Copyright 1996 David C. Reardon. Excerpted with permission for from Making Abortion
Rare, published by Acorn Books, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791-7348
for internet posting exclusively at www.afterabortion.org. All Rights Reserved.
Order Making Abortion Rare Today
Before and after taking office, President Clinton repeatedly expressed
the goal that induced abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare." The insipid
hypocrisy of this slogan was immediately attacked by pro-lifers. Legal
abortion is clearly not safe, especially for the unborn child, and with
over 1.6 million abortions per year, in the U.S. alone, it is not rare
either. Furthermore, President Clinton's political agenda called for increasing
federal funding of abortions, increasing the number of abortion providers
in non-urban areas, increasing pro-abortion counseling at school based
clinics, providing abortions at military hospitals, renewing funding for
forced abortions in China, and promoting the legalization of abortion world
wide. With all this activity designed to increase the number of abortions
here and abroad, critics rightly wondered exactly how and where President
Clinton intended to contribute to the goal of making abortion rare.
Clearly, Clinton's pledge to make "abortion safe, legal, and rare" had
little substance, but we must recognize that it has a profound emotional
appeal to the vast majority of Americans. This is exactly why Clinton's
pollsters and speech writers developed this line. They know, and we must
always remember, that the middle majority of Americans are deeply disturbed
by abortion. They would prefer that it never had to happen at all, and
would sincerely like this "ugly business" to be resorted to very rarely.
On the other hand, when it does happen, they want it to be safe. And safety,
they have been assured, can be guaranteed by keeping it legal.
The Source of Ambivalence
Abortion is universally disliked because everyone knows, on one level
or another, that it involves the destruction of a human life. The knowledge
that the human fetus, the human embryo, or even the human zygote, is in
fact a human being is as undeniable as the answer to the child's
question: "Where do babies come from?" While a child might be temporarily
diverted from the answer to this question, no child's curiosity is completely
satisfied until the full truth is revealed. Life begins at conception.
Babies are created by the uniting (hopefully in an act of love) of a man
and woman, the sharing of the substance of two selves becoming one in the
flesh -- both symbolically, in the sexual act, and most truly, in the conception
of a new life. Every adult remembers learning this truth, and everyone's
biology bears witness to it. And it is this truth, no matter how much one
tries to ignore it, forget it, or bury it beneath slogans or philosophical
quibbles--it is this truth, that makes everyone uneasy with abortion.
As I have previously shown at length, even abortionists and their staffs
are filled with a great anxiety over abortion.(1)
They are filled with doubts and troubled by their weak grip on a subjective
morality which demands a constant shifting to accommodate the "needs" of
others. In summarizing her extensive interviews with abortionists, psychologist
Magda Denes reports that "There wasn't a doctor who at one time or another
in the questioning did not say, 'This is murder.'"(2)
Abortionists enjoy the easy wealth of their trade, but they feel like
hired executioners. This feeling that they are being exploited often
creates calloused or resentful feelings toward the very women they are
trying to help. They are especially disturbed by the fact that over 45%
of their patients are "abusing the privilege" by coming back for second,
third, or fourth abortions. With the exception of those who care only about
profit, most clinic personnel view repeat abortions as a sign of failure.
Somehow they failed in their birth control counseling to help the woman
avoid another abortion.
Indeed, in their nearly maniacal insistence that patients should take
better "precautions" in the future, abortion counselors reveal a deep seated
uneasiness about abortion. After all, if abortion has no moral content,
and if it is as safe as claimed, why should it not be used as an alternative
for birth control? But only the most radical abortion advocates are even
remotely comfortable with such a suggestion. Instead, most abortion defenders,
though they would seldom say it this way, see abortion as an "evil necessity,"
an ugly thing which must be accepted as a backup for contraceptive failure,
including contraceptive negligence. Even Kate Michelman, president of the
National Abortion Rights Action League admitted to a reporter: "We think
abortion is a bad thing. No woman wants to have an abortion."(3)
Because this moral ambivalence about abortion is so universal, most
pro-abortionists are quite sincere in their demand for more research to
develop a "perfect" contraceptive. Even population control zealots, such
as the top level officials at Planned Parenthood, who may be willing to
encourage abortion to achieve their social engineering goals, would much
prefer a less gruesome way to their end, such as forced sterilization.
