What It Should Mean to be “Pro-Life”

Since when did being “pro-life” become synonymous with being prudish and anti-woman? Why does being “pro-choice” make you anti-family?

When did the dehumanizing ad-tactics of the Mad Men-esque marketing world take its attack labels away from business and onto the political battlefield of Values vs. Rationality? Better yet, when did the two concepts become mutually exclusive in the minds of the American people?

It seems to me that the labels – self-made or media-given – that we use to identify these groups have done little to bring about positive change. And instead, have done more to damage any chance we have have at helping the people who are really in question: The Next Generation.

What’s in a name?

These labels, “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” have become so emotionally-charged that it seems near impossible for two people from different sides to even hold a normal conversation. Pro-lifers tend to be seen as “antiquated” or “anti-women.” The label itself pushes aside the proclaimed cause of protecting fetal life, and instead hearkens to the mind thoughts of backward-thinking prudes.

Alternately, pro-choicers are often tagged as “baby-killers” and “heartless.” They are seen as irrational progressives, defending irresponsible women who care more about their social lives than about their potential children. But is either label association really fair?

Think about it. According to Operation Rescue, “each year, about 2% of women aged 15-44 have an abortion,” over half of which are in their twenties. The main reasons? Because they don’t have the time, don’t have the money, don’t have the emotional resources.

More than one-third of the women getting abortions are African American, and another quarter are Hispanic. These are women who are already marginalized by society, statistically more likely to hold lower-end jobs and with a much smaller chance than whites of raising their standards of living even in one generation  When 30% of abortions are obtained by women who make less than $15,000, is it really fair to say their reasons are irresponsible?

The case could made in equal measure that their actions are actually rather responsible. And the goals of both sides seem similar: promoting the well-being of valued human lives.

The Freakonomics Debate

In 2001, economists John Donohue and Steven Levitt published a theory that shook the economics and political science fields to their cores. Their argument looked at a correlation between the legalization of abortion and the sharp decrease in crime in the 1990s, claiming that legalizing abortion reduced crime rates.

The main theory? Fewer unwanted kids = fewer at-risk teens causing trouble.

It seems simple, right? Let’s take a look again at the complaints of women having abortions: they don’t have the time, don’t have the money, don’t have the emotional resources. These reasons line up pretty well with the reasons why kids grow up in homes where they feel unwanted or where they feel unable to escape their lot in life. Statistically, these are the same kids relegated to crime-ridden, low-income neighborhoods.

And when you think about how difficult it is for children from low-income families to raise their standard of living, it makes sense that these are the same kids who end up committing crimes. According to Levitt and Donohue, that’s exactly what the numbers show in reverse: fewer unwanted kids in these neighborhoods means lower crime rates overall.

So what does that have to do with being pro-life?

So what exactly does it mean to be “pro-life“?

If you ask most Americans, being “pro-life” means being anti-abortion. But what about the meaning of the word itself?

Pro may mean “to be in favor of” or “to promote.” And life is not just the process of birth itself, but the very active and (hopefully) lengthy process of living.

Why does being “pro-life” stop at birth?

The main argument I hear from pro-lifers, and especially from those who are pro-life for religious reasons, is that every child deserves the chance at living.


Ads like this one are meant to make us think about the lost opportunity at life. The implication is that when people are aborted, we miss out on what they could have been. But this misses the mark on what it means to support our children, our future generations.

If we really want to see the amazing things our potential children can do, shouldn’t we be supporting them for much longer than their birth?

What it should  mean to be pro-life

If you start asking the question “What if Steve Jobs had been aborted?” you can’t stop there.

What if Steve Jobs hadn’t been born to a white family? What if Steve Jobs had been female? What if Steve Jobs had grown up dirt-poor? What if he’d stayed in the broken home of his biological parents? Or if his adoptive parents Paul, a mechanic, and Clara, an accountant, had been living in government housing? Or if they’d been abusive?

More importantly, what if Steve Jobs hadn’t received a proper education? My guess is there would be no Apple Computers, just the same as if he hadn’t been born at all.

To say that being “pro-life” (as the label stands today) means giving every child a chance to be born because every child deserves the opportunity of life is entirely missing the mark on what it means for children to receive a real opportunity.

Face it: Roe vs. Wade is here, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So instead of focusing on uteri, or arguing the exact date a fetus becomes a child, maybe we should be focusing on more real, tangible ways of preserving the next generation: Education.

If you ask me, both pro-lifers and pro-choicers should be able to get behind the idea of equal and adequate education for all children – regardless of class, race, gender, lifestyle, geography, etc. And that starts with funding.

You want to claim that abortions are murdering the potential for our children to do great things? So is neglecting their education.

You want to claim that women are irresponsible for getting abortions during times when they lack the financial and emotional resources to properly care for their children? We as a nation are irresponsible for allowing those conditions to persist.

You want a real future for the next generation? That requires equal opportunities for our children through fully, adequately, and equally funded education across the country.


Published by alexandracpauley

Writer, Political Scientist, Human living & thriving with RA & CPTSD

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