I hate the term “pro-life” as it is used in the ongoing political debate about abortion. Even though I don’t share this belief, there may be legitimate reasons to disapprove of abortion as a practice. That’s fine, just like there are legitimate reasons to think taxes might be too high, or that efforts to curtail gun violence come too close to impeding our right to bear arms.
But to shroud an opposition to abortion under the moniker “pro-life” or “right to life” is, if I’m being overly generous, an outrageous oversimplification that none should take seriously. Yes, a clump of cells might technically be alive, but then again, so is your hair before you cut it. So is your grass before you mow the lawn. So are the limbs of the trees you prune. So are the diseases you fight.
While this is far from universal, a large percentage of people who claim to be pro-life also support the death penalty and are opposed to allowing the elderly and infirm to die with dignity. They clearly regard death as a punishment and little else. “Right to life?” They mean their right to decide who gets to live and who gets to die. (Thank you George Carlin for that line…)
And that’s not even getting into the implication that those on the other side of the debate might somehow be anti-life. Those who support the legality of abortion call themselves “pro-choice”. Pro-choice does not mean “anti-life”, but pro-life certainly means “anti-choice”.
For the reasons I stated above, I have for years thought that pro-life was the single most intellectually dishonest term in all of politics.
I think I might need to walk that claim back, though. There’s a relatively new political issue that, on its surface, has little in common with abortion, although many of the people who proudly bear the label “pro-life” are also adopting this label.
Before I reveal more details, I should add that the majority of opinion with regard to opposing abortion is not based upon evidence but rather upon adherence to religious scripture, or at least the cherry-picked parts of scripture they use to justify their positions. The same thing is true for this issue, even if there isn’t much overlap between the passages of the Bible.
The issue is about the rights of transgender people. In recent years, there has been a lot of press about the needs of transgender men and women, how being transgender isn’t a mental illness, how difficult it is to be trapped in a body that’s not really you, and about how, despite a binary with regard to the plumbing, there really are more — a LOT more — than just two genders. (And I’m not even convinced that the plumbing is that binary…).
The most visible backlash to transgender rights is in the “bathroom bills” that require a person to use the gendered bathroom that corresponds to his or her birth certificate. (Think about the stupidity of enforcement. You either carry a birth certificate or allow people to peek into the stall where you’re peeing.)
The Obama administration rightly saw that transgender issues are huge in schools (because adolescence is when people first come to realize if they’re transgender) and so issued guidelines on how to manage it. And of course there’s been biblically-based opposition to this as well.
And that’s where the dishonesty in labels comes in. The people opposed to it — at least some of them — actually have the gall, the nerve, the chutzpah, to call themselves Pro-Privacy. That link is to just one example of this but it takes either massive guts or massive dissonance to support positions that are an extreme violation of privacy and call it “Pro-Privacy”.
Sorry, pro-lifers. You’re no longer the most dishonest.