On my college campus, one of the most common pro-choice arguments that I hear from other students is that they are “personally pro-life,” but don’t think that they can tell women what to do with their bodies. While this may seem like a way to tip-toe around the abortion debate, it is still a dangerous ideology because it frames the abortion debate in a completely misleading context.
The “personally pro-life” perspective operates under the framework of moral relativism—the idea that there is no objective standard by which we can assess the moral quality of certain actions. This kind of “you do you” mantra encompasses an attitude which deems certain actions that were historically given moral quality as in fact morally neutral—right for some, wrong for others. Don’t get me wrong—there are some actions that are morally neutral. Taking evening walks, wearing sandals, listening to Beethoven’s Für Elise—these are all morally neutral actions. Some people may like these activities and some may not, but there is no moral consequence either way.
The question is this: is abortion a morally neutral action? Pro-lifers say no, and here’s why.
There are two premises that one must accept in order to be pro-life:
1. The killing of an innocent human person is objectively wrong.
This premise is easy to accept. Killing an innocent human person is widely understood to be wrong—not only because of Scriptural authority like the Ten Commandments, but also because we recognize the inherent dignity of the human person under U.S. law.
2. Abortion is the killing of an innocent human person.
This premise is a little harder for people to accept, but it is the key to being pro-life. Once the personhood and inherent dignity of all humans is recognized—even the unborn ones—then the logical conclusion that abortion is objectively wrong can’t be denied.
When we talk about the “right to choose,” we completely bypass this fundamental point of disagreement between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. When we dance around the abortion debate with words like “choice” that sound nice, we often fail to ask the key question that Lila Rose asks: “What is being chosen?” Pro-lifers believe that abortion is the killing of a human person. How then can someone who is “personally pro-life” call this a “right”?
What if we applied this kind of argument to other kinds of moral wrongs? What if we said, “I mean I personally wouldn’t rob a bank, but if you really need the money, you do you!” That obviously makes no sense. That’s because in 2019, we don’t politicize robbing banks in such a way where it is framed as a “right” or “choice.”
Those who take the “personally pro-life” stance may feel like it’s an empowering position to take, but it’s important to recognize that holding others to a lower moral standard than that to which we hold ourselves actually disempowers us by implying that we are worth more than others are and that our children are worth more than other people’s children are.
The bottom line is this: in order to have a true sense of the common good, one cannot believe that abortion kills an innocent person and also believe that others can claim it as a choice worthy of the title “right.”
Bailey Zimmitti is an intern at Family Research Council.