Part of the problem is how limited the "pro-choice" and "pro-life" monikers have become, and how much an individual's own explanations of their political views may diverge from the way political groups use the same terms. "Pro-life" has become shorthand for "I think abortion is icky" or "I would never have an abortion," but not necessarily "I think abortion should be entirely illegal" – which is the position of the mainstream "pro-life" movement.
Every major right-to-life organization in the United States wants to outlaw abortion almost entirely, including in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the pregnant woman's health and even life. National Right to Life argues that abortion even in the case of rape or incest creates a "second victim" wherein "the woman becomes the aggressor against her own child." They believe health exceptions to abortion restrictions are largely bunk, putting "health" in scare-quotes and complaining that in Roe v. Wade, the case legalizing abortion nationwide, the Supreme Court mentioned a state interest in fetal life, but that "legislation to protect that interest would be gutted by mandated exceptions for the 'health' of the mother." According to the Pro-Life Action League, "a child conceived through rape or incest does not deserve the death penalty for his or her father's crime." The group is even more dismissive of abortions to preserve a woman's health or life. "The Pro-Life Action League rejects abortion for the alleged purpose of preserving the health of the mother," the group says. They "similarly reject the 'life of the mother' exception," claiming that "abortion is never necessary to save a mother's life; and even if it were, it is wrong to deliberately, directly kill one innocent person to save another."
Other self-identified pro-life groups simply dodge questions of rape, incest, and the pregnant woman's life and health, knowing their answers would be politically unpopular. About 44 percent of Americans identify as pro-life, and 50 percent as pro-choice. Just 19 percent believe that abortion should be outlawed under all circumstances. Overwhelming majorities – 78 percent – believe abortion should be legal at least in some circumstances. Only 29 percent want to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
Today's American "pro-life" movement is about more than just abortion, and recent Supreme Court litigation around contraception has made that clear. No major pro-life organization in the United States supports increased birth control access, even though the study after study has shown that the most effective way to decrease unintended pregnancies, and by extension the abortion rate, is with affordable, accessible birth control. Many of them simply ignore the birth control question. Others, such as the Pro-Life Action League, flat-out say, "The Pro-Life Action League opposes artificial birth control (contraception), not only because it destroys the inherent meaning of the sexual act as a sign of permanent, life-giving love, but because of the disastrous consequences it has wrought on our society."
Most American women, including most of those who identify as pro-life, use contraception at some point in their lives. As a result, more women are in college and in the workforce than ever before, and far fewer are injured or dying from pregnancy-related causes. Unsurprisingly, 89 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of Catholics, say contraception is morally acceptable.
By contrast, the organized pro-choice movement believes just what it says: reproductive choice. That means the choice to use contraception or not, to carry a pregnancy to term or not, to parent or not. The organized pro-choice movement also presses for resources so that women can make a full range of choices. That means accessible and affordable birth control and abortion, but it also means health insurance so that a complicated pregnancy doesn't bankrupt a woman and her family and a robust social safety net so that women facing financial hardship can still choose to have children and provide them a stable home.