The Pro-Life Movement’s Truth Problem

The Pro-Life movement is the visible portion of a much larger religious, patriarchal, misogynist movement aimed at enshrining a biblical cosmology in law.  And any movement that sticks to easily disproved points like the efficacy of abstinence only education or the morality of denying women access to emergency contraceptives after rape, is not a movement that has a healthy relationship with reality.

As an example, I’d like to call attention to a really interesting post on the future of the pro-life movement from one of its proponents, Neil at 4simpsons:

The pro-legalized-abortion movement has more money.  They have 90% plus of the media firmly and energetically behind them.  They have Satan behind them.  Sinful human nature won’t change.  That’s the bad news.

But pro-lifers aren’t going away, and we have a few things working for us.  Here are some reasons why the pro-life movement may eventually win out:

Before we get into those reasons, lets look at his introductory paragraph.  Although I don’t have many specifics, and leaving aside prolife investment plans, I’d imagine the disparity of funds between liberal and conservative think tanks might give one pause before asserting who has more money.  But it are his next two points that are especially juicy.  “90% plus of the media”?  When it comes to reproductive rights, the media is completely pro status quo.  Republicans are expected to be pro-life to be electable, just as Democrats are expected to be pro-choice in a way that pander to the pro-life crowd.  If anything, this tilts towards the pro-life side of things.  In fact the media has a great deal of pro-life leaning articles out there, including human interest stories and articles like this one (USA Today):

When school administrators told Stephanie Hoffmeier they wouldn’t recognize The Pro-Life Club, the 16-year-old junior prayed to God and went to court.

Talk about a sympathetic framing!  Back to Neil’s blog post:

They have Satan behind them.  Sinful human nature won’t change.

Given his entire pro-life spiel is within a religious frame, this isn’t surprising.  But it is definitely worth tackling.  This isn’t simply claiming the moral high ground.  It is casting one’s opponents into the realm of the damned.  It preys on the religious insecurities of religious pro-choice advocates, and confirms that this movement is at its core about erasing the distinction between church and state.  For the pro-life movement, this is a religious matter.  When life begins is determined by their religion, and all of us, regardless of faith, must be bound by it.  So much for freedom of religion.

1. There will always be staunch pro-legalized-abortionists and those who profit from it that won’t give up, but the vast middle ground will shift to the pro-life side as they learn more about the nature of the unborn and see more ultrasounds.

Take a look at historical abortion polling data here.  I am not the biggest fan of polls, but we do get an interesting viewpoint.  We can see that positions on abortion are largely unchanging in a CBS/New York Times poll over a period of 5 years.  In fact the picture of America one gets is, even as more ultrasounds and data on fetus’s are made available, we see no appreciable change in opinion.  Most of America believes abortion (within certain limits) is a right, and a smaller portion of America is split on whether there ought to be no abortion, or no limits.

2. More and more women will bravely come forward to tell how abortion hurt them, thus dispelling the Roe v. Wade myth that legalized abortion would be good for women.  Studies are helping prove this point as well.

What studies?  What is certain is that making abortion completely illegal kills women.  The only myth is that removing that choice is in any way pro-women.

3. To state the obvious, pro-abortionists tend to have more abortions and less kids, while pro-lifers tend to have fewer abortions and more kids.  The pro-abortionists may not abort themselves completely out of existence, but it will reduce their ranks enough to impact their influence.

If the children of pro-life families reliably grew up to be pro-life themselves, he’d have an interesting point here.  Of course I am taking for granted that pro-choice parents have fewer children than pro-life parents.  That might be a bit much to grant without proof.  That whole point rests on a lot of ifs.

 4. Young people – even pro-choicers – realize how many potential friends and siblings were killed before birth.

Nope.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly never sat around in class thinking “Gee, my friends are kickass, but I could have had an extra friend if the Smiths hadn’t had an abortion earlier on”.  Plus it isn’t hard to imagine a birth a couple isn’t ready for having an adverse impact on that family later in life.  Social and economic pressure could very well ensure the child you befriended in 2nd grade might never have been born, or might have lived in an entirely different State.  Speculation over “what could have been” is rarely productive.

5. I know that good doesn’t always triumph over evil in the short term, but it often does in the long term (see slavery).

I don’t know that a point this absurd is worth responding to.  I could just as easily say “see Roe v Wade” for an example of good triumphing over evil.

6. Every technological advancement (e.g., 4-D ultrasounds, intra-uterine cameras) supports the pro-life cause, while none support the pro-abortion position.

This is basically a repeat of his first point.  Showing a fetus kicking does not show that it is, in fact, alive.  But it is on the right track.  Relying on science to guide our understanding of when life begins is fine.  However the Pro-Life movement uses science more as a kind of apologetics.   Their conclusions are already set before they see the evidence.

7. Women will figure out that they have been lied to.  Is the cornerstone of women’s rights really the right to have a stranger kill your preborn child in a (somewhat) clean place?  More women will discover that single men are the biggest proponents of legalized abortion.  Abortion hasn’t empowered women.  It has just allowed men to shirk their responsibilities and to put more of the burden of birth control, abortion and child-rearing on women.

Ironically, this statement is rife with lies.  Men are not the single biggest proponents of legalized abortion.  They are the biggest proponents of outlawing abortion.  Sex doesn’t need to lead to pregnancy.  It is ok to have sex for pleasure.

And here is where the gulf of understanding opens.  I believe sex is fun, pleasurable, and for everyone.  A religious fundamentalist believes sex is for straight married couples, and exists only to produce children.  And they are willing to lie and stretch the truth so that their religion becomes our law.

Unfortunately for them, we are standing directly in their way, bullshit detectors at the ready.  And we’ll have none of it.