Talking About Abortion: Civility and Liberal Impotence


This article is part of an ongoing discussion and debate hosted by RH Reality Check on women’s rights to decide whether, when, and with whom to bear a child  in the context of so-called common ground and abortion “dialogues” with the anti-choice movement. Other articles in this series can be found here.

Writing at Religion Dispatches, Pastor Dan said:

There’s a significant trade-off between being nice (or engaging in “civil discourse,” as it’s called these days) and being potent. All the commitment to moral suasion, to building consensus, to reconciliation between political opponents, all the commitment in the world to “speaking out” about your values isn’t going to accomplish squat. (1)

Pastor Dan, I could not agree more.  And reading RhRealityCheck’s coverage of the so- called “common ground” engagement/debate made me want to send the blog authors your new book: Changing the Script: An Authentically Faithful And Authentically Progressive Political Theology for the 21st Century where you give one of the most thoughtful and forceful critiques of the “common ground” approach I have come across. 

The common ground approach to abortion is fundamentally flawed because the frame of “common ground” makes it seem like there are relatively equal numbers of people who disagree about abortion.   In fact, research and polling clearly and repeatedly shows that there is a rough consensus among Americans that abortion should be available in one form or another and that while there does appear to be a static difference in opinion, only those firmly opposed to abortion are becoming more polarized in their views.(2)

Those who advocate for unrestricted abortion access (which I do) do not need to dehumanize those who disagree with us, which Amanda Marcotte does in her piece.  The strategy of calling others liars, of claiming that others have evil motives, is an ancient strategy with repercussions that generally breed abhorrent violence.  While I do agree with Marcotte that we should not just take conservatives at their word (particularly when it’s “the Word”), I have to agree with Kissling’s critique of Marcotte that she employs a typical liberal hubris: liberals “know” better, liberals have superior access to the truth and facts, while everbody who disagrees must be uneducated or plain dumb.  As Kissling puts it: “In fact, you probably wouldn’t need a dialogue if you agreed on the facts.”  It’s important to remember that over the course of history, liberal institutions have asserted many nefarious “facts” that justified abhorrent acts of violence and violation (for example dubious and unethical medical testing/torture on African Americans and women.)

But I fear that Kissling, who is clearly set up to represent a moderate/liberal religious perspective, is enacting Schultz’s insight that too often liberals want to play nice, that we want to be “civil.”   While civility is certainly a virtue, there is such intense and insidious suffering in this world that liberals need to wield a stronger weapon than civility against the evils of violence—both the violence perpetrated by tyrants who rule nations and the violence perpetrated by tyrants who rule their homes (Judith Herman. Trauma and Recover: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. Basic Books, 1992.) 

Kissling demonstrates a willful ignorance about both the realities of providing abortions on the front lines and the realities of poverty in this country.  I found myself asking “Has she ever spoken with a mother of a 14 year girl who is 20 weeks pregnant? Or worked with a woman selling her children’s clothes in order to raise money for an abortion that only seems to get farther and father away?”  I have.  I have held an aborted 20 week fetus in my arms and blessed it.  It is because of my experiences with women and unwanted pregnancies that I find it unethical and immoral to support any measure that restricts women’s access to abortion.

Kissling also fails to acknowledge that civil debate is just a little bit challenging when you are talking with people who enable, if not nurture, violent radicalism, terrorism, and political assassination.  The abortion providing community is literally under violent attack. Civility was taken off the table a long time ago.

I fear these “common ground” dialogues because I fear a liberal impotence nurtured by a deep-seated culture of “civility” and conflict-avoidance; I fear that my brother and sister abortion providers will succumb too easily to assertions about religion, God, and morality being “against” abortion.  I fear that once again liberal institutions will be impotent in the face of evil.

“The culture war is not simply conflict over abortion or gay marriage. It is a one sided war of aggression against the civil rights of women and minorities and the rights of individual conscience…” (Journalist Frederick Clarkson quoted in Changing the Script, p. 32)

Let us stay grounded in our liberal and liberating moral traditions that enable us to compassionately, fiercely, and unabashedly claim the righteousness of our work of providing later-term abortions. 

As Pastor Dan puts it, if the Left is going to be effective, it’s going to have to take sides.  And if the Religious Left is going to be potent, then we are going to have to say:

“My God is the God of the poor, the violated, the abused. You can be for the poor or you can go to hell.” 

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  • amanda-marcotte

    If the overwhelming evidence is in favor of the thesis, “Anti-choicers will lie to suit their ends,” we must believe that, even if it hurts feelings. I don’t think that “dehumanizes”. On the contrary, lying to achieve desired ends that are socially unacceptable (as blatant misogyny is) is a very human thing to do. We must accept humans can be weak and mean-spirited. There is nothing wrong with that; I choose reality over making people feel good about themselves all the time. Indeed, I have no interest in making people feel good about themselves when they are actively working to make other people—the women who they would force to bear children—live lives that are harder and often sadder. We must remember what their goals are, in terms of foisting childbirth on women who cannot afford it.

