The Engage Family Blog

Official Blog of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

We too are prochoice

with 3 comments

Just beginning last week – as I was looking further into the abortion debate – I was finding myself drawing a stark conclusion, “I too am a proponent of prochoice.” 

So that no one misrepresents me – or the Family Policy Council of WV – it’s important to define what I – and we – mean by being a proponent of prochoice. 

One of the foundational pillars in the abortion debate lies the woman’s right to choose rather or not to follow-through with her pregnancy or to abort her unborn child.  This side of the debate is readily known as the prochoice movement (Steve Monsma, Healing for a Broken World, pg. 118).  But what does it mean to choose?  Do we – as individuals – have the right to freely choose as we will?  Finally, I would like to consider a new definition of prochoice.        

What does it mean to choose?

In the Encarta Dictionary on my computer, the verb “choose” is defined as: decide from among range of options (to decide which of a number of different things or people is best or most appropriate); and, to make a deliberate decision to do something. 

For instance, this morning I was presented with a slew of “choices.”  As my wife’s cell phone rang – which serves as our alarm clock – at 5:30 A.M., I had a choice to get up or to continue to lie in bed.  After getting out of bed and slothfully shuffling my feet to the kitchen, I had a handful of options for breakfast: cereal, oatmeal, fruit, eggs, and a bagel.  I could continue to go on and on but I will spare you the monotony of my day thus far.   

Each and every single day – from morning to evening – we are presented with countless choices.  Some of the choices we make are deliberate and thought through, while others are unplanned and carelessly made.  Even if we choose not to choose we are making a deliberate choice (potentially confusing eh?). 

If a choice is considered a deliberate decision from a range of options to do something, how free are we to choose any option? 

What does it mean to freely choose?

Considering all of the options that we are presented with day in and day out, can we make any choice that we desire?  Do we – as individuals – have the right to freely choose as we will?  The answer to both of these questions is, “Yes!”  However, numerous choices are deemed socially unacceptable and many others are deemed illegal.  The former may result in social ostracization, whereas the latter will result in legal prosecution.   

On one hand, even though I live in West Virginia it is still socially unacceptable to pick my nose or express different “bodily functions” at the dinner table.  These choices will not lead to legal prosecution, but they may lead to people’s disfavor of me because I chose to do these acts in front of them.    

On the other hand, Steve Monsma provided a short list of choices that we as individuals or groups do not have the legal right to make:

Whether or not to dispose of highly toxic chemicals in an unsafe manner, whether or not to take personal vengeance on someone who has stolen from us, even whether or not to play ear-splitting music at 1 a.m. in a quiet residential neighborhood (pg. 118).

Mr. Monsma goes on to explain why such choices by individuals and groups are not to be made:

These actions are not simply matters of individual choice.  Why?  Because they affect others.  They interfere with the health, safety, or convenience of others (pg. 118).

Once our actions move beyond the realm of affecting ourselves and into the realm of impacting others health, safety, and/or convenience, then our ability to “freely choose” should be diminished.  There are times that I may eat something that upsets my stomach, but this does not give me the right to do as I will at the dinner table.  If we choose to speed on the interstate or drink and drive, then we are not only putting our life at risk, but we are putting the health and safety of others at risk as well.  This is why certain actions must be deemed illegal and enforced by the government so that we do not have anarchy caused by people doing “as they will.”   

Since the choice to have an abortion moves beyond the individual sphere and into affecting the life of another, then,

The same principle applies to a woman contemplating ending a pregnancy by way of an abortion (pg. 118.)

 With this we are led to conclude a new definition of prochoice

A new definition of prochoice

Today, our Western liberal individualism is captured best in the influential words of John Stuart Mill, who said in 1859,

The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to attain it (On Liberty).

The contemporary prochoice movement vociferously promotes a woman’s right to choose the pursuit of her own good in her own way.  Even at the expense of aborting her unborn child and impacting their life by never allowing them to live it. 

As observed earlier, if our choices negatively impact the life of others, then there are legal and societal consequences.  Instead of promoting a freedom of choice that is centered on one’s own good, it is imperative that we consider a new definition of the freedom of choice. 

