Tuesday, November 22, 2005

You're Against Abortion? And? . . .

To write that a politician "opposes abortion" steers clear of the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" rhetoric that we're supposed to steer clear of, but it also ends up saying little or nothing. I hope we all, on some level, "oppose" abortion -- we just disagree on the degree to which the law should forbid it.

The traditional copy-editing fix would be to change "opposes abortion" to "opposes legalized abortion."

But beware: The governor-elect of Virginia made opposition to abortion part of his campaign platform, but he also said that he does not want to "criminalize" women and their doctors. So he opposes abortion only in the we-all-oppose-abortion sense -- fine for his stump speech, but highly misleading to cite without elaboration in a news article. (Also, if it's notable that Candidate A "opposes abortion," does that imply that the opposing candidate favors abortion?)

17 comments:

Dr Zen said...

Woah! I hope you don't change "opposes abortion" to "opposes legalized abortion" because that would of course imply that the politician approves of illegal abortion.

Bill said...

Well, you may have a bit of a point, but that would apply more to something like "opposes legal abortions."

Dr Zen said...

Why would it? I think it applies equally to both. You could correct it to "opposes legalizing abortions" and that would, I think, convey what you intended.

Stephen Jones said...

You could correct it to "opposes legalizing abortions"

But abortions were legalized 'de facto' in 1973 after Roe v Wade
So you would have to say "opposed to continuing the legalization of abortion" or "in favour of criminalizing abortion".

I think "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are starting to regain their attractiveness as descriptive terms.

Incidentally Bill, why do you say everybody is opposed to abortion. Considering that in some parts of the world it has been the standard birth control technique, it does seem to me you are over-generalizing.

Charles said...

> So he opposes abortion only in the
> we-all-oppose-abortion sense ...

Eh? Not sure I understand that one. How exactly do we all oppose abortion?

Bill said...

Despite what Rush Limbaugh alleges about people who oppose banning abortion, nobody is pro-abortion in the sense of rooting for the wholesale destruction of fetuses. Given a choice between an abortion occurring and an abortion not occurring, without any other extenuating circumstances, most all people would choose to have the abortion not occur.

Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances, and that's why the issue is so contentious.

If you think I'm using "nobody" in a way that conflicts with my past forays into literalism, fine. Sue me.

Charles said...

Ah, so you mean more "nobody is just opposed to fetuses in general". I can live with that :).

melynch said...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
What does this say about abortion?
Just my thought of the day...
God Bless~

mlivingston said...

Like it or not, the objective distinction between those who support the existing laws that allow abortion and those who support the abolition of legal abortion is most accurately expressed as "pro-choice" and "anti-choice." Walsh's point, I think, is that nobody applauds, celebrates or otherwise champions abortion per se. True, and best reflected in language that recognizes the locus of the debate: individual rights.

Trevor Jackson said...

I'd love to see you try to get away with calling the "pro-life" side "anti-choice." Though I agree that "pro-life" seems pretty inaccurate to a mother whose own life might be in danger.

I think any politician who "opposes legalized abortion" supports illegal abortions as much as a politican who opposed the legal sale of alcohol supported speakeasies. The implication might be unfair, but the reality they helped create would be undeniable.

Bill said...

My point, of course, is that "opposes abortion" is essentially meaningless. The other stuff is tangential.

melynch said...

You know, I would like to think that no one likes to kill a fetus. That it only happens in rare occasions and that those who get them are in medical need.
But the general opinion in the pro-choice group is that first, a fetus isn't a life, its the equivalent of a tumor. Second, ultimately an abortion should be so standard and accepted that even people who aren’t inconvenienced by a pregnancy can consider aborting for any frivolous reason. (might want to take a cruise to the Bahamas with the husband in 3 months, don’t want to be too fat for my swimsuit).
I'm not kidding about this. Pro-choice wants to feel completely devoid of remorse and responsibility. Their goal isn’t to make us think it is their own business. They want everyone to think it's an acceptable practice so they can feel good about it and not have anyone tell them they are wrong.

RedheadChronicles said...

Yes, yes, melynch. We hear you. This isn't the forum for this debate. Bill was making a grammatical point. Take a deep breath, and pontificate about those pro-choicers elsewhere.

ana sahafiya said...

Actually, I think you've confused the position of Virginia's governor-elect and the man he defeated.

Democratic governor-elect Timothy Kaine is personally opposed to abortion (he's Catholic) but said he would veto any attempt to outlaw it. He does support a parental-notification law and some restrictions on late-term abortions.

His Republican opponent, Jerry Kilgore, is the one quoted as saying that despite his general opposition to legalized abortion, he is "not going to do anything to criminalize women or criminalize victims."

Bill said...

Ana, I'm not sure how what you're saying about Kaine is different from what I'm saying about Kaine. For him to talk about "opposing" abortion is meaningless unless he's advocating laws against the practice.

The following is from a Roanoke Times editorial quoted on Kaine's campaign Web site:

"Democrat Tim Kaine is a Catholic who says he personally opposes abortion. But he pledged to veto any laws that would criminalize abortion for patients or physicians. Kilgore, who opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life, said he would oppose criminal penalties against women who have the procedure, but he was mum on physicians who perform it."

ana sahafiya said...

Hi Bill. Point taken. Kilgore was the only one I'd seen quoted as actually using the word "criminalize" in relation to abortion, but as you point out, it's on Kaine's website.

Actually, I dislike the way it's used there, which is the same way Kilgore used it as quoted in the Post article. Saying you don't want to "criminalize women" is just dumb, unless someone has actually proposed banning women in the Commonwealth. You don't outlaw whole groups of people, you outlaw actions.

Ellis said...

Bill, it's so good to read your blog. It's been a while since I have.

My problem with "pro-life" and "pro-choice" is that they both mean different things to different people. Some pro-lifers are just anti-abortion, and others have a wider support for all human life. Thus a larger pro-life agenda is anti-war, anti-euthanasia, and in favor of medical care. It also supports the right to a fully human life; a fully human life includes the benefits of culture for all (education, etc.). This is the definition of pro-life that the Catholic theologians at my FIC university used, and similar to the Jesuit version.

The pro-abortion problem has been covered in your post. But this is why I say pro-choice and anti-choice; I refuse to let either side's label be co-opted by propagandists. Whether it already has or not is still, I think, up for grabs.