“Stop treating abortion like a moral issue”!

Pro-abortion folks typically go on about how abortion is a “difficult decision” that is only taken reluctantly.  But now a pro-choicer is waxing indignant about pro-choicers who do that.  She says that if women talk that way, it makes it sound as if abortion is a moral issue.

From Janet Harris, Stop calling abortion a ‘difficult decision’ – The Washington Post:

Planned Parenthood calls abortion “a difficult decision” in many of its consent forms and fact sheets. When NARAL launched a film on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2013, the president of the pro-choice organization called abortion “a difficult decision” women and couples face.

Lawmakers use the adjective, too. “It was a difficult, difficult decision, but it was the right one,” Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores said last month in defending her choice to have an abortion at age 16. In 2005, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton described the decision to have an abortion as “one of the most fundamental, difficult and soul-searching decisions a woman and a family can make” and “often the most difficult [decision] that a woman will ever make.”

However, when the pro-choice community frames abortion as a difficult decision, it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning “informed consent” laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it.

Often, abortion isn’t a difficult decision. In my case, it sure wasn’t. . . .[She tells about her abortion, the rhetorical tactic of personalizing the issue so as to gain sympathy.]

Today, when advocates on both sides of the debate talk about the decision to have an abortion, they preface their statements with adjectives such as “difficult,” “hard” or “reluctant.” For anti-abortion conservatives, the reason for using such language is clear: Abortion is murder, they contend, but characterizing a woman who has one as a murderer is a bit, well, harsh. A more charitable view is to assume that she must have struggled with making this immoral choice. Pro-choice advocates use the “difficult decision” formulation for a similar reason, so as not to demonize women. It also permits pro-choice candidates to look less dogmatic.

But there’s a more pernicious result when pro-choice advocates use such language: It is a tacit acknowledgment that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue requiring an ethical debate. To say that deciding to have an abortion is a “hard choice” implies a debate about whether the fetus should live, thereby endowing it with a status of being. It puts the focus on the fetus rather than the woman. As a result, the question “What kind of future would the woman have as a result of an unwanted pregnancy?” gets sacrificed. By implying that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue, pro-choice advocates forfeit control of the discussion to anti-choice conservatives.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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