Posted by Pamela on January 25, 2007
: : : : : : "Pro choice" and "Pro Life"
: : : : : : The meaning of the phrases "pro choice" and "pro life" are fairly evident to anyone familiar with the abortion debates of the last half century. But what are the origins of these phrases? It seems to me that one was probably coined as a riposte to the other, but which came first? Does either of them have a named "inventor"? My dictionary simply says the origin is "U.S.: 1960s" - not very enlightening. Any ideas?
: : : : : : (PS I got thinking about this because of this interesting article:
: : : : : : http://www.slate.com/id/2158035/nav/tap2/
: : : : : I can give you only a very partial answer. The organization known as NARAL, National Abortion Rights Action League, was founded in 1969 by Betty Friedan and others as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, and described themselves as pro-choice. After the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 they changed their name to what it now is. The anti-abortion sentiment was inherent in a number of religious organizations already in existence. After Roe v. Wade their anti-abortion position won new prominence, and new, single-issue, organizations were founded to combat abortion. Soon they realized or were presuaded by old political hands that a positive name was needed, rather than ANTI-abortion, to oppose the positively-named PRO-choice movement, and some clever person came up with pro-life. By 1976 it could be said (and was) that this was the preferred designation for their position, rather than anti-abortion. As the bard says, What's in a name?
: : : : : SS
: : : : Riposte? Yep.
: : : : PRO-CHOICE -- ".This term surfaced in sloganeering to avoid the harness of 'pro-abortion.' This inspired use of 'choice'.reflected polls that showed more people identifying themselves as being 'in favor of a woman's right to choose' than 'in favor of legal abortion.' Alan L. Otten of the 'Wall Street Journal' first used the term in print." That was in a March 20, 1975 article. Anti-abortionists used "right-to-life' as their slogan after the 1973 Supreme Court decision. ".Eager to present themselves as being in favor of something positive, the right-to-lifers then chose the term 'pro-life.' The 'New York Times' reported on January 18, 1976, about a 'pastoral plan for pro-life activities." From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). Page 615.
: : : The best defense is a good offense, and William Safire, a long-time Republican mouthpiece, knows it. His phrase, "sloganeering to avoid the harness of 'pro-abortion.'", used to characterize the pro-choice women's movement, seems blatant in its political tilt. I have NEVER, repeat NEVER, heard any women in the pro-choice movement characterize themselves as "pro-abortion." They aren't. That's strictly a Republican spin, to make the pro-choice people look bad. And "sloganeering" could almost be patented by the pro-life crowd, so embedded is this technique in their battle for the prohibition of abortion.
: : : SS
: : The word "option" is beginning to show up, to avoid the inflammatory word "choice". The slogan on a billboard for a hospice for unwed mothers in my area reads "There is a better option..."
: : For what it's worth, I did hear a representative of a nationally known women's group on the Hardball TV program a few years ago repeatedly use the word "zygote" rather than "fetus" despite the repeated chastisements of host and pro-choice Democrat Chris Matthews.
: There are two other (political framing) terms that have popped up apart from "pro-life" and "pro-choice" - "anti-choice" and "anti-life". And of course "pro-abortion" a nd "anti-abortion".
: By the way, while I think the sloganeering explanation for "Pro-choice" as a n organisational name is quite right, the concept of campaining on the issue of choice (i.e. women's rights to make their own reproductive choices) is an older strategy. On a puely local level, the illegal abortion clinic in my city was run by an organisation called "Children by Choice" which was established in 1972, but the concept of "our bodies our choice" is way older. How old - some say "Clan of the Cave Bear" times, some say "horse and buggy" times, some say 1st wave, some tomato, take your pick. Pamela