By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
When I began working as a radio reporter while still in college, I quickly learned how decisively important the choice of words was and is in conveying the meaning of a story.
On the topic of abortion, for example, I thought that the best way to refer to the “pro” and “con” sides was the way they referred to themselves—“pro-life” and “pro-choice.”
But I found out that this terminology was not preferred by the bible of the journalism industry—the Associated Press stylebook. If I recall correctly, at that time the AP’s preferred usage was “abortion rights supporters” and “opponents of abortion rights.” (Of course, describing anything as a “right” suggests it cannot be challenged.)
As it turned out, even though I was writing my own stories, I had no choice in the matter—my bosses required me to follow the AP stylebook.
But in my own private conversations, I continued to use the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels.
It was some time later that I came to realize that one label was correct and the other was not.
“Pro-life” is a wonderfully descriptive term because it states quite clearly what an advocate stands for. It is far more inclusive than “anti-abortion” or “anti-euthanasia.”
Pro-life connotes a respect for all innocent human life, from the moment of conception to the instant of natural death. It is an expression of hope and wisdom. I am happy to use the term to describe myself and what I believe.
But “pro-choice” is a misnomer. For one thing, a preborn child has no choice when it comes to abortion—a decision to abort is thrust upon the precious offspring.
Moreover, it can be difficult to talk “choice” when a woman is coerced into having an abortion by a husband, boyfriend, parent, or even a grandparent. When, as research indicates, as many as 60% of abortions are coerced, the so-called “choice” is often made by someone other than the mother of the child.
Still, what finally made me abandon the term “pro-choice” was the recognition that anyone who laid claim to the term was campaigning to shore up the abortion industry—to continue the tragedy known as abortion on demand. Pro-choicers were making a conscious decision to see that the abortion trade continues, in spite of the fact that abortion takes one innocent life and leaves a mother to grieve the loss of an irreplaceable child.
It is fascinating to note that many abortion advocates themselves are abandoning the “pro-choice” terminology and instead embracing phrases such as “reproductive justice” or “repro rights.” In a real sense these new monikers are even more deceptive than “pro-choice.”
But, no matter what you call it, the result is the same—more than 60 million preborn children’s lives tragically ended.
No amount of linguistic evasion and sugar-coating can make that palatable.