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Bronze-level articlePro-life

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Abortion

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Pro-life is a political neologism and emotionally loaded term used to define people who are in favor of protecting the life of every human fetus regardless of the consequences, and are against abortion. A more common and neutral term, anti-abortion, and the political/feminist term anti-choice are also in general use. The pro-life platform often extends to embryo research and assisted suicide (euthanasia). Their tactics range from the benign (e.g., prayers in church or fliers) to the aggressive — directly interfering with other's rights (e.g., heckling patients walking into clinics, using the legislature to push their agendas) to the outright violent (e.g., bombing clinics and killing doctors).

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[edit] Origin of the term

Because being "pro-life" is now largely considered a conservative stance, it also has a high correlation with support for war and capital punishment and with opposition to euthanasia, welfare programs (such as food stamps) and potentially life-saving stem cell research. Currently therefore, the term is like an ironic joke; for most pro-lifers, life begins at conception, ends at birth and starts again at brain death. This was originally not the case. The origin of the "pro-life" movement was in the Roman Catholic left during the Vietnam War among Catholic social justice activists, who were opposed to the war, capital punishment, and abortion alike. Those who hold this particular combination today now use the term consistent life ethic.

[edit] Post Roe v. Wade

After Roe v. Wade in 1973, the largely Protestant religious right latched onto abortion as a holy crusade and made it a core part of conservative politics, conveniently forgetting the other issues. Mostly their opposition to abortion seems to stem from them seeing it as part of a feminist plot to empower women with control over their own reproductive rights, and with the sexual revolution more generally. Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority played a big role in making abortion a moral panic among conservatives and evangelical Christians starting in the 1970s and 80s. Today, being "pro-life" is almost a given among members of evangelical megachurches, with dissenting views on abortion met with accusations of near-heresy. It is used as a wedge issue (or a single-issue litmus test) to convince many who otherwise hold liberal, moderate, or libertarian politics, to vote Republican. Pro-life politicians have spent the last two decades trying to find ways to "fight the holy war with a variety of new tactics from bills attached to health care reform to revised (read: impossible to do) building codes.

[edit] The pro-life movement and US racial dynamics

In recent years, pro-life activist groups in the United States have turned their attention to African-American women. One group chose February--Black History Month--for a billboard campaign announcing that “Black children are an endangered species." [1] A spokesperson for a Texas-based pro-life group which ran a billboard campaign featuring a young black boy and the caption "The most dangerous place for some children is in the womb" said that "the overwhelming majority of abortion facilities are in minority neighborhoods," and that the people living in those neighbourhoods needed to be informed of the alleged effects of abortion. [2] In 2011, pro-lifers covered the south side of Chicago with billboards featuring the likeness of Barack Obama with the slogan "Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted." [3]

[edit] My abortion is ethical, all the others aren't

Of course, members of the "pro-life" movement get abortions too. Frequently the women who picket the clinics. When asked what the fuck, they almost universally say that their own abortion is reasonable. But all the others aren't. Then they go back to clubbing around the head the doctor they got to resolve their own little problem.[4]

Anti-choice women often expect special treatment from clinic staff. Some demand an abortion immediately, wanting to skip important preliminaries such as taking a history or waiting for blood test results. Frequently, anti-abortion women will refuse counseling (such women are generally turned away or referred to an outside counselor because counseling at clinics is mandatory). Some women insist on sneaking in the back door and hiding in a room away from other patients. Others refuse to sit in the waiting room with women they call "sluts" and "trash".

[edit] Direct action

One lunatic fringe of the pro-life movement turns the idea of "pro-life" so far on its head that they take what they call direct action which can involve acts of terrorism including bombing abortion clinics and to murdering physicians who perform abortions.

[edit] Abortion in religion

The Unitarian Universalist religion strongly supports abortion rights.

Buddhist views differ, but the Dalai Lama said that abortion should be viewed according to each situation. Wiccans similarly have varying views on the issue, with no set precedent.

It seems to be possible to quote mine the Bible to support either side of the argument.[5] (No surprise there perhaps.) But all of the verses referred to seem to require substantial interpretation in order to get the required meaning, and are only of interest to one particular religious group. US Evangelicals of the '50s and '60s often used the Bible to state that (very much unlike 21st century ones) that life does not begin at conception - mostly as a criticism of the Catholic dogma that ensoulment happened at conception. This view persisted in fairly mainstream evangelical thought until the late 1970s.[6]

Some pro-choice campaigners claim that abortion is mentioned in the Bible, in Numbers 5:11-31. Called "the Adultery Test" the passage is an instruction to priests on how to deal with a woman accused of adultery by feeding her "bitter water", which afflicts her with "the curse". Specifics aren't given in Numbers, but the curse of the "bitter water" is described very clearly as affecting her child-bearing ability. Like most Bible passages, however, there is a catch: translations differ exactly on what this magic potion is supposed to do. In the King James Version (KJV) the relevant passages read:

27And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. 28But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive children.[7]

Some translations specifically suggest "miscarriage" in Numbers 5:22. The New International Version, as opposed to the poetic and subtle KJV, suggests it directly:

27If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.[8]

This sort of translation issue is common throughout holy texts, and is most likely to be due to the use of a euphemism in the original Hebrew that never really caught on in English.[9] Less literal translations agree that the "thigh" in the literal version is plainly a euphemism for "womb" (so it's not just modern Bible-thumpers who are squeamish about female anatomy) but whether The Curse is an induced miscarriage or just rendering the woman sterile isn't clear from most attempts to get the passage into English. Any crude substance capable of causing sterility, or by the more literal translations causing "genitals to shrink" is likely to induce a miscarriage anyway. Either way, it's Biblical evidence for priests playing very fast and loose with the reproductive cycle, which is hardly "pro-life" as many self-described pro-life proponents claim it to be!

Pro-lifers to the contrary are usually likely to quote Jeremiah 1:5 ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you"), which has overtones of Calvinist predestination, and Deuteronomy 30:19 ("Therefore choose life, that you and your children may live"), which in context is about faith in God and has little to do with abortion.

[edit] Pro-life individuals and organizations

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Miriam Zoila Pérez, "Past and Present Collide as the Black Anti-Abortion Movement Grows," Colorlines, 3 March 2011
  2. Erin Cargile, "Anti-abortion ads target black women" KXAN, 22 December 2010
  3. Laura Basset, "Anti-Abortion Movement Targets Black Women In Latest Efforts," Huffington Post, 22 April, 2011
  4. Joyce Arthur, "The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion": When the Anti-Choice Choose
  5. Biblical abortion references
  6. The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal
  7. Numbers 5:11-31 (King James Version)
  8. Numbers 5:11-31 (New International Version)
  9. Women’s thighs falling away – new Bible diet?
Abortion articles on RationalWiki
Abortion - Fetus/Fœtus - Gonzales v. Carhart - Nuremberg Files - Pro-life - Pro-choice - Essay:Rhetorical analysis of abortion essays - Roe v. Wade - Schlafly, breast cancer and abortion - The Silent Scream - Barnett Slepian - Essay:Where do you fall in the abortion debate?
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