Thursday, January 19, 2006


if you've got the time, click over to pandagon and check out amanda's recent riff on how "anti-abortion" really means "anti-choice." an enjoyable snippet:

I suggest applying abstinence-only logic to other areas of life. For instance, if you dare leave the house and associate with other people, you run a high risk of catching cold. And yet no one suggests that you be denied antibiotics because you were irresponsible by refusing the 100% surefire way of never catching cold by never leaving your house or seeing other people. Only when it comes to matters of fertility do we consider forcing doctors to withhold treatment as a way to punish people–and what we’re punishing, of course, is having sex.

amanda raises some very good points in this post, as usual, and it's worth a read. her final statement, though, struck an off note for me: "'pro-lifers' are not at all 'pro-life' so much as they are anti-choice."

in many ways, i agree with this theory. i think at its heart, the 30,000 foot view of the anti-abortion movement shows that it's not so much about saving babies as it is about imposing morality and punishment. however, the 30,000 foot view is almost always a theoretical one. do i think that blue-collar christians in kansas, or montana, or massachusetts for that matter all consciously think about how they want to punish women who have sex out of wedlock? no. maybe some do, but i doubt that the majority are functioning with that intention. for them, having received the indoctrination of abortion is murder from church figures and conservative politicians - having drank that propaganda kool-aid - they honestly believe that abortion is killing a child.

i, of course, would argue vociferously with that conclusion, but as amanda points out, that's a wild goose chase. it's also immaterial, as the matter can never be definitively decided (and don't tell me about "potential scientific advances" that might unearth an answer, because that's not possible - no matter how much we come to understand about gestation and "when life begins," there will always be a grey-area morality involving the worth of a potential life versus the worth of the actual life incubating it). however, there are other ways of entering into a discussion with anti-abortion people who believe it's a moral wrong to terminate a pregnancy - there's the fact that morality is at its foundation a personal issue, there's the fact of weighing moral wrongs, there's the fact of the church being separate from the state, etc. we can have these debates, while being somewhat sensitive to the fact that these people have been led to believe a certain way, and they won't react kindly to being told outright that they're dupes. in other words - while the anti-abortion movement is ripe with anti-woman sentiment and is ultimately out to relegate women to a lower status, our response has to be more nuanced than just shouting that from the hilltops.

the conservative christian movement has done a bang-up job of convincing many americans that they are morally superior by opposing abortion, and that by virtue of that moral superiority, they should be able to impose their views on those who disagree. the pro-choice movement of the last 20 years has yet to figure out an effective way to address that fact. i'm not saying i have the answer, or even that i'm original in identifying this problem - i just want to point out that unfortunately, it's more complicated that we'd like it to be.

1 comment:

Zendo Deb said...

the conservative christian movement has done a bang-up job of convincing many americans that they are morally superior by opposing abortion

The left has also done a good job (though perhaps less-so) convincing a large number of people that they're morally superior for supporting abortion rights.

Propaganda (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder.