Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Rhetoric of Abortion

I am pretty familiar with the rhetoric of abortion - you know the kind of thing:

A woman’s right to choose

Keep your rosary away from my ovaries

My body - my right to choose

Imposing your morality on me

Every child a wanted child

I’m not pro-abortion but I am pro-choice

However, I encountered a less frequently-heard one the other day, which I thought worthy of comment (I may re-visit some of the others in future posts). The one I want to look at today is that by opposing abortion, I am ‘forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term.

I suppose I am, yes. In precisely the same way that by preventing my kids from committing suicide, I am forcing them to stay alive - and what’s worse, to die either a violent death, as the result of an accident, by illness, or by old age. How cruel of me!

We need to see beyond the rhetoric and be ready to expose the fallacious thinking that underpins it: in this case that carrying a pregnancy to term is in some sense a bad thing; and that allowing a natural process to take its course - and disallowing a deliberate intervention to change that - is in some way forcing something on someone.

But by the same token, we need to be careful of our rhetoric. We must make our case clearly, robustly and unapologetically, but rhetoric that simply demonises others (‘child murderer’, for example) will neither convince them nor third parties: and is in breach of charity, as it makes an assumption about their knowledge, free will, active intention etc that we are not entitled to make.


Ttony said...

I wrote something recently about the way the Hierarchy accepts the premises on which our opponents choose to fight: this is a much stronger example of an area in which we find ourselves cornered from the start by accepting "their" starting point.

Mike Cliffson said...

I'm not convinced that totally avoiding the expression child murderER under ANY circumstances is good policy.. The word IS murder, after all.
If we're serious about it, some of us will rely on the holy spirit , and some will muck it up.
If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly, if we ( I mean catholics) were ALL involved, we'd have far more scandals, illfeeling, mistakes ,FR Pavones, Bishops thisaway and Bishops thataway: it'd be a lamantable mess.So what? And , it'd mightn't be a bad idea for men, and women to hear even the word murderer , even were it not always said from the purest Christian love.
But main point, I agree with you and Tony: we play on their turf too much. Why? because underneath, we want to have tea with them? Leave they for heaven, where godsend we may all merrily meet.

Left-footer said...

I'm not so sure that either rhetoric or reason are going to change the minds of supporters of abortion. As with slavery, there is too much money at stake in the contraception, pornography, and abortion industries for its supporters to want to change their minds.

In the UK, Wilberforce and his supporters used rhetoric to address a nation which was open to new ideas and still largely Christian. Those conditions no longer apply.

In the USA, slavery was ended, I think, by the Civil War.

Those who support abortion, insofar as they think at all, do so by way of catchphrases and slogans. A dialogue of the deaf.

Scout said...

Writing as a pro-choice non-Catholic who is nevertheless uncomfortable with abortion, I think you make some very valid arguments... To be honest, when I hear the rhetoric of "baby killers", "abortuaries", "abortion mills" etc. it repulses me so much that I genuinely wonder whether the speaker or writer actually wants to change my mind or whether they are more interested in making themselves feel good by putting down everyone who disagrees with them. Getting abortion banned in my country (the UK) would probably require a significant shift in public opinion. If they genuinely want to get abortion banned, why would they behave so obnoxiously towards the people they claim to want to persuade?

Anti-abortion campaigners are always going to rely on emphasising the status or personhood of what is developing in the womb. There is no getting away from the fact that what to one person is murder, to another person is shades of grey. The debate is always going to be tempestuous. But maybe it can be conducted with a bit more mutual respect.

Mike Cliffson said...

It's a minor point , but there's been respect, on the whole, for nearly half a century now,on the prolife side, and it most certainly has NOT been mutual, you know, believe that or not as you will, check it out.
You write a civilized comment , so I'm sa d that you don't see that there is little comparison between debate over say the merits of mozart over beethoven taking so much else for granted, and overactions that are morally utterly evil , tho supported by wellmeaning sincere humans who are hurt by what they take to be bigotry or understand to be hatred of their very persons.
A great many Germans were far more civilized in their words than, say, Patton.But what doubt can there be that Patton did his bit ensuring fewer innocents were continued to be slaughtered.
We catholics are called to love our enemies, but many of us myself the most, are great sinners.
I wouldn't condemn our Pattons.

Left-footer said...

Mike Cliffson - agree with you completely, and have just posted on this.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks everyone for some interesting comments: not all of which I agree with...

I may respond in detail in a future post: in the meantime, see my next for the latest outpourings of what passes for thinking here.

Ben Trovato said...

BTW @Scout: thanks for your balanced and sensible comments here. However, I do find that your moderate position and dislike of pro-life rhetoric sit a little uncomfortably with your own blog, and the indulgence of you anti-Catholic and pro-choice rhetoric there...