There’s a lot of discussion underway about the legalities of abortion and women’s right to choose, of which I am a firm supporter. I believe strongly that everyone has the right to make decisions about their own bodies and health, as enshrined in the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization—and as we should all expect as autonomous persons whose bodies are just as much ours as our minds.
But it’s got me thinking a lot about the expression “pro-life.” And I realized – I’m “pro-life.” But not that kind of pro-life…
I’m “pro-life” because I’m sympathetic to women who are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, and who are sometimes faced with unthinkable decisions following such unimaginable traumas. I’m “pro-life” because I believe rapists and abusers deserve more punitive sentencing, period.
I’m “pro-life” because I believe that the life of a living, breathing, walking woman is deserving of greater consideration and care than a fetus that has yet to develop a prefrontal cortex, or have any semblance of awareness (of self or otherwise); or one that has yet to display the neuronal complexity of a shrimp.
I’m “pro-life” because people with uteruses are not machines or hosts; indeed, most apparently, they are autonomous persons and human beings like the rest of us, and it seems a gross dehumanization to deprive any autonomous person of the right to make decisions about their own health.
I’m also “pro-life” because I believe strongly in a healthy welfare state in which the poor and otherwise disadvantaged are cared for; and no person, child or adult, goes hungry or is forced to sleep on the streets. I’m “pro-life” because when I hear that a group of people is subjected to hate or marginalization, I feel their pain, and I am enraged.
I’m also “pro-life” because I believe adamantly in a robust mental healthcare sector, and in the importance of mental health services to people’s ability to live prosperous and fulfilling lives; that the pursuit of happiness is a joke while so many of us suffer, or worse, end our own lives because of the suffering.
I’m also “pro-life” because I believe that any rich, developed society should be sympathetic and compassionate to those of less fortunate places and circumstances; that we should welcome refugees with open arms; and that those seeking asylum due to the violations of their governments or fellow citizens should be offered comfort and refuge—not locked in cages.
I’m “pro-life” because I recognize and acknowledge that climate change is the greatest threat to our existence as a species; that all of our lives are at risk, including the lives of those yet to be born, whose futures are disconcerting at best; and that the single most effective way to improve the health of our species is to fight climate change and mitigate its effects.
I’m so “pro-life” that I envision a world where no life, human or otherwise, is deprived of the right to live freely and pursue happiness and purpose in their own right; where no animal is enslaved or locked in a cage, or used for purposes of productivity, or raised simply to be butchered; where trees are valued as much as buildings and monuments; and where people consider their impact on the living world around them, and on each other. That’s how “pro-life” I am.
So let’s get something straight. “Pro-life,” as it is used by anti-abortionists, is a misnomer. Coincidentally (or not), people who use the phrase “pro-life” to describe their motives care little about the women in question, and further less about the lives of refugees, for example, or the poor. They conveniently express no sympathy for others who are suffering, at least not with the same degree of passion they have for clumps of cells or brainless fetuses. They have yet to collectively express any concern for the environment, frequently engaging in outright climate change denialism. And in the United States specifically, the people who call themselves “pro-life” are the same people who support children being locked in cages and separated from their parents; and they’re the same people who choose their rights to gun ownership over the rights of children to live safely—or live at all. It is not possible to have this conversation while overlooking the fact that “pro-life” rhetoric is almost exclusively tied to conservative politics. The hypocrisy is too much. It’s overwhelming.
If you think that limiting or removing the autonomy of another person is one of your greatest missions in life, yet you are simultaneously able to ignore the true abuses and violations of this thing we call life, you are mistaken—you are not “pro-life” at all.