Focus on the Family

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice: What Does It Mean?

A young women debates between what is pro-life and pro-choice.
In this article, we outline the pro-life and pro-choice meanings, equipping you with enough knowledge to make a confident decision.

Pro-life vs. pro-choice. You’ve probably heard the two terms used liberally throughout your lifetime. One side seems occupied with women’s rights. Alternatively, the other is associated with saving babies. The truth is that merely associating one particular subject with each term is inaccurate. In reality, both the pro-life and pro-choice stances have complex motives and objectives. Sadly, our current culture over-simplifies these terms, leaving the one party believing harsh misconceptions about the other.

In this article, we seek to outline and clarify the pro-life and pro-choice stances. Moreover, we’ll give clear and accurate definitions and examples that’ll equip you with enough confidence to body discuss your views on pro-life issues.

Table of Contents

Pro-Choice & Pro-Life Defined

A young African American woman defines pro-life and pro-choice.
Definitions matter. Depending on who you ask, the terms pro-life and pro-choice each have their own diverse and subjective meanings. Merriam-Webster defines them as follows: Pro-life (adj): opposed to abortion. Pro-choice (adj): favoring the legalization of abortion. However, ask any pro-lifer or pro-choicer and you’ll find that these definitions limited. Both political stances are multifaceted and have evolved over time.

What is Pro-Choice?

Planned Parenthood, a titan of the abortion industry, defines these terms much differently. “Generally, people who identify as pro-choice believe that everyone has the basic human right to decide when and whether to have children. When you say you’re pro-choice you’re telling people that you believe it’s OK for them to have the ability to choose abortion as an option for an unplanned pregnancy — even if you wouldn’t choose abortion for yourself.” Directly below this statement, Planned Parenthood defines pro-life individuals primarily concerned with the life of the “fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus.”

What is Pro-Life?

While the term pro-life was birthed from the abortion wars of the 1970s, the pro-life movement has grown into a thriving community of those who meet political issues with the mindset that all human life is valuable.  Whether you are a preborn baby, a newborn, an elderly person, or someone with disabilities and special needs, your life matters. If you are human, you deserve fundamental human rights. At its core, the pro-life movement is about the value and equality of all human beings. Despite being accused of being conservative and religious dogma, the pro-life movement is composed of an incredibly diverse population. The movement includes but is not limited to both feminists and atheists.

More About Pro-Life Work

The most common areas of pro-life work include:
  • Reproductive Health
  • Foster Care and Adoption
  • Special Needs
  • Human Trafficking
  • Combatting Racism
  • Alleviating Poverty and Death From Preventable Disease
  • Prison Ministry
  • Immigration & Refugees
  • End of Life Issues
That’s quite a list! In addition, the U.S. hosts over 2,500 pro-life pregnancy clinics. Many of these clinics offer free, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and non-judgmental counseling. Likewise, some even offer free parenting classes, adoption resources and post-abortion support.  To learn more about the scope of pro-life work, check out our free Dignity of Human Life Toolbox.

Accurate Definitions

In short, better definitions of each stance, as they have evolved within culture, are as follows: Pro-life (adj): the belief that all human life is created equal regardless of size, level of development, education, and degree of dependency.
  • Consequently, by this definition, taking the life of a preborn baby is a violation of the fundamental right to life.
Pro-choice (adj): the belief that every woman should be endowed with the right to her own life and body.
  • Therefore, by this definition, denying a woman an abortion is denying her the right to bodily autonomy (or the right to privacy, depending on the argument presented).
In the pro-life movement, we also believe in the right to privacy and autonomy. However, our views contain one major difference. We believe these rights should not be restricted to genetic factors. In other words, we believe basic human rights belong to every human regardless of their sex, race, gender, age, size, location, level of dependence, etc.

Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice Arguments

A young woman thinks on pro-life and pro-choice arguments.

If both pro-life and pro-choice members are fighting for equality, then who’s right? Certainly, the easiest way to decide where you stand on the issue is by taking the basic arguments of each side, and comparing and contrasting their foundations, motives and conclusions.

In his video series, The S.L.E.D. Test, Scott Klusendorf breaks down the primary arguments surrounding abortion. In addition, he provides clear visuals for understanding each argument.

The SLED Test

Common Misconceptions

Each political stance is riddled with misconceptions. Here are a few to watch out for when conversing with individuals of opposite convictions.

“Pro-Life is synonymous with anti-abortion.”

While all pro-lifers tend to be anti-abortion, the term anti-abortion does not define the whole of what it means to be pro-life. One doesn’t have to look very deeply through a pro-life media feed before finding posts tagged with #prolove. This is because the pro-life movement seeks to uplift and value all life.

“Pro-choice is pro-murder.”

