Myths about the Other Side
By Michael J. Kenney
Recently my Constitutional Law class went over Roe v. Wade and the issue of abortion, and as expected some people got pretty heated over it. I felt, in the spirit of understanding, I should try to dispel some of the misconceptions and myths that some of the people who are pro-choice seem to have about those of us who are pro-life.
Myth 1: Pro-lifers and their goals only represent a minority of the population.
According to a USA Today, CNN Gallup Poll conducted in May, 1999, while only 43% of people actively identify themselves as pro-life, 55% of Americans believe that abortion should only be used in cases where the mother’s life was in danger or where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, as compared to only 16 % who say that abortion should be allowed in any instance at any point of the pregnancy. Only 47% of Americans now actively identify themselves as pro-choice, meaning there is only a 4% difference in population between those two groups. Additionally, at the time of this poll the statistics showed that the pro-life population was increasing while the pro-choice population was decreasing. If there was a popular vote tomorrow on whether or not there should be some regulation limiting abortions, it would be a safe bet that it would pass.
Myth 2: Pro-lifers are all religious extremists.
While a number of groups that are pro-life do claim religious backgrounds, that fact should hardly be seen as a discredit to the arguments of the pro-life camp. The nut bar on the corner saying that Jesus told him he will send you to Hell for killing babies represents the pro-life camp about as accurately as some new-age Druid who claims to talk to trees represents the environmental movement. There are a number of scientific and philosophical reasons, enough to fill several well-written books, why people believe that life begins at conception rather than birth that make absolutely no reference to God, and to dismiss them all because some of the groups that help put them forth have religious undertones makes no sense. The pro-life movement was actually started by a group of doctors with the simple goal of reducing the number of abortions in America, and most of us do not necessarily associate with any one particular pro-life organization.
Myth 3: Pro-lifers want to control women’s bodies.
Other than abortion, the vast majority of us don’t particularly care what you do with your own body. For all I care you can put a tattoo on your foreheads, pierce every inch of your body and have a doctor surgically graft flippers on to the sides of your neck. I won’t necessarily invite you to hang out with my family, but I’ll support your right to do it. Where pro-lifers differ from pro-choicers in this respect is in whether or not a fetus counts as a part of the woman’s body or as a separate entity. It may not be an independent and self-sustaining human being yet, but in our view it is human and is entitled to have some rights as well. We don’t see it as taking your rights away as much as we want to give rights to more people, in this case unborn babies.
Myth 4: Pro-lifers are trying to make all abortions illegal.
Like I said earlier, a lot of people recognize certain instances, like where the mother’s life is at risk, where an abortion would be necessary. Even the recent law in North Dakota recognizes this. I’m not saying that there aren’t those who would like to see them restricted a lot more than they are now, but making all abortions illegal is stupid and impractical. The Supreme Court has told us that even the level of regulation we would like is not an option, and I am not optimistic enough to assume that North Dakota will change any of this. Our goal now is simply to reduce the number of abortions to a minimum. In most cases this is done by encouraging legislation that makes it easier for mothers to be able to keep the baby through economic or educational programs or to improve the adoption system. Abortion in one form or another is going to be legal for a very long time.
I could go on like this, but then this would be one of those books I mentioned earlier. I just hope that this has helped people keep open-minded about the issue of abortion and will dispel some illusions that might exist.