Unless you’ve been living under a giant rock, you must have heard the slogan ‘my body, my choice’. Four short and simple words; an ad hominem that’s become a sort of war cry for females across the English-speaking world.
It’s a giant shield brought out in defence of any argument against abortion; it’s played as a trump card, the ‘beats rock, paper and scissors’ of this moral minefield.
It fascinates me. I love studying people; figuring out what motivates them, what makes them tick, what their hearts beat for. And ‘my body my choice’ and the culture surrounding that is especially fascinating to me at the moment.
Why? Well, because it doesn’t take an awful lot of scientific enquiry to debunk ‘my body my choice’. There seem to be three key components behind the slogan – bodily autonomy (‘it’s my body so I can do what I want’), the concept of personhood (an unborn baby shouldn’t be granted the rights of an adult person), and moral relativism (‘keep your moral opinions to yourself’). And all of these can be challenged effectively. Stephanie Gray did a wonderful job of this in her Google talk last year, which went viral.
But though there are so many solid arguments in defence of the pro-life position, there is perhaps no method quite so effective as the use of images. Visual evidence convicted me more than anything else did. Unlike language, images cannot obfuscate or downplay. Images simply show what is, and in the face of cold reality, pro-choice arguments, no matter how eloquent, seem weak, pale and inadequate. Like a mouse trying to silence a tiger.
Yet abortion proponents still hide behind ‘my body my choice’, hoping these four words sprawled across a white banner can actually buffer away the uncomfortable truth. Quite literally, in fact. For every Abort67 display of images depicting very-human-looking aborted foetuses, one of these banners invariably follows close behind. Soon enough, the banner has obscured these shocking and uncomfortable images from view. The protesters hold them like sentinels, chanting the words on their banner, or holding a resolute silence.
This is a powerful example of cognitive dissonance. It’s the natural response to the shattering of a belief system – just shout your narrative louder to drown out the truth. Call for ‘buffer zones’ outside of abortion clinics to silence anyone attempting to offer women in crisis a real choice.
Because, you see, the choice to end a life, when no other options are properly presented, is no choice at all.
And this may surprise you, but there is no real evidence to suggest that those participating in vigils outside abortion clinics are abusive or hateful. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but you can’t spend your life believing everything The Guardian tells you. I remember a few months ago, The Guardian published an article claiming that pro-life supporters were actually ‘pro-death’. No, really.
My generation has more access to information than any generation before. Yet my generation is by far the most intellectually dishonest. We know that we couldn’t claim ‘my body my choice’ if we used our arm to stab somebody.
But, you know, ‘technically not just my body but still my choice’ doesn’t sound very righteous, does it?
The truth is that those who chant ‘my body my choice’ have fallen victim to the ‘pro-choice’ narrative they’ve been drip-fed over time. Slowly, it takes root, because ‘pro-choice’ is the only socially acceptable position to hold. In the UK, being ‘anti-abortion’ is considered one of the most terrible things you can be, and the media makes sure you never forget it. Consider the baiting of Jacob Rees-Mogg by Piers Morgan last September. (He was also, predictably, questioned about gay sex, but that’s a topic for another time).
So by the time these protesters are confronted with evidence to challenge their moral foundation, it’s very difficult for them to accept.
Yet even the staunchest pro-choice advocates will concede that no-one makes the decision to have an abortion lightly, and there’s a reason for that. Romans 2:14-15 says: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the Law, do by nature what the Law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the Law, since they show that the work of the Law is written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts either accusing or defending them.”
We all have some understanding of right and wrong. If we didn’t, society couldn’t function at all.
I’m an idealist (albeit one prone to cynicism), and so I like to imagine possibilities. I like to posit questions and re-imagine the way we do things. I like to believe that we are capable of better.
So I’ve found myself asking recently, well, what if abortion was no longer considered a valid choice? I don’t mean just legally. I mean, what if abortion wasn’t culturally acceptable, because the culture held a set of values that made abortion unthinkable?
It’s not too hard to imagine what that might look like, because many nations already model it to an extent. Last year I witnessed some tourists from South America being horrified by an Abort67 display in central London. Growing up in from nations where valuing the unborn is deeply ingrained in their culture, they were shocked to learn of how liberal our laws are here.
Change always begins with knowledge, which is why I think Abort67’s public education project is exciting, and the desperate cover-ups an encouraging sign that worldviews up and down the country are being shaken to the core. I’m sure the social reformers of the past were met with similar reactions.
As work continues to tear down the deception of ‘pro-choice’, a culture of life must replace it. A culture of loving both mother and child, a culture of sacrificial love and generosity to cover the desperate and the needy.
A culture that has to start with the Church.
But that’s a post for another day.
I already posted the link above, but Stephanie Gray’s address at Google is absolutely worth your time. Thorough, engaging and winsome.
Image: Getty Images