The Abortion "Debate"
The recent march of 750,000 supporters of reproductive rights here in DC has spurred more so-called "debate" on the topic than is usual. Certain people and certain venues I'd never have expected to see engaged in the matter have been in the past few days. Some of the talk I've been seeing stretches to the point of breaking the concept of "debate."
The definition of debate, according to Webster, is "Pronunciation: di-'bAt, dE-; Function: noun; : a contention by words or arguments: as a : the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure b : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides." Not included, but certainly implied, is the concept that one actually listens during a debate as well as speak. It's not required by debating that one be convinced at all, but when the opponent makes a statement or proposition it usually is considered appropriate to at least acknowledge that they have done so. Further, in the spirit of debate, one should consider the statement given and judge it for it's validity. Is the statement accurate? Is it relevant? If it is used in support of an argument, does it convey the necessary information or refer to a previously accepted conclusion?
In a debate, one does not hear the opponent make a statement and then proceed on with one's own arguments as though the statement was not made. And if it's the accuracy of the statement that is the source of an objection, address it. Don't simply pretend it was never proposed. Communication failures do happen, and differing accepted definitions of terms can cause problems. True debate demands that one confirm that both the opponent and oneself are speaking the same language when these happen.
What happened here in DC last weekend was not, in any respect, a debate. Even when opponents on the issue met, they weren't debating. What we saw was advocacy - a visible and audible sign of the opinions of the participants. These 750,000 people were there to show they felt a specific way on the subject, not to actually debate the topic. When I ran into the groups of people talking about it later in the week, they were also showing their advocacy, not actually debating.
The process of debate becomes even more corrupted when people are disingenious about their choice of terms and in how they attempt to frame the opponents' arguments. I was asked, for example, was I pro-choice or anti-abortion. I replied, both. That earned me a dumbfounded look. Make no mistake: I don't like abortion. For everyone to be honest, I think it must be admitted that no one likes it, period. There are no such things as pro-abortion people or so-called "abortionists." None. The attempt by the alledged "pro-life" movement to brand anyone not agreeing with their side of the issue as "abortionists" is simply a matter of injecting an emotively-charged word in their speech in the hopes that the opponents will lose face in the eyes of the undecided. It is a trick, a gimmick. It is most certainly not a valid point of debate. The pro-choice side tends to allow their opponents to make up the labels and sit at a disadvantage for doing that. Their opponents call themselves "pro-life" and "anti-abortion." Well, who isn't? Those terms sound great on paper and allows the adherants to that viewpoint to look good on camera as well.
I am pro-choice. What I believe is that the question of whether to have an abortion or not should rest in the hands of the woman facing the pregnancy guided by her doctor, not in the hands of legislators and law enforcement. That is all I am saying by claiming to be pro-choice. The so-called "pro-life" movement is the one with the wrong name. Their real point is that they do not believe that choice should be allowed to the women citizens of this country. That's what they're fighting to accomplish, regardless of what they say about saving lives or anything else. Their proper name should be "anti-choice" and that's what I intend to call them from this point on.
A young family member of mine got pregnant way ahead of her schedule and faced this very choice. She made it, with medical and spiritual advice, and carried the pregnancy to term. She's placed her daughter with an adoptive family. There was no thought in her mind about the State and Federal legislators who expound on the topic in the State houses and halls of Congress. There was just her voice, turning over the decision with the information provided by doctors and parents and priests. When she made the call, it was her call, not Senator Whatshisname from East Blowhoe, Idaho. Our female fellow citizens have hard decisions to make and, in the end, they are the ones living with their decision. I trust them to make the right call for their situation.