Abortion and reproductive rights are sensitive topics. Over the course of the last several decades, the issue has been among the most controversial in American politics and has demonstrated significant staying power unmatched by most other political issues. I do not write this to rile up the pro-life masses; rather I wish to reach those who may have more pro-choice sympathies. I will share some things that I wish more pro-choice people knew about the pro-life movement as well as try to explain why the issue is so important to those of us with whom the movement resonates. Most people reside somewhere in the middle of the spectrum on this issue and, while I am personally uncomfortable with pro-life and pro-choice labels and the divisions they manufacture, I will use them here for sake of ease.
Pro-life by Default
It is impossible to know, at least through secular or scientific means, when life or personhood begins. No study can pinpoint the moment at which a developing fetus becomes a person and must be afforded all the rights that we hold dear for everyone else. Given that this is the case, abortion poses an incredibly difficult dilemma: to either take away a significant choice from the mother, or potentially end the life, future choices, and experiences of the child. For myself and many other pro-life individuals, it seems clear which of these options poses the greater risk. Here, I’d like to introduce the term “pro-life by default.” This term is a simple way of articulating that because there is no way of knowing when personhood begins we as a society must assume the lowest common denominator, which is conception. In this way, it is not certainty that leads to a pro-life position but a lack of it.
A Very Understandable Question
I have often heard this question from those who identify as pro-choice: “Even if you personally believe abortion is wrong, why not leave it up to the mother rather than the government to decide?” I understand the sentiment behind this question, but it contradicts an abundance of societal precedents. The principle that we restrict the liberty of some people in order to preserve the liberty and rights of others undergirds our entire criminal justice system. If a fetus is considered a person then it, of course, should not be left up to the mother whether that person gets to live. One of the core and cherished roles of government is to protect life. As someone who leans libertarian, my greatest desire is to preserve individuals’ choice. However, even radical libertarians believe that government should exist to prevent individuals from infringing on the rights of others, if for nothing else. Anything less than this is not libertarianism; it is anarchy. In the case of protecting rights, government intervention is justified, and if a child in the womb is considered a person, that intervention is certainly justifiable in the case of abortion.
Abortion by the Numbers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) there are between 600,000 and 700,000 abortions carried out each year in the United States . The C.D.C. estimates that since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, 60 million children have been aborted . This massive number of abortions is attributable to legalization; in 1970, three years before Roe, abortions stood at 190,000—in 1974, one year after the decision, the number had risen to 760,000 .
Pro-choice advocates often attempt to fixate the debate on cases involving rape, incest, and a threat to the life of the mother, but I have yet to meet a pro-choice person who opposes legal exceptions in these cases. What’s more, these cases account for only about 5 percent of abortions, while over 90 percent are considered elective .
These numbers demonstrate why there is so much passion behind the pro-life movement. If you consider each of the above numbers to be a person then our laws are perpetuating one of the greatest offenses in modern history. Even if you don’t agree with pro-life people, please respect us. Recognize that we are not just a bunch of angry, patriarchal conservatives (one-quarter of Democrats are pro-life)  who want to tell women what to do with their bodies. We are a group, and a movement, that wholeheartedly believes we are working to obtain equal rights for the most vulnerable among us.