“[I]f you’re pro-life, you can’t be pro-life just when they’re in the womb — you have to be pro-life when they get out of the womb, too,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a 2014 phone call with The Daily Caller.
“And sometimes, those lives get messy and complicated and difficult,” he continued. “It doesn’t make the life any less precious, or any less worthy of protection, because they’ve fallen victim to a disease.”
He was talking about having compassion for drug addicts. This was nothing new for Christie. In fact, he frequently talks about how being pro-life transcends the issue of abortion.
Interestingly, it seems some on the other side of the aisle are taking a similar tack. Consider this New York Times piece on Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List:
Some liberals, too, have accused Emily’s List of de-emphasizing abortion rights at a time when they are under siege in many states. Ms. Schriock will barely utter the word.
“What we want to talk about is what voters want to talk about,” she said when asked about abortion. “That’s equal pay, and minimum-wage increase, and access to health care, and paid sick leave, and the list goes on.” (Bold mine.)
(In fairness to Christie, it sounds more like he’s attempting to apply his pro-life philosophy to other areas of life, while it sounds more like Schriock is actually obscuring her pro-choice position.)
There are, I suppose, two ways of looking at this. A cynic might suppose that Christie and Schriock are minimizing the fundamentals in order to make their position appear to be more moderate. In this regard, they risk alienating and offending their base (who think they’re selling out by not focusing solely on abortion), while angering their adversaries (who think they’re being intellectually dishonest and tricking people into joining their side).
On the other hand, ideas have consequences. The kind of person who holds a pro-life position — if it is a coherent worldview — should probably, by extension, value human life from the womb to the tomb. And this, of course, has all sorts of public policy implications. The same would obviously be true for someone who is pro-choice — if that person really believes the talking points (and isn’t merely cloaking a pro-choice position as an argument for unfettered access to abortion as birth control).
For a minute, let’s pretend each side has the best possible motives. In other words, most pro-lifers aren’t trying to hide their agenda of “depriving women of reproductive rights,” and most pro-choicers aren’t pushing “abortion on demand.” Once you get rid of the “A” word (and all the horrific images it conjures up), and dress these positions up in their best, least offensive, clothes — what you come down with is two competing values: Life versus choice.
Now, both sides of the debate have been sagacious in framing their position in a positive manner (pro-life isn’t anti-abortion; pro-choice isn’t anti-life), but just because this is strategic framing doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to it. These are both important values. One could argue that this debate actually pits “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as competing values.
In this regard, Christie and Schriock, rather than obscuring the issue, are actually providing us with an interesting intellectual exercise. I would argue there’s a reason life is listed first among the other “unalienable rights,” and that prioritizing personal choice over preserving human life is selfish. Assuming these are all positive values, the question is: Which is more important for us as a society to prioritize?