  • colleen

    The strategy of calling others liars, of claiming that others have evil motives, is an ancient strategy with repercussions that generally breed abhorrent violence.

    You aren’t being clear here. Are you saying that by pointing out the cognitive dissonance  of the ‘pro-life’ movement Amanda is inciting pro-choice women to violence or that she is inciting the ‘pro-life’ movement to violence?

    The ‘pro-life’ movement has a well established tendency towards violence and threats of violence. Indeed violence  is one of the most effective strategies of the ‘pro-life’ movement. (The others being bullying, intimidation and, well, dishonesty.) Indeed if one looks at the stereotypical behaviors of abusive husbands and those of the political tactics of the ‘pro-life’ movement there are many commonalities.

    I find the rash of poorly expressed criticism being leveled at Amanda lately more than slightly bizarre.

  • saltyc

    Would this apply to the “debate” between science and creationism, which, like the abortion “debate” also has significant numbers of proponents on each side, in polling, especially in certain US states.

    That if the side that supports Darwinian Evolution questions the very motives and honesty of the creationist side it is guilty of:

     liberal hubris: liberals “know” better, liberals have superior access to the truth and facts, while everbody who disagrees must be uneducated or plain dumb.

    First off, Marcotte, and Stephen Jay Gould [has stated that creationists are dumb and uneducated] don’t say that EVERYBODY who DISAGREES with them are uneducated and dumb. That’s hyperbole, so I’ll adress the weaker version of the hubris, which Marcotte and Gould do employ.

    Is it never right to state this or think it, even when the evidence presents itself, that lying, and ignorance and propaganda are tools of a movement with sometimes undeclared but obvious and malevolent motives, are we not supposed to point it out, or be guilty of “liberal Hubris?”

    Methinks it’s just more flagellation.

     

    Is it never correct to

  • nycprochoicemd

    The strategy of calling others liars, of claiming that others have evil motives, is an ancient strategy with repercussions that generally breed abhorrent violence.

    Point taken, but what else is one to do when faced with clear evidence that anti-abortion activists are liars (for instance, when they cite discredited, 30-year-old studies as evidence of harm from abortion despite dozens of more recent studies that fail to show such harm), or when it is clear that the motive is to blame and control women?  Sometimes we DO have the correct information.  If pointing out the correct information breeds violence, that is certainly not our fault.  Someone needs to call people out on their lies, and Amanda does a fabulous job of it.

  • kate2

    What I hear you saying here is that there is a difference between finding “common ground” and advocating for your position using “common courtesy.”  I agree that relinquishing a principled position for the sake of “getting along” is not useful for people who believe that abortion should be legal and available for women. But when we assume that the motives of those who oppose us are always nefarious I think we miss opportunities to understand what values shape opposition to abortion.

    I love the notion that we can redfine our “side” using the terms put forth by Pastor Dan. “My God is the God of the poor, the violated, the abused.” Although I think that we can do this to redefine our side in religious AND secular terms. Although it’s not my particularl lens, I like to hear and learn more about how liberals can advocate from their own religious traditions.

    Finally, I don’t think that Frances Kissling is “set up to represent a moderate/liberal religious perspective.” Her perspective definitely draws on her religous background . But she doesn’t own this space. We need more allies, like you, who can add dimension to liberal religious perspectives on abortion.

  • freetobe

    being an animal activist and a vegan I can tell you from experience I will never eat another animal again and no one in the world  can make me.

    I had a life changing experience that happened literally overnight. This is ,I believe what happens to many pro-life people. They see grusome pictures and some how identify with that fetus. When that happens there is no turning back.

    This is such a divided world I just do not understand how women could go against their own best interests on contolling their own internal organs and functions when there are plenty of men trying to do just that.

    I also think that the majority of women in this world either do not have the time or do not realize that women are not equals in the US yet and or that they do not have the assertiveness and determination to fight, as so many here do. They feel that this is a no- no subject and that society has shamed them into believing that sex and anything related to it is just bad for women.

     

  • jodi-jacobson

    I deeply appreciate this discourse and debate.

    One point on which others have elaborated here and on which I would like to reflect is the issue of calling out lies.  In the past 20 years I have worked a great deal and directly on public policy and on legislation.  In that time, I have witnessed blatant, bald-faced lies used by Congressman, Senators, Presidents and Secretaries of State, then also amplified by the media, that have had devastating, often deadly effects on real people who have no voice in the debates shaped by the powerful.

    President Bush, for example, lied about weapons of mass destruction, “yellow cake,” and the reasons for the Iraq War.  Because it was not considered “diplomatic” to call him out on these lies, because of the culture of fawning over the powerful in Washington, and because the media did not do its job, we went to war on specious grounds, and countless lives have been lost in the process, and here i am talking about not just US lives but Iraqi lives.

