January 25, 2013

Language for Life

(Photo Credit: orangejuiceblog.org)

By Kristin Rudolph

Today tens of thousands will come to our nation’s Capitol, joining the annual March for Life, and declaring the truth that every abortion ends a human life. At the same time, Planned Parenthood is launching a campaign to further obscure the truth about abortion. The organization recently announced they are “moving beyond” the labels of “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”

Their “Not in Her Shoes” web site states: “Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman to make. You can’t make that decision for someone else. Nobody knows a woman’s specific situation—we’re not in her shoes.” It may appear to be a positive development on the surface, as one writer points out, the label “‘pro-choice’ is practically meaningless,” it is a euphemism for defending the legalized killing of unborn children.

But further examination shows that Planned Parenthood is not, in fact, finally calling abortion what it really is, or even promoting an honest “discussion.” They have admittedly looked at the statistics and seen that Americans are uncomfortable aligning themselves absolutely with either the “pro-life” or “pro-choice” side. According to their research, 40% of recent voters believe the morality of abortion “depends on the situation.”

Further, previous surveys show that Americans often describe themselves as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” This probably reflects some of those who personally believe abortion is morally wrong, but also think it should be legally available in at least some circumstances. Only 16% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all cases, and about one in five believe it should be legal in all situations. Overall, just over half of Americans consistently support for legalized abortion.

Clearly most Americans do not see abortion as the right and wrong, literally life and death issue it is. Planned Parenthood’s recent effort to remove the labels will (if successful, which is doubtful) only muddy the waters even more. Unless they choose a better and more accurate term to describe their pro-abortion position than “pro-choice” (which is unlikely), this shift will do no favors for the pro-life cause.

Planned Parenthood is simply catering to and reinforcing the attitude of those who will not see abortion for what it is – those who hold personal moral convictions opposing abortion, but in an attempt to be tolerant, think it should be legally available as well. Although this view may sound more moderate than blatant support of abortion, it is quite possibly worse.

A privatized opposition to abortion breeds complacency and perpetuates the lies that an unborn child is an inferior human life, a mere “potential life,” or some kind of tumor temporarily occupying a woman’s body. Those who morally oppose abortion generally do so because they believe it unjustly ends a real human being’s life. If you believe abortion would be wrong for yourself for that reason, then it cannot possibly be made morally right because of another woman’s circumstances (aside from the very rare occasion when the woman’s life is at risk and the only possible way to save her terminates the pregnancy).

If you truly believe abortion is wrong because it attacks human life and dignity, that remains true no matter the situation. To support legalized abortion despite privately believing it’s wrong is the same as personally opposing murder, yet believing there should be no laws prohibiting it.

Planned Parenthood has not put forth any alternative label, and I doubt “pro-choice” is going anywhere soon. As Christians, no matter the terms of debate, we must be consistent and upfront about the reality of abortion. Sadly, it is not uncommon to hear the privatized view of abortion from Christians, and some have recently attempted to “broaden” the term pro-life to include everything from environmental activism to support for increased welfare. A recent Pew survey reported that only 29% of white evangelicals view abortion as a “critical issue,” and just over half thought Roe v. Wade should be overturned. If we believe each human life, no matter how small, is sacred and made in the image of God, we must speak the truth and oppose abortion publicly and privately for the horrific injustice it is.

Planned Parenthood is correct in saying no one can claim to know exactly the situation of each woman considering abortion. But pro-lifers recognized this a long time ago. The truth is, those who support, work for, and volunteer at the thousands of pregnancy care centers across the country have sought to “walk in the shoes” of countless women.

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