It Is “Anti-Choice” And We Should Be Blunt With Language

antichoice_willisEarlier this week, some folks opposed to abortion took issue with me on Twitter for describing them as “anti-choice.” In one of the many ways in which the left allowed the right to run roughshod over them in the 1980s and 1990s, the right was allowed to take up the ridiculous mantle of “pro-life” on the abortion issue. The result of course is that to be opposed to them, you must be pro-death.

One of the right’s scholars (aka, a hack) wrote an entire book about Democrats being “the party of death.”

He wrote and promoted this book as George W. Bush’s strategy in Iraq led to the deaths of thousands of unnecessary deaths in Iraq, naturally.

And that’s part of why the pro-life label doesn’t make logical sense. These are also the same people who do not believe in any exceptions to abortion law. Even when the life of a mother is in danger, the Republican Party’s platform calls for an absolute ban on abortion. That’s not “pro-life.”

By comparison, the majority opinion in the country and within the left is actually choice. We believe that a woman has a choice in what is done to and within her body. It is her choice whether she wants to terminate a pregnancy, and she shouldn’t be forced into that decision, especially not by a male-dominated legislative body.

The anti-abortion movement opposes this choice. They oppose choice, and we should strive towards clarity of language as much as we can. Maybe their feelings get hurt to be described as “anti-choice” but it is the most accurate, purest distillation of their position possible.


  • Steve Simels

    Personally, I blame the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.

    Who have heroically supported a woman’s right to choose with the courageous slogan “Abortion — keep it legal, rare and icky.”

  • Steve Simels

    I prefer “Pro-coat hanger” but perhaps that’s too shrill.

  • bbcaaat

    I prefer “enforced maternity”.

  • Patrick Grady

    I imagine that some felt the same way about slavery – ignorance by choice was preferable to the conviction of guilt by the truth.

    • dbtheonly

      If you were more specific perhaps I could enumerate reasons beyond, “This doesn’t sound right. There must be something wrong here.”

  • SaveFarris

    “I am all for keeping abortion safe and legal.”
    Then you should be leading the charge against Kermit Gosnell, not participating in the cover-up.

    • Buzz Killington

      Who did?

    • Oliver Willis

      Fox barely covered Gosnell, obviously theyre part of the cover up.

      • dbtheonly


        You’ve accepted the point that there was a cover-up? With or without Fox being part of it? I deny there was a “cover-up” outside of Farris’ fevered imagination.

    • merl1

      nothing you say ever makes any sense at all but that comment is even more nonsensical than most. Damn, dude do you just type letters or something?

    • Zython

      What new development has warranted more coverage? He was arrested a while ago. He hasn’t been convicted yet. Has there been new, highly shocking evidence? Or do you just want a media circus that doesn’t inform anyone of anything?

    • John M. Burt

      I agree, Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s crimes should be heavily covered. So should the conditions, carefully created by “pro-life” people, which made his operation possible, and which, spreading from state to state, are making more like him inevitable.

  • RepackRider

    Why not let the “free market” decide this issue?

    Wait. It already did. Conservatives only accept the “free market” when it supports their paranoia.

  • Sarah Baker

    If we’re being blunt, wouldn’t the words be anti-abortion and pro-abortion? Choice is a euphemism. I don’t know very many people who call themselves pro-choice who actually live up to it. They generally do not believe women should be free to choose whether to participate in Obamacare; whether to pay into the Social Security system; to own automatic weapons; to send their children to private schools using vouchers; to have charter schools in their community; to use incandescent lightbulbs; to own bars where they allow patrons to smoke; etc. So I always find it ironic when someone tells me they’re pro-choice and I start asking them if they are pro-choice on these other issues and it usually turns up that they are not so much pro-choice as they are pro-abortion.

    • Draxiar

      It seems to me that no one is out there rallying in support of abortion. “Yeah! Terminate those pregnancies!” Few people, if any people are PRO-abortion. They ARE pro-choice though. They advocate for a woman to have access for getting a safe surgical abortion if she chooses (y’know, as opposed to wire coat hangers). I’m pro-choice- not pro-abortion.

      Now you can ask me if I’m pro-choice on the other issues you’ve cited and I’ll be more than happy to inform you that those are different discussions and should not be equated to an individuals reproductive rights because they are not at all related.

