Today, there seems to be a lot of debate about what it means when someone says they are pro-life. This is especially true for politicians. For clarity’s sake, let’s define the term. The pro-life position is that a new human life is created at the moment of fertilization and is, thus, entitled to the same legal protections as any other human being.
Given that, some abortion positions are pretty cut and dried. For example, someone who supports a universal human life amendment to the constitution is pro-life, while someone who supports the Roe vs. Wade decision is not.
Then there is the person who says that they are personally opposed to abortion and would never participate in one, but pro-choice when it comes to legality. As amazing as it may seem, I have actually heard pro-lifers describe people who say this as pro-life.
In reality, this is the most insidious and despicable of all positions on abortion. After all, there is no reason to oppose abortion other than the belief that it takes the life of a living human being. So what the “personally opposed” crowd is saying is, "I agree that abortion is the intentional killing of a baby, but if other people want to do it I support their legal right to do so and it’s not my place to interfere." That is not a pro-life position. It’s like someone in 1860 saying, “I am personally opposed to slavery and I would never own one, but if someone else wants to own a few that’s their business.”
Another stance often mischaracterized as pro-life is the “pro-life with exceptions” position. You’ll hear people say things like, “I am pro-life, but I think there should be an exception when the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest” or “I am pro-life, but abortion should be legal when the baby is handicapped.”
It is a complete abandonment of the pro-life principle to say it should be permissible to kill selected categories of children. When someone says they are pro-life but that abortion should be allowed in some circumstances, the question is whether they would support killing a five-year-old in those same circumstances. If not, then it is clear that they don’t see born and unborn children as morally equal. In other words, they do not subscribe to the most fundamental tenet of the pro-life position.
In the grimy world of politics, a new position is emerging to test the boundaries of what it means to be pro-life. We are now hearing presidential candidates say that they are pro-life but that each individual state should be allowed to set its own policies regarding abortion. Of course, the problem with that thinking is that the right to life is specifically listed in the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that no person shall be deprived of his or her life without due process of law. Even Harry Blackmun, the Supreme Court justice who wrote Roe vs. Wade, said that if the personhood of the unborn was ever established the right to abortion evaporated.
When a politician claims to be pro-life, he or she is asserting that the born and the unborn are both persons. So the question becomes, how can they logically claim that only the born have a constitutional right to life? And the answer is, they can’t.
To understand how preposterous this is, imagine that a state legislature passed a law allowing parents of newborn children to take a few days to decide whether they are really prepared to start a family. Under this new statute, if they decided they were not ready for this responsibility, they would be legally allowed to have a physician slit their child’s throat. In that situation, how many of these “pro-life” politicians who are now saying that the federal government has no constitutional right to intervene on behalf of unborn children, would say that the federal government has no constitutional right to intervene on behalf of these born children? Of course, the universal consensus would be that they not only have that right, they have the duty to do so.
The point is, when someone claims to be pro-life but says that abortion is a state matter, that is an unmistakable indicator that either (a) they do not truly believe that the born and unborn are both persons or (b) they are unfamiliar with the U.S. Constitution.
It may also be indicative of something the pro-life movement has done. For 35 years we have hammered away at legalized abortion when, technically speaking, abortion is not the root problem. In reality, it is only a symptom. The disease is the absence of legal protection for the unborn.
After all, if a woman who is not pregnant wanted to submit to abortion, we might find it bizarre and we would probably question her sanity, but in the final analysis it would probably not concern us any more than it would if she were getting a tattoo or body piercing.
So the problem is not that women have abortions, but that children die. And that only occurs because our nation took away their right to life. So maybe we need to talk a little less about stopping abortion and a little more about returning legal protection to the unborn. Perhaps then, all these people claiming to be pro-life would know what being pro-life actually means.