The bottom line: no one, not even the abortion industry, is truly comfortable
with the dismembering of human fetuses. Abortion twinges every conscience.
The Mixed Opinions of the Middle Majority
Since even those who are directly involved in the abortion industry
experience pangs of conscience about abortion, it is easy to imagine why
the general public is also deeply disturbed by the abortion question.
Polls have repeatedly shown that over 70 percent of Americans admit
believing that abortion is immoral.(4) But
of those who believe it is immoral, 40 to 50 percent would still allow
it under special circumstances or simply because they do not want to "impose
their morality" on others, especially loved ones.
What should we make of this apparent inconsistency between basic moral
beliefs and attitudes toward public policy? In their detailed 1990 Gallup
poll of over 2000 adults, James Davison Hunter and Carl Bowman analyzed
six variables regarding abortion attitudes. They found that relatively
few people are consistently pro-choice (16 percent) or consistently pro-life
(33 percent). The rest, who make up the middle majority, fall into four
statistically significant clusters. Excluding the consistently pro-choice
and the consistently pro-life, 16 percent of the general population can
be categorized as "personally opposed pro-choice," 14 percent as "reticently
pro-choice," 28 percent as "conveniently pro-life," and 38 percent as "secretly
The definitions for these four subgroups are very revealing. Those who
are "secretly pro-life," who make up 19 percent of the general population,
believe the right to life outweighs the right to choose from the moment
of conception but reject calling it "murder." They are willing to accept
abortion only in the "hard cases" (rape or incest, or serious fetal malformation)
and would consider abortion for themselves only under such extreme circumstances.
They tend to be pro-life in philosophy, but they view themselves as neutral
or moderately pro-choice.
Those who are "conveniently pro-life," 14% of the general population,
are also opposed to abortion on moral grounds, and even more likely than
the "secretly pro-life" to describe it in terms of murder. But when asked
about specific circumstances in which it would be acceptable, the "conveniently
pro-life" are more likely to approve of abortion in more cases than other
pro-life respondents, and are more likely to express a willingness to consider
abortion for themselves, especially under the "more trying" circumstances.
The "reticently pro-choice" have views about women's rights which strongly
favor the pro-choice position, and they are likely to see personhood as
attaching to the moment of viability. But they are also likely to believe
that abortion involves the taking of a human life, though they would not
call this act murder. This deep moral unease with abortion makes them most
likely to call themselves neutral or only moderately pro-choice because
they are "reticent in conceding the moral acceptability of abortion to
other people.... They are pro-choice by default, rather than by conviction."
Finally, there are those who are "personally opposed pro-choice." This
group matches the philosophical profile of the consistently pro-choice,
believing the fetus does not become a person until viable and that the
woman's rights must prevail until viability. They also support the view
that abortion is morally acceptable for others, in many if not most circumstances.
But have an "emphatic unwillingness to consider abortion for themselves--even,
for example, if their baby were shown to have serious genetic problems."
In short, they are "pro-choice in philosophy but pro-life in practice."(6)
The Role of Feelings for the Middle Majority
To better understand why people answered the poll's questions in the
way they do, and how people explain their apparent inconsistencies, Hunter
followed up his survey with detailed interviews. In these interviews Hunter
found that the idea of "choice" was a powerful magnet for those who were
otherwise confused and ambivalent about abortion. "Choice" is a safe harbor
for those who simply want to escape the storm. When in doubt, leave the
decision open for someone else to decide, in this case, they presume, the
pregnant woman. "The labels, it would seem, express sentiment, not a conviction
or even a commitment."(7)
Hunter also found that many were unable to articulate any reasoned basis
for their beliefs and some even become hostile when pressed to do so, for
as one man put it "I know how I feel, and my feelings are valid. Look,
these feelings are based on experiences that are mine alone, and you can't
tell me they are wrong. Other people have other experiences and will feel
differently about things."(8) This desire
to "feel comfortable" about one's opinion leads many of those who form
the middle majority to deliberately refuse to think about the unborn, or
to focus on non-judgmentalism.(9) It is
their desire to be and to perceive themselves as compassionate, and this
is expressed through feelings of empathy "for both the woman and the fetus
in varying intensity."(10)
How this empathy is divided often depends on personal experiences or
the experiences of loved ones. Knowing someone who has had an abortion
tends to increase one's hesitancy to take a "judgmental" pro-life stand.
