Viva Voce
Somewhat Rambly at Times, Though...
Things That Are Making Abortion Debates Like Merry-Go-Rounds, Part the Fourth 
5th-Feb-2012 08:03 pm
elle4life: (starfish)
I know it's been a while. I have been doing productive things with the time, though. Like graduating college (finally!) and now (slowly) embarking on a career. But now I have a few moments and I can come back to this blog, and my long-interrupted series.

My next point was...not going to be this one. To be honest, this one was going to go at the end, and be all conciliatory about things the pro-life movement could improve on, in terms of how we communicate and such-like. But the truth is, I've seen enough evidence lately to realize that the problem is, unfortunately, much more severe than just us needing to be better at explaining ourselves. Not because we don't need to do that, but because the other side not only isn't listening, they're literally making stuff up. So I'm bumping this point up and coming at it from a new angle, 'cause this really does merit pointing out.

1. The average abortion supporter either does not understand basic biology or does not understand its significance to the abortion debate.

2. The pro-choice strawmen have been held up for so long they are now simply assumed and no longer recognized as strawmen at all.

3. The average abortion supporter does not understand how basic rights work.

4. The average abortion supporter does not understand the first thing about the pro-life position.

As I said, my first plan was to point out areas where pro-lifers could do a better job in being clear and direct. And certainly there are always ways we can improve. But the more I observe the comments made by abortion apologists when they either don't realize pro-lifers can see them or don't care, the more I see that they are frequently less interested in engaging with the arguments pro-lifers actually make, and more interested in assigning ever more fanciful straw-men to their opposition.

To wit, this thread (profanity, some avatars/comments are NSFW...basically, it's an adult forum, so proceed at your own risk) on a fanfic-centric forum. Starting from the linked post and continuing down to the "aphid" doggrel. Now, as you read through some of the comments, remember that none of these people are pro-life, nor do they ever bother to realistically think about the straw-men they're playing with. Part the Second, all over again, really. And by mentally walling themselves off, the abortion apologists here have rendered themselves utterly incapable of actually engaging with any of the real arguments that might be made by a pro-life person. Like--just as a randomly chosen example--human life starts at conception. Considering how often and how clearly pro-lifers have stated that point (in exactly those words, no less) over the past fortyish years, I'm fairly sure the failure to successfully differentiate that from a simple menstrual cycle is not something we can fix by being more clear or concise. Not only is comprehension not there, it's not even tried for.1

This total disconnect is less prevalent among the "leading" abortion apologists, but it still exists. They just tend to manifest it a bit more sneakily. I caught an essay on the "Community" section of Feministing about the experience of an abortion defender who went to the rally before the March For Life. (Now, I've never heard of this guy before, so he specifically might not be "leader" material, but Feministing arguably is, so I'm sticking this into that category with an asterisk next to it.) While his whole article is chock full of things that make me want to yell and throw things, there is one bit near the end that particularly set off the mental exclamation marks.

The pro-life agenda is naked in its religious morality. It is a movement that’s rhetoric is steeped in scripture, that’s membership is composed of parishes, congregations, and believers. It views abortion as murder and genocide, and in more pointed language, as a spiritually bereft form of birth control.

First off, I finally got the "all pro-lifers are religious nutballs" straw man in! Yay! But second, did you notice that last sentence? "It views abortion as murder and genocide, and in more pointed language, as a spiritually bereft form of birth control." Somehow, in this man's mind, despite being at the March For Life, surrounded by pro-lifers, speaking to them, and reading their signs, he managed to come to the conclusion that calling abortion a form of birth control is somehow "more pointed" than calling it murder and genocide.

...Well, aside from the fact that there's no excuse for getting the pro-life message that badly wrong when it's staring you in the face in brilliant technicolor, it certainly doesn't speak to well-organized priorities.

There are a few reasons for this failure to engage with the real pro-life movement, I imagine. Some of them, are easy to identify. Frustration with recent pro-life victories (which have been numerous). Anger over...well, basically, over the fact that not everyone just agrees abortion is right and good. Other reasons, however, are harder to pin down. There are abortion apologists out there by the dozens who genuinely want to and try to connect with pro-life arguments and yet these totally oddball moments persist. They're common, even. And this isn't an issue that pro-lifers can solve by educating people on the realities of our movement and views. If we've got groups of abortion apologists deliberately getting "life starts at conception" wrong, then there's not really much help we can give them. Either they choose to engage with the real pro-life movement--instead of the false one living in their heads--or they will continue to be caught off-guard and shocked with every new development in the national debate.



  1. Now, some abortion apologists will say things like, "Well, why should we want to understand Anti-Choice™ arguments anyway?" Part of the answer belongs under other points. The most minor portion of the answer, but perhaps the most salient for the abortion apologists at the moment, though, is because the pro-life movement is--at the moment--winning in the United States (recent Komen kerfluffles or not). Aside from a record-breaking March For Life this year, there is Casey Martinson (director of public affairs of Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes) bemoaning saying that "the sky is falling on Roe v Wade. It’s been falling incrementally for the past four decades, and it fell further, faster, in 2011 than in any year before"; abortion workers who seem to think that pro-lifers "clearly really well organized" and feels like she's "telling them they are winning because I know some sick radical anti is probably reading this now;" and the Abortion Gang bemoaning the fact that "antis have successfully made Planned Parenthood synonymous with abortion in the minds of many." While this is not a very philosophically compelling point, it is very practical. If the abortion apologists wish to challenge the pro-life movement's momentum in any meaningful way whatsoever, then they're going to need to deal with the arguments we're actually making. Not the ones they make up.


Comments 
15th-Feb-2012 08:43 pm (UTC)
kribban: (Default)
Yay! Blog is back! You need to advertise this more.

I think the reason people do this is because they want to fight a strawman. It strengthens their confidence to say "See, these people are just anti-family planning and pro-unlimited reproduction."
22nd-Feb-2012 03:30 am (UTC)
elle4life: (starfish)
I suppose that is an easier argument to make. But it's just...not very useful. To either side, really. I mean, if someone is going to respond to a certain set of arguments whether I actually make them or not, then there's no real need for me to be in that conversation in the first place, is there? They could have that "conversation" with an empty room just as easily.

I know, I know. Preaching to the choir. But still! :p
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