Opinion

Opposition to abortion is more diverse than media implies

Photo courtesy of Kris Skul

Last week I, along with a few dozen other students from Loyola and neighboring universities, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The event routinely draws upward of 400,000 demonstrators.

While I was pleased to see some mainstream media coverage following the rally, I found its content deeply disheartening.

Photo courtesy of Kris Skul
Photo courtesy of Kris Skul

The Washington Post, for example, wrote: “Friars and nuns in woolen winter capes and thousands of fellow Catholics rallied Wednesday in frigid temperatures and snow.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported, “Thousands of abortion opponents confronted wind chills in the single digits Wednesday to rally and march on Capitol Hill to protest legalized abortion, with a signal of support from Pope Francis. … The event draws many Catholic high school and college students from across the country for a series of events and prayer vigils leading up to a rally and march on the National Mall.”

And from The Guardian: “Thousands of marchers, many of them teenagers who had traveled from across the country on buses, gathered on the snow-covered National Mall, to sing, dance to Christian rock and pray for an end to abortions.”

From this, one would think that only devout Christians oppose abortion — a generalization without factual basis.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans identify as “pro-life” (compared to 45 percent who identify as “pro-choice”). Yet abortion opponents are commonly portrayed as extremists: as pious Catholics (“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!”), as homophobes (“If the fetus you save is gay, would you still fight for its rights?”) and as morality crusaders confined to a small fragment of the Republican Party.

Where’s the disconnect?

I’ve had people tell me that it’s impossible to make the case against abortion without an appeal to religion. Quite frankly, that baffles me. One does not need religion to understand that taking another human life, except in cases of self-defense, is morally impermissible. Similarly, one does not need religion to understand that the fetus, which is genetically distinct from both parents, qualifies as a human life. Establishing arbitrary standards (e.g., “personhood”) for when life becomes worthy of protection is philosophically suspect and serves only to muddle the issue.

The problem, as I see it, is twofold. First, of the 48 percent of Americans who oppose abortion, only a fraction are vocal about it. And second, within that fraction, the overwhelming majority do fit the stereotype.

As a socially liberal pro-lifer, I catch the heat from both sides. On one hand, I agree with just about everything pro-choicers generally advocate, except the obvious. I side with them on ways of reducing unwanted pregnancy (namely, comprehensive sex education), as well as other issues that, while fundamentally unrelated, always seem to pop up in debate — like gender equality, full sexual freedom and LGBTQA rights. I reject the “new feminism” that extols motherhood as woman’s noblest aim, affirming instead her right to decide when and if to become a parent — and to use contraception if that time is not now.

On the other hand, I cannot endorse the supposed right to abortion, and so I am subject to the criticisms directed at the pro-life movement as a whole. Within it, I am branded a “non-traditional” activist because of the views articulated above.

Considering the 48 percent statistic, however, I question whether my stance is really that non-traditional.

The stereotype is, sadly, self-reinforcing: Because conservative Catholics are the face of the organized movement, the media writes it off as a religious cause. As a result, non-Christian and/or non-conservative abortion opponents are uncomfortable participating.

Yet these are precisely the voices the movement so desperately needs. I do not discount the contributions of my Catholic and conservative colleagues, but religious or moralistic arguments are ineffective at reaching those who do not share the base ideology. I am thankful for organizations like Secular Pro-Life, All Our Lives and the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL), which advocate against abortion on secular, liberal grounds.

Can you enjoy sex and be pro-life? Absolutely. Can you use birth control and be prolife? Absolutely. Can you be atheist? Can you be pagan? Can you be openly gay? Absolutely.

And I want to meet you.

Kris Skul is a contributing columnist. You can contact her at kskul@luc.edu

If you can identify with any of these things, or if you share my frustrations with the media’s portrayal of anti-abortion philosophy, I invite you to consider Loyola Students for Life. Meetings are Sunday evenings at 6:30 p.m. in Cuneo 311.

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10 thoughts on “Opposition to abortion is more diverse than media implies”

  1. I agree with every word you just said! Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who holds such views–liberal in almost every way, except the right to an abortion. Aren’t liberals supposed to protect the powerless and vulnerable? I feel like unborn children qualify. Anyway, thanks a million!! 😀

  2. Fabulous post, Ms. Kris! Absolutely spot on. I am an agnostic pro-lifer, and I share your frustration about media portrayal, self-reinforcing stereotypes, and being caught in the middle between some more liberal views but also being pro-life.

    If you haven’t already, it would be great if you joined our group, Secular Pro-Life (facebook.com/secularprolife). We try to create a gathering space for “non-traditional” pro-lifers, in the hopes of strengthening our “non-traditional” voice. You don’t need to be personally secular to join; we have many pro-lifers of faith who support us because they are interested in using secular reasoning. But if you *are* personally secular, I invite you to check out our 6 million project (http://www.secularprolife.org/#!six-million/chg2). We’re always looking for more photos to show our solidarity.

    Thanks again for writing this. It’s so nice to see other people who feel the same way.

    1. I am a longtime supporter of SPL and was thrilled to see my piece featured on your Facebook page this morning! Thanks for all that you do.

  3. An active Mormon here. I proudly contribute to Secular Pro Life, as well as other pro life efforts (NRLC, 40 Days for life, etc.) I will stand with whoever is standing up for life and (if prayers are being said), I will pray with whoever is praying.

  4. Yes! All those things. Rabidly liberal, but pro-life. After all, liberals stand up for the little guy, the guy with no voice. Who has less a voice than a fetus?

  5. well, I have to admit I am a conservative(right winger as some would label me, but not FAR RIGHT) In fact I think Conservatives are all labelled as “far right” or extreme just to illegitimize us as only opposing abortion on religious(moral), biblical grounds, but as someone that studied political science and journalism in college(a state university) and did get a degree in Poli Sci. all of my arguments I post in defense of the humanity of the human at the fetal stage of life, are free of biblical arguments or references only because so much of Constitutional Law of the past and present speaks to Human Equality and thus the right of the fetus to the title of “person” and protection of the law and the Constitution. (I’m sorry for the run-on sentence).

    I notice so often how progressives compartmentalize their equality movements like “gender equality”, “racial equality”, “orientation equality”, “equality of the differently abled” etc., but refrain from the the term “human equality”. Why is that? Could it be because once that term get’s normalized the idea that excluding human beings very young in life and who live in a particular place(the womb) seems to be discrimination on the grounds of age, ability(can’t live outside the womb yet) and where mother nature makes them reside temporarily(in the womb) by no choice of their own?

    Would not discrimination on these grounds be a violation of Human Equality and thus a violation of the 14th Amendment’s right of equal protection along with depriving them of the title of “person” for no other purpose than to be able to discriminate against them under the guise of “reproductive rights”?

    Notice none of this discussion is based at all on religion. It isn’t needed since the Constitution itself is enough to bad abortion(except for the purpose of self defence as all homicides have this exception). We just need Federal Judges with some balls to apply all of the evidence we have about the humanity of the fetus since 1973 to abortion as it exists today similar to how Judge Vaughn Walker used contemporary evidence to start the ball rolling to say the ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

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