From Pro-Choice To Pro-Abortion

A new form of abortion advocacy is about to change our debates

All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.


For decades, the never-ending abortion debate has been summarized by the dueling sound bites of pro-choice and pro-life. Very slowly, but lately more steadily, the fundamental premise of pro-life advocacy—that abortion not only stills a beating heart, but takes a human life—has resonated with the American public. Indeed, the New York Times itself reports that “one of the most enduring labels of modern politics—pro choice—has fallen from favor” as a means of furthering abortion rights policies.

That’s a notable shift. But pro-lifers should not unduly celebrate. Rather than moderating, activists have embraced an advocacy model they once eschewedbeing explicitly pro-abortion. In this new approach, Roe v. Wade is no longer a moment to celebrate. Rather, it must be overturned because it istoo restrictive of what they believe should be an absolute right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, at any time, for any reason.

Why did “pro-choice” lose its efficacy? Mendacity has its costs. Understanding the public’s sentimentality about babies, pro-choice apologists often falsely claimed their goal was simply to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” That worked for a time. But conceding that abortion should be “rare” implicitly accepted the pro-life movement’s fundamental premise—that the entity terminated in an abortion is far more than an inflamed appendix. Eventually, the sheer force of logic and fact helped push the country in a more pro-life direction.

Second, most previous pro-life successes—such as the federal statute outlawing partial birth abortion—primarily restricted terminations late in pregnancy. But recent pro-life legislation in conservative states has seriously eroded easy access to early-term abortion, when most of the 1.3 million annual terminations are undertaken. Countering that trend will require convincing the country—or at least the courts—that abortion is a positive good.

Take Texas: A new law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital (among other provisions) has survived initial court challenges. The law’s enforcement has caused Planned Parenthood to close clinics all over the state (undermining the organization’s dubious assertion that abortion only constitutes 3 percent of its services). In the near future, unless different courts intervene, all but a handful of Lone Star State abortion clinics may close.

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