    Likewise, the number of politicians who have lied about the effectiveness of certain HIV and AIDS strategies that then were then used to form the basis of  billions of dollars of US foreign aid on international AIDS programs is too many to count.  Again, these lies were used to create a “public consensus” unexamined by journalists that then led to MORE (not fewer but MORE) HIV infections among women and girls than would otherwise have been the case, sentencing them to death.

    There are real lies told every day about reproductive health care, abortion, women’s lives, gender violence, climate change, national security, and more that have the effects of actually rendering voiceless millions of individuals not able to control the machinery that spins these lies into either “truths” or “arguments meriting equivalency.” 

    At this point in time, I make a distinction between someone who is misinformed/ill-informed but is open to learning and seeking evidence and the complexities of truths (which may be different from one woman choosing an abortion, say, than from another), and someone who is lying to perpetuate their own power or further an agenda.

    I feel it incumbent upon us to call out those individuals and groups in the latter category, who actually are lying and with purpose, as who and what they are.

    Otherwise, in the “diplomatic” world in which we live, we are forced to treat these lies as though they were true, or had the best interests of real people at heart, and then to “compromise” away the truth in search of meeting them half way.

     

    best wishes,

     

    Jodi

  • billfalls

    You’re discussing this based on a much deeper theoretical knowledge than I possess. I’m coming to this discussion as an activist whose connection to these questions is perhaps more passionate than reflective.

     

    I don’t equate civility with impotence. Even correcting lies can be done civilly. In 16 years as a clinic escort I’ve come to see civility as one of our greatest sources of strength, and I’m one of those who would rather see the President keep reaching out to the other side even when their response seems never to get beyond “no.”

     

    Taking the moral high ground of civility isn’t just about self-congratulation or weakness, though both of these risks exist. Patient civility makes it possible for at least some of our opponents to hear what we say and acknowledge that we, like them, do what we do from principle, not to win a political battle.

     

    I haven’t joined “common ground” discussions because, while I respect those who participate in them, I haven’t seen any positive change as a result of their efforts. I believe I have seen positive results for women, and for understanding between some anti-choice and pro-choice individuals, from determined but civil defense of women’s right to choose in front of clinics and in the political arena.

     

    This isn’t to say that I don’t get discouraged sometimes. I wish U.S. politics didn’t do such horrible things sometimes, but I think we will have thrown in the towel to those destructive forces if we give up our civility in response to an electoral or legislative setback.

  • arekushieru

    When anti-choicers cannot agree that all life should be protected the way they want fetuses to be protected, the obvious reason for opposition to abortion is misogyny.

  • arekushieru

    I believe this misses the point.  Jodi, rightly, mentioned the drawbacks to this civilization of conversation.  One such drawback being efforts to compromise women’s rights.  Compromises similar to what Will Saletan and Frances Kissling suggested.  There is such a thing as too much civility, after all.  When someone keeps banging their head against a wall, the other side will feel much safer and more confident in attacking the opposition’s advocates.  Eventually, as all human-derived sociological constructs do, there must come a breaking point and someone must step up and say enough is enough.  EsPECially when the most fundamental lie that anti-choicers’ spread is that fetuses wouldn’t have the same right to live that all born humans do with abortion legal, if they were granted personhood.  Because they would have that same right, as it stands, now.  However, if abortion is made illegal, they would have MORE rights than anyone born. 

  • arekushieru

    Freetobe, I also believe that veganism and ethical meat-eating are fundamentally different in their application.  Veganism is an active reductionist method to eliminate or decrease one’s footprint on the earth.  Ethical meat-eating relies on measurements of pain and suffering, completely ignoring the fact that this still displays some kind of human-centric thinking, and ‘discrimination by kingdom’, as it were.  

  • queenyasmeen

    Civility in public discourse seems to be on the wane significantly in the last couple of years, and it’s a disturbing trend.  Tea Partiers, “You lie!” and plenty more have eroded our sense of obligation to be decent to each other.

     

    That said, I’m pro-choice, without exception and without apology, and I do not compromise on that view.  I believe that being pro-choice is all about decency: understanding that you have no idea what someone else is going through and can’t possibly judge their choices.  I’m civil, or try very hard to be, to everyone I meet, but I don’t feel the need to compromise on women’s sovereignity over their own bodies and health care freedom.  If the parties participating in “common ground”-themed discussions get something positive out of them (and I have heard of situations in which they do), great.  Perhaps that will keep one clinic from being bombed or one person from yelling something hateful at a woman on her way into a clinic.  Perhaps it will get more people who have qualms about abortion involved in advocating for adoption reform or effective social services instead of blindly fighting abortion providers.  Maybe it’ll get someone to understand the distinctions between birth control and abortion.  Maybe it’ll just keep them off the streets for a few more hours while the rest of us hold the line for women.  Whatever happens, I refuse to compromise on either my commitment to women or my commitment to civility.

