What Is Pro-Choice?

See the short introduction to these essays and the rest of my sociomedical essays here. Especially the essay The Myth of Suicide continues the discussion of suicide.

Pro-choice is much more than just abortion or reproductive rights. Pro-choice is a philosophy, a way of life, focused on respecting others' choices about their bodies even if you do not agree with them. Being pro-choice means opposing things like capital punishment and irrational drugs laws. Opposition to censorship could also be included.

Another very important part of it is suicide/euthanasia. Discussing abortion is usually fruitless, but discussing suicide is even more so. Even otherwise rational people often have highly irrational ideas about suicide. Curiously, only extremists are ready to intervene with abortion, but intervening with suicide is considered the norm, even for people who would otherwise not intervene with other people's life choices and who would consider it inappropriate to try to forcibly change someone's voting behaviour or prevent them from marrying or divorcing.

Yet suicide is a life choice just like any other. It is not a mistake or an error, it is not meant to be corrected or intervened with. The whole concept of human rights is based on the idea that people own their own bodies and can make decisions about their lives as long as they do not harm others. Without this fundamental right human rights cannot exist.

In case of a successful suicide, the real and exact motives are probably impossible to figure out. Judging does no good to anyone. While guilt may be impossible to evade, it it important to remember that we have responsibilities for each other, but most of all for ourselves. People often say that after a while they have learned to forgive the suicidee, but suicide is a basic human right, not something that needs to be forgiven. Your lack of understanding for something does not make it wrong. If you condemn someone's life choices, you are condemning the people behind them.

One thing I find peculiar about the so called "pro-life" people is their focus on death instead of life. They consider suicide a "tragedy", while the real tragedy is the life that led to the choice. Abortion is another example of "tragedy", but what they conveniently ignore is how much of a tragedy an unwanted pregnancy can be, not to mention giving birth to an unwanted child.

"Pro-life" ignores the value of respect. They lead a fascistic style of controlling people with fear, like they had stuck to the lovely horrors of the Old Testament. They like to presents horrible films of abortion, hoping the watchers will not realize a video of an appendix removal would look just as gory and repulsive. They often present false claims about human biology. The pro-life philosophy is based on neither compassion nor science. It is based on fear and control.

Most pro-life associations claim to be Christian. I think this claim offends the principles of Christianity. I believe that a real Christian would never intervene with either abortion or suicide. He would offer his support in all possible ways, but he would leave the judging to God. Sadly, it is easier to condemn than to understand, let alone offer concrete support. (The pro-life movement also completely neglects animals, though the same could be said about the pro-choice movement.)

We also have to keep in mind some basic rationales. Even if you abhor the idea of abortion or suicide, you will have to accept that these things are not going anywhere no matter how much you dislike them. Illegal abortions often result in serious complications, even death.

Many people ignore the fact that suicide runs a similar risk of bad consequences due to the poor availability. Naturally, complications resulting in death are not of concern, but physical injuries are possible with almost any method, including overdoses. They may result to a paralysis, brain damage or coma. The person may be unable to attempt again. Injuries to other people are also possible in the case of people jumping under trains, intentionally causing car accidents or those using inert gases. These have led to tragic accidents that could have been prevented if a convenient method of suicide was available.

The anti-choicers believe all suicides can be prevented, that locking people up or removing their method of choice is going to steer them away from suicide. There is no agenda to back up this claim. Suicide prevention programs focus on the mantra that suicide is a bad option, yet without any alternatives. Many of these programs are doing more harm than good by labeling suicidal people as sick and crazy, increasing the taboo and further alienating them from their peers.

The best and - the only plausible - way to prevent suicides is to give concrete aid to the suicidal people. If you are not willing to help the people, who are you to say they do not have the right to die? Most people are quite satisfied with the belief they have helped someone, with the actual result being irrelevant. They do not want to realize that phony helplines and preachy rants are not going to pay off someone's debt or reunite them with their families. If someone is suicidal because they have a serious illness, the only way to really help them to offer them help with the illness.

Suicide and euthanasia are often seen as separate entities, but this is an artificial distinction. Suicide, euthanasia and assisted suicide are essentially the same thing: voluntary death when life is no longer desired. The escape may be due to physical pain, mental pain or simply being tired of living. From that perspective it seems rather strange that some people approve of euthanasia, but are against suicide.

There are many agonizing illnesses which either are not fatal or at least death may take years or decades do. It is commonly suggested that only terminally ill patients should qualify for euthanasia. This is completely absurd. At least the terminal patient are able to see an ending to their suffering, but non-terminally sick or disabled people may be forced to live in constant pain for years or decades. It makes no sense from a rational viewpoint.

One very problematic issue in the discussion are disability activists who oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. I have even seen some claim that all disability activists oppose them. This view is irrational and highly ableist. Healthy people are always capable of committing suicide, but sick or disabled people may not have that same capability. Not allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide means that those with a disability have less rights than the healthy and that is ableism at its worst.

The definition of "terminal illness" is a hazy one to say the least. The legal definitions vary between the countries which have legalized euthanasia and some countries where active euthanasia is legal do not even attempt to define it. A common definition is that the patient must have less than six months to live to qualify as terminal. In some countries it is possible to qualify for euthanasia without terminal illness.

The content and message of the Bible is widely twisted and distorted. Most of the religious fanatics actually miss the true message of the book, which is tolerance and acceptance. The Bible quite clearly states that even if you do not agree with something, it is not your job to judge it. For me it is clear the Bible sends a pro-choice message. It is sad and puzzling that those who claim to be the most religious are usually the most anti-choice.