It is more comfortable to take refuge in popular relativism: "I would say
my views are true for me, but I can't put that on someone else. I just
can't force my truths on other people."(11)
This same attitude is reflected in a widespread hostility toward what is
seen as government intrusion into private decisions. Only individuals can
decide what is right or wrong, many would say, not the government, because
it is individuals who must live with their decisions.(12)
Because the middle majority is troubled by such deep feelings of ambivalence
about abortion, they feel it is prudent to cling to the safe feelings of
compassion and non-judgmentalism. They know with a certainty that these
attributes are good ones, so how can they be wrong if they simply remain
compassionate and nonjudgmental?
Yet, in the public debate over abortion, nonjudgmental compassion is
most closely identified with the pro-choice position. So it is this desire
to be compassionate which explains the pull toward identifying oneself
as pro-choice, a tendency which is exacerbated by the common portrayal
of pro-lifers as accusing, judgmental, and narrow-minded. Pro-abortionists
have been very skilled in using pro-choice rhetoric to appeal to this desire
to see oneself as compassionate. Thus, according to Hunter and Bowman's
poll, while only 1 percent of the moderately pro-choice were drifting toward
the pro-life position, fully 12 percent of the middle majority who describe
themselves as moderately position said they were drifting closer to the
In summary, these findings show that the vast majority of Americans
question the morality of abortion, and the personal ideals of most are
more consistent with the pro-life position. Yet at the same time, the middle
majority believes it is unfair to judge others, especially when you do
not know their personal history. In other words, they have a moral conviction
that abortion is wrong, but an offsetting moral conviction that it is wrong
to judge others. Underlying these is a third component, the fear that:
"Maybe someday I might need an abortion, and so I shouldn't completely
rule it out, nor would I want others to judge me."
Different Groups, Different Strategies
It is vitally important that the pro-life movement should understand
the feelings of the middle majority so that we can better discern how to
develop a strategy which is in alignment with their mixed feelings.
The key to understanding is actually very simple: The middle majority
is paralyzed by competing feelings of compassion for both the unborn
and for women. They are honestly discomforted by the killing of unborn
babies. It nags at their conscience. Yet this nagging is offset by their
concerns for the welfare of women. They are sympathetic to the disruptive
burdens of parenthood, and they are afraid of the dangerous "back alley"
abortions. In effect, the middle majority's inability to reconcile these
conflicting compassions has ended in uneasy acceptance of the status quo.
While this conflict of competing sympathies is generally true for all
those in the middle majority, there are also specific subgroups which should
First, we must recognize that within this middle majority are twenty
to forty million people who carry about an unresolved guilt of actually
having participated in an abortion. This group of post-aborted women and
men can be divided into two classes, the "defenders" and the "concealers."
The "defenders" include those who boldly speak out in support of legalized
abortion as a means of defending their own actions. Since they believe
that they are generally good and moral people, they are forced to conclude
that abortion can be necessary for good and moral reasons, such as in their
own circumstances. Some may even use discussions of their own abortions
as a way of demanding from friends and associates an admission that good
and moral people, "like me," may have legitimate reasons for choosing abortion.
Less confident "defenders" generally conceal their own abortions. Instead,
they focus on the political arguments for freedom of choice as a means
of soliciting the nods of assent and agreement from others which they can
then intepret as ratification of own choices to abort.
"Concealers," on the other hand, become uncomfortable with any conversation
which touches on abortion. These are the women and men who are more consciously
aware of the unresolved grief they are experiencing over their own abortions.
