Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Dignity of Choice

Walking through the Texas A&M campus means opening up oneself to bombardment from multiple fronts ranging from displays about modern farming equipment to the less common displays describing art in America. Recently I walked past a pro-life display showing very graphic pictures of aborted babies. The display gave facts about abortion, the common reasons given for procuring an abortion and information about the post-traumatic symptoms women usually experience after an abortion. Alongside the display there was something that seemed a bit odd to me. They had a board with butcher paper called their “Free Speech Board.” The purpose of this board was to allow anyone’s thoughts of the display, whether positive or negative, to be given and read by anyone who wanted to read it. I decided to make my way to the board and see what “free speeches” anyone had given. I found the usual pro-life and pro-choice slogans. One statement I read got me to thinking on my ride home. The statement was: “Dignity is Choice!”

It seemed rather obvious to me at the time that this statement was made as one on the side of legalized abortion. Now, however, I’m not sure. Most people who believe in things “pro-life” would agree that there is in fact dignity in choice. We enjoy a great distinction in fact among creatures of the earth in that we have what is called a “meta-mind” which means that we can think about our thoughts or the thoughts of others. It is our meta-mind which allows us to actually think through our choices and make the most, or least, of them. No other animal as far as we know has this ability besides us and so we enjoy a special dignity above other creatures in our choice making.

Most Catholic and Christian pro-lifers would also agree that choice is a great dignity because it is a gift from God. When confronted with the “problem of evil” as it is so called, the first defense is usually that of the dignity of free will. Free will is our ability to choose and that means that there is indeed God given dignity in choosing. My dilemma in finding the stance of the statement was only building now as I considered that there must be more behind the statement.

I decided to consider the label then. Why is it that if you support abortion you label yourself “pro-choice?” I have been told that it is because these people see an inherent right to choose to have an abortion. But can I not be pro-choice by choosing to go to work rather than call in sick? Why the name? I have always understood the label of “pro-life.” Pro-lifers wish to save the lives of the unborn. Pro-choicers however protect a thing we’ve already got, the ability to choose things. This being the case, that we already have the ability to choose things, shouldn’t they be a little more specific? Shouldn’t they be called “Pro-Abortionists” or “Anti-Lifers?” The only reasons I can think of for not using these labels is because they sound negative. If the label is accurate however in what it represents and gives a negative impression then maybe it should call attention to the thing it labels as being negative. Perhaps this is the key to understanding their label: the term pro-choice covers a multitude of negative actions.

On some level we are all pro-choice. I want to choose to eat dinner or not. I want to choose to go to bed at a decent hour or not. There is, however, an inherent understanding that we all have that tells us that not all choices are good. I know it isn’t good for me to eat too much because it is unhealthy. I know it is bad to choose to stay up too late because I need to get up early for work. These things in mind, we are all pro-choice while we all understand what it means to make a good or bad choice. Remember thought that there is dignity inherent in choice even if the choice is bad.

Therein is hidden the real dilemma for the label “pro-choice.” Calling a movement “pro-choice” defines nothing while the term “pro-life” does. A more accurate label than “pro-choice” for abortion rights advocates is “pro-abortion” which has a naturally negative connotation. The term pro-choice is meant to do away with the negative connotation associated with being against life and instead implicitly portrays the pro-life movement as anti-choice which is clearly not the case as we are all pro-choice in the fact that we cannot go throughout our day without making a choice or two here and there and we do so willingly. If we do away with the mask of a label and focus on what we’re are choosing, we must look to find out if it is a dignified choice. The answer to the question seems to be “no” based on the fact that the rather deceitful title was necessary in the first place. Let’s not jump to conclusions though.

What removes the dignity of choice with abortion? I think it is ultimately reducible to this: If abortion is killing a baby, and killing a baby is morally wrong, then abortion is morally wrong. Is a bad choice a dignified choice? I would not think so, though it remains that our free-will to choose is dignified regardless. Of course many people think that it is a more complicated matter than this but I disagree on the basis that whether or not one meant to have a child (a.k.a. failed contraception), killing that child is still wrong. In the case of rape or incest, what has the child done to deserve death in the womb? The child has done nothing and so killing it would be wrong even if the circumstances of its conception were rather sinister. What if the life of the mother were at stake? I would think it a very selfish and uncaring mother who would not give her life for that of her child, even the child she has never met.

What else can we say if the decision made is undignified or unlawful while the dignity of choice itself remains? We can say, and rightly so, that removing the legal status of a bad choice does not negate the dignity of the choice itself. For instance, it is illegal for me to go 75 miles per hour on the local highway, but I can still choose to go 75 mph or even faster. Murder is against the law, but I can still make the wrong decision to commit murder. So regardless of law the dignity of choice remains in the individual’s decision. Applied to abortion the dignity of choice is never removed from choice while the dignity of the choice made, the dignity of the decision that is, is unquestionably wrong.

How far will the pro-abortionists go? No doubt many have heard the story of a young girl in Italy who was given no choice. Valentina made a mistake. She, 13 years old, became pregnant by her boyfriend who was 15 years of age. Valentina valiantly chose life for her child rather than commit murder by having an abortion. Then she was court ordered into an abortion. Valentina has since been committed to the psychiatric unit of a children’s hospital because she has attempted suicide saying “You have made me kill, and now I kill myself, I kill myself.” Throughout the murderous process the progressives who routinely proffer choice were deafeningly silent. What happened to the call for her dignity of choice?

My final opinion of the statement left by the anonymous author must be that either it was written by a pro-lifer or by an illogical pro-abortionist. The dignity of choice is only fully appreciated when it is realized in the choice of the Divine Creator to give life to what was previously only dead matter that has been made into the Creator’s own divine image. Surely the author must have realized this truth and wanted to be sure that we all understood it. I’m sure that’s what her pro-choice statement was really about, right?

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