The Pro-Life Party: Us, Goddammit!

· Democrats

“Are you pro-life or pro-choice?”
That’s not an original “joke,” but it’s one that bears repeating. This morning on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez were interviewing a woman from NOW and a man from the Democratic Senatorial (?) Council about the latter group’s policy of encouraging pro-choice senatorial hopefuls to step aside for supposedly more electable anti-choice candidates in 2006. All four of them used the phrase “pro-life” to describe opponents of legal abortion.
That’s [bleep]ing crazy. Of all the distortions and hijackings of language perpetrated by the right-wing noise machine, none is more pernicious in its scope than their claim to be “pro-life.” Those of us who can loosely be called “progressives” are the party of Life. We are pro-life when we assert the right to regulate economic activity to prevent species extinction, to preserve workplace health and safety, and to improve air and water quality. The right opposes all those kinds of regulation because they don’t see any value to life and health beyond what can be quantified monetarily. We are pro-life when we oppose war, and particularly the targeting of civilians in war. We are pro-life when we oppose the death penalty. And we are pro-life when we assert the value of a mother’s actual life over the abstraction of a fetus’s potential life.
Having said that, I also found it disturbing that Amy Goodman took issue with Hillary Clinton’s description of abortion as a “sad” choice. To be sure, Mrs. Clinton’s comment implies more in the context of her DSC maneuvering than it literally says, but it seems grotesquely callous to suggest that the decision to end a potential life is not sad, even when it’s the only humane choice.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to be said about this. The progressive movement and the Democratic party need to find a way to deal with the fact that even though the majority of American voters support legal choice, they also support candidates who oppose it. This is a deeply rooted paradox. It has something to do with the tension between the morality we actually practice (what I’m calling “humane” values) and what we think we believe. Others may be able to articulate this better than I can.