  • rebellious-grrl

    The common ground approach to abortion is fundamentally flawed because the frame of “common ground” makes it seem like there are relatively equal numbers of people who disagree about abortion………..”

    I agree with you here. I’m having a problem with the concept of “common ground.” What do we hope to achieve/gain/understand from “common ground?” I agree with you that it’s very difficult to be civil with people who “enable, if not nurture, violent radicalism, terrorism, and political assassination.” It’s kind of hard to be civil to someone who want’s to kill you.

    I don’t think Amanda is “dehumanizing those who disagree with us.” I think she’s spot on with her observations of the antis. Many (maybe not all) anti-choicers do have ugly attitudes about women and feminism. I would add to that, they have ugly beliefs about women and feminism. Patriarchal cultures have an anti-woman bias, so this isn’t a stretch. I think women in the anti-choice movement have internalized the patriarchy and thus internalized their own oppression.

    I agree with Amanda on this, “They’d like us to pretend they’re all just fetus lovers, but there’s simply too much leakage of actual attitudes about women’s roles in society to keep up the façade.”

    Women in the U.S. and certainly around the world have been under the thumb the patriarchy. Amanda is addressing the larger issue of women’s role in society. Women can only be truly equal when they have control of their reproduction.

    I’ve tried to be civil, I’ve been a bitch, and I don’t know if either got me any closer to a “common ground.”

  • rebellious-grrl

    I find the rash of poorly expressed criticism being leveled at Amanda lately more than slightly bizarre.

    I’ve noticed that too.

  • trustingwomen

    What a civil and engaging discussion!

    Some thoughts after reading folks’ posts and mulling them over

    I did not intend to say/mean that we should avoid pointing out the flagrant lies and deceptions of the anti-choice movement.  I just think that liberals have been pointing out the lies and deceptions for awhile and we are still sitting here asking ourselves why people do not seem to care and believe the lies. 

    I would like to ask the question– why are the perspectives the anti-choice movement offers compelling to people? Why are they so inclined to believe ridiculous misinformation?   I tend to think it’s because most people are not righteously indignant but intensely afraid.  I do believe that there the strategists/leaders of the neo-con/anti-choice movement that DO have nefarious (and misogynist) purposes in their hearts, but that most folks are just folks getting by, trying to make sense of their world. 

     

    Marcotte says that ” anti-choicers continue promoting the fraudulent idea that they’re in this for “life”, when they are clearly in it to oppose sexual liberation and women’s rights, there cannot be any dialogue.  Talking to liars isn’t a dialogue.”  I do not believe that most anti-choice people are talking about life because they are covering up/lying about their misogyny or sexism.  They do not see the misogyny or sexism, they probably do not even grasp what these terms mean (there is my liberal hubris!).  They are for “life” and even if we can see it as an anxious avoidance of sexuality and women and deep-seated misogyny that perpetuates avoidable suffering,  the fact that they see/understand/frame it differently is significant. 

    This also connects to Jodi’s point about the importance of information, truth, and deception during the escalation to the Iraq War.  Again, we have a situation where there is ridiculously bad information/fact/truths and yet people are still inclined to believe it/swallow what that media spins to them.  Again, I would argue that the Bush adminstration (like it’s broader context of the neo-conservative movement) is incredibly effective at manipulating people’s fear.  I think liberals need to focus on what people are afraid of, instead of why they are wrong/evil/nefarious.

    And what are people afraid of? It goes back to my quote of Frederick Clarkson–they are afraid of a “new” world, where power and what to expect from life are changing rapidly, where the people who used to bear children and serve are allowed, if not encouraged, to be “uppity.” Right or wrong, I think this fear (and liberals’lack of understanding of it) cripple our efforts to build a just and compassionate world.

    And I wanted to offer a distinction about civility. I think there is something I would call “grounded civility” and then something I will call “anxious civility because we don’t want things to get messy.”  I think the latter drives us too often and its our anxiety/fears (and lack of examination of them) that can make us impotent. 

    Many thanks for deep, rich, and civil dialogue!
    TW

  • jodi-jacobson

    It is true that many of these issues play on deep fears of change and there is so much change going on around us, and so much effort now underway by corporations and powerful interests to maintain power and control, even to the detriment of the long-term fate of this country and people everywhere, we are in frightening times.

    I do however, think that there are a bunch of issues here tht need to be teased out:

    Information in the public realm, and its veracity; a civil debate of ideas versus a contest of lies over evidence.

