Pro-Life Is Pro-Choice

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A counter-protestor at a pro-life rally in New Hampshire this past weekend held a sign saying “I was a choice.”

In a way, she’s right. God willed her, and she existed.

That’s not what she meant, though.

She meant that her mother chose to give birth to her instead of aborting her.

And she was saying she’s O.K. with that.

Imagine valuing your own life so little that it doesn’t matter to you if someone else had ended it shortly after it began. (Or claiming that it doesn’t matter to you, anyway.)

How could anybody think like that?

“A woman’s body belongs to her and I don’t believe men should make decisions for women,” she told a reporter for The Union Leader.

The woman was holding her 1-year-old son.

Why didn’t the sign refer to him? It’s the same principle, right?

Perhaps abortion supporters could have onesies made with the same slogan. I was a choice.

Might make a nice birthday present. Or even better, a baby shower gift. Might help with bonding.

The choice, let’s be clear, is about life and death. And not death by accident or disease, but by willful action by another human being.

But for the moment let’s look past whether the statement is just. Is the statement true?

One of the most interesting philosophical questions is encountered by George Bailey in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. Because it was made in 1946, a time when no one in polite society thought of abortion as a viable option, the counter-factual situation George encounters is phrased “I’d never been born.”

But “I never existed” is what the script means. Because even if George had never been born, he might still have existed.

A frustrating thing about watching the movie is how hard it is for George to figure out what’s going on. We’re all in on the premise, because George’s guardian angel Clarence spells it out for us. But no matter how many times Clarence explains it to him and proves it to him with concrete examples, George seems to have no idea what he’s talking about.

George told Clarence he wished he’d never existed. Clarence made it happen for him. But George refused to believe it.

Why is that? And why does his reaction seem so believable?

There’s a term in philosophy called solipsism. It refers to someone who believes that he’s the only one who exists, and that every person and every thing around him is a figment of his imagination.

It’s crazy talk, of course. But it makes more sense to an individual human mind than the thought that that individual never existed. It’s easier to believe that no else exists than it is to believe that you don’t exist.

Because beyond just about everything else, each one of us is sure we exist. We can imagine a past world where we didn’t yet exist. We can imagine a future world where we aren’t around. But it’s a lot harder to imagine a present or future world where we never existed.

In that sense, at least, once we exist, we exist forever, just because we did exist.

The question in abortion is not whether an individual person exists. That happens the moment a zygote is formed by the coming together of sperm and egg. The question is whether that individual person who exists is going to be allowed to continue to exist.

And that gets at the heart of the woman’s comment about abortion. Trying to prevent abortion by law is not about men telling women what to do. It’s not about denying a woman sovereignty over her own body. No one should make any decision for anyone else about anything unless it’s necessary.

So what is an anti-abortion law about?

It’s about protecting the continued existence of a human being who already exists.

In a more just world, all women would want only the best for their baby. All men would want only the best for their baby and for the mother of their child. All grandparents would be as supportive and as encouraging of their children and grandchildren as they could be. All jobs would be easy to get and profitable enough to easily support a family. All employers would be understanding of their employees’ needs. All doctors would do everything they could to help every human being and nothing to harm any human being.

In short, laws against abortion would be unnecessary because no one would ever want one and nobody would ever provide one. Every choice would be for life.

We should work for a world where all those good things happen.

But we must also acknowledge the world we live in. It’s a world where selfish desires, outside pressure, and fear can lead some people toward a horrible, irreversible decision, unless someone else tries to prevent them. In that world — unfortunately — sometimes people have to be told what not to do, so that other people can continue to exist.

Those other people are unborn babies. Protecting them is a choice.