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Pro-Choice or Pro-Life?

"The quality of our lives is directly proportional to the quality of our questions." We need to learn to ask better questions.

A recent story in the news reminded me of an old saying:  “the quality of our lives is directly proportional to the quality of our questions.”

Usually, this phrase is thought of in terms of questions like "Why does this always happen to me?” compared to “What can I do to keep this from happening to me in the future?” It’s obvious that the second question is far more empowering than the first. But there’s another kind of question out there.

It’s the question that is posed to draw "battle lines" and to define "Us vs. Them." These types of questions are posed in such a way as to try and get you to choose between only two options, as though those were the only two options to choose from. These questions have to do with pushing agendas, not with solving problems. These are the questions that serve the group, not solve the issues.

Let takes a look at an issue that’s a real hot button in our society: abortion.

And it’s a hot button exactly because of the question that is routinely asked around it – "Are you 'Pro-choice' or 'Pro-life?'"

A recent news story told of how Sister Margaret McBride was kicked out of the Catholic Church, and how St. Joseph's Hospital lost its Catholic affiliation, because they approved an abortion in order to save a pregnant woman's life. Yes, you heard right, they were kicked out for trying to save a life. They approved an abortion for a 27-year-old woman who was 11 weeks pregnant but suffered from a serious heart condition. The hospital’s board of ethics, of which Sister Margaret was a member, made the decision that terminating the pregnancy in the third month was the only possible way the doctors of saving the mother’s life.

This, of course, started a huge uproar in the “Pro-life” and “Pro-choice” camps. I think it would be nice if Life could be reduced to “all or nothing” choices, but it can’t. Life is all about the shades of gray. Defining yourself as only “Pro-choice” or exclusively “Pro-life” places you in an ineffective position because “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” are two extremes, two polarities of the continuum called abortion. If only it were as simple as to adhere strictly to one polarity or the other. Many feel completely comfortable at either of these two extremes because they do cover around 80 percent of situations. The rub is that they don’t cover the other 20 percent, like the one mentioned above.

I have been asked before if I am “Pro-choice” or “Pro-life” and my first reaction is always “what a lousy question.” Does this person really believe that those are the only two choices a person can make on the subject? Whenever I am asked a question like this one, one that is designed to force me to make a choice between only a few options out of many, I usually reply with an “I can’t answer your question the way you’ve asked it.”  

Then I follow up with, “Why are those my only choices?” That usually fries them pretty well because they never really thought deeply about the issue, they simply "jumped on the band wagon" and repeated what they had heard.

I think using abortion as "birth control" is unacceptable because I have a fundamental belief in the sanctity of all life. I believe that allowing a mother to die because the pregnancy would kill both herself and the child is unacceptable because I have a fundamental belief in the sanctity of all life. Being asked if I am “Pro-choice” or “Pro-life” is like being asked If I am “Pro-hot” or “Pro-cold” in reference to water. I can’t answer a question like that. I honor the fact that sometimes life calls for us to choose “warm.” Instead of being “Pro-hot” or “Pro-cold” the correct place to be is “Pro-water.”

Life is too complex and varied to effectively navigate with only a set of hard and fast rules. The proverb “there’s an exception to every rule” speaks to the fact that life is made up of situations that fall outside of “all or nothing” attitudes. We could dispense with a lot of anger, rage and fighting if we would start asking better questions. How about instead of needing to be either “Pro-Choice” or “Pro-Life,” we define ourselves as either “Pro-Love,” “Pro-Compassion,” or “Pro-Peace”? 

Nah, too many people would probably miss being “Pro-anger.”

Jim G. December 21, 2011 at 01:04 PM
I guess you're out of reasons to get up in the morning. Or post. It's all hopeless and lost and we're just dust under the wheels of oppression. Got it.
Phil Dunn December 21, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Actually, it is politics and religion that should be avoided at cocktail parties and abortion is the "third rail" that involves both of those subjects. I do think that the Patch continues to have excellent articles relevant to our community that cannot be found elsewhere. Opinion pieces such as this are probably better left to another forum.
Ellen DeRosa December 22, 2011 at 01:21 AM
I don't think it's an issue. I think it's tissue. That tissue is a human life, with heartbeat and the potentiality of all things human. Maybe, if 'the issue' becomes an awareness of 'the tissue', we would all be ending a discussion and begin stopping abortion altogether. I think the unborn may be tired of hearing 'the issue'. It's their lives on the line - not you or I. It doesn't have anything to do with us, really. It's all about THEM. Talking doesn't help them one bit when their riding in a car inside their moms to a clinic. It just doesn't help at all. An ultrasound helps. That's the picture that must be seen by moms - eveywhere and every place. The picture is worth a thousand words.
Andrew Ziemba December 22, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Yeah, abortion is sort of like "the world is flat not round" argument. You can present factual information, but one side just does not care. The fact remains that making abortion illegal limits your choices in this world as an individual about what you can and can not do with your body. Ultimately, it is nothing more than a RELIGIOUS argument (NOT a law regarding the definition of murder argument). If the argument against abortion held any water because it was categorized as murder, then smoking while pregnant and drinking while pregnant would both be felonies because that is murder too... The only reason the debate about abortion even exists (to those who are not afraid to discuss it openly without getting enraged to the point of incoherently yelling at people for no reason) is because religion says it is EVIL and BAD and so therefore, there is a large group of people with the archaic idea that god knows best how people should act and that everyone must legally act that way. So on one side you have people who want to control other people and their body because of their personal philosophy on life in general. On the other side you have people who just want to be left alone to do what they want to do or need to do.
Jim G. December 22, 2011 at 09:23 PM
The argument persists because there are two sides with equal weight of facts, and the difference comes down to a moral stance. Which is why it's utterly pointless to start a public discussion about it, because no one, ever, in the history of the world, changed their moral opinion because of someone else's factual argument. The one unswerving fact is that proponents of both sides can take the argument right off a cliff, and after having read such exchanges for decades, I wish many of them would practice what they preach.

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