"Pro-life" has always struck me as inherently polemical. As well as inaccurate. It proclaims an absolute, yet many of those who claim the label of course admit qualifications and make exceptions like most mortals do. Pro-choice is at least more accurate to the extent that it presumes there will always be those for whom abortion could never be the right decision - and it leaves that to them. "Pro choice" imposes abortion on NO ONE.
You may have heard that complaint before. And yet I don't think it's easy or simple. "Pro-life" implies willful blinders, false absolutes, that have devastating consequences.
I thought about this quite a bit during the campaign, thinking about Sarah Palin. Even *if* she and her husband provide most of the care for their special needs child, they do it with other aid from the state, such as the chef she is provided by virtue of her being the governor. And yet she was clear that she believes everyone should be forced to carry such a child to term regardless of how conceived or its prospects for life, but also that no one should expect any aid from the state. If these positions could be stated plainly to voters for what they are, I question whether they would continue to vote as they so far have. Such people are the first to take advantage of laws, for instance, that require school systems to require equal education for special needs children. Yet if their platform succeeds, no states would make any such provision.
I think the Terri Schaivo case showed this as well. "Life" is not an absolute. Plenty of so-called pro-lifers support the death penalty while, like Gov. Palin, opposing programs like AFDC that would funnel direct aid to mothers with children. Most people want the power and freedom to make such decisions about life and death in accord with their personal, private, religious beliefs. Such people include, so it would seem, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. It was I believe 2006, months after the Schaivo case had been all over the news, that WBEZ public radio in Chicago interviewed the Cardinal following surgery he had undergone for (I believe) bladder cancer. It was one of those moments where you hear on the news something utterly startling said only once, and though the interview might be repeated, the startling bit usually isn't. But Cardinal George said he did not fear dying but rather being incapacitated. A very human sentiment that I imagine most people share. But the Church's position is that life should be preserved heedless of the level of consciousness or incapacitation, so this was quite something to hear him say. It received no comment, question, or remark from the interviewer.
I once heard Garrison Keillor say that if right-wing evangelical hard-line culture-war-loving so-called Christians could realize all they say they wish to, they would be the first to regret it. And I agree. Let them wake up to a world in which meat and water are no longer inspected, where women are once again relegated to back alleys and coat hangers and unscrupulous quacks and the state decides how long someone braindead is kept on life support. And then they might regret what they've done.
I try to hold on to hope that through dialogue they can be brought to rethink some of their positions. I've long wondered how it is that such professedly God-fearing folks can claim to know what God wants, and not fear they're committing blasphemy, setting themselves as false gods. How they can square supposed concern with proto-life forms with their opposition to sex education and access to birth control. Roe v. Wade ALREADY imposes limits. There has NEVER been abortion on demand without limits in the U.S. Media programs such as Speaking of Faith could do a great service by starting simply to insist on accuracy in these matters, and not let inflammatory misleading labels like "pro life" cloud the debate.
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