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Right-to-Lifers Are Hypocrites -- And Here's Why

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A caveat: I don't include nuns in this formulation, simply because "right-to-life" has come to mean the anti-abortion movement exclusively. Nuns have the ethical and spiritual integrity to be consistent in their belief that all life (as they define it) is sacred. In fact, that consistency is what illuminates the hypocrisy of the anti-choice movement.

Right-to-lifers (unlike many nuns) do not hold candlelight vigils outside prisons when a death row inmate is about to be executed. No buffer zone needs to be established, corrections officials don't have to worry about their personal addresses being posted, or their facilities being bombed. Wardens are not shot by those who insist "Thou Shall Not Kill" is a commandment that must be respected no matter what the circumstances. In fact, these Biblicists are just as informed by the Hammurabi code: "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." They adhere to the notion that the "right" to life can be revoked; it is conditional on one's actions.

This tacit admission that life is not universally deserved is a crucial crack in their stance against abortion. They don't decry our military engaging in "just" war, in the execution of murderers and terrorists. Ironically for the Tea Party libertarians among them, they don't even object to the right of the state to determine whether some citizens should forfeit their lives for some crimes. But they object to the right of a woman to decide for herself whether her fetus, or even a fertilized egg not yet attached to the uterine wall, should be carried to term. In their thinking, fetuses have done nothing to "deserve" their fate.

You can't, on the one hand, claim that all life is sacred, and then remain silent when men and women -- some later determined to be innocent -- are executed. That silence is a concession to the principle that the right to life is conditional. One can see this psychology of "deservedness" in the present humanitarian crisis on the border. The angry anti-immigrant placard-wavers are overwhelmingly rightwing, of the very same ilk that decries abortion. The right-to-lifers ringing abortion clinics have not abandoned their posts to run to the border in defense of real woman and children. For "they" do not "deserve" a chance at life in the United States, free from the violence and deprivation they are fleeing. They are "illegal." They "bring disease" (an absurd charge that has become ubiquitous.) By extension, those yearning masses puff up the inner contention of the flag-waving nationalists that being born here is some sort of accomplishment instead of an accident of birth. As if learning English as a toddler was an extraordinary feat of patriotism: Congratulations, your racism comes without an accent!

If we concede that some life is deserved and some not -- after all, very few liberals cried at the death of Osama Bin Laden -- then we can confront the thorny question of whether some fetuses somehow deserve to live while others do not. I would reframe the issue as whether every child deserves to be wanted, to be welcomed without resentment, to have a mother who doesn't consider her offspring a burden. How many millions have to grow up in poverty, fill our foster care systems, endure sexual, physical and emotional abuse, end up in prison or even on death row for the right-to-lifers to acknowledge that life without sufficient love or resources breeds despair without hope?

Let me state, for those who are prone to confuse "unwanted" with "unplanned," that I fully support the decision of all women who may have conceived accidentally to bring the birth to term -- whether she brings up the child herself or chooses to provide a loving family with an adoptive gift. Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. The irony, of course, is that those who support a woman's right to choose are also the most fervently pro-access-to-contraception while the right-to-lifers are the most hostile to it, as evidenced in the recent Hobby Lobby decision. This has always made no sense. Those who oppose abortion should be the most passionate in making it as rare as possible.

The truth is that it is not the right of the fetus to life that really drives them. It is their belief that woman who have sex for pleasure should bear the "consequences" of their decision. The hostility is tangible -- I have the hate-tweets to prove it. For men, not so much. Hobby Lobby had no objection to reimbursing Viagra and Cialis, made no stipulation that it be made available for married men only. The sole purpose of these two drugs is to facilitate sexual pleasure in the male. For those men who wish to procreate, an additional benefit is the ejaculation only an erection allows. I have heard of no right-to-life organization offering to pay for paternity suits to force men to bear the consequences of not using contraception. Practically speaking, a man who doesn't want to take responsibility for a child he has sired rarely has to.

Many of course, do the "right" thing. And therein, I suspect, lies the true source of the hostility toward woman who wish to have sex without risking having a baby. Shotgun weddings are practically an institution in the states where the fever against reproductive rights runs hottest. How many unhappy marriages have resulted from a hormonal impulse between teenagers? How many unions of obligation have turned into nightmares of incompatibility, ending in divorce, custody battles or worse? How many husbands and wives caught for life in unplanned parenthood would do it all again if they could relieve the moment they chose passion over purity?

They aren't pro-life, they are pro-punishment. Murderers must be executed, the undocumented must be deported, and women who dare to control their destiny as they themselves did not cannot be allowed to get away with it.