Thursday, January 22, 2009

How the 'Pro-Life' movement left me behind

This image is usually used to imply that 'pro-life' advocates are somehow violent people in general or, at the very least, that they are somehow meaner or crankier than most. Let me be clear: This caricature is an indefensible generalization. Truth be told, either side of the abortion debate can be vicious, mean, and pig-headed.

However, it describes a different sense of why I have slowly felt left behind by the 'pro-life' movement in the United States. I will spare you a long, drawn-out chronological anecdote and be direct. Intentions aside, it is very confusing. What I mean here is that despite the very best--even heroic at times--intentions and beliefs of individuals (many of whom I personally respect and admire), the movement in general can only commit to one thing. That thing being, that, since life begins at conception, abortion at any stage and for any reason is tantamount to murder and ought to be illegal. This one thing is supposed to exhaust what it means to be 'pro-life'. Any questioning of, or embellishment to, that meaning is seen as a nuisance at best and a threat at worst.

I find that, as I have grown in my understanding of what 'life' means, I have become far too radical for this movement. Here are two simple points:

For one, I don't think that we can say that life begins at conception. That biological idea to me is to give into the need for science to dictate when life begins and ends using human rationality. I am of the inclination to take the verse, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." (Jer 1:5) very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I am not willing to concede that mysterium tremendum of the genesis of life to biological distinctions. Secondly, I think that murder is something that needs to be parsed out very carefully, as we do juridically in all other cases of suspected murder. It seems very reasonable, based on just these two reasons, that we can have a thoughtful and measured discussion of abortion based on rather different principles than those of the mainline 'pro-life' movement in the U.S.

Then, there is my inconvenient (to 'pro-lifers') belief that life is something that is never excluded in any human issue whatsoever. In other words, my conviction that what makes a thing 'human' is precisely because it involves life (which ought to be radically included into any cause for the preservation and defense of life), is something that I have found resisted by the 'pro-life' movement in general. In my post below, this point is made quite plainly.

Finally, the battlefield setting of this testy discourse in protest rallies and signage, which all-too-often has lead (from personal experience) to sidewalk polemics--and, at times, hatred--has also left me very alienated. I would love to see the efforts used to demonstrate and protest directed towards opening up forums for discussion and rigorous (re)evaluation of the robust issues of life which would include, not the other way around, as much goodwill as possible. It may be controversial, but it seems to me that each argument on either side of the abortion debate is based in what is understood (perhaps wrongly) to be good for the person. Getting a meaning we can understand and implement culturally and legislatively will require much more than signs, I think.

So, while I do not see myself on the sidelines, I am playing on what I see to be a somewhat different playing field. This field does not exclude the 'pro-life' vision, but it is also much more than that too. I am pro-love.

10 comments:

ma sev__son said...

pro-love

you're so gay.

My immaturity aside, I like this post. Good work.

Bill Tullius said...

God, intellectuals are nauseating!

samrocha said...

Is that a way of saying you hate my essay?

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

I think the title of the post has it backwards. You are the one that has grown, become more radical, reconsidered your principles, or whatever, such that you are no longer comfortable with the movement. Perhaps this is for good reason. Perhaps not. But one should at least be clear about what has and hasn't happened. If you find yourself separated from the pro-life movement, then it's not because it left you behind, but because you left it.

samrocha said...

The irony you point to here is intentional. As I see it, my own radicalism is more originalist an approach than the current one that the movement has left behind, by and large, for politics.

Anonymous said...

Here's another interesting take on the same topic, although looking at it from a different angle.

http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2372&Itemid=48

samrocha said...

Very interesting... Thanks! Whoever you are.

el' sevo' said...

That is, Sam, why "pro-lifers" ought to be pro-life from inception to natural death, not from conception to natural death...

samrocha said...

Or beyond? Or do we stop it at biological life? Can one be pro-life and believe in immortality? I mean, there is a lot more to be taken seriously then they usually do, I think. Is this Mark?

el sevo' said...

Pro-life movements attempt to restore the opportunity for life that was taken away.

The "fight" for immortality has already been won.

Yes, Sam.