Pro-Choice Politics

The Construction Of “Pro-Life” Rhetoric

Allow myself to be perfectly clear here: there is no “pro-life” and “pro-death”. There is only body-policing or bodily autonomy. The “pro-life” stance is about more than telling people they shouldn’t get an abortion. It’s also about campaigning against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, to make sure no one has the option of dying voluntarily, when and how they are ready, without pain but rather with mercy, compassion, and dignity. Instead, those who would be most likely to request either euthanasia or assisted suicide are condemned to steadily going out of their minds from a confusing mix of excruciating pain and often turbulent side-effects of carefully calculated palliative care (just enough to take the edge off without pushing the patient over the edge). Believe me. I’ve seen it. That is, assuming they don’t find and act on the means to commit suicide long before they have had a chance to finish saying their final good-byes and tying up loose ends. When one is terminally ill, these tasks become a lot harder to manage than when one is suicidal for reasons that would be contraindications of both euthanasia and assisted suicide. Once again, take my word for it. I’ve seen that, too.

Of course, euthanasia clinics don’t exist — whether it’s assisted suicide or consensual euthanasia, both methods of dying with dignity are generally considered illegal (when in actual fact, there are ways to access it, but it is regulated ad nauseum). Pro-lifers are only ever seen picketing on the issue of abortion, and telling anyone who challenges them that they’re baby-murderers (there are plenty of people who are anti-choice who don’t do this). Or they start fights they can’t finish and call people like me “post-natal supremacists” when it’s clear that they aren’t going to persuade us with guilt. Or they refer to us as “pro-abortionists” when they blog about us. Or you meet people who say they are pro-life (but actually aren’t, in that they don’t subscribe to the entire set of dogmatic beliefs that saying “I’m pro-life” typically indicates to any pro-choicer) but they spontaneously get their boxers in a twist when you suggest, after politely enquiring or stating any one of many problematic outcomes of criminalizing abortion, that if they don’t want to make all abortions illegal (thus, they don’t support locking women up in prison for having one), then perhaps they should consider describing their stance as simply being opposed to abortion, against it, or not in favour of it.  These are all fairly inappropriate responses (some wildly inappropriate and simply pushing for escalation) to attempts to engage respectful dialogue. In fact, most people who claim to be pro-life but just don’t know that their political leanings are described as pro-choice, probably don’t even know where the term pro-life comes from (i.e., some social justice activist circles during the Vietnam War).

For the record, I am on the side of bodily autonomy. I am pro-choice with respect to both the issue of abortion and the issue of euthanasia. I may not agree with a given individual’s reasons for accessing abortion or requesting euthanasia, but my opinion — as a random layman who is not in a position to provide anyone else with either of these things — is not being sought. I don’t have to agree with them, because my life isn’t going to change in any way, whether they get what they are seeking or not. I’m not the one seeking an abortion (and as long as I inject testosterone, I won’t ever have to think about that again). I’m not the one requesting a merciful death (maybe I will be at some point in the distant future?) I’m not the one sleeping with someone seeking an abortion. I’m not the one caring for and/or married to and/or a parent of one or more children with someone who is requesting a form of euthanasia. And I’m not pretending that the Body Police are a real authority (like the Stasi of the German Democratic Republic), let alone that I am one of them.

False Dichotomy, False Narrative

Anti-choicers want you and everyone in their movement to believe that anyone who isn’t “pro-life” is somehow a cog in a great big serial murder machine that targets children and the elderly, thereby making you complicit with murder (some anti-choicers even argue that you’re complicit with an act of genocide). This is where the term “pro-life” comes from. It is in rejection of everything they label “pro-death” (at the time of the Vietnam War, “pro-death” also meant war and capital punishment). But this is a false dichotomy. When anti-choicers win what they are fighting for, women start dying by the tens of thousands, due to fatal complications of illegal abortions. And when pro-choicers win what they are fighting for, both doctors who provide abortion and doctors who become known for providing euthanasia or assisted suicide, suddenly start finding themselves targeted for death threats and assassination attempts by anti-choice extremists. Abortion clinics start getting blown up. Abortion clinic staff (including the doctors) find themselves being threatened, assaulted, and/or battered by anti-choice extremists. Not to mention, of course, what some of the very same kinds of people have said to my face and to my friends (e.g., telling us we should have been aborted and don’t deserve to be alive).

And try as they might to renounce all association with violent anti-choice extremists, it’s become plainly apparent to me that the only thing pro-life organizations will do to establish the separation for which they demand recognition is a lot of gum-flapping. Meanwhile, their rhetoric is founded on the principle that women can’t be trusted with autonomy over their own bodies (begging the question of what exactly the fuck they think rape is, let alone why it’s a heinous crime), and should be processed like political prisoners once pregnant, and treated like criminals for any or all complications in the duration of that nine months. But that’s not all, because built into that same foundation is the idea that pro-choice women are all sluts whose misdeeds should be answered with unwanted pregnancy, and by extension, punished for attempting to terminate it by either sending them to prison or to their graves. How exactly one can sustain the belief that women don’t deserve autonomy over their own bodies, and that when women have it they assert it by fucking everything they can fit into every available orifice in their bodies and dealing with the repercussions by having abortions willy-nilly, is beyond me. That’s got to take some serious will power. No wonder they need a support group — what I really mean is their own glorified popularity contest. And yet to also reconcile these misogynist beliefs with the knowledge that rape and incest are actually Things that are both heinous and criminal? Welcome to cognitive dissonance.

Of course, the entire purpose of black-and-white thinking is to paint one’s own morals, ethics, and beliefs as pure while casting out everything else as impure. The anti-choice narrative depends on a black-and-white framework for life support. It is a false narrative relying on the unthinking masses to simply not question where women’s rights to bodily autonomy fit into it (i.e., if women don’t deserve bodily autonomy, why don’t they deserve to be raped too?), where all women’s right to life fits into it (i.e., illegal abortion kills women by the tens of thousands), and why anyone should just blindly accept when a pro-life organization renounces anti-choice extremist behaviour (especially towards women) through words alone. But there’s still more depth beyond these falsehoods. How does one perceive of abortion as a social injustice of global proportions, and not be utterly traumatized by this knowledge alone? How is it that only anti-choice extremists are ever found outside abortion clinics, and not every single person who believes that abortion is equivalent to murder? How is it that any anti-choice individual — extremist or otherwise — ever finds him/herself in bed with someone who is pro-choice? Let alone the countless hours spent debating about how they believe the personhood of the unborn trumps a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, while pretending to be helpless if they should find themselves pleading for their pro-choice partner to not get an abortion. How is this situation even hypothetically possible for someone who is really “pro-life”?

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