On the issue of abortion, pro-life campaigners are opposed by pro-choice campaigners who argue that the central issue is a completely different set of rights.
Some Pro-lifers oppose certain forms of birth control, particularly hormonal contraception such as ECP's, which are alleged to prevent the implantation of an embryo. Because pro-life advocates largely believe that personhood begins at conception, they refer to these forms of birth control with the term "abortifacients". The Catholic Church recognizes this view, but the possibility that hormonal contraception has post-fertilization effects is currently disputed within the scientific community. (See Also: Emergency contraception and implantation.)''
Attachment to a pro-life position is very often but not exclusively connected to religious beliefs about the sanctity of life (see also Culture of Life). Exclusively secular-humanist positions against abortion tend to be a minority viewpoint among pro-life advocates.. While this group is a distinct minority, they are a growing and burgeoning movement, and seek to put new meaning into the phrase "pro-life."
The major stated goal of the pro-life movement is to "restore legal protection to innocent human life. This protection would include fetuses and embryos, persons who cannot communicate their wishes due to physical or mental incapacitation, and those who are too weak to resist being euthanized.
Some pro-life advocates, such as those subscribing to the philosophy of a Consistent Life Ethic, oppose virtually all acts that end human life. They would argue that abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and unjust war are all wrong.
Others argue that the death penalty can be a fair punishment for murder, justifiably inflicted by lawful authority, whereas abortion is an attack on innocent human life that could never be considered because it lacks the same due process protections that a criminal trial requires before any imposition of the death penalty. In recent years, the issue of the death penalty has gained more attention because some pro-life advocates wish to create a more unified pro-life ideal that prohibits the death penalty. The majority of Roman Catholic theologians are strong proponents of this unified position. The increasing attention paid to this controversial position may result from the large Roman Catholic membership of the pro-life movement, a membership that is also striving to adhere to recent religious statements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the death penalty.
While some pro-life advocates are opposed to euthanasia of humans under all circumstances, others believe that individuals, especially adults, should have the right to choose to end their own lives if they become terminally ill or severely disabled. Because many such individuals are unable to communicate their wishes, euthanasia will likely remain controversial within the pro-life community. While some believe that direct euthanasia should only be an option for persons with the ability to communicate at the time of the procedure, others believe that individuals should be allowed to state their wishes in advance, such as in a living will, or that family members and/or persons with power of attorney or guardianship should be allowed to make decisions regarding euthanasia for persons who are unable to communicate.
Cessation of life support for an individual who is unable to live without life support is sometimes referred to as indirect or passive euthanasia. Although many pro-life advocates support indirect euthanasia for persons judged by their doctors as having little or no hope for recovery, other pro-life advocates oppose indirect euthanasia, even under those circumstances. Some pro-life advocates strongly disagree with the court decisions which allowed Terri Schiavo's husband to have her feeding tube removed. Indeed, most pro-life advocates familiar with the Terri Schiavo case framed the issue as one of direct euthanasia on the grounds that nutrition and hydration, in their view, do not constitute "life support".
In contrast, there are yet others who find that the pro-life movement's focus on legislative means is heading down the wrong track, believing that working through means of sex education, birth control, and aid to single mothers will more realistically reduce abortions while also drawing others into the movement. Rather than causing a political divide by arguing what can and cannot legally be done and what laws should be passed about it, such non-legislative pro-life goals are sought in order to bridge the gap with those who may consider themselves against abortion but pro-choice, because they cannot agree with passing restrictive laws--whether concerning gestation or anything else.
Other pro-life views also encompass life extension. Aging kills about 100,000 people per day and some people such as Aubrey de Grey advocate research to help sustain their lives. One fundamental tenet of this view is that humans have the right to live as long as they wish to. Some, such as the Extropians, take this to the extreme: they intend to defeat death. Such people often use the rhetoric of other pro-life advocates (for example referring to aging as "slaughter" and invoking the phrase "Our Right to Life").
