Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Abortion, Unveiled

Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester, has a wonderful post up today about the resistance to the term "pro-abortion" by those who actually do believe in abortion on demand:

Having a conversation with an Obama supporter I heard yet again the argument "nobody is pro-abortion." This made me wonder just why it is that people who support legal abortion as an option don't want to be called pro-abortion? This seems to me to say quite a deal. If as they often contend that it is not a child and just a lump of tissue of the equivalent of a tadpole then what is the big deal if I or someone else call you pro-abortion. Why should their be any argument about this and why shouldn't they be proudly pro-abortion? If they are not pro-abortion then do they think they are anti-abortion? Is there a middle ground where you are neither for or against abortion? Don't think so.

Besides the definition of "pro" that applies is "an argument in favor of a course of action." If you say that abortion is an acceptable course of action then you are in fact pro-abortion. There is often an equivocation about letting it be a choice for somebody else to make. But again if you support somebody in their choice of action you are in favor of that action happening. If I said it was okay for an individual to choose to go around shooting people or not based on their preference, I would in fact be pro-murder even if I never shot someone myself.

Do read the whole thing; it's a good exploration of a curious bit of verbal engineering. There's a reason that pro-aborts will talk about choice and reproductive freedom and the rights to one's own body (never mind the body of the unborn child) and so on, but never use the word "abortion" to describe what they're talking about.

One thing that has always bothered me terribly is the language of "choice" from a strictly grammatical standpoint. Politicians and pundits and writers who should know better will prattle on and on about "a woman's right to choose" while blithely overlooking the simple fact that the verb "choose" is a transitive verb; it must have an object! I myself could say that I'm in favor of "a woman's right to choose:" her husband, her outfit, that cute pair of shoes she saw at Macy's, chocolate in large quantities, blogs to read, adult beverages--the list is endless. But if by "a woman's right to choose (insert direct object)" you mean "a woman's right to choose to pay someone to kill her unborn offspring by some hideous method of execution or other that completely disrespects the child's inherent and inviolable right to life" then of course I'm going to oppose that--and I'm going to think pretty poorly of people who don't.

Of course, some of the dodginess around the word "abortion" comes from the fact that "abortion" means "paying someone to kill your unborn offspring by some hideous method of execution or other that completely disrespects the child's inherent and inviolable right to life." And those who support legalized abortion don't really want to admit that, so they pretend it's possible to support other people's so-called right to do exactly that without actually having to admit they think it's a pretty good idea.

Which puts abortion supporters in the position of claiming that there's this fundamental human right out there, which belongs to every woman, but which it's impolitic to name let alone describe even while you loudly and fiercely insist that you support it to the hilt. It's as if people championed the "right to choose" to vote, while whispering the word "vote" as if it were an obscenity, and absolutely refusing to explain touch-screen ballots, hanging or dimpled chads, or other nitty-gritty details of the actual act of voting.

Jeff Miller is right: this makes no sense at all, but we've been letting abortion supporters get by with the "personally opposed, but" dodge for far too long. We need to make them say out loud what it is they support; we need to insist that they give "choose" its object; we need to fight for the linguistic clarity that shows the ugly horror of abortion stripped of all its gauzy euphemisms.


Rebecca said...

Well said. I am really amazed, recently, at the fact that the "pro-choicers" don't even seem to be pro-choice anymore; that is, they get really irritated if a woman chooses to do anything except abort her child. If you were pro-choice, why would it bother you that a woman might choose her mind if she saw a picture of the child in her womb? Don't you want the woman to make an informed decision? Wouldn't it be awful to have the woman make this decision based on the idea that she thought she was extricating a blob of tissue, whereas she would have made a completely different decision if she had just seen a picture? Why is it so irritating that a girl might choose to keep her baby after talking with her parents? Why are they so angry that more than three hundred women have chosen to keep their babies because of some people standing on the sidewalk praying? Did they interview those women, and did those women feel coerced into choosing against abortion? Why are people anxious to make up for the income planned parenthood lost through those changed minds? Is it about income, or about choice? I don't get it.

Scott W. said...

I don't get it.

Let me suggest this: So called "choice" is really about the negation of humanity. Now most people, even many that support abortion, are unwilling to sign on to this. BUT, having lost on the "Is it Human?" question, we are witnessing a shift. More and more we see abortion defenders concede that yeah, the fetus is human, but it is still justifiable to kill it. And so while we see people who quail at the prospect of showing pregnant women pictures of their babies in the womb and the gory pictures of abortions, we are also seeing people say women have to buck up, be able to look at these pictures, and still choose abortion. They are essentially telling us to anesthetize our conscience.

Daddio said...

So then are we okay with being called "anti-abortion"? I am. Pro-life sounds nicer, and encompasses more than just abortion. But it also strikes me as a little bit of a game to avoid the A-word.

Rebecca said...

Yes, I'm perfectly comfortable with "anti-abortion", as long as the flip side is "pro-abortion". So far the media has gone with "pro-choice" vs. "anti-abortion".

Maggie said...

Great post, Erin. The pro-abortionists (and yes, I'll call them that- if they want to label me anti-abortion that's just dandy with me) have stolen the semantics of life from us. Utterly ridiculous. Another fun word is "feminist" and all its implications. I, for one, prefer the term "JPII Feminist" or "Authentic Feminist" rather than "I want to destroy any differnce betwen genders" sort of feminist. But that's just me.