Words are never just words. Subtle distinctions can make all the difference when conceptualizing important meanings, especially in the personal and the political realm.
The abortion debate, for one, is a perfect example of how labels carry considerable weight in terms of identifying beliefs or even credibility. Most of us are already familiar with the 'pro-life' versus 'pro-choice' dialogue. As such, both labels actually do a service to each side of the argument, giving both a more positive connotation with regard to their political positions. While one group is said to be against abortion because of a concern for the life of the fetus (hence the 'life' designation), the other group is supportive of a woman's choice (hence the "choice" designation).
Still, there are other words and terms for both sides. 'Anti-choice,' for one, has definitely caught on when describing the anti-abortion movement, while 'anti-life' has not exactly made much headway as an alternative description for pro-choicers. Though some vehement pro-life / anti-choice advocates may embrace the term 'baby killer,' it has not garnered much success in the political sphere either, mainly because it lacks credibility due to the inherent tinge of rage and name-calling.
But choice? Anti-choice? One cannot argue too much with that label. Indeed, pro-lifers aren't exactly allowing of choice when a fetus is concerned. Nevertheless, why would 'anti-choice' be a better description for some pro-lifers than simply 'pro-life'?
The truth is, many people who claim to be pro-life are not actually pro-life in the traditional sense of the term. Instead, they are mostly pro-life, unless the pregnant woman in question has been raped or has fallen victim to a situation that was 'not her fault'.
In this sense, such people believe that it may be okay to absolve a woman of her responsibility for the pregnancy if she has not sexually transgressed on her own accord. Conversely, a woman who becomes pregnant by being actively sexual or deviant from the *respectful* status quo is hypocritically expected to carry a pregnancy to term -- for the *life* of the child.
When a fetus' rights are only relevant based on the way it is conceived in a paradigm where puritanical notions of morality play a larger role, the issue is no longer about life, but about gender equality and sexual deviance. Or more specifically, a woman's right to be sexual without social punishment.
Thanks to feminist movements of yore, women cannot be blatantly punished for promiscuity anymore, nor can we be condemned as moral outcasts for a offering our virginity free from wedlock.
But now, in place of conservative sexual doctrine, some factions of society prefer to work within the confines of political correctness, finding more subtle ways to make a woman pay for her sexual sins. Are these groups in question poised to punish such a woman in the event of an unplanned pregnancy (with little ridicule for the male sperm donor)? The answer: probably. You made this bed, now sleep in it . . . . that'll teach you not to have sex . . . because sex is bad, mmmkay?
Another reason why 'pro-life' may not suit the political position of several purported pro-lifers, rests on the fact that carrying a pregnancy to term may endanger the lives of some expecting mothers. To insist that a gestating woman rush headfirst into a conceivable risk of death only to preserve the life of a fetus is hardly a pro-life argument, but rather a 'pro-fetus' argument. As such, 'pro-life' arguments in this case are only relevant with regard to the developing embryo. Which begs the question: does life no longer matter for the viable woman host of the growing organism?
Moreover, what about quality of life? Is there a provision in the pro-life movement that caters to the quality of life for a newborn and its mother? What if the child would be born with severe deformities that would render life completely miserable? Some pro-choicers might argue that knowingly bringing such a child into existence would be cruel and immoral.
Therein lies the distinction of terms: pro-choicers are not necessarily pro-life or anti-life, which is why 'anti-life' or 'baby killer' has never caught on in respectable circles. In the same vein, those who are pro-abortion are not necessarily pro-choice. A perfect example of this seeming paradox is China's 'one child' policy, for which women are forced to abort excess fetuses (which are oftentimes female) against their will for the purposes of population control, a system that can hardly be considered pro-choice.
On the contrary, legitimate pro-choicers are primarily concerned about personal power, privacy, quality of life, and by extension, life itself. And what's a quality life without reasonable choices to begin with? Pro-choicers care most about supporting autonomy and freedom, enabling the masses to do the best they can within the context of difficult situations, whether that be prioritizing certain lives over other potential lives or safeguarding the rights of people to create their best lives.
Similarly, true-blue pro-lifers oftentimes seem to be the ones who are unfailingly consistent in their adherence to preserving life, and even quality of life, and would most likely have borderline beliefs about fetus rights versus a women's right to choose. The difference however, would not be contingent upon how the child is conceived in a moral or amoral atmosphere. Instead, the choice, as it were, would instead factor in physical dangers to the mother, fetal birth defects and abnormalities, and the duration of gestation before abortion takes place -- otherwise known as the nebulous and mysterious cut-off point for 'when is it actually alive?'
Indeed, if we had a concrete answer to that question, perhaps our opinions would be less divided. Or maybe, they would be more complicated than ever before . . .
Either way you look at it, one thing is certain: the mother is alive. So how can the entire political spectrum, with or without labels, preserve her body, her freedom, and her life when the going gets tough?
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