Don't Stop the ACLU

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Are you a good word or a bad word?

A couple of posts back, my colleague astutely identified some of today’s most worthless debate jargon. While most of what the Captain said in that post was spot-on, I simply will not stand for his endorsement of the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice.”

Here’s why both of these terms need to go:

Just look at them and you’ll see why no one debates intelligently about abortion in this country. One side says if you disagree with it, you’re against life; they other says you’re against choice. Are you starting to see the problem here?

It’s true that these words have come to take on other meanings and that in context just about everyone knows that “pro-life” means “abortion is murder,” which of course means “ban abortions” just as well as they know that “pro-choice” means “a woman should have total control over her body,” which means “keep abortion legal and safe.”

How about now? Is it getting any clearer?

Notice that each camp talks about the other as its opponent, but they are not having an argument. The quality of the resulting “debate” is terrible and absurd. It’s sort of like if I said, “The death penalty should be abolished because killing for vengeance is wrong” and you said, “Hamburgers are delicious.” The first contention has nothing at all to do with the second. This is not a debate.

As long as we keep this stupid terminology around, we’ll never get a real debate going. Those who fight to keep abortion legal will never have to address the question of whether or not abortion is murder (sure, the assumption seems implicit, but how many “pro-choice” people have you ever heard state flatly that abortion is *not* murder?), and those who oppose legal abortions will never have to address the question of a woman’s right to decide when her uterus is open for business (again, the assumption seems to be that a woman does not have the right to decide this, but you will never ever ever *ever* hear any “pro-life” person — ever — come right out and say “A woman has no right to declare her uterus off-limits”).

We need people to say these things. We need to define the boundaries of discussion, to get at the roots of the issues each camp is concerned with. We need smart people to spend hours at a time arguing just about whether or not abortion is murder. Then we need them to put that aside and argue for several more hours about whether a woman’s right to determine the allocation of her bodily resources to others is inalienable.

The camps (i.e. the ban-its and the keep-it-legals) don’t want any part of this, however, because to have productive arguments, each one must acknowledge the cornerstone of the other’s argument. And if they do that, they’ll also have to come to terms with ethical, philosophical and practical shortcomings of their policy recommendations.
posted by Maven Swift at 12:48 AM


Anonymous Keanus said...

I couldn't agree more with your view. A couple of days a week I volunteer as an escort at our local Planned Parenthood clinic, where I do my best to shield the clinic's clients from the everpresent picketers/protestors. They violate every thing you argue for. The call us escorts "murders," "nazis," "satan's own," etc. They insult the clients, screaming at them that they are about to murder their own child, even though most clients are not at the clinic for an abortion (and some are clearly past the sixth month and obviously not there for an abortion). During quiet times when no patients are in sight, I've sometimes attempted to strike up a friendly conversation with one or more protesters. They flatly reject my overtures, usually sticking a crucifix or rosary in my face and insulting me directly and personally. Last week one even screamed in my face "I hate you", punctuating the end of the phrase with what can only be described as a primal scream as loud as she could possibly make it. And that was deliberately from about one foot away. Were escorting my job, OSHA would have required that I wear ear protection.

In any event, my point is that the "pro-life" people, at least those I meet at Planned Parenthood are hateful, mysoginist, venomous folks for whom dialog of any kind is wholly alien. If one wants the debate over abortion to be rational, then the "pro-lifers" (an oxymoron in my view) from our President on down need to tone down the rhetoric and recognize that those who support abotion rights are moral people who may have a point worth discussing. Until that happens, all we are going to see and hear are primal screams. Pretty primitive in my view.

April 29, 2006 9:40 PM  

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