Alas, a blog, has elicited responses from a number of other blogs with the essay on whether the anti-abortion crowd was really pro-life, or just wanted to punish women for having sex, and the charted positions that concluded it was actually the latter. I believe that conclusion came from having either misunderstood or misrepresented pro-life positions in that chart, and is erroneous.
The pro-life position that life begins at conception comes from a simple syllogism: A. The object of the discussion is a life form of some nature. B. Both science and the courts accept DNA evidence as to the nature of tissue presented in evidence; from conception, it is genetically human. C. Both science and the courts accept DNA evidence as proof of identity, and from conception it has a unique DNA signature, different from the Mother’s. It is, therefore, a new, individual human being from conception. Immature, yes; but the courts have granted status to immature beings before- an eagle’s egg is considered to be an eagle for the purposes of the Endangered Species Act; smashing the egg is legally killing an eagle.
This does not mean that abortion is never acceptable, however- there are times when it is legal and ethical to take human life. If the mother’s life is endangered, it’s self-defense, just as much as shooting someone attacking you in the street. This is also true in the case of the mother’s health; you may legally use lethal force to prevent an attack that will not kill you- for example, you don’t have to submit to being kneecapped by a terrorist. Many pro-lifers will also include as acceptable the abortion of the severely deformed, seeing it as a different discussion more akin to the Schaivo case than to abortion.
This groundwork was necessary to explain one of the errors in the “Alas” chart; not even the most strict pro-lifer is against contraception that actually prevents conception. (Many Catholics are, but not all pro-lifers are Catholic) The problem they have is with pills like “Plan B” that work by preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the womb; they see this as just a very early abortion. Any birth control method that prevents conception from taking place is perfectly acceptable; there is no inconsistency.
Those pro-lifers who oppose public school sex education don’t see any inconsistency in their stance because their position is that such classes increase the teen pregnancy rate, not decrease it. They argue from empirical evidence: 50 years ago, when there was no sex education, no birth control, and no abortions the illegitimacy rate was in the single digits; today, even with abortion, it has increased ten-fold. There are now entire neighborhoods where the child conceived in wedlock is statistically nonexistent. You may argue that there is no causal relationship here, that “b” following “a” does not prove that “a” caused “b”- but you cannot prove it… so it’s not inconsistent for them to believe that there is such a relationship.
Lastly, it was argued that if they really believed lives were at stake, they’d all be out there throwing bombs. Pro-lifers are not that stupid; they know the battle is for hearts and minds- individual action would at best, even if you believed the ends justify the means, (which people of faith generally do not) be throwing bricks into the Grand Canyon. John Brown’s revolution didn’t free slaves, it only killed at lot of people; the lesson has been noted.
My conclussion: the statement that pro-lifers just want to punish women for being sexual is indeed an unworthy accusation; the evidence is that pro-lifers are trying to save lives.
But there is an inconsistency here- being pro-choice while claiming to believe in the inherent dignity and worth of mankind. Most UUs believe in acquired worth- some believe it’s acquired in the second trimester, some in the third; some believe worth is acquired along with “viability”, and some attach no development stage at all, believing dignity and worth are acquired only when the mother decides she wants the child. Some, judging by their harsh rhetoric, seem to believe dignity and worth are acquired when one registers as a Democrat. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only UU I personally know who believes in the inherent dignity and worth of the individual.