Monday, October 17, 2011

The Acceptable Sphere for Talking About Abortion

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, pro-choicers have done a great job of making a lot of pro-life Americans feel guilty ever bringing up their views on abortion.  They've done it in two ways:

  • When someone argues that the government should limit abortion in any way, they're accused of injecting religion into politics, or legislating religion, or even trying to create a theocracy. No really, that's last one is real, not some straw man.  For example, it's what Slate's Amanda Marcotte claimed was going on when South Dakota required a three-day waiting period for abortion.  Full disclosure: I can't find the three-day waiting period for abortions anywhere in the Bible, but perhaps Ms. Marcotte and I use different versions (my Bible has a simpler, if tougher, rule: Exodus 20:13).

  • On the other hand, when someone mentions abortion from the pulpit, they're accused of politicizing religion.  In fact, the Catholic Church was sued back in the 80s for fighting against abortion.  The argument was that abortion was a legislative issue that the Church had no business addressing.
So the issue is too religious to be spoken about in political circles, and too political to be spoken about in religious circles.  In other words, you can never question legalized abortion anywhere, at any time.

These two arguments, in tandem, appear to be part of a campaign to silence pro-life voices, to remove opposition to abortion from the public sphere completely, and to recast it as thinly-veiled misogyny.  And the pro-choicers who do so  are aided by a simple, and obvious fact.  Abortion really is at the nexus of religion and politics.  

After all, the question of abortion relates to issues both moral and ethical, like whether or not it's acceptable to take the life of a fetus.  And it deals with a line of Supreme Court cases (starting with Roe) that run squarely against the teachings of most major religions.

Of course all sorts of issues relate to both political and religious issues: slavery, the minimum wage, war, the death penalty, gay marriage, immigration, and so on.  On these issues, quite sensibly, both religious and political leaders speak out vocally, because both religious and political leaders have (a) strong beliefs on the issue, and (b) a responsibility to see the issue handled appropriately. So the fact that abortion is political and religious is reason for both groups to speak about it, not neither.

The pro-choice side has redefined the debate pretty effectively.  No longer is the question, when does life begin?  That's a biological one, and a basic one.  It begins at conception.  Instead, they ask the question, when does "personhood" begin?  That question is vaguely religious or philosophical.  And we're told that anything religious must be a private opinion, unfit for public policy.  

There are three major points to remember:
  1. Just because your morals are shaped, in whole or in part, by religion doesn't mean that you have to ignore them in the public sphere.  Religion belongs in the public sphere.
  2. While revealed religion isn't an acceptable basis for American public policy (e.g., you can't legislate that everyone attend Mass, or believe in Jesus), morality is, and always has been.
  3. Many issues, particularly moral ones, are both religious and political.  Expect -- demand, even -- to hear about them in both the realm of religion and politics.  Press your political and religious leaders to speak out on the pressing moral issues.
The opponents of the pro-life movement want to strip it of its voice, and silence it completely.  Stay fervent, and bear the above points in mind, so that this doesn't happen.

10 comments:

  1. Excellent and already posted to my facebook. :)

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  2. The pro-choice side has redefined the debate pretty effectively. No longer is the question, when does life begin?

    Actually, I've debated with pro-choicers who still claim that life doesn't begin at conception. They are, however, unable to pinpoint the moment when it does begin, although most of them seem to believe it's something like, "when brain activity can be detected".

    Also, whenever someone tries to tell me that abortion is a religious issue, I refer them to secularprolife.org.

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  3. Excellent article. It's an insight I've never considered before, and was excellently presented.

    The arguments here will be helpful in future discussions with colleagues in the workplace.

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  4. One could argue that the Catholic Church has been condemning the evil that is abortion since Day One, and hence we have every right to keep on condemning it until there is no breathe left in any of us.

    From the Didache:

    "...you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten."

    Those are the words of the men who knew Jesus Christ, God Almighty in the flesh, personally. Those words were written sometime around the 50s. The ACTUAL 50s, not the 1950s.

    One doesn't see quite the same level of anti-abortion from Protestant-circles, sad to say. I wish I knew why...

    We've been talking about this issue since long before Roe v. Wade. And until Judgement Day, we'll continue to declare it for what it is:

    An absolute evil, a tool of Satan, a stain on our very species, and a blight on our legacy that we're giving to our grandchildren, at least to those that live and aren't ripped a part piece by piece in their mother's womb.

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  5. Thanks, all! And good citation to the Didache, seriously. We were pro-life before being pro-life was cool.

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  6. After Mass today, as I was kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, I thought about something I read that there is a movement to make pedophilia legal, an accepted alternative life style. And I wondered if mothers allowed their babies to be molested, would the public accept that? I'm thinking there would be a major outcry against this obscene behavior - so why is there acceptance of, not the molestation of a child, but of the killing of the preborn baby, even to full term? Where is our common sense? How can this be permitted by society? Molestation is wrong but killing the preborn human baby is okay...sometimes it seems as if the world is upside down...

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  7. Maybe we should welcome the fight.

    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
    -- Mahatma Gandhi

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