What’s In a Name? Why “Pro-Life” Is More Honest Than “Pro-Choice”

For pundits and activists on both sides of the abortion debate, step one in crafting an argument is choosing the terminology. By deeming one’s self “pro-life/choice” and the opposition “pro-abortion/anti-choice” at the outset, he conveys an immediate sense of who’s fighting for a lofty ideal and who’s standing with something unsightly. Both sets of labels are emotionally-charged, but which is more accurate?

Pro-choicers (at least, those more PR-savvy than Merle Hoffman) swear they don’t particularly like abortions; they just believe it’s not their place, or government’s, to prevent someone from making the choice. President Barack Obama puts it this way:

I am pro-choice, I believe in Roe vs. Wade, and I come to that conclusion not because I’m pro-abortion, but because ultimately I don’t think women make these decisions casually. They wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or spouses, or their doctors or their family members.

The problem is that “pro-choice” is so vague as to be meaningless. Everybody’s “pro-choice” on some things and “anti-choice” on others. In a sane world, you’d think that “pro-choice” meant favoring greater personal freedom on a whole range of issues. But whatever else may be said of the Obama Administration’s policies on healthcare, incandescent light bulbs, gun rights, and environmental regulations, they leave people with fewer choices, not more. Obama, like his fellow liberals, is only “pro” one particular choice: abortion.

And even then, the positions of Obama, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the National Organization for Women on conscience protection and taxpayer abortion funding force third parties to participate in abortion against their will. If this is “pro-choice,” then why does choice lose out whenever choice and abortion conflict?

“Pro-life,” on the other hand, specifically denotes a concrete principle: the sanctity of all human life, which entitles every human being to equal protection from fertilization onward. If the right to life of those outside the womb were seriously endangered in our society, pro-lifers would be there, just as we are for the unborn. Pro-aborts sometimes try to delegitimize the pro-life label by calling us hypocrites on issues like capital punishment, but that fails for two simple reasons: first, not all pro-lifers support the death penalty, and those who do believe it preserves life in the long run by deterring violent crime.

It’s natural for political activists on both sides of an issue to use loaded language that benefits them, and there’s no shame in that – as long as it’s still accurate. And that’s what distinguishes abortion foes from defenders: while “pro-life” illuminates and clarifies the issue, all “pro-choice” does is obscure and deceive.

13 thoughts on “What’s In a Name? Why “Pro-Life” Is More Honest Than “Pro-Choice”

  1. What a non-issue to devote time to.  Once again, Calvin, you have demonstrated that you’re more interested in scoring political points in an attempt to advance your agenda than you are in having a meaningful discussion about this topic.  The only thing I’ll say about it is that by addressing those who disagree with you by any labels other than the ones they adopt for themselves, you do nothing but show yourself as disrespectful of others and close the door to any honest exchange of ideas.
    I’ll also point out that you have used this as an opportunity to falsely suggest that tax dollars are being used to fund a service you don’t support.   While I’m sure you are familiar with the Hyde Amendment that prohibits that from happening, I’ll make an offer to you.  Over the last 5 years rough estimates suggest PP received in the neighborhood of 1.8 billion in federal funding.  Over the same 5 years faith based organizations received approximately 7.5 billion.  My offer to you is that I will support your effort to end federal funding of PP, so you don’t have to contribute to their cause, if you will join me in calling for an end to federal funding of faith based organizations, including the elimination of tax exempt status for churches, so that my tax dollars don’t go to organizations that I oppose.


    1. The Hyde amendment doesn’t prevent PP from using tax $ for abortions because they simply ignore the rule. As for withdrawing tax $ from churches in exchange for withdrawing tax $ from PP I would do that in a heartbeat in spite of how much I love the work churches do. With the money I would save from not paying those taxes I would give to those churches for their good causes. As for removeing tax exemption from churches I don’t think you want that. Remember that when people are taxed they expect to have representation. Taxing churches will give them immense power to influence policy because their followers will not see anything wrong with them doing so to make good use of their donations. But I am ok with it because I would love for my church to have more power to influence public policy.


      1. If you have first hand knowledge of a clinic violating the Hyde Amendment then you have a duty to report that to the appropriate Federal Prosecutor.  If you don’t then you’re guilty of making unsubstantiated and probably false criminal allegations, and it doesn’t reflect well on your credibility.


      2. LowlyOne, I would love to see evidence that PP is ignoring the law as you claim. This is a nonsense argument that pro-lifers repeat alot, but for which there is no proof: if PP as an organization was defying the law, and pro-life groups somehow have knowledge of this, what’s stopping you guys from reporting it? As it is, when single branches here and there have single employees engaged in corrupt and illegal activities, pro-life “reporters” are quick to post videos and create a big stink.
        All of which suggests to me that there’s not a shred of evidence for, and no credibility to, the claim that PP is ignoring the Hyde Amendment. Saying that it’s so doesn’t make it so. So, in the end, this isn’t about stopping your money from going to abortions, it’s about shutting down those you disagree with. At least be honest enough to say so…


        1. I actually like your “vidz or it didn’t happen!” approach.  All I can say is that I hope you place the same burden of proof on NARAL’s “investigations” of crisis pregnancy centres.

