There’s a heinous demonstration on campus today that asserts abortion is genocide and compares it to events like the Holocaust and the expulsion of Native Americans from their homelands. All of this, of course, is coupled with graphic images that are neither scientifically accurate nor representative of abortion.
So naturally, there are a number of students protesting the demonstration. No matter the motivation of the protestors, they accept the right of this other organization to free speech, but object to the way it delivers its message–a manner that’s so reprehensible I refuse to even mention their name.
This same group was on campus last year, and I protested against them. This year I’m unable to protest, but at least I can lend my support in other ways.
In particular, one thing stood out to me as I moved through the crowd, toward the library where I intended to take a nap (and instead wrote this).
There was a table labeled “Poll: should abortion remain legal?”
Naturally, I moved to sign “yes.”
The woman sitting there said, “You don’t have to sign your email if you don’t want to,” so I didn’t (I get enough spam as it is), but she continued, “you don’t even have to sign your real name.”
To this I replied, “I can at least be honest about that,” but I should have instead asked, “Why wouldn’t I sign my real name? I’m not ashamed to support the right to abortion, so why would I need to mask my identity?”
As I began to move away, a man approached me.
“So you’re okay with abortion.”
“That’s not what I said.”
“But you signed it.”
“Because I think it should be legal, because it’s not my choice.”
He went on, but I didn’t let him go any further: I checked my watch, said I had to get going, and went into the library to find a spot to nap.
But the weather is so beautiful today, so I came back outside and found a bench to lie on. And then I was about to close my eyes when a nagging feeling came over me and I realized there’s a false dichotomy in the conversation around abortion, and it’s all a strawman anyways.
First, let me take a moment to enunciate my position. It doesn’t matter, but I think it can be illustrative of what I mean: I’m opposed to abortion, and in an ideal world I wouldn’t want anyone to have an abortion, but as far as making it illegal, I’m opposed–because I accept that, first, sometimes abortions are medically necessary and, second, they’re not my choice to make.
(And let’s be honest, it’s already pretty hard to get a legal abortion, and I’m opposed to that, too: for those in need of an abortion, access to proper medical services should be easily accesible.)
Woah, woah, woah!
Did I just say I’m pro-life and pro-choice?
In a way I did, because I recognize that there are two different arguments taking place right now.
The Pro-life camp is arguing against having abortions and asserts that if you’re not against abortions, you’re totally for them, aborting babies for sport like some wealthy white men hunt rare animals for trophies.
On the other side, the Pro-choice camp is arguing for access to abortion, and if you’re against access, you’re against personal freedom and personal ownership of a person’s body and their medical needs.
These are two fundamentally different issues: I can wholly stand in the pro-choice camp while still being personally opposed to abortion.
In the end, though, this argument is pointless, a strawman, a logical phallacy.
Why’s that? Because abortion isn’t about abortion.
There are two kinds of people in the Pro-life camp, and while they’ve found their ways to the same place, they’ve arrived with not-always-mutually-exclusive morives. The first legion comprises desperate religious fundamentalists who erroneously think that their faith is under attack, and should abortion remain legal, their worldview is threatened and another pillar of their extremist views begins to crumble. The second legion consists of political conservatives who have realized that mobilizing their base–the first legion–secures precious votes they need to remain in office and build upon the capital gains of doing so. While both groups have logical motives, I find the first pitiful and the second disingenuous.
More inportantly, if we’re all hung up on abortion, we ignore the real issue: unwanted pregnancy. This conversation, however, demands concrete action. Whereas we can shout about abortion till we’re blue in the face and the laws are only going to wiggle a little this way and that, if we honestly discuss the causes of unwanted pregnancies, we need to talk about sex education and the failure of abstinence-only curriculum; we need to discuss equal access to affordable healthcare and contraceptives; and we need to have an honest look at the prevalence of rape, its causes, and its consequences in our culture.
These are hard conversations, and having them means we need to face our shortcomings and develop workable solutions, solutions that often require change and sacrifice. It’s easier to argue about abortion, an argument in which the status quo is destined to be upheld, but these are the conversations we need to have, and until we have them, misguided demonstrations like those today will only continue.