortion forces would like you to believe, these folks are in the extreme minority. The average pro-life citizen is a decent, peace-loving American who would never resort to violent tactics to advance his message.
What are the weapons of the pro-lifer’s warfare? They include prayer, candlelight vigils, crisis counseling, ultrasounds, peaceful protest, and adoption. None of these weapons hurt anyone; the only harm they cause is angst and frustration on the part of the pro-abortion crowd.
Conclusion: Turning the Tables
The media refers to us as “anti-abortion.” But you’ve never seen the media refer to NARAL Pro-Choice America or Planned Parenthood as “anti-life.”
These organizations have attempted to gain widespread appeal by describing themselves as “pro-choice.” After all, everyone likes being able to choose.
What we don’t like is death. And, unfortunately, the agenda of so-called “pro-choice” organizations promotes just that.
Whatever else we have the right to choose, the termination of an innocent human life doesn’t fall into that category. As pro-lifers, we’re for healthy, life-giving choices, but we are against unhealthy, life-destroying choices.
I challenge the media to look at what we’re for, not just what we’re against. But I also challenge them to look at what the pro-choice crowd is against, not just what they’re for. They might be for choice, but they’re against life.
And if you insist on calling us “anti-abortion,” at least be consistent and call your pro-choice friends “anti-life.”