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So, what exactly is a 'choice for life?'

I’m staunchly pro-life. I’m also steadfast in my support of a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy for absolutely any reason whatsoever. The two positions may seem contradictory to those familiar with the rhetoric of the abortion debate. And yet, to me they’re not at odds, but work hand in hand for a better world. Let me explain.

Anti-abortion groups employ the maxim “choose life” to dissuade women from having abortions. They explain their position with the phrase “life begins at conception.” To their way of thinking, the choice to carry a fetus full-term is a choice for life.

This sounds logical, and yet the two phrases are disturbingly vague. The anti-abortion groups cannot really mean that life itself begins at conception. In order for there to be conception, there must first be sperm and egg, which means there had to have been two beings, male and female. It is quite obvious, therefore, that life comes before conception. So, the phrase “life begins at conception” is misleading and factually untrue.

What the anti-abortion groups really mean to say is that “an individual human’s life begins at conception.” This would be a more accurate and reliable statement of their beliefs.

The directive “choose life” would also be more accurate if the word “human” were added: “choose human life.” That is what a woman does when she chooses to have a baby, she chooses to add another human to the world. By doing so, she ensures the survival of her genes as well as our species. It’s a noble choice. Women have been making this choice for thousands of years. Humankind has been very successful. We’ve populated the planet. We’re everywhere.

And because we’re everywhere, we crowd out other species. Buildings and roads cover habitats that other species need. Technologies provide hunters, fishermen and poachers with the weapons to kill other species in far greater numbers than can assure the species’ survival. Burning fossil fuels warms the atmosphere and oceans, which causes sea levels to rise, which in turn forces coastal residents to move inland where they cover more land with houses, malls and roads.

It is a painful and unnerving question, but it must be asked: Is the choice to give birth really a choice for life? Or is it a choice for human life at the expense of life itself? Since every newborn will in one way or another contribute to climate change and species extinctions for approximately 75 years, the greatest harm a person can cause to the living system is to bring another human into the world.

Which is not to say we should stop having babies. That would be ridiculous. If women stopped giving birth, humankind would eventually cease to exist, which is hardly in our interest.

What is in our interest is to preserve both ourselves and the living system. If we were to limit our offspring to no more than two per couple, and if we had children later in life, and if we allowed more time between pregnancies, then the rate of human population growth would slow, and eventually reverse. More species would survive and more habitats would remain intact. The air and oceans would be cleaner and the cities less crowded.

Thus, the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is a choice for life.

Peter Wright is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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