At some level, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the most pro-life organization in the world. Aside from the nagging fact that they kill roughly two-thirds of the animals brought to their shelter (down from 80% in 2015), their hypothetical premise is that all life should be protected—even the feathered and four-legged variety. Fish too, of course, because “we’re all animals” according to PETA’s Joaquin Phoenix (and chicken) ad. They'll even sell you a T-shirt proclaiming: “I AM AN ANIMAL.” Hashtag: EndSpeciesism!
The issue of animal rights came up fairly often when I used to visit college campuses with the Genocide Awareness Project—which compares abortion to historically-recognized crimes against humanity. “Do you eat meat?” abortion advocates would ask with barely-contained glee. And when I answered in the affirmative, their triumphant response was always the same. “Then you’re not really pro-life!” As if that settled anything. They’d attempt much the same thing with capital punishment, not realizing that their conclusions were entirely backwards. This is what’s wrong with the progressive position on abortion. It violates their modus operandi. The progressive position on abortion is actually (gasp) regressive. It more befits a time when quickening was all we had to go by—when we couldn’t see into the womb or determine the biological beginning of individual life. But those days are long past.
Philosophically, progressives take established tenets—or boundaries—and expand them. All in the name of progress. They’re not trying to hold any line—as conservatives are wont to do. They want to push that line out further and further. LGTBQ(IA2S?!)+ rights are a case in point. Marriage and religion are both institutions that have been historically closed to those who unrepentantly flout sexual norms. The progressive solution was to simply redefine marriage and redefine religious acceptability. It started with a G—gay rights. And then they added the L, and the B, and so on. The list is expanding so quickly that not even the all-encompassing "plus" that was added to the end has been able to reign it in. By definition, progressives must keep expanding their list of demands and grievances. Progress demands it. No matter how much ground they gain, it will never be enough.
The normalization of transgenderism may be getting most of their attention today, but animal rights have been at the leading edge of progressivism for decades—perhaps because it’s hard to get even leftists to buy in on giving up burgers and chicken tenders. Despite making massive inroads, Gallup tells us that only 3% of Americans identify as vegan. The global number is estimated at 1%, and the vast majority of those who start don’t stick it out. This, of course, is beside the point because progressives have a long history of catering to virulent minorities—no matter the social cost. The more obscure the victim class the better. It’s an opportunity to show off just how caring and compassionate they’re willing to be. As such, there is a wide swath of progressives who publicly demand that animals be given the same legal protections as human beings. But here’s the problem. As they’ve pushed the definition of “person” out further and further, they’ve entirely skipped over unborn children. Chicken eggs are sacrosanct, but human embryos are disposable. That’s what’s wrong with the claims leveled at me all those years ago on college campuses around the country. I wasn’t the one being inconsistent.
My contention is that innocent human beings should not be killed—but notice the qualifiers: innocent and human. I am not asserting that it is wrong to kill any life form nor am I asserting that it is always intrinsically wrong to kill a human being. Perhaps I should, but I don’t. Yet even if my moral calculus is amiss, I’m still being consistent. But, if you are of the opinion that even rodents should be granted rights of personhood, then how can you deny personhood for unborn human beings?! And if you believe it’s immoral to execute mass murderers and child rapists, then how can you believe it’s right to execute children in the womb? It is not those opposed to abortion who are being inconsistent. It is those who are devoted to the expansion of animal rights—yet leave unborn children entirely out of the equation.
PETA itself takes no position on abortion. They’ve formally washed their hands of the subject by claiming that abortion is outside their purview. “Our focus,” they write, “is the alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals.” The problem with this assertion is that it doesn’t hold. PETA’s web store sells T-shirts that espouse all sorts of uniquely human “justice” causes. They trumpet support for gay marriage, “feminism for all,” and open borders while condemning “homophobia, xenophobia, racism, (and) sexism.” Ageism, apparently, is fine. If PETA’s refusal to condemn abortion actually stemmed from a principled commitment to only advocate for nonhuman interests, they wouldn’t be throwing their weight behind all these distinctly human causes. The irony of course is that the moral requirements PETA places on humans would be absurd to expect of animals for the simple fact that animals and humans are profoundly and qualitatively different. Humans can act immorally. Animals cannot. The difference, in fact, is so profound that it even shows up in their name. People for the ethical treatment of animals. PETA boasts a membership of 9 million, and guess what, every single member is a human being. How's that for speciesism?
Then there's this. Not having a position on abortion—assuming you’re familiar with it conceptually—is philosophically impossible. If you don’t take a position, that just means you’ve taken the pro-choice position—which holds that abortion is morally insignificant. The same is true of slavery—and animal rights. You can only not take a position on eating meat if you believe there’s nothing wrong with eating meat, that it’s just a personal opinion. Your indifference gives you away. Likewise, to not take a position on slavery is to take the position that there's nothing wrong with slavery. There is no middle or neutral ground.
Regard for animal rights, like climate concern, is a first-world concept. Neither can exist in the absence of social stability and economic abundance. In other words, life has to be pretty good before you start worrying about the treatment of chickens or the condition of the polar ice caps—which may be why celebrities are disproportionately drawn to both. The public fawning doesn’t hurt either. Affluent women, it turns out, also have abortions at vastly higher rates than women in lower income brackets. A Brookings Institution study from 2015 reveals that “single women who make $47,000 or more a year abort 32 percent of their pregnancies, whereas single women making $11,670 a year or less abort only 8.6 percent of their pregnancies (women in the middle abort 11 percent).” Abortion advocates insist this disparity owes entirely to a lack of abortion access, but this ignores the fact that wealth tends to change one’s moral compass—and not always for the better.
Though I disagree with PETA’s central premise—that it is immoral to eat meat, I can still appreciate their devotion to cause. And the arguments they make in defense of animal rights are even more applicable to unborn children. PETA may be unwilling to apply them to the death and dismemberment of human embryos, but I have no such qualms—as evidenced by a slew of new PETA-inspired T-shirts. There is plenty of room for debate when it comes to animal rights, but here’s something we should all be able to agree on. It is unethical to dismember a living human being. And yet this is precisely what abortion does to the smallest and weakest members of the human community—thousands of times a day. If that bothers you, then you too are a PETUH person. That’s People for the Ethical Treatment of Unborn Humans.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. Subscribe to Michael's Substack for his latest articles and recordings. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.