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In Life Debate, Phony Labels Obscure Moral Failings

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As someone who is pro-life, I really get annoyed at the term "pro-choice" to describe those who support abortion rights. In the vast majority of cases, the 1.2 million women who get an abortion every year have already made conscious choices that resulted in a pregnancy.

They, along with their partners, made a choice to have sex before they were ready to have a child. They also most likely made a choice to throw caution to the wind and forego birth control. Once pregnant, they rejected the option to protect life and go the adoption route.

For most women who have abortions, it is not about having a choice; it is about undoing the result of choices already made -- which is another human life.

Is the motive behind most abortion decisions really any different from the "me-first" attitude that compels some men to abdicate their parental responsibilities and become deadbeat dads?

The term "pro-choice" is a euphemism designed to gloss over the moral implications of abortion, including questions of judgment, responsibility, fairness and the value of human life. A much more accurate label is "pro-abortion rights," which some in the media are thankfully using now.

There is a similarly dishonest labeling problem on the anti-abortion side. While opposition to abortion is certainly consistent with being pro-life, it does not necessarily follow that all abortion opponents are legitimately pro-life.

Some seem moved to oppose abortion because of politics or an image they want to project rather than a genuine sanctity of life ethic. They defend the unborn against abortion in order to claim the pro-life label, but then are quick to abandon their pro-life stance on matters where it may inconvenience political allies or supporters whose actions also harm the unborn.

Nowhere does this ring more true than with politicians on Capitol Hill who want Christian conservatives like me to vote for them.

Take the case of U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). He opposes abortion and staunchly professes to be pro-life, but then makes it his passion to allow greater emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants into our environment -- pollutants that have been indisputably proved to harm the unborn.

Because mercury exposure is known to cause birth defects, developmental problems, neurological damage, and even death, stronger limits on mercury emissions are needed to protect children developing in the womb.

Senator Inhofe recently introduced a resolution to block the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new limits on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants -- limits that reflect the latest medical understanding of levels required to protect the unborn.

His stated priority is to prevent coal-fired power plants, a leading source of mercury emissions, from having to install pollution controls that reduce those emissions. Coal interests argue that installing those controls would be too costly and puts coal at an economic disadvantage compared to cleaner fuels like natural gas. Never mind that more than half of coal-fired generating units already meet the EPA's new mercury standard.

Senator Inhofe has sided with elements in the coal industry that want to avoid taking responsible steps to limit their mercury emissions, even though he knows that those emissions eventually bio-accumulate in the fish we eat. When a pregnant woman eats fish that contain high levels of mercury, the mercury is absorbed into her blood, where it readily passes through the placenta to the unborn child.

More than 40 percent of our nation's lake acreage and over 35 percent of our river mileage are under fish consumption advisories for hazardous mercury levels -- and the number of advisories continues to increase, going from 3,361 in 2008 to 3,710 in 2010.

If someone truly believes in the sanctity of life and protecting unborn children, then that commitment should be absolute. How can Senator Inhofe and others who share his position claim to be pro-life when they peddle policies they know result in harm to the unborn?

They are banking on pro-life voters either not recognizing, or not caring about, this inconsistency.

Hiding behind the "pro-life" label to defend preventable pollution that poisons the unborn is just as wrong and misleading as hiding behind the "pro-choice" label to defend abortion.

The excuses and moral equivocations made to enable the coal industry to avoid its responsibility are just as indefensible as those made by pro-abortion advocates on behalf of women who want to avoid theirs.

In both cases, it ultimately boils down to putting things like wealth, stature, reputation, convenience and politics ahead of the life and health of unborn children.

In both cases, people have turned their backs on life.