Shouldn’t We Allow “Freedom of Choice” for Abortion?

“Freedom of Choice!”

Undoubtedly an ideal slogan. Freedom is the basis upon which our nation was founded and remains our fundamental guiding principle. Who but an ignorant bigot could possibly be against freedom, “choice,” and personal independence?

When we hear “freedom of choice,” we imagine the stark opposite. We imagine a nation where one’s life choices are dictated to them by the government, such as where they live, who they talk to, where they work, what they believe, and what they think. Such a nation is inherently anti-American and anti-human. But how far does the “freedom of choice” go? One is not free to commit robbery, fraud, or possess or sell drugs, though all of these involve making a personal choice.

The anti-life movement has taken the “freedom of choice” and applied it to abortion. This distracts us from the reality of abortion – that it is the murder of a child.

All of the dozens of pro-abortion slogans are specifically designed to make people think about anything except abortion. Many people consider themselves to be “ardently pro-choice,” but know absolutely nothing about the subject of abortion (Kristan Hawkins has some videos on this). They do not want to know about abortion and do not even want to think about abortion. The mind naturally flinches from thinking about certain evil things because they are evil.

Baby inside belly - AI generated image

Slogans like this one help them remain voluntarily ignorant.

In fact, pro-abortionists are very much aware of the utility in keeping people ignorant about the bloody particulars of the procedure. For example, in his “how-to” book Abortion Practice, late-term abortionist Warren Hern says, “Television interviews, in particular, should focus on the public issue involved (right to confidential and professional medical care, freedom of choice, and so forth) and not on the specific details of the abortion procedures.”1

Considering the indefensible nature of abortion (especially late-term convenience abortions on viable preborn babies), this is wise counsel indeed.


Origins of a Slogan

The originator of the “freedom of choice” slogan was reformed abortionist Bernard Nathanson, M.D., who helped develop the overall strategy for the abortion legalization movement in the late 1960s. Nathanson, Larry Lader, and the other leaders of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) did not really believe in the slogans, but instead recognized their incalculable value as marketing tools:

“Women must have control over their own bodies.”

“Safe and legal abortion is every woman’s right.”

“Who decides?  You decide!”

“Freedom of choice ― a basic American right.”

I remember laughing when we made those slogans up.  We were looking for some sexy, catchy slogans to capture public opinion.  They were very cynical slogans then, just as all of these slogans today are very, very cynical.2

Lader said, “I don’t care if we have a Belfast and Dublin here in the U.S. We must have a direct conflict with the Catholic Church.” The minutes of this meeting record, “[NARAL’s] attack will be concentrated ― even to court cases ― against the Catholic Church and trying to make people believe that the Pope is trying to run the country, and that the Catholic Church is trying to take over Protestant Churches.”3

pro abortion protest the right to choose

Other abortion-pushers quickly picked up on this slogan. As one important example, John D. Rockefeller III’s Report of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future used “the right to choose” to advocate for abortion and sterilization in 1972, and soon the slogan was in wide use.


Evil Expands Effortlessly

When the pro-abortion movement began in the US, and until the past decade or so, abortion was marketed as “safe, legal, and rare.” Now, it’s a battle to allow abortion on-demand, for any reason, and at any point in the pregnancy.

Soon after Dr. Nathanson and NARAL originated the “freedom of choice,” Nobel Prize winner Dr. James D. Watson claimed in Time Magazine, “If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice that only a few are given under the present system.  The doctor could allow the child to die if the parents so chose and save a lot of misery and suffering.”4

Today, the chorus for infanticide of “defective” newborns (or, as some call it, “after-birth abortion”) is growing ever louder. Some states are even pushing for laws that allow a baby to die of neglect or direct murder even if he or she is born healthy after a third trimester abortion.

newborn baby boy

Eventually, of course, “the right to choose” was expanded to include euthanasia. The National Organization for Women (NOW) issued a July 1991 Resolution entitled “The Right to Choose to Die — A Feminist Issue,” which reads:

WHEREAS, there is nothing more fundamental to American women than freedom of choice, and the U.S. Supreme Court, in Cruzan, has now established that there is a right to choose to die….THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women affirms that the right to make appropriate and legal choices about dying is a feminist issue.

Predictably, homophiles emphasize the “freedom to choose” to marry whomever they want, even people of the same sex. Nowadays, we see the LGBT movement persecuting anyone who disagrees with them, demanding recognition of their beliefs – even if they believe they are the opposite gender or are an animal.


Is the Right to Choose Legitimate?

