Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Smogging-up the Abortion Argument

I'm "pro-life." I would like to think every human is. How could anyone be anything other than for life? I also think (in fact hope) that every human is anti-abortion. (More on this in a bit.)

I know, I know: I'm being cute. We know that "pro-choice" means what it says and that "pro-life" means anti-abortion, in context of the debates. Personally, I am truly "pro-life." By this, I mean that I believe that we humans do not have a right to take life. For this reason, I do not believe in the death penalty and I would not willingly participate in killing, even in war. To me, if life is sacred (or, in non-religious terms, it is an inalienable right of the one who exists) and there is no carte blanche for the taking of life. (I do believe that taking a life can be necessary, but that it is never moral. For example, I am sure I'd kill to protect my family, but I would still consider it [there simply is no better word] a sin that I would suffer from for the rest of my life.)

Of course, when it comes to abortion, the big debate is whether or when the biological stuff in the womb is a life. But I am not sure that is relevant to my own reasoning about the subject. (Maybe I'll address this in another piece.) But my purpose here is not to argue the particulars of abortion, but more to criticize how we currently argue about abortion.

But, first off, I categorically dismiss those who label men as invalid commentators on the subject of abortion. Abortion is a human question and not just a women's question. It is primarily a women's question, for sure.

Having said this, I watched my wife carry and give birth to two children; I also watched her miscarry three times (the first time, heartbreakingly late in the pregnancy). And while I "watched" this happen, I also, on a very deep level, experienced these things. As deeply as her? Of course not; but, I think these experiences more than justify my having opinions on reproductive rights.

I actually think my being a member of the human race is justification enough, and I am surprised everyone does not feel that way. For instance:

I am ready for you, too, you, O quoters of tribal arguments. I see you checking the script for the right line, you who are ready to question (or lambaste) men who see women's issues "in terms of how they affect the men, themselves." I always see men who comment on abortion being chopped down for saying "if my daughter..." or "if my wife..." But let's put a check on our cynical natures, shall we? Many (though, admittedly, not all) of us men love our wives and daughters deeply and mean this sort of thing in an empathetic way.

When my wife suffers, I suffer. When we need to make decisions, either about her body or mine, we make them together. We're married; we are, in terms of our belief, one. So, I simply won't entertain that argument. I will not see real empathy perverted, through "canned" argument, into selfishness. (Can it be selfishness? Sure, depending on the sincerity or insincerity of the source. but it is not a man thing, it's a good vs. bad man thing.) Argumentation contains pathos, ethos and logos. Always has. How can we argue something as profound as life itself without emotion? -- without discussing how it affects us all?

That said, my real purpose here is this:

I think we do a lot of arguing around the issue of abortion these days. Current trends are to use things like barbaric legislation ("death penalty for women who have abortions" and "99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions") as either implied or explicit arguments that being anti-abortion is barbaric. If, for instance, a school principal puts a rule on the books that children who cheat on quizzes will be punished by the removal of a finger, that just means the principal is an animal; not that cheating is any more wrong or right than it was before the rule.

It's like some weird version of ad hominum. It's as if people who use this technique would argue that cheating is okay because chopping off fingers is the act of barbarians.

Further, I have seen the pro-life stance, itself, referred to as cruel. Can laws against women who have abortions be cruel? Can a pro-lifer's very perspective on women be cruel? Of course. Can thinking one should not -- on a fundamentally ethical level -- have an abortion be cruel? I certainly don't think so. It's a concept; it's a moral belief. Cruel or not cruel is determined what one does with one's beliefs.

I would argue, further, that no one thinks abortion is a desired outcome. No one is "pro-abortion," because anyone, given the chance, would choose not to be in a position to have to consider having one. "Pro-choice" and "pro-abortion" are not the same.

But if we are arguing whether abortion is moral or not, we should really stick to the act, itself, independent of the urge to make teams out of the sexes. There is just too much fog around the issue now and people are not trying to burn it away; they are trying to take advantage of the poor visibility -- even willingly producing smog -- to make their arguments.

Once again, we see tribalism raising its head. Us against them; liberals vs. conservatives. Foolish. And, in terms of argumentation, distracting at best and crippling at worst. We attack each other and not the issue at hand. We have forgotten that argumentation's highest purpose is to find the truth and adopted the sports (team) mentality: it's all about winning.

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