If you’ve noticed that the politicians who claim the “pro-life” label are often singularly focused on restricting abortion, and aren’t necessarily working on other policy proposals that could save lives, there’s a new Google extension for you.
An extension released this week will change every mention of “pro-life” to “anti-choice” once it’s added to a Chrome browser. “Tired of seeing the fraught term ‘pro-life’ used ubiquitously and incorrectly, we conceived of this extension to shift the language of the discussion towards a more accurate framework,” explains an online description of the “Choice Language” tool.
The extension was created by an activist who wishes to remain anonymous; she partnered with the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund to release it to the public this week.
“We thought it was a really interesting and creative idea,” Andrea Miller, the president of NIRH, told ThinkProgress. “We agreed with her that the language in this discussion really matters.”
Miller said her organization shares the activist’s concern over the “pro-life” label, particularly when it’s used to describe legislation that ultimately serves to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care. She doesn’t think that’s a fair way to characterize those policies.
“These laws are undermining the ability for people to make decisions about their family, their parenting, their health care, their future — and we believe that allowing people to make those decisions is about respecting their life,” Miller said.
The difference between “pro-life” and “anti-choice” may not seem like a big deal to some internet users. But reproductive rights proponents often argue that the language we use to talk about issues related to abortion can have a bigger impact.
For example, pro-choice women who decide to start families say it can be hard for abortion opponents to understand why they would want babies of their own. The head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ilyse Hogue — who gave birth to twins last year — once recounted to the Washington Post that her visibly pregnant belly attracted looks of shock and surprise in meetings with the leaders of major anti-abortion organizations.
The assumption is that people who support abortion rights must not like or want children — as if the viewpoint on the other side of “pro-life” is “anti-baby.”
“If you state that something is pro-life, then the opposite of that is obviously quite demonizing,” Miller pointed out. “It’s incredibly loaded.”
We look for labels that are very short and simple, but this is not a short and simple issue.
As a whole, the shorthand that Americans use to describe their stances on abortion rights is imperfect. Though the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels have defined the national conversation about abortion for decades, there’s evidence that a growing number of Americans don’t identify with these terms — and trying to categorize people into these two groups could be misrepresenting how the public actually feels about this issue.
For now, Miller can’t think of any better labels to use. But she’s hoping that the new Google extension will help open up a larger discussion about the nature of the legislative effort to restrict abortion, and the words our society uses to describe it.
“The fundamental challenge is that we look for labels that are very short and simple, but this is not a short and simple issue,” Miller said. “I’m not sure we’ll ever find the magic answer. But we want people to take a moment to stop and think, hey, what is the agenda here, and based on that agenda, where do I really fall?”