There are numerous misrepresentations of the pro-life position circulating today, some of them genuine misunderstandings, others attempts to change and confuse the meaning. “Pro-life” means that we do not tolerate the killing of innocent human beings, either actively in any way or passively through withdrawing of ordinary care except in instances of self-defence, law enforcement and criminal punishment by the state. The pro-life position is essentially a secularised term for the Judeo-Christian position on the sanctity of human life and the Hippocratic Oath position. The real pro-life position does include actively opposing: abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia, genocide and ‘mob-justice’ – it means you don’t support this in any way either by act, assistance or referral, will actively discourage others from doing this and want these illegal. The following are examples of confusions of what the pro-life position is not:
* Live as long as possible: “Pro-life” does not mean that you must use extra-ordinary medical care to live as long as possible – for example Nelson Mandela being kept alive for a ventilator for a year in his 90s; as Desmond Tutu misrepresented the pro-life position. “Pro-life” does oppose withdrawing ‘ordinary care’ such as food, water, warmth with intent to passively kill someone, but not extra-ordinary care such as a ventilator, or chemotherapy.
* Respect all forms of life: “Pro-life” does not mean treating animal life as sacred as do some vegetarians. There may be good reasons to oppose cruelty to animals, but this is a cruelty issue, not a sanctity issue. If animals are killed humanely, pro-lifers have no issue. This position is logically impossible, since we depend on eating living organisms for food. Those who advocate it end up with arbitrary criteria for which organisms deserve such ‘sanctity’ or ‘respect’ – and usually end up with some criterion like intelligence. That changed criterion undermines the real pro-life position of for example killing those human beings who are mentally retarded. It also dilutes focus and is impossible to consistently live out.
* Quality healthcare for all: Quality health care is relative, while the sanctity of life is an absolute. Quality health care is dependent on resources available and the state cannot provide unlimited resources to everyone. Neither can medical aids. The demand for quality state healthcare for all actually works against the sanctity of life, because the state can save money to raise quality by killing the weakest (the unborn) and thus has a conflict of interest. History has shown this pattern. Socialised medicine leads first to the killing of the handicapped unborn, then to all unwanted unborn and then pressure for euthanasia.
* Oppose capital punishment: “Pro-life” does not mean opposing capital punishment by the state of criminals guilty of serious offences such as murder or rape. This is a separate debate.
* Oppose all war: Some advocates of this position oppose all war, some nuclear weapons. There is a separate debate around the ethics of war including issues like ‘Just war’, torture, reasonable force. Soldiers are mandated to kill on behalf of the state. This is a different issue.
* Oppose nuclear power: Nuclear power is dangerous, but this is not active deliberate killing of innocent people. It is a separate debate.
* Pro-natalist/ fertility: Some people advocate having as many children as possible. This is a separate issue. Some governments and political groups want to boost the birth rate. For example murderous Romanian dictator Ceausescou banned abortion to increase the population but was not Pro-life.
* Pro-quality of life: Some advocate being for the quality of all human life. Judge Hans Fabricius for example authorised a euthanasia advocating the ‘sanctity of the quality of life”. This is not the pro-life position and in fact the opposite of it. The quality of life often competes with the Sanctity of human life. Firstly, respecting the sanctity of human life means sometimes humans suffer in dying. Secondly, there are limited resources and quality of life is dependent on such resources which are not available in every situation – nor are they infinite.
* Look after every cold and hungry person on the planet: We live with concentric circles of responsibility. First we must look after ourselves; then we have a responsibility our immediate family; then extended family; then our church community; then charitable organisations help the poor; then the state looks after its own citizens; then we send charitable relief elsewhere. There will always be poor people (relatively speaking) somewhere for us to help and it is good to help them. But defending innocent people from being actively killed is a first priority and if it is placed second, it won’t happen.
* Pro-generic ‘life’ at all ages: The English word ‘life’ can mean so many different things in different contexts – including your life journey, enjoyment, quality etc. Yes we do want to be good to other people and help them when in need, but this not the same as defending innocent people under threat of being killed. The generic interpretation of “life” distracts from the pro-life message.
* Pro-life politicians and organisations must be perfect before you will support them: Setting unreasonable conditions of perfection or agreement on all issues before you will give any support is essentially a trick to not support the pro-life cause, but shift the blame for the lack of support. Choose the politician or organisation that best fits your view, but if you just criticise and support nothing, then its just an excuse and you are not pro-life.