    • Wednesday

      I’m perfectly fine telling people I’m pro-abortion. I am all for keeping abortion safe and legal. I don’t need to soft-pedal that concept. Rationality can stand on its own merits.

      If I’m afraid of saying the word because someone might find it a little too in-your-face about the reality of the situation, then I’m not going to change that person’s mind in any case. Let’s use words that are unambiguous and unapologetic.

      Unfortunately, I can’t think of an accurate replacement for “school choice.” Give-me-money-so-my-kid-can-go-to-a-better-school-than-your-kid-wah-wah-freedom is a bit clunky.

    • Sean Richardson

      “Choice is a euphemism.”

      No, it isn’t. The choice as to whether or not to get an abortion *is* exactly what people are in favor of, not the abortions themselves.

      “So I always find it ironic when someone tells me they’re pro-choice and I start asking them if they are pro-choice on these other issues and it usually turns up that they are not so much pro-choice as they are pro-abortion.”

      If you find it weird that people who use a phrase within a specific context in which it has a universally accepted meaning do not apply that phrase to other contexts, the issue there is with how you specifically process language. You’re probably one of those people who, when somebody asks “Are you white?”, you say “No, actually, my skin is peach-colored.”

      I’m sorry if you genuinely don’t understand that “I am in favor of women being able to choose whether or not to have an abortion” does not automatically mean “I am in favor of women being able to not get insurance and then still show up and demand that the doctor give them life-saving services for free”, but it’s you who doesn’t understand it. The words themselves are perfectly clear.

    • merl1

      are you fucking stupid? the choice is to have an abortion or not, it has nothing to do with fucking lightbulbs you moron.

      • Ol Froth

        I believe Zython is referring to those consevatives who had an absolute freakout over the fact that they wouldn’t be able to buy 100 watt incandescent lightbulbs.

    • Zython

      What about the choice to use contraception? Or the choice to protect oneself from cervical cancer? I guess choices only matter if they’re superficial (lightbulbs? Who the fuck cares).

    • John M. Burt

      The truly logical terms would be “legal abortionist” and “illegal abortionist”. The question (the only question) is, do you want the abortions which happen to be legal ones, or illegal ones?

  • Buzz Killington

    It’s a matter of focus. “Anti-choice” focuses on something that those against abortion don’t particularly care about. They aren’t against abortion because they want to control women, they are against it because they want to protect the fetus.

    It is exactly the same thing as calling abortion supporters pro-death: the purpose in doing so it to shift the focus to the worst aspect of the opponent’s position, even though that aspect has little to nothing to do with why they believe what they do. Both cases are either disingenuous, or callously dismissive.

    Abortion is so tough because both sides have valid positions. It’s purely a value judgement about whether it’s better to protect the fetus at the expense of the woman’s control over her bodily functions, or protect her control at the expense of the fetus.

    • dbtheonly


      And then we get into the whole issue of “medical necessity”. For all the RW hoopla over “late-term abortions” the only reason they are used is when the life of the woman is at serious risk. At what point do we decide to save one life over another? I believe that’s a decision each individual must make if God Forbid the issue arises.

      I remember when the representatives of the various groups claimed their “naming rights” & thus we get the difference in focus as you’ve said.

      Aaron makes a good point too. The RW asserts the decision is a simple one & thus buys into the Onion’s spoof of the Wichita Abortion Complex & Shopping Mall.

      • Buzz Killington

        Right. It’s a big stinking mess.

        • RepackRider

          “THE right. It’s a big stinking mess.”


    • RepackRider

      The courts have decided that women have the same right to private consultation with their doctors as anyone else does, like the right to privacy between a priest and a penitent or between an attorney and a client. In short, the government is not entitled to act as a doctor, lawyer or priest.

      If a protected conversation involves discussion of abortion, it is none of anyone else’s business. A course of treatment is thus like a legal defense strategy, which is determined only by those involved.

      How simple could that possibly be?

      • Buzz Killington

        Sure, but that’s the extreme and thus easiest case to weigh. The case where women simply don’t want to be pregnant aren’t nearly as ethically unbalanced. Also, legality alone has no real weight in an ethical discussion.

