Joe Campbell

I thought I knew what pro-choice means. I guess I don’t. In fact I have difficulty with most pro-choice language. Take sex-selective abortion. It’s about expectant couples who prefer sons to daughters and use ultrasound to find out what they’re going to have. If it’s a daughter, they abort her.

When I learned that pro-choicers are against sex-selective abortion, I was really puzzled. I always thought ‘pro’ meant ‘for’. I never imagined ‘pro’ could mean ‘against’.

It’s not that they’re against aborting daughters. Rather they’re against using abortion to discriminate against daughters. The distinction, when explained to me, seemed like a novel approach to morality.

Even in a just war, moralists condemn indiscriminate killing. In abortion, pro-choicers condone it. Discriminate killing is what they condemn. Apparently, discrimination is worse then killing.

But not always. Although they reject prenatal discrimination on the basis of sex, pro-choicers accept it on the basis of disability. So if you discover that your unborn daughter is disabled, you can go ahead and kill her. Just make sure you do it because of her disability, not her sex. I’m sure she’ll understand.

Oh, I know that some pro-choicers say abortion isn’t about killing anyone. It’s about removing a blob of tissue or a part of the mother’s body. But if it’s only a blob why go to the trouble of removing it, when eventually it removes itself?

If it’s a part, I don’t even want to think about it. Why, it suggests that mothers carrying sons could be hermaphrodites. Throughout their entire pregnancy, they have male parts.

But no sooner did I get used to blobs and parts than pro-choicers who were starting or adding to their families changed their vocabulary. The wives didn’t say they felt the blob move. They said they felt the baby move. The husbands didn’t say their wives were with part. They said they were with child.

I used to think that reality determined language. Here was a case of language determining reality. If they were intent on abortion, pro-choicers saw blobs, parts or the products of conception. If they were intent on procreation, they saw babies, children or the newest members of the family. Depending on their mood, the reality changed like magic. Black magic.

When ultrasound enabled us to watch womb dwellers in motion, even pro-choicers could see that they don’t look like blobs or parts. They don’t look like potential children either. They look like actual children. Talk about moving pictures.

But the language didn’t change much. Neither did my ability to understand it. When pro-choicers declared “Every child a wanted child,” I thought it meant no child should be unwanted. It doesn’t. It means no unwanted child should be.

In a sense, though, the slogan is correct. Every child really is wanted. Like outlaws in the old west, they’re wanted dead or alive. If their mothers want them dead, couples looking to adopt want them alive. By changing only two consonants, we could turn abortion into adoption. If only it were that easy to change minds.

When pro-choicers say abortion is fundamental to women’s rights, I don’t know what to think. Try as I may, I can’t figure out how it’s fundamental to the rights of the women who are aborted.

Maybe rights depend on location, and carry less weight inside the womb than outside. If so, it seems like a novel approach to justice. In human rights law, place, like race, is a prohibited ground for discrimination. Like racism, placism stands out in the lexicon of secular sins.

I guess pro-choicers haven’t noticed it yet, even though many have finally noticed that the products of conception are children. Why, some who abort hold ceremonies to mark their passing. Others arrange to get a lock of their hair or a print of their hands or feet. Still others post love notes, assuring the little ones that the abortion is in their best interest. It’s nothing personal. They just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No doubt the unborn find this comforting.

There’s something else I don’t understand. I’ve often heard politicians say they’re personally against abortion but won’t impose their morality on others, that is, on abortion-seeking women and their doctors. I’ve never heard politicians say they’re personally in favour of abortion but won’t impose their morality on others, that is, on the unborn.

I wish someone would explain to me why it’s wrong to impose morality when it supports life, but not death.