Because they do not know how to deal with their feelings of grief, they
simply wish the abortion issue would go away. They seek the passive stillness
of silence. For them, silence, like denial and repression, is a coping
mechanism. It is a silence imposed upon them not only by shame, but also
by the fear--fear that if they even begin to talk about their own experience,
the flood of their tears will overwhelm them. Compared to "defenders" who
boldly defend their own basic moral goodness, "concealers" are painfully
aware of their moral failings. While the former would claim to have high
self-esteem, the latter would not.
Curiously, because of their experiences "concealers" tend to become
more pro-life in their personal beliefs, determined never to be involved
in an abortion again. On the other hand, they are also likely to become
more pro-choice in their political beliefs, but not with the bold fervor
of "defenders." Instead, their support of "choice" is rooted in a deeply
humbled attitude of non-judgmentalism. Abortion may not be a good choice,
they know from their own experience, but how can they, who have done the
same and worse, condemn the same choices of others? To do so would make
them vile hypocrites. And perhaps, they graciously hope, others will fare
better then they have.
The emotional conflicts of "defenders" and "concealers" can only be
resolved through post-abortion healing, which is discussed further in Chapter
Ten. For the purpose of the present discussion, however, it is important
to recognize the importance of post-abortion healing to the conversion
of this segment of the middle majority. Until "concealers" are offered
the promise of compassion and the hope to be freed from shame, silence
and support of "choice" is their only option. Until they are shown how
to condemn abortion without condemning those who have had abortions, they
will remain incapable of being anti-abortion without also feeling like
hypocrites. Similarly, until "defenders" are shown how to reconcile their
view of themselves as good and moral people with a condemnation of abortion,
they will feel driven by the need to defend abortion. In this sense, by
helping "defenders" to see how people are being deceived and exploited
by abortion we are allowing them the crutch of being a "victim" on their
way to assuming full responsibility for their actions.
The second important group within the middle majority is related to
the first, often literally. This group is composed of the tens of millions
who fear that if they condemn abortion they are implicitly condemning their
wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends who have had abortions.
These kind-hearted people are simply unwilling to condemn their loved ones.
Instead, they feel obliged to stand on the side of "choice" out of respect
for their loved ones. Even while most of these people would admit that
abortion is a "terrible thing," they must also insist that sometimes it
is the only thing a woman can do, and we shouldn't judge her. Without access
to abortion, they believe, their loved one's lives may have been ruined.
To convert this group we need to show them how abortion has not helped
their loved ones, but has instead hurt them. They need to be educated about
all of the psychosocial problems associated with abortion, such as substance
abuse, increased divorce rates, and increased difficulty maintaining jobs.
Once they become aware of these associations, they will begin to recognize
for themselves how their loved ones have actually had their lives ruined
by their abortions, even if the women themselves continue to exist in a
stage of denial. In addition, as we promote post-abortion healing, familial
pressures will be reversed. Those who are healed will begin to speak out
to repudiate abortion, and their repudiation will in turn motivate their
loved ones to join them in condemning abortion. Those who were once silent
out of respect for their loved ones will then be emboldened to speak in
support of their loved ones.
The third group in the middle majority which we should notice is made
up of moral relativists. These people no longer believe in an absolute
moral law, and their subjective philosophy forbids them from judging the
moral lives of others. They are conditioned by the secular media which
defends its violent and pornographic programs with holier-than-thou appeals
for a united world built upon nonjudgmental tolerance. Relativism is also
popular because it can be defended by common wisdom and even biblical passages.
"People in glass houses... judge not lest you be judged...let he who is
without sin throw the first stone...," these are the mantras of a moral
relativism which discourages moral reflection. This subjective relativism
is especially prevalent among those who feel a sense of guilt about their
own conduct for in relativism they have a shield for denying others the
right to judge what they have done.
While Christians must recognize that relativism is a grave problem,
it does not need to be solved before we solve the abortion issue. Rather
than getting bogged down in arguments with moral agnostics, we can simply
capitalize on their refusal to judge. To do so we need simply to ask the
relativists: Who are we to say that post-aborted women have not suffered?
Who are we to say they should not be allowed compensation for their pain?
If we are to be fair and compassionate, shouldn't they be allowed their
day in court?
