Wikipedia Invites Users to Debate Whether 'Pro-Life' Is Really a Thing

Illustration for article titled Wikipedia Invites Users to Debate Whether Pro-Life Is Really a Thing

Wikipedia, your #1 source for last minute bullshit college paper filler, is opening up an important question to its pedantic but knowledgable male contributors, a question that could actually have some long lasting impact on the way we talk about abortion: what, exactly, should we call the two sides in the abortion debate? Pro-choice? Pro-life? Anti-choice? Anti-life? Pro-abortion? Slutty, irresponsible, babyeating soulmunchers? Superstitious, clueless, empathy-free misogynists? What matters more — what people call themselves or what they actually are?

In an announcement that sounds like something from the first Star Wars,, Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee has asked the Wikipedia community to weigh in on what articles on opposing views in the US abortion debate should be called once and for all. The rule of the commentariat will result in a binding change to titles about the way abortion's discussed — at least on Wikipedia.

It's a question of balancing honesty with familiarity — entire books could be written about how anti-abortion policies actually remove the humanity and agency from pregnant women, and how outlawing abortion will result in women seeking unsafe abortions that could lead to injury and death, and how "pro-life" hospitals refuse to intervene in life-threatening pregnancies until the woman miscarries on her own, and how women and babies are healthiest when they can choose if and when to have children and how people who say they're "pro-life" are not actually pro-life at all, and how in the face of these facts, the phrase "pro life" is sort of cruelly ironic (also, "pro-life" implies that there are "anti-life" people out there just encouraging every woman everywhere to have abortions all the time because it tickles and pleases Lord Satan or something). At the same time, the "Pro-life" movement, while it hasn't succeeded at overturning Roe V. Wade or outlawing contraception, it has succeeded in giving itself a name, albeit an inaccurate one.


To further complicate matters, there are never just two sides to a debate, and "pro-life" is such a pretty little phrase that multiple groups with wildly differing viewpoints have adopted it. We have, say, Rick Perry, who is just pro-life when it comes to very tiny protolife that lives inside a woman's body; when it comes to the lives of already-born humans that are fighting in wars or being executed by the state of Texas or who need health care, he's a little more pro-fuck you. The Catholic Church's official position is an all-encompassing "pro-life" stance that is supposed to apply to capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion, and war. And one arm of the "pro-life feminist" movement doesn't believe in overturning Roe at all, but rather working to promote a world where abortion is minimized, motherhood is valued, and women are cared for (this is a different breed of pro-life feminist than Lila Rose, who is terrified of sluts and believes contraception is wrong).

The phrase "pro-choice" is a little corporate slogan-y as well; people opposed to the legalization of abortion on the grounds that they believe that fetuses are alive would counter that a pre-baby doesn't have a choice about its fate, and thus "choice" is disingenuous and sanitized. And, while most in the US would know what was implied by the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice," neither group uses the word "abortion" in referring to itself, even though both phrases are code words for "this debate is about to get shouty."

Also up for consideration is the suggestion that Wikipedia's articles reflect the AP style guide and refer to the two sides as "anti-abortion" and "abortion rights" rather than "pro-life" and "pro choice," which some users seem to agree is more accurate, but less familiar and a little on the clunky side. Users in favor of this distinction argue that the debate has shifted in recent years; while grows increasingly clearer that Roe v. Wade probably won't be overturned, the abortion rights battle is being fought over access rather than legality. We've seen this in the recent hard on state legislators have had for introducing abortion restricting bills — Georgia's legislature, for example, recently passed a bill that will ban abortions after 20 weeks. Mississippi's passed a law designed to challenge the state's last remaining abortion clinic. Bills designed to ban abortion outright haven't been met with success, but by gum, if you try to have an abortion, you'll sure be met by some gruesome signs designed to make you feel bad about it.


Still other name changes being considered in Wikipedialand are "anti-abortion movement" and "abortion rights movement," "opposition to abortion rights" and "support for abortion rights," "support for the legalization of abortion" and "opposition to the legalization of abortion," and from there we veer even further into clunky "People's Front of Judea" type territory. "Anti-choice" and "pro-abortion," as fun and inflammatory they are for their respective opposition to use, aren't being considered; neither is "pro-reproductive rights," which seems more apt in the face of the recent contraception debate. If you're interested in weighing in on the debate yourself, then get thee to Wikipedia.

Maybe it would be more fun if we just instituted a variation of the Pie Rule here, allowing both groups to name each other with the understanding that in the future, they must refer to themselves by the name given by the opposing side. It could get hilarious— I'm picturing future debates on the subject of abortion to feature parties who represent the Woman Hating Closet Gay Televangelists and the Wanton Hellbound Blood Soaked Harlots. The Barefoot N Pregnant Brigade vs. Party Slutz.



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My philosophy 101 professor actually made a cogent argument for "pro-abortion-choice" and "anti-abortion". I tend to stick with those labels in my own discussions of the topic.