Let me begin with an observation. I often encounter students and other individuals who fail to appreciate the difference between “I would never feel right doing that” and “No one should ever be allowed to do that.”
I would never feel right prohibiting my son from working on a Saturday or Sunday. But others would do so without a moment's hesitation. And I think they should be allowed to.
Putting this point another way: Just because I think it would be wrong for me to do something doesn't mean that it's wrong for someone else to do it.
And now for the controversy.
The problems with the policies, actions and political positions associated with the pro-life movement are well rehearsed and well known.
They are not pro-life when it comes to the death penalty.
They are only pro-life about abortion itself and don't actually care about the embryo/fetus because they oppose providing free and universal prenatal care.
They are only pro-life while the fetus is in the womb and oppose or want to unduly limit policies (e.g., welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, education spending including on universal pre-K) that would actually help children.
They are only willing to make laws against and believe those laws will work with abortion (and they believe similar prohibitions on guns would never work).
Obviously, these criticisms don't apply to all pro-life advocates. And maybe some of them are unfair.
But my concern is with a different kind of shortcoming that I've noticed in actual actions, policy recommendations and speeches by pro-life advocates. Specifically, they don't seem to want to work so that we have fewer abortions.
They will publicly display their prayers, their protests, their cookie-cutter policies and laws, and their manipulative techniques to trick women and the public. And I hear about and see evidence of their desire to beat the pro-choice advocates in polls and legislation, but they don't seem to want to work with pro-choice advocates.
I've never met a person who wants more abortions. I've never even heard of a person who wants more abortions.
I've heard (and agree with) those who think it will be a safer and better world if women have access to legal and medically safe abortions, but that is not the same as wanting more abortions.
I, like so many others, don't want more abortions. We want fewer abortions.
And if pro-life advocates were serious about lowering the number of abortions, they would work with pro-choice organizations that help with family planning and the distribution of contraception. They would work to help young people know what it means to have safe sex and diminish the chances of pregnancy.
And this gets us back to my observation.
Whether or not a pro-life advocate would use contraception themselves and whether or not they think sex is sacred or just another physical pleasure, they should be working with pro-choice advocates to diminish the need for abortion.
To do so would require them to focus less on “winning” against pro-choice advocates and more on the goal of fewer abortions.
Abe Schwab is a professor of philosophy and director of Ethics Across the Curriculum at Purdue Fort Wayne who specializes in applied ethics.