Thursday, January 21, 2010

Choose Choice

So, I noted below that we'd come to the abortion politics in time, and since the annual "March for Life" in DC (commemorating the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision) is tomorrow, that time is now.

One of the best classes I took in law school was about the intersection of the law and social change. We read a book called "Lobbying for Social Change", which I now see every day as it holds up my computer monitor at work. One of the book's points is that law alone is an ineffective means for creating social change. It demonstrates this with a case history of the fight over abortion. From what I recall, prior to Roe v. Wade there was not much of an organized or motivated anti-abortion faction. The split of opinion in the populace was probably about the same, but the only people passionate for the cause were the underdogs-- those who believed that it was a travesty and a crime to force women to bear children they did not want when a simple and safe medical procedure could prevent it. The Roe decision upended the game: for the last 37 years, the anti-abortion-minded have viewed themselves as the underdogs, victims of a heavy-handed government regime and crusaders for the downtrodden and voiceless. Kind of exactly the same way the access-to-abortion activists felt before Roe.

Lots of people smarter and better-versed in this topic than I am have spent lots and lots and LOTS of time writing and thinking and talking about the merits of this issue on both sides. However, 37 years on, the pro-life-anti-abortion-anti-choice-whatever-you-want-to-call-it faction has gained unprecedented (and to me, distressing) power (often by linking up with the evangelical religious right). I'm not well-versed in the day-to-day of abortion rights, but I pay enough attention to know that a number of states have created a de facto ban on abortion through waiting periods, limiting clinics, making sure prices remain high, requiring "options" counseling, viewing ultrasounds, and even requiring the doctors to tell their patients lies about the risks associated with abortion. (South Dakota, I'm looking at you.) Further, the movement has become so radicalized that some members believe they should kill the doctors brave enough to pass the picketers every day to perform abortions for the women who seek them. And that seems to be okay with the movement as a whole. The utilitarian logic seems to be "sacrifice one to save many"-- since they believe that embryos and fetuses occupy the same plane of "personhood" as you or I.

And that's really the rub here. We have a fundamental disagreement between these camps about when "personhood" begins. I know this is no big news, but regardless of what happens in the courts or the legislature, we're going to continue to have an ugly, and even violent, battle over this until there can be some kind of consensus on that point. How do we move forward? How do we build a consensus? I don't know. I think the pro-choicers-pro-abortioneers-anti-lifers-whatever-you-want-to-call-'ems need to get just as creative and passionate about educating people on their views as the other side. They don't play with reason and they don't play fair, because they are so convinced in their cause that they believe the ends justify the means. Children are being brainwashed at 4, 5, 6 years old that God wants them to be a soldier to protect unborn babies. Women are being plied with emotional appeals and told that somehow, having less choice is empowering to them. Against that, playing to logic and fairness is a losing game.

Related: The Pro-Life Movement Is Not Pro-Woman: An Open Letter To Sarah Palin

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