Labeling the pro-life position as “extreme” does nothing to resolve the question driving the abortion debate: Can we intentionally kill innocent human beings before they are born?
In the news this past week, pharmacy retailer Walgreens decided to back down from an initial plan to sell abortion medications in their retail locations, at least those locations which happen to be in states with laws prohibiting abortion.
Not to be left out of the spotlight, California Governor Gavin Newsom took to Twitter to express his disapproval, stating the following:
“California won’t be doing business with @walgreens — or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.
Following this announcement, the Governor also announced that California would not renew a business contract with Walgreens, stating “We’re serious about not investing in companies that cave to the extremist agenda of the GOP.”
It’s worth noting Governor Newsom never provides any evidence that women will die from not being able to purchase abortion pills at Walgreens, or that these pills provide life-saving medical care in the first place. He doesn’t provide reasons for his claims, he just asserts them, then attacks anyone who disagrees. He also never explains why a corporation refusing to break statutory laws in the states it does business with is “caving to extremism”, but extorting the corporation into cooperating so they can keep doing business with California does not qualify as extremism. He also never explains what is extreme about the pro-life position.
Let’s review the pro-life syllogism:
It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.
Elective abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings.
Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.
Any challenge to the pro-life position has to take this syllogism into account.
Take the Governor’s labeling of pro-life advocates as extremists for example. If elective abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings, then what precisely is extreme about taking steps to protect them? Wouldn’t legally allowing or encouraging people to intentionally kill innocent human beings be extreme?
As Dr. Debbie Garratt points out in her work on Alarmist Gatekeeping theory, the labeling of pro-life advocates as “extremists” by pro-abortion activists and political leaders serves as a sort of psychological censorship; a way to silence critics by labeling them and their ideas as dangerous, and dismissing any concerns offhand. This is inappropriate behavior for any political leader in a free society to engage in.
Pro-life advocates need to know how to call out this sort of behavior and engage it appropriately. One way is to simply call the whole idea itself into question.
Why should any reasonable person accept the claim that people who oppose the selling of abortion inducing medications in retail drugstores are extremist in their views, but those who want drugstores to provide abortion pills, even in contravention of state laws, are moderate and reasonable? The very idea is absurd, and borders on the extreme, raising a further question: Could those who broadly paint their opponents as dangerous or extremist be accused of engaging in extreme thinking? Believing everyone who questions your views is a potentially dangerous person borders on the irrational, and is more in line with the thinking of actual extremist groups such as cults or terrorist organizations, who refuse to engage in rational discourse and instead result to broad attacks on people who reject their ways of thinking.
Broadly speaking, why label the pro-life position itself extreme to begin with? Pro-lifers AND pro-choice people all agree(for the most part) that intentional killing of innocent human beings is morally wrong. The difference lies in whether one assumes the unborn are human beings, or if they lack characteristics to be recognized as such. If pro-lifers are wrong, and abortion doesn’t intentionally kill innocent human beings, it shouldn’t be hard to muster arguments to show why pro-lifers are wrong. However, if pro-life advocates are correct about abortion being the unjust killing of an innocent human being, it makes perfect sense to make efforts towards restricting this form of killing. When a civil society makes strides to prohibit people from intentionally killing innocent human beings outside the womb, no one finds this extremist. Abortion advocates who label pro-life policies “extremist” are simply looking for a way to dismiss arguments against abortion. This is intellectually dishonest, lazy, and ridiculous. In fact, it borders on the extreme.
In conclusion, suppose we acknowledged that some anti-abortion activists take matters too far, and have engaged in despicable behavior towards pro-choice people. In fact, it’s absolutely true that some have, and this needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms by those who believe in defending human life. Those who engage in violence or threats of violence to stop abortion have no place at all in a movement aimed at fostering respect for all human beings.
However, it could also be pointed out that in the months following the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court, violence and threats of violence against pro-life advocates not only occurred, but exploded on the scene, with groups like “Jane’s Revenge”, “Smash Patriarchy” and Antifa resorting to firebombing of pregnancy centers, churches, assasination threats, threats of violence, and even riots and attacks on police in some locations such as Los Angeles. And just this week, actress and Leftist activist Jane Fonda half-jokingly suggested during an appearance on The View that “murder” of pro-life politicians may be justifiable to protect abortion, a comment that has yet to be condemned by Governor Newsom. For a political leader to frame his political opponents as dangerous while failing to call out psychotic violent behavior within his own political camp raises the question of who really is engaged in extremist thinking.
This raises a question: Would it be justifiable for the pro-choice movement as a whole to be dismissed from any rational discourse as “extremist”? No. Pro-choice people could very well be right about their moral views, and deserve to have their ideas and arguments addressed.
Same thing goes for the pro-life movement. Blithely labeling pro-lifers as “extremists” and refusing to engage in dialogue is lazy, and utterly unbecoming of any politician or leader of a free society in 21st century politics.