Which brings us to a fourth subset of the middle majority. These are
the people who have partaken of the sexual freedom of our age while continuing
to view themselves as religious persons. Typical of this subgroup are young
people seeking to straddle the gap between their religious upbringing and
their attraction to pre-marital sex. While they have already broken one
religious rule, in the name of love, they would like to think that they
would never break the rule regarding death. Abortion, they sincerely believe,
would be going too far. They are fairly comfortable with this self-image.
It allows them to be both modern and righteous, saying, "I would never
have an abortion, but I would never judge anyone else's decision." Yet
on a barely conscious level, they realize that they too might someday be
"forced" into the "evil necessity" of abortion. Thus, for some the refusal
to formally declare abortion wrong in all cases has less to do with not
judging others than in protecting their own option to change their minds.
For this group, we must bolster their resolve to never have an abortion
themselves by increasing their awareness of how abortion causes such great
physical, psychological, and spiritual injuries. We must help them to truly
mean the claim: I would never have an abortion.
Fifth, there are the ambivalent feminists. Typical of this group is
the student of feminist theology who argued that abortion in a perfect
world would be wrong, but in the real world its a power issue; women need
this power over their bodies to control their lives. This view that abortion
would be wrong in a "perfect world" is an acknowledgement that something
is wrong with the killing of unborn children. But in the feminists' "real
world," the right of a woman "to control her own body" has become the overarching
symbol of their pursuit for bodily and social independence. Without this
freedom, they believe, women would be enslaved by their biology.
Because the "freedom to choose" has become the first principle for their
reasoning, this group of ambivalent feminists insists that the moral issues
of abortion should be considered by each person only after the right to
choose abortion has been firmly established. Many of these ambivalent feminists
may already believe abortion would never be right for them, personally.
But their own moral doubts are set aside because what they are chiefly
concerned about is defending a symbol, the right to choose. They
believe it is fine, perhaps even noble, for a woman to choose against abortion
for moral reasons. It is her choice. But even if all abortions could be
condemned as immoral, they argue, an emancipated woman must still be free
to make her own choice. What matters to these feminists, is only that women
have the right to choose, for good or ill.
In this sense, ambivalent feminists are truly pro-choice, and not pro-abortion.
Unlike population controllers and abortion profiteers, this subset of feminists
has no vested interest in encouraging abortion.(14)
For the purpose of developing a pro-woman/pro-life strategy, however,
what is important to remember is that feminists are not a monolithic crowd.
Some are pro-abortion. Some are even pro-life. But the vast majority are
ambivalent about abortion's morality, just like everyone else, and are
only using the issue of "choice" to avoid considering the moral issues.
These feminists are potential allies if we can show them that our pro-woman/pro-life
initiatives truly do expand the rights, choices, and opportunities of women
in a way which frees them from being forced into unwanted abortions.
Building Common Ground on a Shared Concern
Unless the pro-life movement can find a way to unravel the conflicted
hearts of the middle majority, we will never be successful in our goal
to create a pro-life society. Victory, then, requires a radical restructuring
of our strategy. It is not enough to just identify, motivate, and coordinate
the activity of pro-life Christians who share our values. Instead, we must
find ways, without compromising our own values, to show the middle majority
that our goals are compatible with theirs.
To begin, we must always remember that the two chief concerns of the
middle majority are: 1) the desire not to interfere with the autonomy of
women; and 2) the desire not to condemn those women who have already had
abortions. Their concerns for the unborn, which are real, though attenuated,
are constrained by these concerns for women.
This insight has a direct impact on how we must package every pro-life
message. Specifically, we must recognize that the middle majority will
only open their hearts to concern for the unborn after the concerns
of women have been addressed.
An example in support of this rule is found in the lecturing experience
of Dr. Jack Willke, president of Life Issues and former president of the
National Right to Life Committee. Dr. Willke reports that over the years
he and his wife Barbara have faced increasing levels of hostility during
their fetal development presentations at college campuses. Their message
was simply not penetrating the walls of defensive anger which they faced.
