Some people say things like, “I would never choose to have an abortion myself. But everyone’s free to believe what they want, and I think women have the right to make their own choices. I won’t impose my views on others.”
Such statements reflect the illusion that being personally opposed to abortion while believing others should be free to choose it is some kind of compromise between the pro-abortion and pro-life positions. But it’s not.
The biggest reason why this compromise doesn’t work is spelled out in the phrase itself: “personally opposed.” Is an innocent person being killed by a woman’s choice to have an abortion? If not, no problem. If so, it’s a major problem that society—and all of us—cannot afford to ignore or try to be neutral concerning.
To the baby who dies, it makes no difference whether those who refused to protect her were pro-abortion or “merely” pro-choice about others having abortions.
An Honest Confession
A radio talk show host told me she was offended that some people called her “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice.” I asked her, on the air, “Why don’t you want to be called pro-abortion? Is there something wrong with abortion?”
She responded, “Abortion is tough. It’s not like anybody really wants one.”
I said, “I don’t get it. What makes it tough? Why wouldn’t someone want an abortion?”
Frustrated, she said in an impassioned voice, “Well, you know, it’s a tough thing to kill your baby!”
The second she said it, she caught herself, but it was too late. In an unguarded moment she’d revealed what she knew, and what everyone knows if they’ll only admit it: Abortion is difficult for exactly the same reason it’s wrong—because it’s killing a child.
And there is no justification for child-killing.
The only good reason to oppose abortion is a reason that compels us to say it should not be legal for others. Because it takes away a child’s most basic right—his or her right to live.
“Don’t Like Slavery? Don’t Own a Slave.”
Francis Beckwith writes:
If you believed that a class of persons were being murdered by methods that included dismemberment, suffocation, and burning, resulting in excruciating pain in many cases, wouldn’t you be perplexed if someone tried to ease your outrage by telling you that you didn’t have to participate in the murders if you didn’t want to? That’s exactly what prolifers hear when abortion-rights supporters tell them, “Don’t like abortion, don’t have one” or “I’m prochoice, but personally opposed.” In the mind of the prolifer, this is like telling an abolitionist, “Don’t like slavery, don’t own a slave,” or telling Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Don’t like the Holocaust, don’t kill a Jew.”(i)
Suppose Class A drug-dealing were legalized, as some have advocated. Then suppose you heard someone argue this way for selling cocaine:
I’m personally not in favor of drug dealing, but this is a matter for a drug dealer to decide between himself and his attorney. Lots of religious people are against drug dealing, but they have no right to force the anti-cocaine morality on others. We don’t want to go back to the days when drug dealing was done in back alleys and people died from poorly mixed cocaine, and when only rich people could get drugs and poor people couldn’t. It’s better now that qualified drug dealers can safely give cocaine to our children. I personally wouldn’t buy drugs, so I’m not pro-drugs, you understand, I’m just pro-choice about drug dealing.
In terms of moral impact, there is no significant difference between people who are in favor of drug dealing and people who don’t like it personally but believe it should be legal. Someone who is pro-choice about rape might argue that this is not the same as being pro-rape. But what is the real difference? Wouldn’t being pro-choice about rape allow and effectively promote the legitimacy of rape?
Being personally against abortion but favoring another’s right to abortion is self-contradictory. It’s exactly like saying, “I’m personally against child abuse, but I defend my neighbor’s right to abuse his child if that is his choice.” Or “I’m personally against slave-owning, but if others want to own slaves, that’s none of my business.” Or, “I’m not personally in favor of wife-beating, but I don’t want to impose my morality on others, so I’m pro-choice about wife-beating.”
Have you seen the bumper sticker with the slogan “Against Abortion? Don’t Have One”? At first glance, it makes sense. The logic applies perfectly to flying planes, playing football, or eating pizza . . . but not to rape, torture, kidnapping, or murder.
No Middle Ground
The “I personally oppose abortion, but... ” position is popular among politicians who want to make pro-lifers like them because they don’t feel good about abortion and pro-choicers like them because they won’t do anything to restrict abortion. My point is not simply that this position is cowardly, though certainly it is. My point is that it is utterly illogical.
The only good reason for being personally against abortion is that it kills an innocent child. If it doesn’t, there’s no need to be against it. But if it does, then you should not just refrain from it yourself—you should oppose others doing it also. You should favor laws to restrict it, for exactly the same reason you favor laws to restrict rape, child molesting, and murder.
Abort73.com puts it this way:
I'm personally opposed to abortion, but people should be free to make their own choices. If this is your attitude about abortion, if you think you’ve carved out some morally-neutral middle ground, ask yourself that same question in regard to slavery or lynching. Would you ever dare make the statement that, while you’re personally opposed to lynching, you still support the rights of other men to lynch? If there was no middle ground in regard to slavery, there is no middle ground in regard to abortion. The reasons that the Supreme Court reversed itself about Dred Scott are the same reasons it should reverse itself about Roe v. Wade. Until they do, we continue to live in a society in which certain living persons are considered property.[ii]
[i] Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993), 87.
[ii] Abort73.com. “Making a Person Property.” Loxafamosity Ministries, http://www.abort73.com/index.php?/abortion/medical_testimony.