Richard Bauckham provides an excellent definition of the freedom of choice in parallel to John Stuart Mills.  He states that,

The only freedom that deserves the name is that of freely pursuing the good of others, not by depriving them of liberty, but by promoting their liberty (God and the Crisis of Freedom, pg. 20)

Instead of pursuing our own good in our own way, let each of us strive to pursue the good of others by promoting their liberty – especially the liberty and freedom of the unborn.  This is why I say that we are proponents of prochoice.  We are for those that strive to pursue the good of others by not neglecting them of their liberty, but rather promoting their liberty. 

With this there is still one all important question to answer that is all too often neglected, “What if a woman is experiencing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy?”   

What if a woman is experiencing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy?

Since we are to go all-out and pursue the good of those that may be experiencing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy, then our pursuit of their good begins at home in our communities, not in the political process.  The lives of the unborn are not only precious in the sight of God, but so too is the life of those that are experiencing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy and the financial hardships of bringing a child into the world (Monsma, 118). 

We should look to support women in these situations in two ways.  One, we should look to support them during their pregnancy by providing acceptance, love, and encouragement.  Consider the example set by Todd and Sarah Palin in providing acceptance, love, and encouragement for their daughter Bristol who is currently pregnant (for more information go here).  This type of support necessitates that we are not only aware of those in our community in this situation, but that we make ourselves available to them.  Not only should this be done on a personal level, but pregnancy centers, churches, and the government should be involved in providing counseling and alternatives to abortion.    

Second, for women who choose to follow-through with the pregnancy and face financial difficulties associated with poverty and raising more than one child calls for the action of individuals, families, communities, pregnancy centers, churches, and the government to financially support and train these women in their efforts

Conclusion

We too are prochoice when it comes to couples, single women and the communities that support them in pursuing the good of their unborn children by not depriving them of their liberty, but rather promoting it by seeing their pregnancy through. 

We appreciate your comments so please, feel free to do so!

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____________________________________________________

Jesse Wisnewski serves as the Executive Administrator of Perrow Church in Cross Lanes, WV.  Jesse is married to his best friend Jessica, and they have two sons, Peyton, 10 and Jude, 9 months.  He is currently attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – Charlotte and is completing coursework towards a Master of Divinity. 

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Written by Jeremy Dys

September 2, 2008 at 2:50 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I (Jesse Wisnewski) had a friend share these thoughts via an e-mail,

    “Women have many choices when it comes to pregnancy. She makes the choice to be alone with one particular person. She makes the choice take her clothes off or expose herself. She makes the choice to engage in intercourse with that individual. And she makes the choice to use an unreliable form of birth control or no birth control at all.
    She makes plenty of choices leading up to the pregnancy that are entirely her own. But once she’ pregnant with a life she can no longer make decisions just for herself but also for the life of another human being. This is your concept of liberty, pusuing the good of another by promoting their liberty.

    The two things I come back to time and time again in this debate are:

    1) Every woman has many choices to make leading up to actually getting pregnant but these are overlooked
    2) Consequences and responsibilities for actions made leading up to and after the pregnancy are overlooked.”

    Thanks for sharing!

    Administrator

    September 3, 2008 at 3:01 pm

  2. “Prochoice vs prolife, and the reality of language distinctions”

    Language – like fire, may be good, or destructive; each requires special care when handling, especially around others.

    Use of the PROCHOICE label really does snatch the attention of a PROLIFE target audience, and was therefore (as intended) effective.

    BUT is a MAN a WOMAN because he dons a skirt, or a DEMOCRAT a REPUBLICAN because she wears the Republican-elephant logo? The affixing of a PROCHOICE label over a PROLIFE conviction may generate heat instead of light. Some may be warmed, and others simmer.

    In reality, vulgate and vernacular ultimately define our words by usage, and we ultimately set about using these words as the tools given to us. AnD though it may seem unfortunate that this is the case, we must pay homage to this reality. Perhaps LIFE and CHOICE ought never to have been donned with their particular labels (as you argue), and maybe they ought never have been pitted one against the other, but these are the name tags on their shirt pockets, and they are there if for no other reason than to keep one from mistaking the other.

    Yours was a bold statement; mine, subdued. But I will wear the PROLIFE label on my shirt pocket because it matches my heart and my culture’s verbage.

    Keith Cobb

    September 3, 2008 at 8:36 pm

  3. So pro-choice, as long as women don’t actually have a choice but do what you want… Yeah, that makes sense.

    Julie Was Here

    January 20, 2011 at 8:26 am


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