Friday, January 27, 2012

A Woman's Right to Choose

Do you ever find it weird that abortion is phrased that way so often?

"A woman's right to choose."

Alright. Choose what? Why is the word 'abortion' sawed off from the very statement that's so often cited in support of it?

"I support a woman's right to choose!"

I no longer allow this phrase to pass on by. It's pretty fucking insulting, really. Can you imagine cutesy, civil language like this being used by a slaveowner? "I support a plantation owner's right to choose." We'd be disgusted, because we'd know what was going on - a word game. Trying to draw attention away from the actual fact of the matter, as if it could be ignored. As if the "choosing" part was the thing people were against. Some people don't want humans to make choices! How dare they. Oh wait, the choice is 'enslaving another human and using them as cattle'? Oooh, that's more difficult to be enraged about.

Now and then, it's matched by its cousin, "reproductive rights and reproductive health". I saw someone using the name Anne Rice - possibly the gal herself - use this one over at a blog today. More minced words.

No, Anne. What you support is the right for a woman to hire a hitman to go up into her womb, slice her baby into ribbons, and suck out the remains with a vacuum. Or perhaps kill the baby with a chemical solution. A variety of methods, in exchange for money. The fact that the culture which defends this, devotes tremendous time to not even bluntly saying what they do, says a lot about said culture.

Anyway, the point of this post is to discourage giving in to language like this. Talking abortion with someone? Be blunt. Don't allow "A woman's right to choose" to be the words used. Demand to know - choose what? Make sure that just what's being defended is explained and defined in start terms. Keep reminding people. Don't let them slide off into the world of evasion and distraction that comes with vague reference to 'reproductive rights' and 'a woman's right to choose'.

Language is key.


Syllabus said...

Semantics is all they've got, since they have neither science nor ethics nor good logical arguments on their side. Oh, and they also have those delightful lines like, "If you're anti-choice (a new favourite of theirs) then you're anti-woman!" or, "If you fail to grant women reproductive rights, then you're just perpetuating the oppressive patriarchy!"

What beats the hell of out of me is how they can go on about "government sanctioned murder" when talking about the death penalty and freak out when people wear fur, but have the nerve to say that people ought to have the "right" to kill their own babies at will. I swear, Peter Singer would be so proud.

Crude said...

Yeah, "patriarchy". Anyone using that word sincerely in a political conversation usually flips my "this person is not worth taking seriously" switch.

They actually don't have the nerve, that's what I find funny. I mean, I can only speak from experience, but if you call someone on the 'woman's right to choose' thing and ask what they're choosing, there's a good chance they'll squirm immediately. Being petrified of the details is pretty common, save for the absolute earliest possible stages, and even then in the harshest conditions. There's a reason why abortion advocates aim for the most extreme situations when they give scenarios (Oh, well, let's imagine the woman was raped horribly. By her father. Also she's 11. So she takes a morning after pill the very next day. Horrible right? Now you see why we should allow abortion into the third trimester including for middle-upper class women who had an affair.)

Though my biggest concern is with pro-lifers who allow the discussion to be tarnished by playing along with these kinds of words. In fact, I'd probably be suspicious of any self-declared pro-lifer who spoke of 'a woman's right to choose', rather than being blunter. There's a line of course, and you can go from 'being blunt' to 'obviously just trying to be as graphic as possible', but it can at least be pointed out how the people defending abortion so often are petrified of even detailing it.

Syllabus said...

Thing is, most people who hold to that position haven't actually thought their way to it. They've been browbeaten into it by society or their friends or their parents or whatever else. Nowadays, if you want to be seen as an evolved, liberated human being - though why anyone would consider those particular characteristics to be desirable or eve applicable to those that flaunt them is way beyond me - has to be in favour of policies X, Y and Z by default. So when questioned about it, they just fall back on half-remembered and garbled rhetoric that they don't understand. If you can get beyond that, there's not much of substance left.

And if we want people to talk accurately about abortion, I think we should just do something I heard Prof. Kreeft suggest once: broadcast a live abortion, preferably the kind with the vacuum tube. Then, see which people will justify that as "a woman's right to choose" and deport them to Gingrich's lunatic lunar base (that last part is mine, not his).

Crude said...

That's sadly true, and one of the reasons that - while I love and even accept deeper theistic arguments and thought, like Thomism and such - I more and more feel like what needs to be focused on is getting past those pretty fundamental flaws.

Interesting suggestion from Kreeft. I really have to read more from him, I get the impression that he's a philosopher who engages people on a more even and cultural level.

Syllabus said...

If you want to find out more about Kreeft's stuff, he has a ton of lectures available for free download on his site. As far as his written stuff goes, I'd stick to his non-fiction work. Aside from his Socratic dialogues, he has a tendency to be too clever in his fiction writing style.

But you're absolutely right; he's one of the only philosophers I've ever come across that has a decent sense of humour, in addition to an exceptionally sharp mind. And he likes Billy Joel (let the mocking commence).

That's the sad thing, in my mind, about guys like WLC, for instance. First-rate mind, rhetorical flair up the wazoo, but he's a total stuffed shirt. Guys like Kreeft and Plantinga, on the other hand, are really much more enjoyable to watch and listen to, as they are far more down-to-earth and whimsical, as opposed to the rather professorial/pastoral tone that Craig takes.

Crude said...

Mocking? I'm a huge Billy Joel fan. If nothing else he's a fantastic lyricist.