    The dissemination of information in the public domain. The media no longer play the role of watchdogs, keeping politicians and public servants, and groups accountable. Instead, the broader media has become a megaphone, much of it ranging from disseminating/perpetuating/amplifying information put out by the powerful without question and some of it purposefully disingenuous and in the interest of hate-mongering (e.g. Beck, Limbaugh)

    The elevation of “bipartisanship,” “common ground” and other such things as “feel good” goals. You can and do have terrible policies created via bipartisanship. Unfortunately, President Obama has made this worse instead of recognizing the problems and trying to change that dynamic by doing what is right, not what will get him re-elected. The tax bill right now–being lauded because it is a compromise–is but one example. The fact that it is a compromise does not mean anything really. It’s not the set of policies we need right now.

    My point here is that these issues are multidimensional, true reformist progressives are playing catch-up from 20+ years of building an ultra conservative echo chamber and challenging that will take time and resources we may no longer have. Meanwhile, politicians continue to make policy and seek compromises that whittle away other people’s rights, health, lives, and they become collateral damage. I think there is a great deal of this that pertains to the issues of choice in the most fundamental sense, and to a broader set of problems. and when we “accommodate” the lack of truth on the other side (women are not using contraception = they are irresponsible as one example) we make the problems worse, not better.

    best always,

    jodi

  • rebellious-grrl

    TW, I really appreciate what you wrote and your advocacy for reproductive freedom. There are many different approaches and philosophies in the pro-choice community. Everyone in the pro-choice movement has ideas and skills to bring to the table; writers, poets, activists, medical providers, nurses, advocates, legislators, leaders, abortion doulas, clinic escorts (until the antis quit harassing women at clinics), and so on. I think we need to tap into what we can all do to work together for reproductive freedom.

    I did not intend to say/mean that we should avoid pointing out the flagrant lies and deceptions of the anti-choice movement.  I just think that liberals have been pointing out the lies and deceptions for awhile and we are still sitting here asking ourselves why people do not seem to care and believe the lies.

    Cool. We need to work on messaging. I can’t remember who said this earlier, but she said something like, “Why do we suck at messaging?” It’s tiresome to counteract every lie the anti-choicers make. Why do people believe the crap they say on Fox News and the crap Jill Stanek says at her blog? Is it easier to believe a lie? Let’s face it the antis are well funded and play on people’s emotions. It’s not about logic or facts. Conservatives have learned the art of manipulating people’s emotions.

    And I wanted to offer a distinction about civility. I think there is something I would call “grounded civility” and then something I will call “anxious civility because we don’t want things to get messy.”  I think the latter drives us too often and its our anxiety/fears (and lack of examination of them) that can make us impotent.

    Beautifully said.

  • colleen

    I’ve noticed that too.

    Odd that the people doing it seem reluctant to discuss it further. Ironically, it’s also sort of rude in a passive-aggressive way.

     

  • colleen

    What do we hope to achieve/gain/understand from “common ground?

    ‘Third Way’ Democrats will achieve some justification and cover for selling us down the river and call it “fresh thinking”.. Just watch the next two years.

  • rccrawfordswbellnet

    Truth is what people believe to be true, regardless of the whether it is true /untrue.

    Most people believe a path to the truth that traverses untruth is defensible as long as “truth” is reached in the end.

    Anti choice people are not untruthful– in their own minds–. Neither are they “anti choice” but instead see themselves as “savers” of babies. They believe what is untruthful because they feel that the ultimate result is the “saving” of a human, an ultimate truth.

     

    Anti choice people believe what they say is true. 

    –again—

    Anti choice people believe what they say is true. 

    They believe untruthful things because they really truely believe doing so will reach an untimate truth.

     

    How do you deal with someone that believes what is untrue and refuses to change? How do you stop them from convincing others to ignore the truth and believe what will lead to their “ultimate truth”.

    Reasoning will work with some, insult with others, civility with some and force of law with some. There is no single path. All paths must be taken.

    One must be civil with some, uncivil with others and take the tact that secures the goal. All paths that lead to the “real” truth must be traveled.

     

     

  • trustingwomen

    Can I just say how incredible it is to have this kind of dialogue and engagement about the things we hold so dear?

    It’s the end of a long day and I am going to let my playful preacher/theologian self creep out here. I love how this dialogue has meandered and flowed to a discussion of truth.

    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise…
    -Emily Dickinson

    How do we know truth? Not just facts but truth? We know truth by its liberating effects. Any claim of truth is tested by its living effect.  I do not want to challenge neo-cons/anti-choicers because they have bad facts (which they do).  I want to challenge them because their “facts” and their “truths” have been tested and shown to sow seeds of violence, oppression, and suffering. Thus they are revealed as untrue. But for some reason, their untruths are deemed more believable.

