Why We Need To Stop Using The Term “Pro-Life”
After my bike ride to work this morning, I sat at my desk reading an article by Jon Ward titled “The political education of Ben Carson” and laughing to myself about the (un)intended satire in the title. On the question of abortion, Carson said that he had changed his views over the years but when pressed to share his opinion on whether Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land or be overturned, he said:
“I favor life. That’s what I favor.”
But does he? Does he really?
You see, I’m not here to discuss the mis-education of Ben Carson. I am here to discuss the GOP’s seemingly irreversible misuse of the term “pro-life” and why it is a major epistemological issue in its contexts, the national political arena, and the underlying, underpinning pro-death rhetoric that surreptitiously accompanies self-proclaimed pro-lifers.
I think you know where I’m going.
A fetus is a form of life but a fetus is not Life with a capital L.
Life > fetus
fetus = form of Life
fetus ≠ Life
When I reference Life with a capital L, I am referring to the entity that includes all living and extinct organisms that derive from that very original form of life –whether you’re a Darwinist or creationist- where life was initially breathed. The term “life” is all-encompassing, complex, and heavy. Therefore, it is misleading when it is used in political rhetoric to defend anti-abortion legislation. To be “pro-life” in the context of our political moment means only that the person supports anti-abortion legislation. It means to only defend one form of life: human in its early developmental stages, a fetus, etc.
This use of the term “pro-life” is paradoxically an inflation and a limiting conceptualization of the term itself: it limits the definition of “life” to only one form of life while also rhetorically labeling the opposition as anti-life, anti-God, or pro-death.
Here are a few examples of how self-proclaimed “pro-lifers,” have fallen short of being pro-other-forms-of-lives-besides-a-White-fetus and why we must cease to use the term “pro-life” in our political discourse.
- The “Anchor Baby.” This is a term used by the right wing to refer to a child born to a noncitizen mother on American soil. During his appearance on The Kelly File on Aug 25th, 2015, Sen. Ted Cruz said that birthright citizenship was an incentive for people to break the law and enter the country illegally but avoided answering the question of whether he would support mass deportation of children of illegal immigrants. Instead, he labeled the question as a “distraction” from the real issue but said he would consider it as an option after having changed legislation. Would someone who so proudly wears the badge of “pro-lifer” be so unclear and elusive about defending the right to freedom, life, and pursuit of happiness of an innocent, helpless child, documented or not? Wouldn’t someone so invested in the support of the State of Israel be familiar with 20th Century history when Jewish people were rounded up and deported and how barbaric and monstrous that was? Overall, the anchor baby rhetoric is one that is not congruent with arguments defending Life. #FakeProLifer
- Women’s Health Care Issues. On the debate of Planned Parenthood, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on Sept 22nd, 2015 that he was not “sure we need a half a billion dollars for women health issues.” In a statement released by Planned Parenthood and verified and validated by Politifact, more than 97% of the organization’s services go to primary and preventive health care, including lifesaving (ding ding) cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment of STD’s, annual exams and health counseling. So, where exactly does this argument align with his other rhetoric to fight for the “right to life”? How can anyone argue that de-funding a service that aids in the prevention, treatment, and education of medical issues that affect 50.4% of the U.S. population still ethically or morally hold his position as man of God or supporter of the right to life? #FakeProLifer
- War-monging + Guns. This is the most obvious example of contradiction and the one that many GOP critics have pointed out in the media so I am not going to spend my time here. As a nation, we have been at war for most of our history in the 21st century. GOP leaders denounce diplomacy at the drop of a hat, opposed it, and are fast to use war in their patriotic rhetoric. What? How can one claim he is pro-life while denouncing and foreclosing diplomacy and quickly resorting to war? In the last two wars alone, we lost 6831 U.S. soldiers and over 1mil American soldiers were wounded in combat. In addition, we have been experiencing mass shootings at a rate of one a week or more and the GOP Presidential candidates have been very silent about this issue. Where is the support for the sanctity of lives? A great article that discusses this phenomenon is “10 Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus” written by Mark Sandling. Check it out. #FakeProLife
- Veteran’s Health Care. Over the past couple of months, we have sat through almost ten hours of Republican Presidential Debate airtime and while many “thank-you’s” have been uttered in support of our troops and those who have serviced our country, these words have been empty. Over ten hours of debate and no conversation about access to healthcare for veterans? That is correct. On October 1st, 2015, the Republican-dominated Senate passed a bill that took away over 800mil dollars from veteran benefits. Speaking on the floor, Sen. Manchin from West Virginia said, “We made a sacred commitment to our veterans when we sent them to war that we would do whatever it takes to take care of them when they returned, this bill does nothing to address that promise. Disappointingly, this bill takes an ax to needed funding for the VA, underfunding medical care by over $500 million dollars, which is equal to the cost of providing care for more than 60,000 veterans.” Do these 60,000 not fall under the category of Life? Where were the fervid pro-lifers? Why did they not defend the physical and mental wellness of the people who have fought to ensure our country remains safe? Saying ‘thank-you’ is polite but words are empty without actions. Put your money where your mouth is. #FakeProLifers
- Climate Change. It is no secret that the GOP is heavily invested in denying scientific findings on the irreversible effect of human activity on our planet. Sen. Marco Rubio, another self-proclaimed conservative (who has no problem using the “son of immigrants” rhetoric for self-promotion but stays silent during debates on deportation of “anchor babies”), has finally acknowledged that human activity may have an effect on our planet and its ecosystems but proposes we continue drilling since “America is not the planet.” America is the planet but America is one of the largest carbon footprint contributors. As one of the world’s most powerful countries, wouldn’t an ecotheologian argue that there is a correlation between the life of our planet and our relationship to God? How can someone proclaim to value life while turning his back on what is arguably God’s greatest gift to humanity? Not a very pro-life stance if he puts monetary gain before protecting all existing forms of Life. What good is defending a fetus if he/she won’t find any clean water to drink by the time they can vote?
- #BlackLivesMatter. Mike Huckabee, a fierce pro-lifer (also what us Cubans would call a “comemierda”), on Aug 18th, 2015 denounced the Black Lives Matter movement as “appalling.” He added, “That’s the whole message that Dr. King tried to present, and I think he’d be appalled by the notion that we’re elevating some lives above others.” What? Are you serious? Oh sweet Irony! What great joy it is to hear a self-proclaimed pro-lifer oppose a movement using the argument that “all lives matter” while ignoring the fact that all lives are not shot every 28 hours. But again, he’s not really or truly a pro-lifer either. Not pro-all-lives, anyway, right?
For these reasons and more, I encourage us to shift our language.
I believe that all forms of Life are divine and deserving of protection. As a man, I recognize that it is unfair for me to have a say in the choices a woman must make concerning her body and her health. I am not pro-abortion but I support giving women a choice and that does not make me pro-death.
I refuse to continue using the term “pro-life” to describe those who oppose “pro-choice.” They may use rhetoric that invokes Life but it is not all lives they are defending. It is only one form of life. And if by choosing to defend the lives of unborn babies, they choose to violate, deny, or take away the rights of women, I propose we change the terminology as soon as possible. Let us call them “anti-women”; “anti-abortionists”; “defenders of White-American-soon-to-be-born-babies-of-citizens-of-the-United-States.
Stop the lies. Time for phrase reappropriation.
#StopFakeProLife #GOPHatesLife #URNotProlife