Pro-life/pro-choice debate: A false dichotomy?

Are you pro-life or pro-choice? It’s a question that although we aren’t often asked, we can immediately answer.  Or can we? Take an individual who thinks it’s the right of the mother to make the choice, but still feels that abortion is an immoral thing to do.  How about an individual who thinks that abortion is the killing of a child, but thinks that in certain circumstances, the mother is reasonable in making the choice to do so.  These people, can’t strongly assert themselves as pro-choice, or pro-life.  However, the nature of the debate has forced them into one of these categories, that they do not feel fully comfortable in, leaving the most extreme individuals to fight the battle.  Indeed, this pro-life, pro-choice debate is a false-dichotomy,   asserting the assumption that there are only two positions.  However, there is lot of grey in this debate.  I propose four categories to help provide a deeper and more interesting understanding and help facilitate debates.

Ultimately, the debate rests on the importance people put on women’s body rights and the right of the fetus.  Typically, individuals who are pro-life, feel the rights of the fetus to supersede the rights of the woman.  Individuals who are pro-choice feel the opposite.  These four categories, which by no means encompasses the whole abortion debate, helps to better address it.

Anti-Abortion:  Individuals who are anti-abortion, see abortion as no different than the murder of a healthy one year old.   Although they may have varying views on a women’s body rights, there is virtually nothing that condones the murder of an innocent child (perhaps with the exception of a guaranteed loss of life of both child and mother).  Because of this, people in this category will not be able to discuss with people of the other categories.  There is no grey here. Murder of an innocent child is wrong, even regardless of whether the mother was raped.

Pro-life.  These individuals are also anti-abortion.  They see abortion also as the murder of a life form but do not have the same moral conviction.  While they see it as inherently wrong, they are willing to make an exception in the most serious of cases.   They probably won’t see the parents as being too young or ill prepared as a suitable excuse, but danger to the mother, rape, or severe genetic disability to the baby may condone it.

Pro-Choice.  These individuals believe it is the right of the mother to make the choice.  They will have differing views on what the fetus is or how moral it is to have an abortion (although rarely will they have as strong views as even those who are pro-life).   While they may not like the idea of an abortion, especially for more frivolous reasons (e.g. I don’t want another child) and be more a proponent of adoption, they ultimately believe in an individual’s right to make the choice regardless of circumstance.

Pro-living.  These individuals do not see the fetus as a living thing with any rights.  Subsequently, the living always take priority over the unborn.  Pro-living individuals not only feel that it is the woman’s right to choose, but that in certain circumstances, such as the mother (parents) are not prepared to have the child, it is the more moral decision to have an abortion.   This does not necessarily mean that they are pro-abortions or will campaign for people to have abortions, knowing that abortions are not pleasant experiences for anyone, but rather they recognize there are situations where it is the utilitarian approach, and may advocate for it in those situations.

Once again, although these categories are not exhaustive, they do increase the scope the debate and perhaps allow for better understanding.   I would be interested in anyone reading this to let me know if they don’t feel they fit into one of these categories, so that I can either, revise them or add to them.

Lastly, one may point out that another point of interest in the debate is when the fetus becomes life.  Indeed, this is an important category, but moderates the above 4 stances.  For example, an anti-abortion person who believes it is only a life after 3 months, may likely be pro-living up until that point.   Another issue could be where the importance of the father’s decision, a topic that isn’t covered often.  Ultimately,  the abortion debate is clearly not as simple as pro-choice, pro-life and pretending it is, doesn’t help anyone.


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