    “It takes courage, private and public, to opena  truth process where we may differ, even passionately, without violence. Often in the interest of avoiding violence, families, communities, churches, governments all routinely shut down challenges to authority and boundary–but then violence becomes inevitable.”
    -Theologian Catherine Keller

    In gratitude for courage and good company,
    TW

  • arekushieru

    The media no longer play the role of watchdogs, keeping politicians and public servants, and groups accountable. Instead, the broader media has become a megaphone, much of it ranging from disseminating/perpetuating/amplifying information put out by the powerful without question and some of it purposefully disingenuous and in the interest of hate-mongering (e.g. Beck, Limbaugh) The elevation of “bipartisanship,” “common ground” and other such things as “feel good” goals. You can and do have terrible policies created via bipartisanship. Unfortunately, President Obama has made this worse instead of recognizing the problems and trying to change that dynamic by doing what is right, not what will get him re-elected. The tax bill right now–being lauded because it is a compromise–is but one example. The fact that it is a compromise does not mean anything really. It’s not the set of policies we need right now. My point here is that these issues are multidimensional, true reformist progressives are playing catch-up from 20+ years of building an ultra conservative echo chamber and challenging that will take time and resources we may no longer have. Meanwhile, politicians continue to make policy and seek compromises that whittle away other people’s rights, health, lives, and they become collateral damage. 

    “…multidimensional… resources we may no longer have… politicians continue to make policy… that whittle away other people’s rights….”

    I only WISH I could have stated it so well, Jodi!

  • arekushieru

    What I find problematic about this, is the fact that it is the Catch-22 ProChoicers are caught in that seem to make the other side so believable.  We are civil (whether it is in the manner of civility of appeasement or – in some cases, belated and, perhaps, too late - grounded civility), but even civility leads to opposition and violence.  We respond with passion, which only exacerbates the violence.  And, if our response to routine shut down of challenges to authority and boundary is violence, their own violence is exacerbated even further.  Yet, even as the initial perpetrators of violence, they are given a ‘free pass’, while the ones that were pushed to the edge until they snapped and lashed back, in one manner or another, have the responsibility laid entirely at their feet, by the members of either side.  

  • saltyc

    I think you hit on an important point: that pro-choice means being non-judgmental. It is the tolerant position. Whereas being anti-choice is the intolerant position, in which light this discussion reminds me of the zen movement towards non-judgment by being non-judgmental even of judgment itself. How is this possible? Yet I think the pro-choice movement does practice this, somehow.

    I am also reminded of Nietzche’s warning that when you stare into the abyss it stares back at you. In other words, spending too much time reading and listening to their rhetoric will incite an equal and opposite reaction that is counter-productive. “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster”

  • rccrawfordswbellnet

    If the anti choice faction wins, the truth will demand a price.

    Women will  pay with their actual living breathing lives, the lives of their children and their recently won rights.

    Being civil when incivility is required will cause –extream– pain to society. A person who is being robbed can wait for the police to take action. A woman robbed of her rights has no one to wait on. As a man, I can tell you the anti choice males will put women in what they believe is their “place” if they are allowed to continue. And they believe a woman’s “place” is demanded by “God”. Women must take action now -or later- or lose her rights. The time for civility will be obvious moving forward, but the time for action is now and waiting will do nothing but make the fight harder, the costs greater, and the battle more fierce.

     

  • billfalls

    I believe “civility >> compromise >> losing ground” is misleading both because it uses language vaguely and because the syllogism oversimplifies the situation we are in.

    We can be civil but still determined. We can be uncompromising in our own commitment to principle but still consider accepting half a loaf in the political arena, where people who disagree with us must be persuaded to compromise as well. If that half a loaf is less than we want, we still aren’t losing ground if it moves us toward our long-term goal.

    Our current position reminds me of the beginnings of the civil rights revolution in the early 1960s. While some movement leaders were making uncompromising demands for what we all knew to be right, others were working hard but incrementally to break down one barrier at a time, and in the meantime, through their dignity and civility, earning the admiration of the great majority of Americans who didn’t yet see that it was their fight too.

  • rccrawfordswbellnet

    Accepting a compromise of a half a loaf is good. Giving up a half loaf is quite another thing. The loaf is “Roe” so giving up half a loaf is giving up what is rightfully won that should be protected. Anti Choice is “All about” taking half a Roe away.

  • freetobe

    I was trying to give an example of my own self that became shocked into veganism in  a mere second by a video I watched.  I just could not believe the suffering and pain that was taking place.  In that second i became an activist for the farm animals. Something I never thought I would do. i was driven by the heart, a powerful thing. I was wondering if perhaps the same thing had happened to some pro-life activists? I know there must be few out there that actually care about unborn children and would defend them after birth as well.

    They however do not make up the majority I beleive.  

     I have found that the best defense is education. To win any arguement of this severity the majority must rule and for the majority to rule they must be educated on every aspect of the issue at hand. As I was and are continually doing with animal rights and laws. We are making small but significant gains!

