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The Planned Parenthood boycott is about moral bullying, not a commitment to preserving life.

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The assault on the building of Planned Parenthood's new clinic continues. Chris Danze and gang are determined to identify, harass, and intimidate anyone who works on the project. If one is against abortion on humane grounds, it seems hard to justify brutal, bullying tactics to reach your goal. Judging your fellow humans, attacking their livelihoods, and indirectly threatening their persons in the name of deeply held religious beliefs seems both hypocritical and remarkably presumptuous. If one justifies any action by citing the Bible, one should be certain he or she is following all of the Bible's dictates passionately and clearly. Instead, we see the smorgasbord approach, where the outrageously self-righteous pick and choose their mandates. Equating themselves with the Almighty, they feel fit to pass judgment on others rather than examine their own lives. The Bible itself is more metaphoric than specific, so to "know" what it says already argues for a sense of self-importance that denies religion's moral and ethical richness.

As I've argued, there are many people who are genuinely pro-life regardless of their religion. These range from the pacifists who find no justification for taking any life to those who believe there can be a moral war (a tragic loss of life undertaken in order to prevent even greater devastation) or a justifiable execution. These are morally committed people who truly love their neighbors, believe in humanity, and are dedicated to living by the highest standards possible.

But Danze and gang evidence no such compassion or rigorous commitment. When quoted, Danze doesn't even pretend to care much about the unborn. Again and again, he cites the family and social standards. He is happy to threaten the livelihoods of those he disagrees with in service of the goal of dictating to all of us his concept of the acceptable boundaries of social behavior. How those who rant against liberal social engineering can advocate this boycott argues for the characterization of its motivations as more arrogant bullying than moral concern. Anti-choice groups across the nation are inspired by this action and plan to use it as a blueprint to impose their concepts of morality and family on their own communities.

The best way to argue a position is to try and understand the reasoning of those who advocate it. Too often we formulate not only our arguments but also those of people who disagree with us. Talk radio offers the perfect example of this daily, as they set up straw men that their callers can help torch, though those of all shades of political belief so indulge. Too often, people I've been arguing with over political matters have offered the most inane arguments on my behalf, assuming they reflect my reasoning, in order to refute them. Attacking Bush's dividend tax cuts, I was repeatedly asked why I hate the rich. I don't, but it was sure easier assuming that than dealing with more complex arguments.

I, of course, fall into this trap as much as anyone, but often try not to, spending time thinking about what I might be missing. Toward this end, some time back, I bought the argument that the community opposed to abortion should be referred to as pro-life, and tried to respect that. Many of them would argue that their opposition should be labeled as pro-abortion rather than even pro-choice, but that I never bought.

In the context of Danze's smug assault on the rights and beliefs of others, I've come to reassess this. The truth is that much of the "pro-life" community is more honestly anti-abortion. There seems no other label but pro-choice for those of us who support women and families' control over their own health and destinies.

Let's start a bit further back. I am not pro-abortion. It would be great to live in a world where healthy fetuses all came to term. Every abortion is a little tragic; almost none is an easy decision. Many deeply affect the women they are performed upon, and some even have long-term consequences.

Now, what if the so-called pro-life groups really pursued a broad-ranging pro-life agenda, with their concerns ending not at birth but also covering the mother and the child's lives? This would include reasonable sex education, readily available contraception and related advice, health information and consultation, a well-funded and seriously monitored foster care and adoption network, and a nationwide health care, education, and job-preparation social safety net. In a world made safer and saner for mother and child, abortion would become an ever more unattractive option. But this isn't the case.

They picket, protest, and try to cut the funding of Planned Parenthood instead of supporting its health, consultation, and planning agenda, which if more fully implemented would result in fewer abortions, not more. Many, if not most, of the anti-abortion groups and allied politicians also oppose sex education, unrestricted health counseling, and readily available contraception. Further, they not only don't support but also actively oppose social programs concerned with a child's health and opportunities after birth or the mother's health, emotional well-being, welfare, or job opportunities.

Recently, there have been any number of well-publicized cases of abuse of children in the foster care system. Showing a dead or hideously malnourished child galvanizes the public, with many viciously accusing system officials of completely failing in their responsibilities. It isn't that easy. Look in the mirror. We are the guilty party. Outrage is easy; committing to funding these complex social systems to the extent they need to work isn't. These supervisors are handling many times the caseloads they should; they are underpaid, undereducated, undersupported, and lacking reasonable resources. Many of those most staunchly against abortion are just as staunchly against almost all social-welfare spending. It is easy to self-righteously trumpet a fetus' right to life. It is a lot more complicated and expensive to back that up with the networks of effective programs needed to guarantee some quality to that life. As a platform, ending abortions, destroying the social safety net, and cutting taxes is not pro-life.

I am not pro-abortion. But in a society where health, education, job-training, and all other social programs are seeing their budgets cut deep beyond the bone, accompanied by an assault on sex education, women and families need to be in control of their own destinies. I am pro-choice, which really is pro-life.

In fact, I would love to see a much larger menu of health care, counseling, child placement, and other alternative options. Tragically, some of the most militantly anti-abortion voices would like to see all choices disappear and be replaced by the most restricted, theologically dictated social mores.

Anti-abortion activists have rather brilliantly exploited these semantic distinctions. By labeling the pro-choice community as pro-abortion, they've strongly implied that there are those who passionately believe in and advocate abortion -- not as a difficult option offered as a component of comprehensive health and family planning, education, and counseling but instead as a lazy, immoral lifestyle choice. Caught asleep at the wheel, not wanting to seem as though they're backpedaling, some pro-choice spokespeople have fallen into this trap, overly supporting abortion without expressing hesitations or setting the greater context of personal responsibility, health, and control over one's own body. Conservatives who would bristle at the state intervening in many personal and health decisions here advocate the most extreme intrusion.

In terms of misleading, prejudicial semantic strategies, witness "partial-birth abortions." This is not a medical term. Rather than addressing genuine health concerns, it is a finely tuned bit of political propaganda, part of an overall abolitionist strategy. The term suggests what anti-abortion literature argues, that as a lifestyle choice many women late in their pregnancies decide to terminate because of a whim or change in personal priorities. In reality, the medical procedures that come the closest to being fit by this term are almost all medical emergencies, resulting from catastrophic health developments that place a life or lives at almost-certain risk.

Finally, the issue is not whether or not there are going to be abortions. When I was a teenager, the procedure was illegal but still occurred. The better-off kids in my high school would simply go off on a couple of weeks' vacation to some country where the procedure was legal or, at least, readily accessible. Those who couldn't afford that had a more limited range of choices. Some sought back-alley abortions; others consumed hideous chemical combinations or performed bizarre physical exercises, while some even resorted to hangers, homemade tools, or deliberate serious physical accidents in their attempts to abort. Thus, I think even the term anti-abortion is too limited, "anti-legal-and-safe-abortions" more descriptive.

The groups trying to stop Planned Parenthood's construction also want to limit your neighbor's, your friend's, your children's, as well as your and my options and rights. Those of us who believe in freedom, education, and responsibility have to work to stop them. end story

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