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Pro-choice/Pro-life Identification

2015-02-13

Lots of people will tell you that abortion should be legal, though they personally are pro-life. Logically, all of those people should be called pro-choice, but some of them will tell you no, they’re pro-life. The pro-choice side thinks that’s a contradiction, that people who identify this way just don’t understand what they’re talking about.

I think the difference here is due to how people are defining their views. Pro-choice people are making a purely legal decision. They’re not talking about their plans if they find themselves pregnant; they’re talking about what the laws should look like. Their label is about public policy, not a declaration of their personal moral code as the prolife can be.

The pro-life people (who are also in favor of legal abortion) are making a decision based on how they personally plan to act should they be in that situation. Their identification is about their own moral code, not their political position. This is entirely different from how pro-choice people are identifying, who are telling you what their policy position is. Pro-life (but in favor of abortion) are first telling you what their own behavior is, followed by their political choice. Identifying their personal behavior is more important to them than making their political position known.

Think of how a room would look if you choose the color for your walls first, and decorate based on that; or if you choose your furniture and pictures first, then choose your wall colors from that. You don’t always get the same look even though it’s the same stuff in the room. Same with the terminology for pro-choice and pro-life. It’s not a contradiction, and it’s not a misunderstanding. They’re using a different method to choose their label.

Prochoice is purely a policy stance. It says nothing about a person’s personal choices for pregnancy. Prolife, on the other hand, can be both a personal stand and a policy stand, because it can mean that:

  • the person themself wouldn’t use abortion
  • the person thinks nobody should use it

I’d wager the reason that many prolife people seem to think prochoice people hate children is because they’re interpreting the political stance as a personal plan, the same way that prolife people discuss abortion.

Morally, there’s more than just these three positions on abortion. But personal moral convictions aren’t what the abortion conversation is about. It’s about public policy, for which morality is only one part. But that’s another conversation.

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