    This whole womens issue of equality and freedom of choice must reach the broad public. It must be on news daily and public radio and talk shows.

    Women and our issues are not getting to the public enough to be known, much less fought for. (Did you know that they never once mentioned that the Paycheck Fairness act was shot down by the Republicans? Not one word on the news!)

     I wonder how many women know that the ERA was not passed because of the fear of women gaining control of their bodies which would lead to abortion? Yes we lost that ratification over the abortion issue once again! Sigh.

    We need to push for educating women and men and getting the truth out no matter what it takes. Our lives and freedoms depend on it more than ever before in history I feel. No more of this bickering lets get the job done and fight like the suffagettes!

  • colleen

    We can be uncompromising in our own commitment to principle but still consider accepting half a loaf in the political arena, where people who disagree with us must be persuaded to compromise as well.

    What, specifically, does “half a loaf” even mean in this context

  • crowepps

    The reality is that nobody ate meat at all, then the only ‘domesticated animals’ that would exist would be in zoos.  In addition, without hunting there wouldn’t be either impetus or funds to maintain habitat for wild animals and their rate of extinction would accelerate. 

     

    I agree with you that discrimination by kingdom fails to recognize that we are only part of the web of life but I think it’s wise to keep in mind that’s exactly how the vast majority of people think, and pretty dependably at least a minority will go right ahead and burn that last tree or eat that last bird while ignoring tomorrow.

  • crowepps

    In a long life during which there were many, many discussions of controversial issues, it has never been evident to me that my own assessment of my relative civility/bitchiness had anything to do with how I was perceived by those with whom I was having the dicsussion.  As a general rule, no matter how I gritted my teeth and stuck to the issue, all that was necessary to qualify as a bitch was to fail to turn off my brain and agree with the opinion some man was proclaiming as ‘the truth’.

     

    Bitch does not mean violent, rude, crude or uncivil.  It means ‘uppity’.

     

    During discussions about abortion, maintaining my ProChoice position has given rise to heated accusations that I am prejudiced against Christians even though I am a Christian, that I hate children even though I have children, that I hate women even though I am a woman, that I hate men even though I do not, and assertions that if I were ‘civil’ then I would agree that when ProLife advocates state their misogynistic position that they ‘have a right to their own truth’.

     

    While everyone should maintain their own PERSONAL standards of civility, I don’t think the correct place to look for examples of it is the manifestly uncivil ProLife contingent (let’s bring back STIGMA and SHAME!).

  • crowepps

    I think liberals need to focus on what people are afraid of, instead of why they are wrong/evil/nefarious.

    It is also very helpful to make the mythos that is supposed to address the fear really explicit so people can understand what they’re buying into.

     

    Bush actually did a pretty lousy job of selling the cowboy/High Noon clock ticking/a Ranger’s in town now and the bad guy better watch out mythos, but his failure to stay on script didn’t much matter because the story was already so deeply embedded in people’s consciousness that they happily filled in the blanks and didn’t notice.

     

    The ‘motherhood is sacred’ and ‘women are ennobled by motherhood’ mythos is, frankly, a crock of crap.  If people actually BELIEVED that mythos no mother would ever, ever be denigrated in front of her children, no mother’s statement that ‘the school called, I have to leave’ would be sneered at, there would never be a ‘ditzy mother’ on TV, and certainly nobody would EVER criticize a woman’s decision to use birth control to space her pregnancies to give her children the optimum chance.  I remember the huge screaming fit everybody threw over the show Roseanne and how it was ‘disrespectful to motherhood’ because she dared to act like a REAL mother instead of a Stepford Mom.

     

    Maybe what we need is one of those reality shows that shows actual motherhood.  I’d recommend running the ‘stream of consciousness guilt mutter’ in the background all the time to make it clear that in our culture, although ‘motherhood’ is supposed to be sacred, no matter what women do everybody makes it abundantly clear that each mother’s own personal efforts are grossly imperfect and they can never, ever be good enough.

     

    Certainly the ProLife attempts to stigmatize miscarriage (what did she do to cause THAT?) and pregnancy complications (everyone knows ectopic pregnancies are caused by STD’s from promiscuity) could provide lots of episodes.

  • crowepps

    Shutting down challenges to authority and refusing to honor personal boundaries also leads, inevitably, to corruption.

  • arekushieru

    Because the opposing movements over abortion clashed violently with each other when it finally came to the forefront of our societies’ awareness, where it should have been, from the beginning, the civil rights movement example kinda proves my point.  ^_^;

  • arekushieru

    Believe me, crowepps, I know what you’re talking about.  I’m a meat-eater, myself and NOT for any health reasons.  I just have an exTREMEly hard time giving it up and making the sacrifices necessary.  If I can’t do it, how do I expect someone who doesn’t believe as I do to not be willing to go right ahead and burn that last tree?

