Hi, I’m a pro-choice dad. I’m also pro-life. I’m definitely not anti-life. I just think the rankings go: 1. Choice, 2. Life. If you are what we call pro-life, you may also not be anti-choice. It may just be: 1. Life, 2. Choice. I think the overtures about “if you didn’t want a baby you shouldn’t have had sex” are really a little far-reaching for political discourse. You may feel the same way when I say “females have a right to control their own bodies.” Both are valid, and also beside the point. The point is whether it should be legal to prevent a conceived embryo from gestating to full term viability. I want to try and have this conversation, of abortion, but to have it differently than the way we’ve been socialized to have it. That way hasn’t ever worked and won’t ever. We have to find a different way to a common understanding. Hear me out today, and I promise to do the same for you tomorrow.
Honestly, my main thought is that you’ve been tricked. Let me explain: Abortion is a common procedure. There are six countries where it is banned entirely: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Malta, and the Vatican. Typically, the more developed a country is, the less restrictive it is regarding abortions. Most countries allow for abortion during the first trimester and in special circumstances after that. In America, over 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester. For some reason, abortion law has become an all-out dogfight in the United States, with a lot of folks identifying as single-issue pro-life voters, trying to scale back the procedure as far back as they can take it, not attempting to reach a compromise, just hoping to keep winning the fight, forever.
The politicization of abortion law begins, as most horrors of modern American politics do, with Richard Nixon. From Vox: “During his 1972 presidential campaign, Republican Richard Nixon began staking out anti-abortion positions as part of a strategy to appeal to Catholic voters and other social conservatives. After Nixon won the election and a majority of Catholic votes, Republican strategists began using the same tactics in Congress, as well as forging coalitions with evangelical groups around opposition to abortion.”
A theme I’ve noticed with Republicans (and in some cases with establishment Democrats) is principles following from power, rather than the traditional, ideal method of being granted power in response to showcasing strong principles. As in, fighting abortion rights will get Republicans more votes and increase their power, thus they become at once anti-abortion. This principle did not exist before the advantage of having it was revealed. That’s not very principled. We’ve seen plenty of stories about Republicans — rumors that Donald Trump is among this group make sense, but are as of yet unproven— paying for women (to whom they are not married) to have abortions. Their pro-life principles don’t extend back to their personal lives, by and large. Even this past week, Trump was treated for Coronavirus with a stem-cell based treatment, derived from an abortion. None of these single-use infractions have sown any effective degree of doubt in the integrity of pro-life politicians. They should.
A note on abortions: They’re bad. Nobody wants to get them. I think Republicans believe some of their constituents are stupid enough to believe that democrats strive to abort babies, and are fast with allegations that Politician X supports abortion “UP TO THE MOMENT OF BIRTH.” For what it’s worth, this is nothing more than a talking point whipped up at GOP HQ to go and piss a bunch of you off. Nobody wants to do things like that. This is such a stupid hypothetical, yet it causes so much misplaced anger towards democrats who are just trying to meet constituent needs. It’s a waste of keystrokes to diffuse this belief, I would hope, and yet I know we’re not there yet. They really are relentless on Fox News.
The point of me writing all this isn’t to make you pro-choice. I don’t think I can do that, and that’s fine. I honestly think it’s something deep inside us, possibly genetic, that dictates what we view as the start of life versus “just a blob of cells,” as my mother used to say. I just want you to realize that the people who are so adamantly pro-life on the campaign trail are performing as such just so you’ll vote for them despite offering you few actual incentives besides. It’s a bad-faith gesture that isn’t followed through on to any huge extent. There are plenty of real people, people of principle and integrity who stand against abortion. I think it’s necessary for these people to take back the term pro-life from those who use it to exploit their votes and campaign donations.
Abortion is an ugly thing, but I don’t think its legality should be a point of contest. In fact, I’m pretty sure the path to the fewest possible abortions involves conceding this. If the legal fight over abortion died tomorrow, the American people could unify around a campaign to drive this number into the ground. This would entail sex education, birth control, and fundraising for adoption agencies rather than political machines. We have to put people in situations where they feel comfortable having kids, and give them resources to not get pregnant if they don’t want to. The thing about pro-choice and pro-life, is they don’t preclude each other. A great country gives its women the right to choose, and provides the type of healthcare and economic opportunity so that choosing life makes more sense. We need to strive toward that, not toward imposing bans that would take us back in time and uphold antiquated power dynamics over women who bear the brunt of the struggle caused by pregnancy and parenting. Pro-life should incorporate choice. We want more women to choose life, not to have to give birth or — and this is critical — abort unsafely because the laws forbid a medical procedure that is legal in Canada, Mexico, Europe, pretty much everywhere.