Rallying against abortion would be much simpler if the pro-choice stance was merely pro-murder. However, while being pro-choice defends one person’s right to take the life of another, “pro-murder” does not define the whole of what it means to be pro-choice. Being pro-choice is often a result of having extreme compassion on women in difficult situations. For example, a woman pregnant from rape or incest, or the mother who has to choose between losing her life or that of her child.

“Pro-lifers don’t care about pregnant women.”

This is probably the most disproven claim concerning pro-lifers. In fact, there are over 2,500 PRCs (pregnancy resource centers) across the United States. Most of these centers provide quality and nonjudgmental services. Similarly, some pregnancy centers even offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.

“Pro-choice is pro-woman.”

Being pro-choice is not synonymous with being pro-woman. At best, it is pro-certain women. It is easily debatable that pro-choice is pro-woman when the rights of many women are discounted for the rights of others. Certainly, this was a fact that some of our nation’s earliest feminists, the Suffragettes, understood. These women boldly spoke out against the abortion industry of their day. In the words of Alice Paul, “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”

“Abortion-minded women don’t want their babies.”

This is the worst misconception of all. Sadly, many women who make an abortion decision feel as though they have no other choice. For this reason, the pro-life community has created several compassion-based networks which help post-abortive mothers as they grieve the loss of their preborn child.

Medical & Scientific Evidence

A young woman thinks on pro-life and pro-choice evidence.

When opposing or defending any medical procedure, it’s vital to understand what that procedure entails. Is an abortion any different from removing a tumor? Are preborn babies living humans, and if so, can they feel pain?

During the 1970’s when Roe vs Wade was ruled in favor of Jane Roe, we lacked the technology to answer these important questions. Now, with ultrasound technology and heavy research, the scientific community can provide us with a clear understand of what (or who) is in the womb.

An Interview With a Former Abortionist 

Quick Pregnancy Facts

Gathered from the Benevolent Resources Program Booklet, The First 9 Months:
  • 4 weeks after fertilization, the baby’s eyes and limbs are developing, and their heart can be viewed on an ultrasound scan.
  • At 10 weeks, a preborn baby’s brain is growing rapidly, producing almost 250,000 neurons every minute.
  • By 14 weeks, a preborn baby has developed enough coordination to suck its thumb.
  • Studies have concluded that, at 20 weeks (and possibly much earlier) a preborn baby can feel pain.
  • Today, a preborn baby as young as 22 weeks can survive outside the womb.

Are the preborn living humans?

“Human life begins when the ovum is fertilized and the new combined cell mass begins to divide.” — Dr. Jasper Williams, Former President of the National Medical Association “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion… it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.” — Dr. Jerome Lejeune “The Father of Modern Genetics” “Biologically speaking, human development begins at fertilization.” —  In the Womb, National Geographic, 2005. “To deny a truth [about when life begins] should not be made a basis for legalizing abortion.” — Professor Eugene Diamond “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization… is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.” — Human Embryology and Teratology “To say that the beginning of human life cannot be determined scientifically is utterly ridiculous.” — Dr. Richard V. Jaynes

Quick Abortion Facts

Gathered from Guttmacher Institute.
  • 1 in 4 Women will have an abortion by the age of 45.
  • The majority of women who receive abortions (23-25%) do so because they feel the timing is wrong or that they cannot financially provide for their child.
  • A very small percentage of women (<0.5% as of 2004) get an abortion because they have conceived from rape.
  • Around 4% of women who receive abortions do so because of health-related issues.

Things to Consider

  • There are no humane abortions. We can come to this conclusion by researching abortion procedures and asking ourselves if the same procedure would be considered humane if preformed on a post-born person.
  • Abortion survivors are real. Their stories and struggles, resulting from their pre-birth experiences, are worth taking into consideration.

An Interview With Abortion Survivors


Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?

The pro-life vs pro-choice debate can be an intimidating issue. It seems as though, no matter where one stands, something valuable is lost. For this reason, we highly encourage our readers to do their research before casting a vote in either direction. After all, millions of lives are impacted by this issue.

Consider watching ultrasounds, documentaries and interviews from former abortionists before deciding if what you’re fighting for is worth what’s lost in the process.

Together, with truth, we can offer hope to the many men, women and children whose lives are impacted by an abortion choice. Further information on how you can help care for mothers in difficult circumstance can be found here.

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Abortion is not an easy subject to talk about. You want to defend the truth, to expose the realities so easily confused during these times. Yet, it is so easy to tense up, to get nervous, to get so concerned with wanting to say the “right thing” that you end up saying nothing at all. If you feel at a loss when these conversations come up, this video series, “8 Lies About Abortion,” can help equip you with the truth, and the confidence to engage in the discussion.

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