In some countries, the abortion issue remains one of the broader and more controversial societal issues. A broad spectrum of positions exists on this issue, from those who advocate abortion-on-demand at any point during a pregnancy on the one end (100% pro-choice), to those who oppose every form of abortion on the other (100% pro-life). Between these two there is a considerable range of positions. Some oppose abortion, but are content to work at reducing the number of abortions through prevention of unwanted pregnancies, a task they accomplish through encouraging abstinence, targeted sex education and/or increased availability of contraception. Current legislation in United States Congress, the Pregnant Women Support Act, seeks to reduce the abortion rate in the U.S. without making any procedure illegal and without overturning Roe v. Wade. There are also some who support legal abortion within the first two trimesters but oppose late-term abortions. Those who oppose late term abortions usually take the view that once a fetus has reached the point where it could live independently from the pregnant woman, the balance of rights perhaps swings in favour of the fetus. Some oppose most abortions but make exception for cases where the woman's life is in serious risk. In this category, some likewise make an exception for severe fetal deformities. Others make exceptions when the pregnancy was not caused by consensual sexual activity or may violate social taboos, as in cases of rape and incest. Some allow for all these exceptions, but stop short of abortion-on-demand.
Another issue is that of mandatory notification and consent. Some believe that a pregnant minor should not be allowed to abort her pregnancy without notifying her parent or guardian because of the risks and possible medical complications. Likewise, some believe that notifying the woman's husband should be required because of parental rights. In a 2003 Gallup poll in the United States, 72% of respondents were in favour of spousal notification, with 26% opposed; of those polled. In many states, such restrictions are mandated by law, though often with the right of judicial oversight. Others believe that the child's biological father must be notified.
Generally speaking, the pro-life position regards abortion as a form of infanticide, and thus seeks legal restrictions on abortions. Pro-life advocates typically argue that if a pregnant woman is unable or unwilling to raise the child, there is the option of placing the child up for adoption.
Public opinion in the United States of America is almost evenly split on the issue. Two polls were released in May 2007 asking Americans "With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?" May 4th through 6th, a CNN poll found 45% said pro-choice and 50% said pro-life. Within the following week, a Gallup poll found 49% responding pro-choice and 45% pro-life.
The U.S. Republican Party platform advocates a pro-life position, though some Republicans are not pro-life. The Republican group The Wish List supports pro-choice Republican women just as EMILY's List supports pro-choice Democratic women. The Susan B. Anthony List is dedicated to "increasing the percentage of pro-life women in Congress and high public office. The Democrats for Life of America are a group of pro-life Democrats on the political left who advocate for a pro-life plank in the Democratic Party's platform and for pro-life Democratic candidates. The former vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver and the late Robert Casey, a former two term governor of Pennsylvania, are among the most well-known pro-life Democrats. His son, Bob Casey, Jr. is now a pro-life Democratic US Senator.
In many nations, such as Canada, the nations of Europe, Australia, the nations of Asia and Africa, and the U.S. there are many on the economic left-wing and political centre who either have personal disagreements with abortion or who oppose legal abortions outright. Both groups generally consider themselves pro-life.
Opposition to abortion by some Christians is based on a number of sources. The Didache, a short early Christian treatise, specifically prohibits abortion. The Bible, unlike the Didache, makes no specific mention of abortion, although it does mention unborn life several times. For example, Psalm 139:13-16 refers to God's creation of unborn human life as follows: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Luke 1:44 cites Elizabeth exclaiming to the Virgin Mary, "Behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb (John the Baptist) leaped for joy." Jeremiah 1:4-5, retelling God's appointing of Jeremiah to be a prophet, says: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you". Pro-life Christians interpret such passages to reveal the personhood of an embryo/fetus, while others interpret this passage to be centrally focused instead on the special significance of Jeremiah as a prophet and maintain that they have no relevance to claims that the fetus is a person.
Pro-life Christians cite many other Biblical passages in support of their position, including the following:
Psalm 127:3: Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children are a reward from him.
Leviticus 24:17: "[The LORD said:] If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death."
Proverbs 6:16-17c: "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him . . .[one of which is] hands that shed innocent blood."
Psalm 9:12: For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.
Psalm 82:3-4: (3) Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. (4) Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
The Catholic Church teaches that "abortion is a grave sin against the natural law. It believes that human life is sacred, and begins at conception. Under this view, abortion is equivalent to murder, and there are no permissible exceptions. When the life of the woman is in jeopardy, it is permissible to obtain life-saving treatment which may have the secondary effect of killing the fetus, but no direct action may be taken against the fetus/embryo itself, and all life-sustaining options must be exhausted. (An example is chemotherapy treatment for a pregnant woman with uterine cancer.) It also ascribes to a Consistent Life Ethic: euthanasia, the death penalty, unjust war, embryo research, in vitro fertilization (which involves discarded embryos), artificial contraception (of which some methods may prevent implantation of a zygote in the uterine lining), and abortion are all condemned as violence. Church law provides that anyone who directly participates in an abortion is automatically excommunicated (provided they are aware of this penalty at the time of the act). A valid sacramental confession remits this penalty. In accord with its opposition to abortion, the Catholic Church provides support to pregnant women in "crisis pregnancies," as well as to low income families.
