Abortion, Gun Control and the Inconsistency of the Personal Choice Narrative

When we discuss abortion, the conversation often moves toward the idea of “choice.” It’s easy to see why. Our culture prizes choice. Companies use our desire for personal choice as part of their slogans and commercials.

Those who support legalized abortion recognize the power of the choice narrative. There’s a reason why they favor “pro-choice” as their label.

For those of us who oppose abortion, we are swimming against a powerful cultural current. How do we convince people that the issue surrounding abortion is more than one of mere personal choice?

In many cases, we can point to gun control.

Recently, I got into a discussion about abortion on Twitter. Yes, I realize this can be fraught with danger, but I often find these conversations insightful and sometimes even helpful.

In this instance, the other person casually said that since I was so concerned about life, I should be opposed to guns.

He had made a larger point prior to that, so I didn’t respond to his gun aside but knowing his position helped me demonstrate the inconsistency in what he was arguing.

After he grew frustrated at my pointing him to statistics and research that undermined his argument, he brought out an oft-repeated pro-choice line: “Well, if you don’t want one, just don’t have one.”

In his mind, the issue of choice was paramount for abortion. If I was personally opposed to abortion, I should simply avoid having one myself and leave other people to make their own decision.

So I asked him if his maxim, “if you don’t want one, don’t have one,” applied to guns as well. I could just as easily ask if that idea would work for slavery or murder. But since he brought up guns, I used that. He refused to answer the question.

If the maxim, "If you don't want one, don't have one," applies to abortion, why would it also not apply to guns? Click To Tweet

The reality is he was comfortable legislating morality; he just wanted to make sure it was his morality being enforced.

If he wanted to respond, he could say that guns can potentially harm other people. We see thousands of gun deaths each year, so that issue has broader cultural implications that make it more than merely a personal choice. But that also conflicts with his position on abortion, just in more subtle way.

In essence, it’s the same argument pro-life people make about abortion. It’s not simply about the choice of the individual if that choice impacts the lives of other humans. Every year, abortions end the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings in America.

The pro-choice individual may respond that the life in the womb is not actually a person or is only a potential person.

In response, I would begin by pointing our how nation has frequently been at its most immoral when it decides when a human being is not worthy of being recognized as a person.

Secondly, it brings us back to our gun control discussion. Passing new laws on guns or even confiscating every gun is not bringing back anyone who has lost their life to gun violence. It is potentially saving lives in the future.

The argument for increased gun control says we must act because lives can potentially be saved.

OK, but the argument in favor of abortion says we should not act because lives that would be saved are only potential.

Which is it? Am I supposed to value potential lives or not?

Should life, even potential life, trump unfettered rights? Gun control advocates already seem to accept that reasoning. Why then would it not extend to abortion?

I believe there is room for a discussion on certain regulations and restrictions on gun purchases and ownership.

But if you only value the potential lives saved through gun control and not through abortion restrictions, it doesn’t seem your issue is about protecting lives, but rather protecting the issues you value most.

If we argue, in light of mass shootings, the potential lives of one group of people should allow for the curtailing of the rights of another group, then why would the same argument not hold for the right to an abortion?

Choice is a compelling cultural narrative, but it should not be all-consuming. We can’t make whatever choice we want, especially when that choice harms others.

Abortion is about much more than an individual choice and gun control demonstrates why.

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