          Money is fungible, so funding Planned Parenthood can and does indirectly supports their abortion ventures.  None the less, this is not technically illegal under the Hyde amendment.

          However, we do have some evidence that they engage in fraud with taxpayer money (suggesting that might play loose with the Hyde amendment):


          There’s also this video, which strongly suggests that at least one affiliate underreports abortions to a massive extent:


          Finally, a former employee of a major Texas affiliate (one that operates the biggest abortion clinic in the Western Hemisphere) has formally filed a whistleblower complaint, stating that her former employer was engaged in massive fraud.  This almost certainly involves violating the Hyde amendment, among other federal laws.



  2. For what I know, the ones getting quite a lot furious when someone does make an actual choice are the ones who call themselves “pro-choice”. A 14-year-old girl wants to keep her baby and has sued her family that wanted to force her have an abortion. She made her decision against the ones trying to force her; yet, I keep on reading those sad little infantile comments from the so-called pro-choicers, all mad about the girl choosing to keep the baby. None of them has protested yet about this girl being coerced into having an abortion. Had it been the opposite way – the girl suing the family so she can get an abortion -, the heaven-storming yelling from the “pro-choicers” would not have taken a single heartbeat to make itself be heard.

    The issue is not about choosing, but about choosing what they want and only that. That is why here, abortion advocates are called pro-abortion, not pro-choice. Even abortion advocates do not call themselves “pro-choice”.

    From still-legal-abortion-free Uruguay, Latin America, with love,
    María Inés


    1. Is it hard to become a citizen?  Do you have leaders that are not communist/socialist?


      1. Hi bubbalouwee. Unfortunately, our president and the majority of the Parliament are communists, at least for the moment.

        The legalization of abortion is in fact a part of their agenda, and they managed to have it approved in the Senate this december by 17 – 14 votes. However, they still lack the necessary votes in the House of Representatives, and even some of the representatives of their own party have publicly stated that they will not support this project for various reasons, so if things remain as they are until March 2012, the project will not be approved, and thus the legalization of abortion cannot be discussed until after the next elections.

        I am not sure about the details of acquiring citizenship: our Constitution states that one can become a citizen by 1) marrying a Uruguayan citizen; 2) by having 5 years of residency in the country (of course, one has to prove them with documentation and all that stuff); 3) and by a special grace for remarkable services to the country (for what I know, this one has never been granted up to now). May I ask why do you want to know?


  3. What is the percentage of women who abort their babies who DIDN’T have a choice but were forced to abort by parents, boyfriends etc?


  4. This is at best a specious argument. For one thing, your analysis ignores context. The term “pro-choice” implies a specific meaning; it has never meant “choice as related to incandescent or fluorescent”; it has never meant “to own/carry a gun or not”; it has never meant “to choose to rob a bank or not”; it has always been used in the context of abortion and reproductive rights.
    “Pro-life” implies a commitment to life in the same context, but where this gets interesting is when it applies only to pre-birthed life. The obvious question is, “why?” There is no such obvious question when one sees that pro-choice doesn’t extend to everything else as well, in large part because the term is vague enough to be meaningless without context; but “life” is a different story, so it is relevant to ask pro-lifers who care nothing for the life of the child after it is born why they are so concerned about the fertilized egg after conception.
    Being “pro-life” in the sense that I would like to see abortion as a means of birth control  replaced with education and the proper use of actual birth control (and also thinking that no one should die because of lack of healthcare, because they were born into abusive families where they were not wanted or loved, etc., etc.), and “pro-choice” in the sense that I think a woman should have absolute say over whether or not she gets pregnant (including access to birth control, that so many pro-lifers want to ban), I can only shake my head at articles like this (and all the rest on this site). If “pro-lifers” were truly committed to making abortion a thing of the past, you would drop the self-flattery, condescension, and judgment, be realistic and stop trying to shove religious beliefs down people’s throats (relating to birth control, saving the lives of pregnant mothers, sex education, etc.), and would work to educate, not alienate.
    But keeping doing what your doing, and blaming all the evil, wicked, no good, very bad sinners of the world for legalized abortion; and keep ignoring the fact that you are the actual reasons that people see abortion as a necessity.


    1. “has always been used in the context of abortion and reproductive rights.”

      Yes, and that’s exactly my point: liberals have little interest in the principle of letting people determine their own affairs except when it comes to the “freedom” to kill innocent, defenseless babies.

      “it applies only to pre-birthed life […] pro-lifers who care nothing for the life of the child after it is born.”

      These are bald-faced lies.

      “a woman should have absolute say over whether or not she gets pregnant”

      She already does.

      “access to birth control, that so many pro-lifers want to ban”

      If there are “so many,” then perhaps you could name a few?

      Considering that the rest of your post is lazy mischaracterization of pro-lifers that you probably got from some list of talking points, maybe you should be a little more careful about throwing stones about “specious arguments.”


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