  • saltyc

    Well, because you don’t need to invalidate human supremacy in order to show them that it is in their own interest to keep more trees and birds around.

  • saltyc

    Crowepps, I don’t think you’re taking into account how much land is used for pasture, growth of corn and soybeans for feed, factory farms and supporting infrastructure, including transport and processing of animal flesh. So there would, no question, be far more unsused landm therefore wild animals in the absence of eating meat. Also, many people who don’t eat meat still keep domestic animals they don’t eat, and this would not likely change if we didn’t eat meat. You should see what it’s like to drive across the lower 48, stripmalls and pasture, soybeans, corn, chicken farms, pig farms, processing plants are all you see now, there used to be a lot more “fallow” land.

    According to Donald Johanson, humans and the animals that feed us and keep us company make 98% of the total mammalian biomass. That means the other 2% comprise all the possums, raccoons, boars, deer, Hippos, whales, seals everything.

    I live in a big hunting town, and the hunters certainly are not conservationists, they drive their polluting vehicles into wilderness habitat, leave their beer cans everywhere, and violate hunting laws routinely. In addition, their lack of respect for the lives of animals is reflected in the high number of roadkilled animals in even our neighborhood back roads.

    So, yes I’m a human supremacist. I would shoot someone who was about to kill a child, I would. I will accept a medical procedure that used animal experimentation, I care more about humans starving than the animals they eat, all these things make me a human supremacist. The question for someone who over-uses resources is, how well do they realize their own interests and the interests of other humans in maintaining the planet? And some human supremacists, unlike me, put no value at all in other beings’ lives. The question of kingdom discrimination strikes me as some sort of joke; if someone really and truly espouses that killing mold is as bad as killing people I’d like to meet them, or maybe I wouldn’t.

     I do support the forests here by paying the forest service, and lots of people do, who don’t hunt. But you wouldn’t need as much conservation if we didn’t eat as much meat as we do.

  • jayn

    The ‘motherhood is sacred’ and ‘women are ennobled by motherhood’ mythos is, frankly, a crock of crap.  If people actually BELIEVED that mythos no mother would ever, ever be denigrated in front of her children, no mother’s statement that ‘the school called, I have to leave’ would be sneered at, there would never be a ‘ditzy mother’ on TV, and certainly nobody would EVER criticize a woman’s decision to use birth control to space her pregnancies to give her children the optimum chance.

     

    That’s beautiful.  I think I’ll keep it around for inspiration.

  • aligatorhardt

    The search for common ground on an issue is the art of compromise. The question of balance is different. Balance between the abortion question must be located off center on the side of choice. There is no legitimacy in using lies and concealed agendas to falsely move the idea of balance. When a point of view is shown to be irrational, then it is rejected from the discussion as being unworthy of consideration. It is not balance to equal thoughtful problem solving to irrational dogmatic insistance. The only reasonable compromise is to provide contraception to all and improve education for our youth, and provide adoption services for those who are unable to care for children. When anti-abortion leaders reject those obvious answers, then they reveal that reducing abortion is not really their goal.

    The calls for political corectness and false civility are made by those who cannot maintain a position based on facts or truths. We should not give undeserved credit for obvious cheating in the process of debate. People who would force hardship upon others for personal gain or for controling others for personal gain are deplorable and deserve to be labeled as such. I will always choose truth and mutual benefit over political correctness.

  • crowepps

    If I’d known it would be kept as an inspiration, though, I would have tried harder to find some other phrase than ‘crock of crap’

  • arekushieru

    Like showing anti-choicers how it would be in their own best interests to keep out of women’s uteruses?  I just don’t see that happening, either.

    Btw, human-centric thinking is not something that is easily dismissed because it is something that has infiltrated every part of our lives.  Only human animals cause suffering out of conscious intent and greed.  Your description of human actions matches up with these ideas very well and kinda makes me wonder why you would place more importance over humanity than you would another (non-human) animal.  It’s just something you didn’t go into very much detail with, so I’m just curious.

    Besides, human-centric thinking, I believe, also leads us to ‘assume’ that we are the central role-players in the ecosystem.  When other forms of life likely have FAR more importance.  And that is what I mean by reducing the carbon footprint.

     

  • catseye71352

    PLEASE clean up the spambot posts and block their IP.

  • brady-swenson

    and done…

  • crowepps

     Your description of human actions matches up with these ideas very well and kinda makes me wonder why you would place more importance over humanity than you would another (non-human) animal.

    I still eat meat, and it isn’t a matter of ‘importance’ to me.  It’s a matter of not feeling well when I don’t. 

  • arekushieru

    If I had been directing it at you, I wouldn’t have replied to Salty.  :)

  • crowepps

    I get confused when the treads are longer — senioritis — :D

  • arekushieru

    No problem and you’re welcome!

  • rebellious-grrl

    Thanks Brady!