But in the last two years they have begun preceding their talks with a
five minute talk expressing their concern, understanding, and compassion
for women who have been through abortions, many of whom felt they had no
other choice. Following the fetal development information, they conclude
with additional information about post-abortion syndrome and post-abortion
In essence, the Willkes have sandwiched fetal development between two
layers of pro-woman compassion. According to Dr. Willke: "The result has
been almost dramatic... The anger and combativeness are gone. The questions
are civil. We are listened to once again. The professors are surprised.
They had no idea that we were compassionate to women. Now they must take
a new and serious look at this issue."
We all know that pro-lifers have always shown compassion for women.
This is most evident at our crisis pregnancy centers and in our post-abortion
healing ministries. But this compassion has often been hidden behind the
scenes in public debates which have been reduced to battles over women's
rights versus the rights of the unborn. The solution to this bad publicity
is to always--ALWAYS--place our arguments for the unborn in the
middle of a pro-woman sandwich. Our compassion for the women must be voiced
both first and last in all our arguments, and in a manner which shows that
our concern for women is a primary and integral part of our opposition
Aligning the Middle Majority's Opinions With Effective Action
Accepting the fact that the middle majority's concerns are primarily
focused on the woman is a prerequisite to developing a successful pro-woman/pro-life
strategy. Rather than trying to reduce public sympathy for women, we want
to increase it and align it with our own outrage at how women are being
victimized. By increasing public empathy for the suffering of women who
have had abortions, by emphasizing the fact that women are being exploited
by the abortion industry and coerced by others into unwanted abortions,
and by focusing on expanding the legal rights of women to seek redress,
we are aligning our interests with those of the middle majority in a way
which advances our political agenda.
This work is already half done. The overwhelming public support for
reforms which focus on women's rights is demonstrated by polls which show
that 86 percent of the public favor improved informed consent requirements,
84 percent favor state mandated health and safety standards for regulating
abortion clinics, and 70 percent favor large fines against physicians who
perform illegal abortions.(15) Even among
those who describe themselves as "strongly prochoice," 78 percent favor
requirements for informing women about alternatives and fetal development
prior to abortion and 89 percent support better safety regulations on clinics.(16)
The general public is quite receptive to expanding women's rights in
ways which would reduce abortion or make it safer. They are also sensitive
to the issue of coerced abortions, even though this issue has hardly been
raised in the public debate. In short, because they have empathy for both
women and the unborn, the middle majority is quite content with regulations
which might be burdensome for abortion provider (for whom no one has any
sympathy), as long as these requirements would not limit the rights of
women. Furthermore, if the debate for such reforms is articulated in a
voice of non-judgmental concern for women, the middle majority's defensiveness
will completely dissipate.
In teaching the middle majority about the necessity of protecting women
from being victimized by unwanted or dangerous abortions, one of the great
aids that we have is that they themselves are conflicted over the morality
of abortion. This makes them very receptive to the insight that the women
who are having abortions are just like them: conflicted over the morality
of abortion. Well over seventy percent of these women believe that abortion
is wrong, that it is the taking of a human life, but they are choosing
against their conscience because they feel they have no other choice.
It is precisely because they believe one way, and have acted another, that
they suffer a sense of self-betrayal, loss of self-esteem, and so many
post-abortion psychological problems. In my experience, when this sequence
of emotions and events is laid out for members of the middle majority,
they immediately form a bond of empathy with the women who suffer post-abortion
trauma. Their own ambivalence over abortion fires their imagination and
sympathy. This empathy for post-aborted women will not be enough, at least
at first, to convince the middle majority to support a complete ban on
abortion, but it is enough to win their support for the types of pro-woman/pro-life
legislation which we are advancing herein, which will, in the end, be even
more effective than a complete ban.
Our pro-woman/pro-life strategy is also effective at capturing the middle
majority's inability, or unwillingness, to come to a definitive position
on abortion. By focusing on expanding women's right to redress, we are
in essence saying: "Let the market decide." If abortion is already safe,
then nothing will change. But if it is dangerous, women have a right to
recover damages and by making it easier for them to receive compensation
for their injuries, the abortion industry will be forced to improve their
screening, counseling, and abortion practices.