        • Sean Richardson

          The only way that the ethics are balanced is if the fetus is an equal life-form to the human. Since it isn’t, since it is only potentially that, the ethics are permanently skewed towards the actual human life that exists at the moment.

          • Buzz Killington

            I don’t find it nearly so clear as to just say “it isn’t”. When does a fetus become equal, and why then?

          • Lady Willpower

            I’m very, very pro-choice. But please don’t just say “it isn’t.”
            That’s practically like saying “it’s just a parasite” which is a line of reasoning I really hate.

          • dbtheonly


            Late to the game but;


            This is part of what Buzz & I are trying to work out. There is a wide number of possibilities with different ethical or legal ramifications. On one end we have prevention; which I’d assert carries no moral or legal opprobrium. Prevention is of no concern to anyone not directly involved. On the other end we have the termination of a viable fetus which carries strong ethical & some legal ramifications (I’m thinking of the guy charged with two killings for the drunk driving deaths of a woman & her viable fetus).

            There are any number of other lines & conditions in between. Medical science is moving the lines between those status and both law & ethics are trying to catch up.

            Are we trying to draw lines where no lines can be drawn? Can we ask anything more than mature reflection? Should we ask anything less?

            Several years ago DA & fafaroo jumped all over me for insisting that one needed to think of the ramifications before any sexual encounter. Forethought & prevention still strike me as the best plan.

          • Buzz Killington

            Well said, db. I get the impression that some people think women should have the absolute right to have sex without the risk of a resulting child, and abortion is a necessary means to that end. So far, at least, I have not been convinced to accept that notion.

        • RepackRider

          Buzz: “Sure, but that’s the extreme and thus easiest case to weigh.”

          A consultation between a doctor and a patient is “the extreme?” Sounds the like the most normal of normal to me.


          • Buzz Killington

            Sorry Repack, I must have been conflating your comment with another one when I responded. I was meaning to be replying about the case where the mother’s life is in danger.

        • Sean Richardson

          “I don’t find it nearly so clear as to just say “it isn’t”. When does a fetus become equal, and why then?”

          Well, the answer is pretty obvious from what I wrote; a fetus is a developed and functional human being when it is a developed and functional human being.

          You put forth the argument that it is immediately obvious that a fetus and a human being are on equal ethical terms. I don’t find that obvious, and said as much; I would say the burden is on *you* to prove why they are equal.

          My position is pretty simple; a fetus is a potential human being, a human being is an actual human being. Once a fetus becomes an actual human being, I don’t think of it as a fetus anymore, because it is a human being.

          • Buzz Killington

            You put forth the argument that it is immediately obvious that a fetus and a human being are on equal ethical terms. I don’t find that obvious, and said as much; I would say the burden is on *you* to prove why they are equal.

            No, you are the one that put forth an argument: that a fetus is not a human being, ethically speaking. I merely said I do not accept that as self-evident.

            That said, I understand what you are saying, conceptually. But as a practical matter, specifically, when do you start considering a fetus a human being? “Developed” and “functional” are fuzzy words.

        • Sean Richardson

          “That’s practically like saying “it’s just a parasite” which is a line of reasoning I really hate.”

          I’ll open up the same question to you. If you disagree that a fetus is not the same as a human being, then please explain the logic that leads you to the conclusion that a fetus is the same as a human being.

          I’m not talking about parasites, not because the argument is emotionally distasteful, but because the argument is obviously fallacious. Over the course of the pregnancy, there is certainly a time where the fetus’s functions have similarities to that of a parasite, but it’s a pretty limited, very superficial comparison.

        • Sean Richardson

          “I get the impression that some people think women should have the absolute right to have sex without the risk of a resulting child…. So far, at least, I have not been convinced to accept that notion.”

          Seriously? I’m sorry, I thought you were a reasonable person, I didn’t realize you were coming at this from pure misogyny.

          • Buzz Killington

            I try to always keep my mind open, as you’ve shown here previously. Immediately delving into personal insults starts you out in a pretty big hole, though.

            And off-topic, WTF is with the threading in here? Three levels deep and then it’s just chaos. Disqus sucks, apparently.

    • Tbone

      Actually, it’s not a valid position to legislate that a woman must die for getting pregnant, or that she has to carry rape babies to term.

      • Buzz Killington

        It’s a good additional point that there is not a single position on abortion. There are many different scenarios that have different variables at play.