Other Christian denominations hold varying positions on abortion. Conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian groups are more likely to oppose abortion, whereas liberal or mainstream Protestant churches are more likely to allow for it.
The Christian Alliance for Progress, most notably, has come out in opposition of abortion, but has advocated a program of assistance and prevention as opposed to the criminalization of abortion, opposes the death penalty, but maintains a neutral stance on euthanasia.
While Hinduism does not take the explicit anti-abortion stance that most Christian groups do, Hinduism teaches that murder is a great crime and one of the worst possible sins. Hindu teachings recognize a fetus as a living, conscious person deserving of protection. Also, according to Hindu Mythology, there are 16 Samskaarams or Sanskaars during the life cycle of an individual (Soul) which starts pre-birth at Garbhadhaan (Conception), thereby denoting that life is considered to begin at conception itself. One of the seven legendary immortals or Chiranjeevin in Hinduism, Ashwatthama, was cursed by Lord Krishna, avatar of Vishnu to immortality and eternal suffering partly for attacking a pregnant woman so she would miscarry her fetus (later born as Parikshit, grandson of Arjuna) when he was in his mother's womb. Parakashit was stillborn, but was raised from the dead by Sri Krishna.
Other denominations of Judaism (Reform, Conservative, etc.) espouse more liberal interpretations of the traditional texts, or often reject them outright as irrelevant or outdated. Consequently, adherents to these movements often take a more liberal stance on abortion issues.
Many disciplines of philosophy may be implemented in the formation of a secular pro-life viewpoint. Some make use of natural law theory, which would emphasize the primacy of the right-to-life as the most fundamental human right guaranteed by law.
Biologically speaking, the zygote created at fertilization possesses a unique genome of human DNA, a unique blood type, and all other essential biological manifestations of a living organism (although, in the case of identical twins and chimeras, that unique individuality is not preserved). Pro-life advocates assert that this constitutes membership in the human species and personhood, and therefore conclude that the deliberate harming of human embryos and fetuses is morally objectionable. Other pro-life arguments may hold that destruction of human embryos and fetuses constitutes discrimination against them, based on their stage of development.
Pro-life and pro-choice individuals often use political framing to convey their perspective on the issues, and in some cases, to discredit opposing views. Pro-life advocates tend to use terms such as "unborn baby," "unborn child," or "pre-born child, while some pro-choice or pro-birth-control advocates insist on scientific terminology (distinguishing between a zygote, a blastula, an embryo, and a fetus, and objecting to "fetus" as a blanket term).
The Associated Press encourages journalists seeking a neutral tone to use the terms "abortion rights" and "anti-abortion.
The vast majority of pro-life advocates, as well as virtually all mainstream pro-life organizations, reject the use of violence in support of pro-life goals and/or in opposition to abortion, on the basis of the belief that both qualify as murder. They also believe that such violence will only hurt their cause. They rely upon other forms of activism like picketing and vigils, as well as legal and political action. The American Life League has issued a "Pro-life Proclamation Against Violence.
Violent incidents directed against abortion providers range from the arson and bombings of abortion clinics, as committed by Eric Rudolph, to the murders or attempted murders of physicians and clinic staff, as committed by James Kopp. G. Davidson Smith of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) defined abortion extremist, animal rights, and environmentalism-related violence as "single issue terrorism". Actual acts of violence against abortion providers and facilities in North America have largely subsided following a peak in the mid-1990s. The National Clinic Violence Survey, conducted by the pro-choice Feminist Majority Foundation, reports that severe violence now affects only 18.4% of abortion providers and facilities figures), a figure lower than at any time since 1994. Statistics from the National Abortion Federation show that violence against abortion clinics or providers has decreased steadily since a peak in 2001.
In North America, the most recent act of violence against an abortion provider that resulted in bodily injury was on July 11, 2000, in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, when Dr. Garson Romalis was stabbed in the back in the lobby area of the building where he worked; the most recent act of criminal damage against an abortion provider in North America was an arson at an abortion clinic in Virginia Beach, Virginia on May 9, 2007. ; and the most recent act of criminal damage by a pro-life extremist was an attempted suicide car bombing on the Edgerton Women's Health Center in Davenport, Iowa, on September 11, 2006 (the center did not provide abortions, but the perpetrator, David Robert McMenemy, apparently believed it did).