This approach is also appealing to anti-big government, libertarian
minded people. All we are asking is that we empower the "little guy" (the
woman) to take on the "big guy" (the abortion industry) in a court of law
so that "the people" (the jury) can decide the truth of the matter on a
case by case basis. We, the public, don't have to decide the truth right
now. We can leave it to the jury to decide it tomorrow, with the understanding
that all of our sympathies are with the woman.
To the middle majority, this is a very reasonable position. If abortion
is dangerous, the market forces of liability will tend to make abortions
more rare (which is appeasing to their troubled consciences). Yet, at the
same time, women will continue to have the right to seek an abortion, and
whenever it is considered to be "necessary" it will also be safer because
physicians will be practicing medicine more carefully.
To the pro-abortionists, however, proper liability for abortion related
injuries will be absolutely devastating. As we will see in the chapters
which follow, the abortion industry simply cannot provide cheap assembly
line abortions without violating every standard of good medical practice
and abusing the rights of women. The modern abortion industry can thrive
only because the obstacles to women suing them are too great for most women
to overcome. This is why they will viciously fight pro-woman reforms. This
is also why in fighting against proper liability they will expose themselves
to the public as truly being pro-abortion rather than pro-choice.
Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?
On numerous occasions I have been criticized by pro-life activists for
using the term "pro-choice." Their argument is that we must always expose
the truth that the issue is about abortion, not choice. There are some
merits to this argument, and in some cases the broad characterization of
"pro-abortion" is valid. But in general, I believe, the terms pro-choice
and pro-abortion should be used with greater care to more properly identify
the two different views of people who support legalized abortion.
As we have seen, the middle majority is not for abortion, in
the sense of seeing it as a positive good of which more would be better.
Most have a very unfavorable view of abortion and are quite sincere in
claiming that they would never choose one for themselves. Therefore, they
are rightly insulted by the characterization that they are "pro-abortion"
because in their hearts they are really anti-abortion. Instead, they truly
are "pro-choice" in that this phrase reflects a moral relativism which
insists that each person should be free to choose their own way. While
we may disagree with the logic of their moral theology, or absence thereof,
we should respect their motivations enough to avoid calling them pro-abortion--a
slur we should reserve for the next group.
Pro-abortionists include those who are financially profiting from the
abortion industry, but numerically their numbers are very insignificant.
Far more significant in both numbers and influence, are the pro-abortionists
who see abortion as a tool for social engineering. Pro-abortionists tend
to be politically minded, shapers of society. They are influential in both
conservative and liberal circles, in industry, the universities, government,
and advocacy groups. Pro-abortionists are adamant about controlling the
"population explosion," reducing the welfare roles, and sparing the genetically
"unfit" the burden of life--all of which demand abortion.
Pro-abortionists portray themselves as being in favor of "choice," but
they are really anti-choice. To determine if a person is pro-choice or
pro-abortion, simply ask their opinion on forced abortions in China. Do
they condemn it, or excuse it? Do they favor forced abortions, or at least
forced Norplant implants, for women on welfare? Should a baby with Down's
Syndrome be aborted? These are the questions which identify pro-abortionists
and set them apart from the middle majority who favor laissez faire
Pro-abortionists, like the top officials of Planned Parenthood and Zero
Population Growth, are so focused on creating the perfect society through
population control, that abortion related complications are dismissed as
little more than the "whining of a few disturbed women." The injuries of
a "few," they believe, should not stand in the way of social progress.
The imperative of controlling the quantity and quality of our population,
they believe, must take precedence over a "few" torn uteruses and grieving
hearts. Indeed, they accuse women who suffer post-abortion grief of only
complaining now because they were already psychologically "unfit" before
the abortion. "Fit" women would never complain. And even if they did, how
does that compare to the common good? In this sense, pro-abortionists are
truly anti-woman's rights. They would prefer that women seek abortions
voluntarily, but they would be quite willing to enact a program of forced
abortions if it became "necessary." Unlike pro-choice advocates, pro-abortionists
are not driven by the ideals of either compassion or freedom. Instead,
they are driven by a desire to control and shape society into a man-made
I believe it is crucial for this distinction between those who are pro-choice
and those who are pro-abortion to become better known. Pro-lifers who insist
on misapplying the label of "pro-abortion" are only alienating pro-choicers
with whom they at least share the common ground of compassion. In promoting
pro-woman/pro-life initiatives, these are our potential allies. Furthermore,
by our indiscriminate use of the term "pro-abortion" we are helping the
radical pro-abortionists to hide their true agenda by blending into the
crowd of the middle majority who are only pro-choice. For example, if Jane
Smith, who is pro-choice but very opposed to the casual use of abortion,
hears herself described as pro-abortion in the same breath as Faye Whattleton,
she will assume that Faye Whattleton has the same beliefs that she does.
