Quotes from a man who teaches prolifers to argue with prochoicers using the language of human rights.
Josh Brahm: We’re asking pro-choice people if they agree that all human adults have an equal right to life.
- Yes. I think the most central responsibility of government is to ensure we live longer, healthier, happier lives: I am against war: I am against the death penalty: I am against discrimination in provision of services: I am for universal healthcare free at point of access.
- I believe that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
A publicly claimed motivation for shutting down the US government for over a fortnight was to “stop Obamacare”. And a very public reason why many conservatives say they oppose the Affordable Care Act is that ACA / Obamacare requires that all health insurance policies must now cover all female contraception with no co-pay.
This is objectionable to religious conservatives who think it’s wrong women should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to use contraception: because to a conservative Christian, sex exists in two boxes, Good Sex, which is heterosexual intercourse in marriage, couple open to having children. Anything else is Bad Sex. Although nothing prevents abortions better than women having free access to contraception, to the religious conservative abortion and contraception are linked because both mean that a woman – even a married woman – is having Bad Sex according to their definition: she is a slut.
A conservative Christian will ignore the science of how contraception works, will invent stories of how preventing ovulation is the same as abortion: the very conservative US Council of Catholic Bishops will invent a belief that corporations count as souls with free will and conscience, will even defy the Pope and urge conservative Christians in the legislature to shut down the government and in order to stop women having contraception included with their health insurance.
The facade held up before all of this rather awful hatred of sexually-active women is the supposed belief by conservative religious that they only want to “protect foetuses”. Josh Brahm is the Education Director for Right to Life of Central California [which is, I was subsequently informed, an independent local organisation, not affiliated with “National Right to Life”] and a talk host on a right-wing radio show called “Life Report”. Brahm says his “primary passion” is to help anti-choice advocates be “more persuasive when they communicate with pro-choice people”.
JB: When they say yes, we ask them, “Doesn’t that mean there must be something the same about us?”
- I believe: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of sisterhood.
The most persuasive case anti-choicers can make is to claim that they’re only campaigning against women because they want to save foetuses from being aborted. But their objection to women using contraception is clear proof that they don’t care about preventing abortions: neither can it be shown they care at all about lowering the US’s infant mortality rate.
JB: When the pro-choice person agrees with that conclusion, we simply ask them what is the same about us.
Infant mortality rates are lower in Hungary, Greece, Canada, Cuba, New Zealand, the UK, Portugal, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Finland, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden, and Japan than in the US. (To put this numerically: roughly 3,950,000 babies are born in the US: of those, 233,050 will die before they are a year old. If the US had as low an infant mortality rate as Finland, only 133510 babies would die before they were a year old: 99540 baby lives would be saved. Prolifers do not campaign for government policies to lower the infant mortality rate or improve the lives of older children.)
The infant mortality rate for Ecuador is 18.2 per 1,000. (Note: it’s interesting that in Ecuador, where a left-wing President is strongly against decriminalising abortion, he is outspokenly in favour of contraception.)
JB: I’ve been using this argument on campuses this year and the results have been incredible. I’ve never seen an argument persuade so many people that abortion is wrong.
- How can an argument that we are all human persuade anyone that it’s right to force women through pregnancy and childbirth against their will?
A few years ago, Sara Robinson outlined the difference between liberal and conservative discipline:
For conservatives, the goal of discipline is to assert the power of external authority. In their worldview, most people aren’t capable of self-discipline. They can’t be trusted to behave unless there’s someone stronger in control who’s willing to scare them back into line when they misbehave. Don’t question the rules. Don’t defy authority. Just do what you’re told, and you’ll be fine. But cross that line, dammit, and there will be hell to pay.
To a conservative, it makes sense to argue that a girl of 15 doesn’t have the ability to really decide she wants an abortion: her parents, or the state acting in loco parentis, must decide for her – with the end result that a raped girl who was removed from her parents’ care because they were abusing her, will be forced against her will to have a baby. To a conservative, it makes sense to argue that picketers and demonstrators should be allowed to get as close as they want to patients and staff entering and leaving clinics where abortions are provided – because a woman having an abortion doesn’t really know what she’s doing and might be persuaded to stop if enough people shout “murder” at her. To a conservative it makes sense to argue that the man in authority over the woman should get to decide if she has an abortion or a baby, not the woman herself. (It makes sense, even, to argue that women aren’t able to report accurately that childbirth hurts.)
Pregnancy is not a low-risk “inconvenience”, as so many prolifers are fond of saying. Pregnancy is a huge undertaking that carries with it the very real risk of death and of permanent changes to a woman’s body. Save The Children reported this year that every year one million teenage girls die or suffer serious injury, infection or disease due to pregnancy or childbirth: pregnancy is the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide. Yet pregnancy can now be terminated early, safely, and easily by non-surgical means.
And if being human is what gives us intrinsic value, then that explains a lot of data. It explains why all the adult humans have an equal right to life, even though we have so many differences. It also explains why things like racism and sexism are wrong. Those things focus on a surface difference that doesn’t morally matter, and ignores the thing we have in common, which IS what morally matters!
A conceptus can only become a baby with about nine months of labour. A prolifer is someone who takes for granted their right to force a girl or woman through that labour, ignoring the risk that she might die of it, trivialising the risk that she might suffer serious injury, and usually – certainly in the US – without any concern whatsoever for what may become of the woman or of the baby after birth. Without any concern for the individual humanity of each girl, each woman, who is endowed with her own reason and conscience, to decide for herself what’s best for her to do.
If Josh Brahm genuinely believed that being human is what gives women intrinsic value, he would become prochoice.
But I doubt he ever will.
…disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of humankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people … it is essential, if humans are not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.
In Texas, where recently a state Senator stood up for women’s rights for an 11-hour filibuster, the pro-life legislature is seeking to deprive women of the right to vote.
Women are human; humans have intrinsic value: abortion is a human right.
Prolifers are fond of using a pic of a newborn baby or a digital model of a foetus, with the tag “worth fighting for”. This set of pictures is from an experiment where researchers at the University of Glasgow combined the faces of women around to world to approximate the “average face” of each country.