Ever go to a yard sale and try to buy a single item, only to be told that you also have to buy one or more additional items along with it because they’re a “set”? What, just me? Sure, like you’ve never been to a yard sale. Anyway, that’s the new angle some death-penalty and/or Iraq-war opponents have turned to of late in their attempts to pawn off their same old ideas about abortion, crime, and war. To wit, if you’re pro-life on abortion you also have to be against the death penalty, against the war in Iraq, and presumably against any other life-ending act such as shooting a guy who breaks into your house with the apparent objective of–oh, let’s say raping and murdering your loved ones–because to believe otherwise would be inconsistent. Not to sound indelicate or anything, but this particular argument in favor of abortion rights just isn’t viable.
The term “pro-life,” like the term “pro-choice,” is a convenient, two-word euphemism which acts as shorthand to indicate (in the deliberately ambiguous way of euphemisms) one’s position on abortion rights, with the former being against and the latter being for. It’s not intended to be taken literally. Those who insist on doing so are either being disingenuous or they’re not nearly as nuanced as they’re always claiming people on their side are. Likewise, the term “pro-choice” is a convenient, two-word euphemism whose deliberately ambiguous translation is “I favor abortion rights.” It doesn’t mean one is “pro-choice” on schools (i.e., that one favors school vouchers)–in fact, the contrary is more likely. It doesn’t mean that you favor always giving children a choice between TV and homework, nor giving husbands a choice between beating their wives and not. And there’s nothing even remotely inconsistent about being pro-choice with regard to the abortion issue and anti-choice on the TV-versus-homework or wife-beating issues.
But leave it to liberals to try to shoo people out of the pro-death penalty or pro-Iraq-war camps–or try to round up more support for abortion rights–by using a conman’s semantical ruse to suggest that all “life” issues come bundled together in a single, take-it-or-leave-it package. It’s almost as if they’re trying to re-brand themselves by–hey, wait a minute…they are.
It’s true that certain ethical standards can be applied across the board, like the belief that discrimination against black Americans in admission and hiring was just as wrong in years past as that same discrimination against white and Asian Americans is today. That’s because the essential differences between the subjects of the discrimination (i.e., skin color) are irrelevant. As opposed to the very real differences between [whatever it is you call the contents of a pregnant woman's uterus], Timothy McVeigh, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, and that aspiring murderer-rapist who just broke into your house. Terms like “innocent life,” which only describes one of the four, fairly leap to mind.
Not only that, but if you argue that being opposed to abortion obligates one to also oppose the death penalty and the war in Iraq, you’re appealing (whether sincerely or cynically) to what you’ve just implicitly acknowledged is the abortion opponent’s greater respect for human life. Ergo, pro-choicers who make this argument thus admit that they have less respect for human life than pro-lifers. Which means that in order to remain logically consistent (hang on, we’re almost there!), the pro-choice are morally bound to also support the death penalty, wars of liberation in Iraq and elsewhere, and my right to blast armed intruders into Kingdom Come, among other pro-choice, anti-life positions.
I take it, then, that all you NARAL folks out there are also big supporters of the death penalty and the war in Iraq, right? Hey, what’s with all the “crickets chirping” sound effects all of a sudden? Is it my imagination, or is your argument washing away faster than the words of Ilsa’s letter to Rick during the first airport scene in Casablanca?
And in case it needs re-stating, the preceding by no means constitutes an argument on behalf of either the pro-life or the pro-choice position. As has been observed, that’s a matter of settled law, not to mention a private, personal matter between every woman and her favorite Air America Radio host. All I’m saying to the pro-choice crowd is: Take my advice and don’t waste a precious one of your cheap rhetorical scams to trick me into thinking I’m pro-choice when I’m not. Scams that clever don’t grow on trees, and something tells me you’re going to need a bunch of them in 2008.
–Ned Rice is a staff writer on the new and improved CBS talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Rice is also an NRO contributor.