The illicit “freedom of choice” is the perfect cover for conscience-impaired individuals. While appealing to the freedom-lover in all of us, it simultaneously attacks opponents by implying that they are somehow anti-freedom and anti-American; thus, the epithet “anti-choice.” However, this anti-life slogan promotes anarchy, not “choice.” If our nation took the slogan “freedom of choice” at face value, the “freedom to choose” would supersede all other freedoms. However, no freedom is absolute. All freedoms have limits on them, and for good reason. Unlimited personal freedom eventually means personal slavery.

The logical conclusion is that, in order to avoid total anarchy, all choices cannot be legal or protected as rights. More importantly, we do not have a right to make evil decisions. This is a principle that the world simply does not comprehend. An unfettered and indiscriminate “right to choose” not only violates the cardinal virtue of justice but severs the human being from acting in the good of society, the good of others, and even his own good.

choice between vice and virtue

The encyclical Veritatis Splendor explains:

There is a tendency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting accordingly.  Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualist ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others.…Freedom is not only the choice for one or another particular action; it is also, within that choice, a “decision about oneself” and a setting of one’s own life for or against the Good, for or against the Truth, and ultimately for or against God [¶33,65].

In other words, there is no “freedom to choose” to make decisions that are objectively evil. There is no splendor in lies ― just degradation, destruction and death.


What About the “Hard” Cases?

Anti-life activists have grossly exaggerated the prevalence of the “hard cases” (rape, incest, life of the mother, birth defects, etc.), using these instances to justify killing an unborn child at any time for any reason. In reality, rape and incest make up 1% of abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute (which was the research arm of Planned Parenthood). Another study by six US states that ranged from 1996-2020 showed that 0.39% of cases were due to rape and incest. 1.14% of cases were to save the mother’s life or physical health. Finally, only 0.69% of cases in this study were due to birth defects.

When it comes to saving the mother’s life, a direct abortion is still morally illicit, though other procedures may fall under the principle of double effect (see here for more information).

Of course, the infrequency of abortions due to rape, incest, or birth defects does not mean they do not exist. How are we to reconcile a pro-life world with a world where rape, incest, and defects occur?

Rape is a gross and violent affront to human dignity and highly traumatizing. Those who commit the crime of rape should be prosecuted and the victim should be approached with compassion, care, and gentleness. The victim must be surrounded by love and support and offered mental health services.

The killing of the unborn child, an innocent party in any case, is another act of violence. The child is a victim, too, and must be cherished and cared for as such. An innocent child should not have to die because of the sin of the rapist. Additionally, the abortion causes only more trauma and heartache – for the mother, for the mother’s family, and for any future children.

The same can be said for cases of incest or birth defects. Why should one’s circumstances of conception determine whether they are deserving of life? Why should someone who doesn’t meet the societal standards of perfection or beauty be put to death? Even if the birth defects are severe, should people be killed simply because they may suffer? Would it not be better to call upon society to come together and care for the needy and the most vulnerable?


Help is Available

Sometimes, a woman chooses to abort her child because she does not feel she has the means to raise a child, whether financially, mentally/emotionally, or because she is a teen or is homeless. There are over 1,200 resource centers across the nation that assist women in crisis pregnancies.

HLI funds pregnancy care centers in more than 25 countries.

Resource pregnancy centers have practical resources to help women care for their babies, such as diapers, strollers, carseats, etc. Some even offer parenting classes and counseling, and some are able to connect women to organizations or resources to help with food insecurity or housing issues.


Final Thoughts

The US Constitution ensures many freedoms, such as freedom of speech, of affiliation, of religion, or freedom to protest. But no one has the right to do evil, and no one has the right to take an innocent life, regardless of how inconvenient that life may be.


This article was originally updated in May 2020 by Dr. Brian Clowes and most recently updated in September 2023 by Marisa Cantu.

+ Endnotes

[1] Abortionist Warren Hern. Abortion Practice [Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company], 1984, pages 14, 46, 145, 304, 317, 323 and 325.

[2] Reformed abortionist Bernard Nathanson, M.D., quoted in “‘Pro-Choice’ Co-Founder Rips Abortion Industry.” Whistleblower Magazine (WorldNetDaily), December 20, 2002.

[3] Excerpts as transcribed by a secretary from the minutes of the May 12, 1972, meeting of the executive board of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, later the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and then NARRAL, and then NARAL again, and then NARAL Pro-Choice America, and next week, who knows?

[4] Nobel Prize winner Dr. James D. Watson. Time Magazine, May 28, 1973, page 104. Also see “Children from the Laboratory.” Prism, May 1973, page 13.

Brian Clowes, PhD

Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.

Marisa Cantu has a master's in political science and international affairs and a bachelor's in political science. She has also studied international studies and French. She has a strong background in nonprofit work, research, writing, and policy proposal and analysis.

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