So Long, Pro-choice... I'm Pro-faith

UNITED STATES - MARCH 01:  Pro choice protesters link arms during a demonstration. Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Lynn Johnson
UNITED STATES - MARCH 01: Pro choice protesters link arms during a demonstration. Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Lynn Johnson/National Geographic/Getty Images)

Whoever came up with the term "Pro-Life" is a marketing genius. It's a phrase of positivity and affirmation for something universal: life. It lays claim to all that is good, and by doing so casts any dissenters in the shadow of death. Literally. Because if you're not Pro-Life, then axiomatically, you're Pro-Death.

Whoever came up with the term "Pro-Choice" is a woman. It's a term of inclusion, one that seeks to avoid conflict by refusing to decry any belief as wrong, and accepting, in fact, respecting, all views. This passive approach to conflict resolution is the hallmark of the American female gender's inability to advance its cause -- and its manifested in the assault on female reproductive rights which plagues our country right now.

It's critical that the American public recognize that the debate over abortion rights is first and foremost a women's issue, not a religious issue. Active, clever and well-funded marketing campaigns from the Pro-Life PR machine have shifted the discussion to one which pits God against women. Not surprisingly, God is winning out. It's time to aggressively deconstruct the Pro-Life messaging and let the true meanings of the words speak for themselves:

Life is "the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally."

This definition makes patently clear that there is no "life" at fertilization. When a sperm and an ovum join, they set off a complex series of chemical reactions. Simply, the fertilized cell starts to divide, a process called mitosis. As this process repeats itself, the fertilized egg becomes a cluster of cells, which then magically and beautifully becomes a human embryo.

Some may confuse the replicating cells as a "life" form. And cleverly, the Pro-Life taxonomy has decided to include this phase of cellular modification under its safety umbrella by claiming that "life begins at conception." This slogan is problematic because the divine protection it seeks to assign is applied with varying vigor, based on the location of the zygote. In other words, fertilized eggs inside a woman's body are treated differently that those created in a petri dish. If life begins at conception, the where's the uproar over the dispensation of scientifically fertilized eggs?

Even more disconcerting is that typical in vitro fertilization necessitates the insertion of numerous fertilized eggs into a woman's womb. The expectation is that several of the eggs will die, with the hopes that at least one will survive. I'm not sure what words there are to describe that, but I'm pretty sure they're not in the Bible.

Biologically speaking, by the time a woman gets around to learning that she's pregnant and to arranging for an abortion if she desires/is able to have one, the zygote has developed into... something. Thanks to amazing technological advances, we are able to detect humanoid features in the earliest stages of embryonic development. The Pro-Life movement, a philosophy of faith-based beliefs, ironically relies heavily on this technology to justify its cause. We've all heard the slogan, "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart." Reading it on a bumper sticker fails to communicate that when a heartbeat is first detected, the size of the embryo is comparable to a lentil.

Some people call that life.

Some people don't.

Some people call it life, and still want an abortion.

Whether a first semester embryo is a person worth protecting is a matter of opinion. And we cannot continue to enact restrictive anti-abortion laws based on opinions. In a society of religious freedom and tolerance, the only faith that is constitutionally binding is our faith in each other. And I have faith in women.

Consider that in the majority of divorce cases, primary custody of the children goes to the mother. We as a society believe that the mother is the person best positioned to make choices for her children. But continuous restrictions on abortion access are forcing more women into this role against their will. It's not just illogical, it's coercive.

Some believe that a zygote's or an embryo's rights are more important than those of the woman who must carry it. If that is the case, then why is it legal for pregnant women to smoke? We have clinical data that proves that smoking is detrimental for a developing fetus, yet we still allow it. We allow pregnant women to drink alcohol and to eat poorly.

We allow these behaviors because pregnant women have rights. We educate society about the harm that certain actions can cause, yet we have trust and faith that pregnant women will act responsibly.

A woman's right to control her body preempts another person's belief about "life." I encourage education about sexuality, reproduction and faith to elevate Americans' collective intelligence related to abortion rights. And I have faith that a woman will do the right thing for herself, and whatever variation of "life" she is carrying within her.

Call me Pro-Faith.