ProChoiceLife: Asking Who Protects Life and How—And Why It Matters in Law and Politics
26 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2017 Last revised: 5 Jun 2018
Date Written: September 10, 2017
Government can protect new life in many ways. It can restrict a woman’s access to abortion, help a woman avoid an unwanted pregnancy, or help a pregnant woman bear a healthy child. Yet in debates about abortion we often speak as if restricting abortion is the only way to protect new life, and further, as if governments that restrict abortion are committed to protecting new life and advocates of abortion rights are not.
If we expand the frame and analyze restrictions on abortion as one of many ways government can protect new life, we observe facts that escape notice when we debate abortion in isolation. Jurisdictions that support abortion rights may protect new life in ways that jurisdictions that restrict abortion rights will not. One jurisdiction may protect new life by means that respect women’s autonomy, while another protects new life by means that restrict women’s autonomy.
In this essay I reason from a prochoicelife perspective that asks whether government protects new life by means that respect women’s reproductive decisions. I develop a framework that allows us to compare the policies for protecting new life that governments choose and the values they demonstrate. The essay’s critical framework connects policies on sexual education, contraception, abortion, health care, income assistance, and the accommodation of pregnancy and parenting in the workplace. It shows that some jurisdictions protect new life selectively, favoring policies for protecting new life that restrict women’s reproductive decisions over policies that respect women’s reproductive decisions. Fresh description generates new prescription. Asking who protects life, and how, matters in enforcing the Constitution and in forging coalitions across divided communities.
Keywords: life, choice, reproduction, pregnancy, abortion, contraception, sexual education, health care, prochoice, prolife
JEL Classification: I14, I31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation