In light of Savita Halappanavar’s death due to being refused an abortion after miscarrying, using the term “pro-life” to mean “anti-abortion” is increasingly problematic.
As therapist Lyla Cicero points out, “when a choice must be made between a mother’s life and a child’s, choosing abortion is still being pro-life, isn’t it?” Her piece on a pregnant teenager who identified as pro-life yet choose an abortion exemplifies this dilemma: the girl was choosing her life, choosing to delay having children, choosing to commit her time to working her way out of poverty. The irony, as Cicero notes, is that “The politicians who so vehemently call themselves pro-life are the same politicians who would resent [the teen mother's] living off the government.”
That quote leads into the connections between pregnancy, poverty, and abuse. This reblogged snippet says it all: the poster, who used to investigate child abuse and neglect, has some heart-breaking stories about the loneliness and impoverishment of mothers and their children after birth. None of the “pro-life” rhetoric helps them then; none of the “pro-lifers” are giving a helping hand. Okay, it’s a big world, maybe some are – but why are so many young mothers left to struggle after being pressured not to have abortions?
The first scientific study of women who are denied abortions reveals that women who are denied abortions are more likely to be on public assistance and below the poverty line, are more likely to stay in relationships with abusive partners, and face greater health risks from giving birth. Women who were able to obtain abortions, in comparison, did not show greater mental health effects, disproving the assumed link between abortions and depression.
Using the term “pro-life” to indicate this constellation of effects – impoverishing women and their children, condemning them to health risks and violence – troubles me. For that reason, I will no longer use the term “pro-life,” instead calling people who oppose abortions “anti-abortion.” Sure, adding more syllables makes the term roll off the tongue a little less easily, but I think we should resist misleading titles.