The Problem with the Term “Pro-Choice”

I confess that I dislike the term pro-choice. As I explain in my book Why ProLife?, I use it only because it has become the dominant term used in our culture. But it is pro­foundly misleading.

When we talk about someone being pro-environment, pro-business, or pro-marijuana, we have a good idea what they mean. But what if someone insisted we not use the words environment, busi­ness, or marijuana? No, we must just call these positions pro-choice.

But choice is not a synonym for environment, business, or marijuana. The term pro-choice obscures the subject we are talk­ing about, because it demands the explanation, “pro-choice about what?” If our attention is on the “right to choose,” we can be dis­tracted from the subject at hand.

The term pro-abortion tells us that someone thinks abortion is okay. Whether or not they would have one, they favor abortion’s legality. Okay, we can agree or disagree, but at least the term tells us what we’re talking about.

The term pro-choice tells us that someone thinks choice is okay. Well, of course. But what does that mean?

All of us are pro-choice when it comes to where people live, what kind of car they drive, what food they eat, and thousands of personal preferences. We’re also pro-choice in matters of religion, politics, and lifestyle, even when people choose beliefs and behavior we don’t like. Indeed, I am pro-choice about the great majority of things in life, even when I personally don’t agree with someone’s choice. I have no interest in dictating their choices, nor do I want them dictating mine.

But that’s not the end of it, because there are many things al­most none of us are pro-choice about—including whether someone has the right to choose to assault you, break into your house, steal your car, or cheat you in a business deal.

Of course, it’s self-evident that people have the freedom to make these choices. But that doesn’t mean they have the right to make them.

What would you think of someone who said, “I wouldn’t rob you myself, but I am pro-choice about robbery"?

Well, not only would we say they are wrong to defend rob­bery, we would not allow them to hijack the term pro-choice as their means of taking the moral high ground. We would say, “Stop talking about choice—the issue is robbery! You are not pro-choice, you are pro-robbery!”

The term pro-choice entirely shifts the abortion issue away from abortion itself. It attempts to take the moral high ground, as if it would be cruel to rob people of a “right” no one should have—to kill innocent preborn children.

Both the terms pro-life and pro-choice, by avoiding the word abortion, can obscure what’s at stake—an innocent preborn child’s right to live.

From a propaganda point of view, I must admit that the pro-abortion movement has won the battle of semantics. Choice has become a euphemism for abortion that veils abortion’s horrors. Arguing against abortion appears to be arguing against choice.

Pro-lifers must never argue against choice—that’s a battle that can’t be won, and shouldn’t be fought even if it could be won. Rather, we must argue against the real issue—abortion.

Whenever we hear “pro-choice,” we must ask, and urge others to ask, “Exactly what choice are we talking about?

If it's abortion, the question is, “Do you think people should have the right to choose to kill children?” By opposing abortion we are not opposing choice in general. We are opposing one choice in particular—child-killing.

Consider the popular pro-choice question, which I’ve seen on bumper stickers: “If you don’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?” It’s intended as a discussion stopper. But notice how choice is substituted for abortion. When we insert words that reflect reality, the question becomes, “If you don’t trust me to kill a child, how can you trust me to raise a child?” . . . Huh?

When we oppose the “right to choose” rape or “the right to choose” abortion, we aren’t opposing a right. Rather, we’re opposing a wrong. And we’re not narrow-minded and bigoted for doing so.

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Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries