I was talking with a friend who is heavily into the “pro-life” movement.
“Weren’t you once called the ‘anti-abortion’ movement’?” I asked.
“Gosh,” she said, “that was years ago. I’m surprised anybody even remembers that any more.”
“What was the reason for the change?” I wondered.
“Well, partly it was just a matter of changing people’s perceptions of us. We wanted to be seen as bringing a positive message, not a negative one. We’re for something, not against something. And then, nobody wants to be lumped in with all those ‘anti’ groups. The grape boycotters, the anti-globalization crew, the anti-apartheid bunch, etc.”
“’Pro-life’ certainly does sound positive,” I agreed. “And pretty all-encompassing. It must be a challenge to match the movement’s actions with its rhetoric.”
“What do you mean?” she said.
“Well, you know. Life! I mean, nobody could be pro-life and for the death penalty, for example. That lays it out pretty plainly, doesn’t it? ‘Life’ versus ‘death’? If a person is pro-life he couldn’t be pro-death, could he?”
“Oh, sure he could,” she responded. “Take the President. He’s strongly pro-life, and he signed execution warrants for over two hundred people when he was governor of Texas.”
“What about war, then?” I asked. “Nobody knows how many people have been killed in the latest Gulf War—maybe twenty-five thousand or so. And that war is a poster child for stupid wars—illegal, unnecessary, brutal, giving rise to more terrorism, more hatred, more instability. Surely a person couldn’t be pro-life and support a war where thousands and thousands of lives have been squandered.”
She said uneasily, “This administration is staunchly pro-life. We support them wholeheartedly.”
“Well, I was wondering if you were going to expand your line of bumper stickers and billboards?”
“I was thinking of bumper stickers like ‘I’m 4 Life. Stop the War.’ Or ‘Vote Pro-Life. End the Death Penalty.’ And maybe, in addition to those pictures of fetuses with captions like ‘Abortion Stops a Beating Heart,’ you could put up billboards with children cut in half or decapitated by cluster bombs, and captions like ‘Cluster Bombs Stop Beating Hearts.’”
“We’d really rather not go there,” she said. “With abortion, you’re talking about innocent life. With the death penalty, some of those people executed have committed crimes—vicious ones. And some of the people killed in war are really bad guys.”
“Let me see if I get this straight, then. When you say you’re ‘pro-life,’ you’re actually only talking about fetal life. ‘Life’ essentially ends at…”
© Tony Russell, 2004