Issues

When it comes to abortion, compromise shouldn’t be the goal

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In a rare, refreshing instance of someone other than the pro-life blogosphere telling pro-abortion extremists to grow up, Kyle Lorey has a column at Odyssey this week making the case that abortion defenders should stop calling pro-lifers “anti-choice.”

After explaining his decision to not state his own position on abortion in hopes of keeping readers on either side from reading his critique through a predetermined lense, Lorey writes that the label needlessly gets in the way of having productive conversations about abortion and potentially finding areas of compromise…

If the left wishes to advance their cause, they needn’t focus on overturning the entire moral viewpoint of pro-lifers—such an approach is doomed to failure. Instead, they should focus on the nitty-gritty; this allows the debate to focus on specifics and pragmatics as opposed to sweeping generalities about the inherent immorality of the opposing side. If both sides can forget those huge differences, real discourse about state and federal policy can be achieved. Toward this end, divisive rhetorical tools should be curtailed—including the terming of pro-lifers “anti-choice.” If a Republican who wished to compromise with the Democrats referred to them as “communist swine” while discussing policy with them, everyone would be much less willing to even begin to engage.

This is all true enough; there are some things that well-meaning people on both sides should be able to agree on, like actual women’s health care, basic protection for infants who survive abortions, giving abortion-minded and post-abortive women support instead of punishment, and requiring common-sense medical standards to protect women from so-called “medical practitioners” who don’t have their best interests at heart.

This is a particularly good reminder to those abortion advocates who claim they respect dissenting views, speak for the rational middle, and want compromise. Such claims are hard to take seriously when accompanied by misleading and demeaning labels and other alienating attacks on our views and intentions.

But while Lorey’s contribution to a more civil discourse is appreciated, there is a much bigger reason why “anti-choice” is wrong, and we should be careful not to put too much importance on compromise at the expense of preborn children’s lives.

It’s not just a question of respectful manners and “pro-life” being, as he says, what we “wish to be called”—“anti-choice” is objectively, inherently misleading.

Everyone is for the right to make most choices (who you date, where to apply for a job, what flavor ice cream, etc.) and against the freedom to make others (to kill, rape, or steal from someone). Pro-lifers simply differ from pro-choicers in the case of abortion because we believe that prenatal killing belongs in the latter category alongside postnatal killing.

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That’s it. There is no broader pattern of abortion opponents being anti-choice on a greater number of other issues than abortion defenders; in fact, we tend to be pro-choice on a greater number of subjects than they are. All of the above, as well as their consistent opposition to personal choices that side against abortion, shows that “pro-choice” is just as inaccurate a name for them as “anti-choice” is for us.

“Anti-abortion” isn’t particularly wrong, and would be tolerable if the other side agreed to take the equivalent “pro-abortion,” but “pro-life” is actually the most accurate possible label for us, because it conveys the specific principle animating us: the sanctity of all human life, which is enshrined as the most fundamental right by our Declaration of Independence and entitles every human being to equal protection from fertilization onward.

And suspiciously, the other side often does take issue with “pro-abortion,” even though there’s absolutely no reason to dislike the label…if they really believe what they say about it. After all, virtually nobody gets defensive about being called “pro-gun” or “pro-gay”; nobody worries that people will think the labels mean they’re obsessed with guns or are gay themselves, for instance.

More importantly, Lorey puts too much emphasis on compromise as a political virtue. Compromise is fine when it makes some progress toward the long-term goal without creating new long-term harm (i.e., legislation protecting some babies but not yet reaching others the voters aren’t ready to protect anyway is tolerable; removing protections we’ve already achieved or setting a precedent that can be used to expand abortions is not).

But our goal is not to settle for a status quo that enough pro-lifers and pro-choicers find tolerable enough to enact, where we’ve merely resigned a smaller number of babies to destruction. Our goal is to save them all, to expunge abortion from the United States just as thoroughly as we expunged slavery.

To that end, we should extend respectful dialogue to moderates and undecideds capable of listening to reason, not the hopeless fanatics leading Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and their allies in government and media. We should culturally shame and stigmatize the abortion-on-demand mentality, not make it feel more welcome. In short, we should recognize that compromise is only a virtue when dealing with competing interpretations of how to do good, not when good is competing with evil.

This is not to say that everyone who supports abortion is evil—many well-meaning people are simply misled about embryology or the fallout of prohibition—but we should never forget that the cause itself most certainly is evil. And you can’t seek a consensus with evil; you can only defeat it.

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