PRO-CHOICE SOUNDING PRO-LIFE
* Reducing the number of abortions, without making it illegal. There are some including for example Hilary Clinton who advocate for reducing the number of abortions, by distribution of contraceptives and sex education to teenagers, while keeping it legal and freely available. Others argue reducing the number of abortions without making illegal by offering welfare benefits to crisis pregnancy women. In fact some Christian mercy motivated people are deceived into this position. This is not the pro-life position. Firstly, while we do want to reduce the number of abortions, we do not promote other evils to do so. Secondly, we do want to make it illegal. Thirdly, while pro-life people do support charitable help to crisis pregnancy women, this is not alone adequate. It needs to be illegal in the same way as killing and adult is illegal. Fourthly, if abortion is legal, the state is guilty of murder and the community is guilty of being complicit to murder by its tolerance of it.
* Won’t have an abortion myself, but won’t stop anyone else from having one. This is essentially a pro-choice position, not a pro-life position, but some people can’t tell the difference. These people deceive themselves. They are not pro-life.
* Abortion is wrong, but it is a religious issue and we can’t force that on anyone else. All ethical views in a belief system, whether a formal religious view or not. All law is based on ethics. Such people then claim that abortion cannot be restricted by law, which is a pro-choice not a pro-life view.
* Abortion is wrong, but don’t offend people by saying it is “murder”. This is essentially again the same as the pro-choice position. Either it is murder or it isn’t murder. You can’t half-murder someone. Murder is something we don’t tolerate in a civilised society. Abortion is a sub-category of murder of unborn babies. If you do believe it is murder then you will be more concerned about stopping murder than offending people.
A few genuine pro-life people do hold to one or more of the beliefs above, but not many. They are free to do so, but most who hold to the ‘extra-baggage’ positions practically end up being ineffective or counter-productive in the struggle.
NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT VIEWS
* Abortion is wrong and undesirable: This is the most common misunderstanding. Most abortion doctors, pro-choice voters and politicians also believe abortion is wrong and undesirable. Voicing this opinion achieves nothing for the pro-life cause, but just wastes time and effort – and fools people into thinking they are pro-life when they are not. Most Christian pro-life preaching is in this pointless category. Vague statements are made about the Sanctity of life and the evil of abortion, and the church congregation agrees but leaves with opinions unchanged. Being pro-life means not just that we believe it is wrong but that it should be illegal and where it is legal we should actively oppose it and defend the unborn. In reality everyone who is not in a state of extreme denial from their conscience believes abortion is wrong and undesirable. When however, they are under extreme pressure in a crisis situation, they see killing the baby as the lesser of two evils as opposed to having an unwanted child. Abortion doctors rationalise it in the same way. Those who say that abortion is wrong, but that this decision is a personal choice of the mother are pro-choice, not pro-life. The core issue is ‘tolerance’. We must not tolerate murder.
* Life begins at conception and the unborn baby is a human being. Yes true, pro-life people believe this but so do a lot of abortion doctors and advocates. Abortion advocates will rationalise however that the unborn baby is less important than the mother; that it is the lesser of two evils; or even that abortion is in the baby’s best interests. The difference is in not tolerating abortion or its legality.
* Saying you are ‘pro-life’. Unfortunately, there are politicians who say they are pro-life and oppose abortion to get the Christian and pro-life vote, but then once in power do just about nothing for the cause and sometimes betray it. People say they are pro-life to be socially acceptable in a church, but then do everything else in life as if abortion was okay – like voting or even if in healthcare assisting abortionists. Saying you are pro-life alone does not make you pro-life. Acting pro-life makes you pro-life.
* Believing man is created in the image of God. All Christians and most pro-life people do believe this, but there are those who believe this and don’t hold a pro-life position (however illogical), including euthanasia advocates. If this can be agreed, it is however a helpful starting point to argue from.
WHY THE ABOVE UNDERMINE THE PRO-LIFE POSITION
The above set of confusions of the pro-life position serve to undermine it by:
* Destroying the definition
* Placing unreasonable and unachievable burdens on people that sound good but thus undermine the real pro-life position.
* The above excuses are used not to defend the weak against murder, because people say they are busy with other good works.
* The above excuses are used to not support a pro-life organisation or leader who doesn’t take on extra baggage to their agenda.
– The reality firstly, you cannot win a fight without focus on priorities.
– Secondly, many of these issues are debatable on a specific situation and not absolutes. Muddled people try to make debatable issues into absolutes.
– Thirdly, since most of these “additional baggage” positions are relative and impractical, people try for a bit and then give up thinking they have done their bit for the ‘pro-life’ cause when in fact they haven’t at all.
* People fool themselves and others into thinking they are pro-life while they are not at all.
* Some fake pro-lifers argue that real pro-lifers must ‘earn the right to speak’ by good works in fulfilling a long list of impossible demands in the extra baggage list. Nobody ever meets these demands. Like religious legalism, it is never enough. They thus undermine the pro-life cause. Yes. Christians and pro-lifers should do other good works, but we do not need to ‘earn’ a right to speak.