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November 18, 2008 / beidson

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice: The Absurdity of Contradictory Claims

John Londregan, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilsonprochoice School of Public and International Affairs, has published an article at Public Discourse on the impossible “position” of being both pro life and pro choice, calling it “absurd.”

Those who see themselves as such, Professor Londregan writes, view the abortion issue in the wrong light, much as many citizens once viewed legalized slavery as a necessary evil.  The fact that so many people are now willing to surrender the legislative and judicial battle is another proof that people are only pro life insofar as they can choose whether or not they want to be, and so they choose to not fight anymore.

I am baffled that such a position is plausible to intelligent moral people.  The truth is that though they claim to be both, they must give preference to only one, and such a position necessarily puts choice on top.  Therefore, people who claim to be both are really only sympathetic to pro life views, and should rightly see themselves as pro abortion-rights.

As I have said before, those who are making the choice to kill are themselves persons who were given the opportunity to live, thus adding pounds of absurdity to an already self-referentially absurd argument.  Who can kill but those who are alive to do the killing?  Libertarian snobbery at its finest.

Some excerpts from the article:

Yet one often hears arguments in favor of abortion. A colleague once asserted that most people are both pro-life and pro-choice. To the extent that he is correct, most people have not thought carefully about abortion. How seriously would we take someone who claimed to be against dumping toxic waste into drinking water, but who opposed legislation to prohibit it? What would we think of a person who thought torture was morally abhorrent, but who supported the “sacred” right of police interrogators to freely choose whether to resort to it? And what of the person opposed to murder, who thought that legislation against it was an undesirable interference in a matter that ought to be left to the consciences of potential killers?


Discussion of abortion tends to assume that the issue is a static one, with society’s attitudes about the sanctity of life remaining unaffected by decisions about how to deal with abortion. This is a flawed assumption. Four decades ago when the then-governor of California Ronald Reagan signed legislation legalizing abortion, he believed, incorrectly, that doctors would be very reluctant to apply the law, and that in most cases they would refuse to perform abortions. Even if his conjecture had been born out, his decision to sign the law was wrong—and to his credit, Ronald Reagan eventually recognized that his signature had been a mistake.

What actually happened was that the law turned abortion into commerce. Far from being a little used option, abortion became a multi-billion dollar industry, with thousands of people depending upon it for their livelihoods. Today, protests in front of abortion clinics are forbidden by the courts on the ground that they impede commerce! Forty years ago it was unthinkable that euthanasia (also known as murder) might be used by doctors instead of treating moribund patients, let alone those with difficult-to-treat diseases whose prospects were poor. Not so today! In an environment in which third-trimester abortion is legal, and in which there is vocal political advocacy, backed up by the courts, for partial-birth abortion, infanticide and euthanasia are no longer universally considered to be beyond the pale. Over a third of a century of legal support for abortion has desensitized public opinion and left people more brutal.


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