11 July 2013

Let’s be clear

Talking again about social issues for the moment (a dangerous pastime, I know), among other things…

Let’s be perfectly clear. American liberals do have a strong point about some of the hypocrisy in the ‘pro-life’ camp. If you are against abortion but consistently block any efforts to make children’s lives bearable once they are born by, say, opposing labour unions, a living wage, easier access to healthcare and so on, you are not ‘pro-life’ and should not get to call yourself so. Likewise you are not ‘pro-life’ if you are in favour of unjust wars, drone strikes, arming Salafi extremists or an interventionist or imperialist foreign policy. You are not ‘pro-life’ if you oppose commonsense restrictions on gun ownership and enforcement of basic gun safety. You are not ‘pro-life’ if you support the unfettered use of capital punishment in nations where wrongful convictions are not only possible but happen on a regular and systemic basis along racial and class lines. You are not ‘pro-life’ if you support an agricultural system and policy which regulates small farmers out of business at home, prices small farmers out of business and into starvation abroad, and all the while feeds the world slow-acting processed poisons and God only knows what genetic monstrosities, sold in shiny packaging by the same five megacorporations.

This is all very much true and fair. If you are going to uphold something like human life as intrinsically valuable, you have to do so – all across the board. But the exact same logic applies to the other side as well.

You shouldn’t get to call yourself ‘pro-choice’ if you are promulgating an atomised, rootless and deracinated model of normative womanhood, centred on contemporary bourgeois white Protestant cultural experience and shaped by corporate workplace-cultural demands of how many children she ought to have and when she ought to have them, if indeed she is to have them at all. You are not ‘pro-choice’ if you oppose making available to a pregnant woman any information about her baby, what her options are or what resources she has available to her if she decides to carry to term, which might be germane to her decision of whether or not to keep it. You are not ‘pro-choice’ if you oppose any sort of basic safety regulation on the clinics which perform abortions. You are not ‘pro-choice’ if you think the only elements of sex education which should be taught to high-schoolers are reproductive biology, prevention of disease and contraception – to the exclusion of sexual ethics and the building of healthy, trusting and monogamous relationships. You are not ‘pro-choice’ if you believe individuals working in health-service provision, or in any business, should not have the right to refuse to provide services to the public which conflict with their consciences or the teachings of their religion.

If you are going to uphold ‘choice’, in the accordant Amartya Sen-inspired manner of building capacities to make fully-informed, physically and morally healthy decisions about one’s living conditions, you should at least be consistent about it.


  1. Great post. This is why I am so wary of the movements that become too closely aligned with either major political party. They are eventually co-opted and distorted and their leadership becomes professionalized.

    I also feel the same way about some of the wealthier advocacy organizations and their negative impact on grassroots activism (see the Koch brothers and their role in funding the Tea Party movement). Astroturfing has become a major problem in American politics.

  2. Hi John! Thanks for the comment!

    Money does have its own influence, surely, and that influence will always be oriented to the protection of moneyed interests over those which are not - most notably children, women, the working class, poor countries and so forth. What is intriguing to me is how quickly the principled views impacted by these interests will become blinkered to their own cognitive dissonances, as shown.