    • Sean Richardson

      “It is exactly the same thing as calling abortion supporters pro-death”

      No, it isn’t. I agree with your point about “anti-choice”, it is not an accurate representation of why they think what they think. However, it does accurately sum up the position that they are taking — they do not believe that women (well, anybody, but it only actually applies to women) should be able to have abortions. That is basic logic.

      “pro-death” does not sum-up the position of people who believe in the choice to get abortions or not. “Pro-death” would be a position in which mandatory abortions were universally enforced. Nobody supports such a position, maybe because it would be short-sighted, maybe just because it would be evil. It does not represent the end goal of the pro-choice movement, whereas “anti-choice” does accurately represent the end goal of the pro-life movement.

      • Buzz Killington

        Alright, that’s a well stated case. I’ll accept that difference. Although I maintain that the purpose of saying “anti-choice”, to shift the focus from what other side thinks is important to what your side thinks is important, is the same in both cases.

  • Aaron M. Litz

    Exactly. Especially when the Choice made is frequently to go head and have the baby anyway. The Anti-Choice coalition just assumes that if a woman wants the RIGHT to make the choice, it automatically means that the choice will ALWAYS be to have the abortion.

    I don’t know ANY woman who has had an abortion and made the choice lightly; it was always an extremely hard, agonizing decision they had to struggle with, for all of them. The Right likes to spin this illusion of women lightly going off and having abortions willy-nilly without a thought or a care, as if it were no big deal. I don’t know of any woman who didn’t agonize over the decision. But it NEEDS to be THEIR decision to make.

    These men on the Right, I don’t think they can even CONCEIVE (no pun intended) of what it’s like for a woman, risking pregnancy every time they have sex. They can’t become pregnant themselves, so they don’t bother to even TRY to think about what it must be like for a woman.

    I personally am not a big fan of abortions; I consider the POTENTIAL of every human life to be precious (which is one of the reasons why I vehemently oppose the death penalty.) But I would NEVER try to say that a woman doesn’t have the right to agency over and control of her own body. If a woman chooses to have the baby and give it up for adoption, that’s wonderful! Good for her! BUT, if she decides that she just CAN’T go through with it, then I totally respect that; she knows her own body and her own life better than anyone, I have absolutely NO idea what an agonizing struggle she had to go through to come to that decision; I have no idea of all the particulars of her life and what the potential ramifications or consequences of carrying a pregnancy to term might be fore her.

    I wish these Anti-Choice men would just STOP for a second and THINK, and try too consider what it must be like for a woman. Too many men like that actually take it as granted that men can have as much sex as they can get with little to no consequence for them, and don’t even consider the risk for the women they have sex with. They just don’t even think about the fact that a woman risks getting pregnant every time she has sex. They never even TRY to imagine what it must be like for a woman.

    It’s an unfair limit on the sexual freedom of women (even though you can’t really blame nature for being unfair, it still is unfair) and the possibility of abortion is the only thing that creates even a slight leveling of the field between men and women, even if it really isn’t that much of an equalizer. I a woman DOES get pregnant, she then has to make an agonizing decision weather or not to end a potential human life.

    I don’t envy women that situation; caught between a rock and a hard place, it would be a horrible place to be and an awful decision to have to make. But robbing them of the right to make that decision would be far, far worse.

    • Sean Richardson

      “Too many men like that actually take it as granted that men can have as much sex as they can get with little to no consequence for them”

      After speaking with several conservatives on this issue, ones who are not basing their argument on religion, I have come to the conclusion that they believe that having a baby *is* and should be a consequence of having sex. They see abortions as eliminating the consequence [as if getting an abortion isn’t a consequence].

      And then we get into the distinction between “consequence” and “punishment” and they get angry. But, for just a minute there, I understand where they’re coming from. I detest it, but I do understand. These are people who have lived their life a certain way because they believe that there is a consequence. They have gradually internalized that consequence as a moral necessity. Therefore, eliminated that consequence not only fundamentally shifts morality away from them, but points out that this so-called moral code which they have lived by no longer applies, which makes them defensive about all the sex they could’ve been having without consequence, and, in turn, leads to them trying to artificially force the return of that consequence, lest they have to actually think about their own positions.