Monday, October 26, 2009

By Jove I Think She's got It

Suzanne Fortin of Blue Wave Writes

Suzanne Fortin sometimes publishes over at No Apologies, as here. To paraphrase Suzanne, fighting against a thing, actually gives it power, and exercises it. But, if you use its own power against it, by tapping into it, you may in fact disrupt it.

As Suzanne writes, the pro-life movement engaged the pro-choice movement from the beginning as follows:

Once upon a time, the pro-life movement in Canada had one focus: to pass an abortion ban. And it had one slogan: Abortion is murder.

And we thought that was all we needed to win the fight: to be right about the issue and remind people of the truth.

Lots of grassroots pro-lifers in the pews think this way.

But, some of the smarter pro-life folks are concluding that that strategy is not so successful. As Dr. Phil says: How's that working for ya? Not so good really. And Einstein mused that insanity was continuing to do the same thing time and again, expecting a different result from your efforts. So where have the pros gone with this? They have seen that the strategy needs revision, as she writes further:

But almost no “professional” pro-lifer uses this slogan anymore.

And with good reason: It’s a useless slogan.

To the wider culture, the slogan is meaningless and moralizing. It is meaningless because the fetus is not widely acknowledged to be a human being, let alone a person. It is moralizing because it focuses on our opposition to a “sin”, a sin whose definition in the minds of most is entirely religious in nature.

“Abortion is murder” does not even adequately reflect the real goals of the movement. Our goal is not just the eradication of abortion – although that would be nice. Abortion bans can be easily overturned. Nor should pro-lifers simply be happy with a “personhood amendment” in the constitution. In some countries, Germany and Chile for example, the right to life is recognized from conception, but abortions are still permitted.

So, abortion is murder, though true is not working as a tag line. What options are there? Well, Suzanne has this to say:

Our true goal is to end the discrimination against unborn children in all its forms.

In light of this, our slogan should be: Abortion is discriminatory.

In Canada, human rights are not a matter of opinion. They are absolutes. In fact, many people would not have a moral framework if they could not use rights-based language.

But a human rights approach to the culture of life issues is more global than the traditional anti-abortion perspective. And it needs to be. There are other threats to preborn babies, such as destructive research on embryos. In vitro fertilization not only results in the killing or freezing of prenatal humans, but the process itself makes babies into commodities, and undermines the unconditional love we should have for our children. Indeed, the whole contraceptive culture is built on the idea that unexpected and imperfect children are unwanted intrusions that will drag us down.

So, using the energy of the prime motivation of pro-choice folks, the right of a woman to choose, but turning it to the child or even using the pro-choice neutral term "fetus", there is a strength coming from mother to child that has untapped power:

Fetal rights goes even beyond the life-and-death issues. Consider, for instance, the language we use with respect to the unborn child. Traditional English grammar sanctions the use of the pronoun “it” for babies and fetuses. This only perpetuates the objectification of children and should be dropped in favour of personal pronouns like “he” and “she”. I also believe that we should more commonly use the word “fetus”. Many pro-lifers hate that word because pro-aborts use it to dehumanize the unborn. I take the view that if we can transform the word “fetus” so that it conjures up all the warm and fuzzy feelings that the word “baby” does, we can take away one more instrument of oppression from our opposition.

But, here are Suzanne's ideas for the pro-life movement in a human rights context:

Does the adoption of a human-rights framework mean that we have to put aside all our religious-based objections to abortion? Not by any means. One of the most important things that pro-lifers must understand about a social movement is that it must be complex and include a wide variety of approaches and strategies – sometimes competing against one another. There is no magic bullet in this fight. Every perspective or tactic is a channel through which a small number of people will engage. As those small groups of people accumulate into one big group, it will make for a stronger pro-life movement. We should not get bogged down by infighting by political or religious litmus tests to see who gets to participate. Being open to newcomers means that we can’t be too stringent in saying who gets to be a fellow traveler, and who doesn’t.

That’s how human rights movements work, after all. When they are sufficiently multi-faceted to foster alliances with a range of different populations, that’s how they manage to achieve their goals. We cannot continue to be the movement that has one goal, that says one slogan or and that includes only one group of people into its fold.

Brilliant. Leverage what is, and what people see in front of their noses, but tune it towards the desired objective. Pro-lifers can work with this. I like it.


Joshua S. said...

It was my generation - or half of it, acrtually - that ushered in this aboriton free-for-all. As men, however, the prevailing feminist ethos of the time insisted that we didn't have a horse in this race. "Our Bodies, Our Selves" and "my body, my choice" apparently applied to the female gender only. There was no "our" pronoun in the abortion debate, such as "what to do about OUR fetus". As such, men who dared voice their pro-life perspective were hushed up and/or ignored.

Around the time I reached 40, I learned that Canada - my country - permitted third trimester abortions. I couldn't believe it until I spoke to a friend's sister - a former RN - who left the profession the night she was assigned the job of holding an aborted seven-and-a-half-month fetus which had survived the abortion procedure until the baby died. "If that baby had come the natural way, we'd have been pulling out all the stops and we'd have saved another preemie," she explained, "but THIS baby I was told to hold and monitor until she died. IT TOOK THREE HOURS! I left my shift feeling so filthy." She was in tears by this point. "I called in my resignation the next day. I never worked as a nurse again."

I was DUMBSTRUCK when I learned this. Since then, there's not an opportunity to talk the truth about "abortion" which I don't take. Abortion is murder, and this nurse's story serves to underline that fact.

Abortion is discriminatory insofar as it is probably more common among the lower economic classes of Canadian society. Appealing to Canadians' sense of egalitarianism on this issue is a half-measure which will likely result in some bizarre piece of legislation acknowledging that, despite the disproprtionate incidence of abortion among the lower economic classes of Canadian society, every Canadian life terminated in this manner was/is/will be of "equal value" - i.e. no value at all. Once the state has legislated "no value" to the life of a fetus, we are just a couple of turns away from the state declaring that same about citizens' lives overall. Hello totalitarianism!

While I agree that "Abortion is discriminatory" is LESS OFFENSIVE and thus, perhaps, a more marketable concept than "Abortion is murder", it is also only half-as-true (if that).

No matter which way you slice it, the actual debate necessitates - at some point - the quick summation of each side's perspective. On the pro-life side, that summation IS "Abortion is murder. There is no way around that fact and that reality. Anything else smacks of semantics and compromise.

Reducing "Abortion is murder" to "Abortion is discriminatory" is akin to watering down "God is all powerful" to "God's a REALLY, REALLY strong entity."

Arr half-truths spoken by those who know the whole truth the same thing as lies?

Marketing the FACT that abortion is murder is a Pandora's Box if ever there was one. Then again, who could WATCH a "healthcare worker" hold a live fetus in his/her arms for three hours until the s/he died?

You can't avoid the truth when you know it already. Or maybe I'm missing something here...

Michael Brandon said...

Thank you Joshua. Why don't you just send me your thoughts directly, as blog postings to save me cutting and pasting?

Actually, this way your thoughts make it twice. I'm cool with that.