The other part of being pro-life is this: We must expand beyond just abortions. We must take the term “life” holistically, and cherish it. Unjustifiable police killings are post-birth abortions. The death penalty is a post-birth abortion. Not being able to afford life-saving medical treatment is a post-birth abortion. Anytime where humanity can do better to protect life, yet it fails to do so, is a call for pro-lifers to act. Mass incarceration is a pro-life issue, family separations at the border and rejection of asylum seekers are pro-life issues. Police brutality is a pro-life issue. Coronavirus response is a pro-life issue. These, right now, are liberal causes. They don’t have to be. If life is truly the principle by which you operate, see the potential life in these issues. If you are strong and independent, you can see through the political gamesmanship that has your vote in a headlock. Don’t fall for it. They don’t deserve your vote. They don’t deserve the label pro-life.
For many — for most, let’s face it — the pro-life persuasion is based in a Christian faith that values life and humanity and God’s will. Well, science is a gift from God, medical science included. Medical science isn’t “cheating.” It’s helping. As a Christian myself, I believe God wants us to pursue the knowledge of his universe as a form of showing love for his creation. If God didn’t want us to “crack the code” of science, we wouldn’t have. We did, though, so let’s use it. The Bible also talks about those who use the Lord’s name in vain. Most of us were raised to invoke this commandment whenever someone said “god damn it” or, in more conservative families, “gosh” and “jeeze” would trigger this admonition. But that was a misunderstanding. Using the Lord’s name in vain means pretending to be Christian, or pretending to forward Christian ideals and interests, when really you are forwarding your own. I believe that more than anyone, Donald Trump, who joked to his lawyer after receiving a blessing from Evangelical pastors in which they laid their hands on him: “Can you believe they believe that bullshit?” To Christian Trump supporters: I cannot believe you believe his bullshit. “We are all sinners” does not absolve Trump for the monstrous and manipulative transgressions he has committed against Christians in this country. He has harnessed your vigor for his own betterment. He has taken your faith and stolen it from God, so that you believe his will and God’s will are the same. They are not. I assure you, brothers and sisters, they are not.
There are strong, legitimate Christian calls to feed the poor, take care of the sick, welcome the stranger, and love thy neighbor. Why have you allowed this Republican party to invoke Christianity and wrest your vote from your values? You vote for the party that is most stingy to the poor, that seeks to tear down healthcare protections, that seeks to build a wall keeping out those seeking a home and freedom, that calls me radical, tells you I hate you and want to take your guns and abort your babies, all because I vote differently than them.
Consider the two candidates. Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Donald Trump does not know the value of life. He has stood by and watched as 215,000 Americans have died from a virus that every other country in the world has handled better than us. A lack of national response, a preference for politics over science, and an incompetence in engineering a comprehensive test-and-trace program, have all contributed to those deaths. Joe Biden is different. Biden knows the value of life, and it is very precious to him. Biden lost his wife and child to a car accident. He lost his son to cancer. Biden even voted in 1982 to support a constitutional amendment allowing states to overturn Roe V. Wade — which I, as a pro-choice person, find very not-cool — because of his Catholic background, which is about as pro-life (in the traditional sense) that you could want. He has since changed his position on this, and in doing so has modeled growth and a capacity to learn and to listen. Biden is a full, empathetic human. Trump is a political stockbroker who weighs votes before deciding what he thinks about anything. Biden values life. Trump values power. I know habit and tradition obscure this choice for some. But the pro-life candidate is Joe Biden. It’s plain as day.
I view a Biden presidency as a reset, and a chance to rethink some of the conversations we’ve been having in politics since I’ve been alive. Abortion is right near the top of what we need to rethink. I don’t believe it’s fair that political leaders have driven a stake in the heart of the abortion debate to wedge Americans apart from one another. I don’t think it should be a politically divisive point, but rather a political unifier: Both sides want fewer abortions. Biden allows us to get to that point together, whereas Trump will only get us there if we divide against one another. With a Biden presidency, we will have to do the work, but we can and we will. With Trump elected, we will see more American death, not less. He calls himself the most pro-life president ever. He’s not. He calls himself this so you’ll vote for him. Look at the virus deaths. Look at the treatment of Mexican babies brought here by their parents who have no choice in the matter. Look at the green light he’s given white supremacists. Everywhere you look, where anti-life intersects with pro-Trump, he supports. Biden may not be a great candidate for you, he’s not great for me either. But we need to get Trump out of office. Please help us do that by voting for Joe Biden.