I think Feser has a good sense of humor, mostly insofar as he can throw in a Beastie Boys or Steely Dan reference while writing. And yeah, WLC is a particular concern - on the other hand, there's also a place for guys like that, who are big guns in an intellectually thorough way. It's that plodding, dispassionate focus on arguments and logic that has served him well.

No problem on the fiction. Most of the time I'm not a fan of written fiction. Here and there something gets me, but 'too clever' and 'too heavy handed' are my usual complaints.

Syllabus said...

Oh, I like Billy Joel just fine. I do find, however, that he has the same polarizing effect on people that Creed - whom I despise - do.

And yes, Feser has a penchant for a witty turn of phrase, which I do admire. And he doesn't shirk from controversy or polemic that borders on the insulting - a quality which I highly admire. That's one of the main things that ticks me off about the internet theist/atheist debates. Many atheists show up with little more than vituperative rhetoric, and the theists respond with polite, almost simpering missives that try to reason things out logically. They simply don't realize that what that type needs is a b*tchslap upside the head, rather than a nice little pat on the wrist.

Crude said...

Does he now? Could be, I don't talk much music with people. Doesn't animate me, and I listen to things all over the musical map without feeling too strong about it. (Considering I'm close to actually being a Devo fan, you can tell how seriously I take my music.)

I agree wholeheartedly about the debates. I actually have written before that I think the Christian penchant for perpetual 'dialogue' with the cultists of Gnu is misplaced, and the politeness can be counterproductive. The proper response to Jerry Coyne yammering about morality, the Euthyphro dilemma, or free will isn't gently pointing out where he's gone wrong and implying that perhaps he made a few errors. It's to point out that he's got his head up his ass, does not know what he's talking about, and is abusing science for the sake of his pet social issues. That last one is key, and it's why the 'scientism' charge always irritates me - it gives the impression that science itself is supremely important to these people, when it's not.

I absolutely believe in a need for civil and polite discussion. But man, it's a two-way street. A lot of these guys don't deserve to be taken seriously - they deserve to be mocked and then ignored. (And for the record, when I saw Feser mock Coyne a bit, man. The thin skin. Coyne can barely write a post without saying 'Jebus', but make fun of him and his fans starts squealing about respect and civility.)

Drew said...

The correct terms are anti-abortion, and pro-abortion.

Ephram said...

Strangely enough, I've discovered that "pro-choice" people often get offended when you brand them "pro-abortion." Almost invariably, they do so without supplying a justification for taking offense, but one guy whom I dialogued with broke the mold. I characterized this fellow's position as "pro-abortion," and he told me not to do it again, since, according to him, the label made him sound like some "depraved, inveterate baby-killer licking his lips at the prospect of death," when all that he was allegedly doing was being "practical and economical."


Let that sink in.

But hey, anyone have any alternate theories besides my own theory of cognitive dissonance?

Crude said...

The most reasonable move on the 'pro-abortion' front I've heard is, "I'm not pro-abortion. I'm against abortion, I think it's immoral and unfortunate. However, I think it's ultimately a decision that should be left to the mother."

I think a lot of people would be against outlawing something they personally find immoral. But I also think this becomes incredibly difficult to defend once it's examined - either the immorality of abortion has to be downplayed ('It's immoral. You know, like jaywalking.') or the 'left to the mother' move has to give way ('Alright, in many cases abortion should be outlawed, but perhaps not all.') In other words, taking a position like this involves having the very conversations abortion aficionados want desperately to avoid in the first place - and back we go to the curious choice of words.

As for 'practical and economical', heh. I've seen that sort of thing come up. Slavery was practical and economical for a long time, so I guess it was okay. That cotton wasn't going to pick itself.

Ilíon said...

Crude: "... Language is key."

Drew: "The correct terms are anti-abortion, and pro-abortion."

When the anti-abortion movement rebranded itself as "pro-life", it implicitly accepted the leftist pro-abortion side setting both the terms of the debate and what of constitutes "acceptable" limits to the debate and related rhetoric. AKA, they surrendered, when they bought into the "liberal" notion that one "needs to be 'for' something, rather than 'against' something".

Crude said...

AKA, they surrendered, when they bought into the "liberal" notion that one "needs to be 'for' something, rather than 'against' something".

This one, I can't agree with.

I don't think they bought into any liberal notion. I think they did something many Christians need to learn how to do - they paid attention to how they communicate their message and how they present themselves, with an eye on persuading the public. And I believe that decision has paid off in spades.

Think of it in capitalist terms: when I talk up my product and make sure you have the best impression of it (while being honest), I am not 'selling out to the left'. I am being smart. Marketing matters.

Syllabus said...

And it's really a little misleading to characterize only one side as "pro-life". Both sides are for life, I would assume - they just disagree as to when it begins. If we really wanted to be cheeky, we could start calling them "pro-death" or "anti-life", though that last one evokes the memory of that greatest of DC villains, Darkseid. But heck, it would probably be appropriate.

Crude said...

I don't think anyone but the most nutty of the pro-choicers would argue that an unborn child is not alive, or that abortion doesn't involve death. The arguments I see revolve around 'personhood' first and foremost.

Granted, they'd probably want to avoid talking about life and death, just in the same way they're actually allergic to the word 'abortion' most of the time. Back to the marketing concerns.

Now you have me wondering if there's abortion on Apokalips or whatever.

Syllabus said...

Yeah, the equivocation is part and parcel of the entire debate, and one of its more annoying parts. It causes a good deal of confusion.

As for Apokolips, the feeling I got is that abortion is one of the least bad things going on there.