Rather than arousing suspicion of Planned Parenthood in the mind of Jane,
we would be making her assume that their beliefs are as benign as hers.
If, on the other hand, in promoting our pro-woman strategy we emphasize
our common ground with "pro-choice" advocates and insist that only those
who are "pro-abortion" oppose these reforms, we will be helping to clarify
the debate and to expose the pro-abortionists for what they truly are --
anti-choice and anti-woman. This is the way to build an alliance with the
middle majority, and the first step in opening their eyes to the fullness
The middle majority is deeply troubled about the moral issue of aborting
the unborn, but this concern is blocked by a greater concern for the welfare
and freedom of women. They see themselves as pragmatists. Because of this,
they have hardened their hearts to any moral appeals on behalf of the unborn.
Moral arguments simply won't change their minds, as is evidenced by over
twenty years of pro-life educational efforts. Yet at the same time, the
middle majority would welcome a dramatic reduction in abortion rates, if
this can be done without harming the welfare of women.
To successfully address the concerns of the middle majority, our anti-abortion
efforts must become more clearly pro-woman. It is only by leading the middle
majority to the understanding that the welfare of a mother and her unborn
child are permanently intertwined that we will open their hearts to the
Order Making Abortion Rare Today
Order Making Abortion Rare
1. Reardon, Aborted Women. See especially
Chapter 8, "Business Before Medicine," 253-271.
2. John Powell, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust
(Allen, TX: Argus Communications, 1981) 67.
3. Howard Kurtz, "Poor Choice of Words from Abortion
Rights Advocate?" The Washington Post 2/7/1994.
4. According to one major poll, 77% of the public
believe abortion is the taking of a human life, with 49% equating it with
murder. Only 16 percent claimed to believe that abortion is only "a surgical
procedure for removing human tissue." Even one-third of those who describe
themselves as strongly pro-choice concede that abortion is the taking of
a human life. (Hunter, Before the Shooting, 93.) Similarly, another
major poll found that 65% of those who favor legalized abortion, and 74%
of those who have had an abortion, believe abortion is morally wrong. (Los
Angeles Times Poll, March 19, 1989).
5. James Davison Hunter, Before the Shooting Begins:
Searching for Democracy in America's Cultural War (New York: The Free
Press, 1994) 108.
6. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 107-110.
7. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 123.
8. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 126.
9. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 128-129.
10. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 130.
11. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 139.
12. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 140-145.
13. Hunter, Before the Shooting, 89, footnote
14. It should be noted, however, that some feminists
do have a vested interest in promoting abortion. They may be population
control zealots, abortion profiteers. Or they may actively encourage abortion
because in seeing others choose abortion their own decisions to abort are
ratified as reasonable and good. In short, a troubled conscience can be
soothed by seeing another choose abortion, too. Such feminists should more
properly be classified within the group of post-aborted "defenders." Yet,
still other pro-abortion feminists, especially in leadership positions,
are so politically invested in the abortion issue that they feel it is
impossible to retreat without losing face, prestige, and power. In the
heat of the political battle, some of these feminist leaders have even
felt compelled to push beyond the argument for choice and begin to champion
abortion as a positive good, or even a liberating experience which is always
15. Hunter, Before the Shooting Begins, 88.
16. Hunter, Before the Shooting Begins, 101.
Copyright 1996 David C. Reardon. Excerpted with permission
for from Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for a Divided Nation,
published by Acorn Books, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791-7348 for internet
posting exclusively at www.afterabortion.org. All Rights Reserved.
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