Pro-choice, or anti-sperm?

AlterNet proposes renaming our most entrenched positions.


Page Rockwell
December 21, 2005 12:00AM (UTC)

You know how part of the difficulty with the abortion debate is its terminology; no one's really against life, and being pro-choice isn't the same as being pro-abortion, yada yada? Of course you do. Well, in preparation for Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation hearings in early January, AlterNet's David Morris has developed a new set of terms, complete with celebrity spokespersons. Here's the ideological spectrum as he sees it:

Pro-sperm. A person who is pro-sperm believes every sperm is sacred, and has "an inalienable right to try to get to the egg."

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Famous pro-spermers: the late Cardinal Bernardin, who blamed the world's ills on "the contraceptive culture"; famous Supreme Court also-ran Robert Bork, who favored reinstating state laws that denied married couples access to contraceptives.

Pro-zygote. Team zygote seeks to protect the organism starting at the instant of fertilization, whether it manages to attach to the uterine wall or not.

Notable pro-zygotist: Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who initially vetoed legislation that would have allowed emergency contraception to be sold over the counter, on the grounds that Plan B interferes with implantation, not just fertilization.

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Pro-fetus. These folks advocate the protection of mature, growing fetuses.

Prominent pro-fetusists: At least according to Morris, most Americans. Hey, he says, wasn't the Roman Catholic Church itself pro-fetus for the 1,400 years that it taught that life begins with the fetus' "quickening"? The church didn't start teaching that life begins at conception until 1869.

Of course, the trouble that Morris' lexicon skips over is the near impossibility of building concensus on when the transition from zygote to fetus occurs. Morris doesn't set a date, but implies that it's during or shortly after the first trimester. And he doesn't tackle situations in which the mother's health may be compromised by carrying her pregnancy to term.

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Still, the idea of using a better glossary for our national name-calling has some appeal. At the very least, it points out how absurd it is that the debate involves everyone picking a specific phase of fetal development to advocate for, as if those phases are discrete.

And wouldn't it be great to see Rick Santorum reduced to hectoring liberals for being "anti-sperm"?

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Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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