The Coercive Reality behind Pro-Choice Rhetoric:

Identifying What ‘Popular Sovereignty,’ ‘Reproductive Freedom,’ and ‘Death with Dignity’ Demand from Persons Who Disagree

By Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D.

Proceedings of the Nineteenth University Faculty for Life Conference at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis MN (2009), ed.Joseph W. Koterski, S.J. (Washington, D.C.: University Faculty for Life, 2013), pp. 243-276.



Advocates for political rights to abortion and physician-assisted suicide often support their positions with pro-choice rhetoric: a woman should be free to choose whether or not to carry a child to term; terminally ill patients should be free to choose whether to wait until the disease completes its course or to end their lives sooner. In each case, however, a coercive reality lies behind the pro-choice rhetoric. That is to say, advocates for these apparent rights to choice seek legislation that ultimately coerces dissenters to become complicit against their will. The current political debates on these issues therefore bear close analogy to America’s antebellum debates over slavery: rhetoric that initially seemed to be an argument for states’ rights or popular sovereignty soon revealed itself to be an emergent national policy that required all non-slaveholders, including abolitionists, to take action in support of the slavery regime. Similarly, political activists who deploy pro-choice rhetoric in favor of abortion or physician-assisted suicide resort to coercion in order to obtain and exercise the power to make such choices. Arguably, it cannot be otherwise, for coercion is necessary to maintain widespread social acceptance of choices that so fundamentally violate natural law.



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