In my ongoing quest to ensure that I will never be able to run for elected office, I decided to write on abortion. John Oliver, who I normally agree with on most things, did a 20 minute piece on the state of abortion laws a couple of weeks ago on his show and seemed to take for granted that all of his viewers supported his position on the issue. Samantha Bee did a much more scathing piece where she basically assumed that anyone who didn’t agree with her was an idiot. While I generally lean left on most social justice issues, the abortion debate is one area that can never agree with the position staked out by progressives. Since the issue isn’t one that is even on the radar any more in Canadian government (political third rail, apparently), I’m mostly focusing on the American political perspective.
What the left doesn’t get:
When pro-lifers talk about abortion, we’re not talking about a medical procedure, we’re talking about ending a life. So when we hear someone say that they are too young to have a child, or too old, or too poor, or wanted a different gender, or were worried about a potential genetic disease, the first thing we hear is that they were too inconvenienced, so they killed a child. The issue of abortion, for pro-life advocates will always come back to the fact that a life is being ended to make way for someone else’s. No argument for convenience or gender selection is ever going to top the notion that there is a human being killed so that another human can get their way.
The left seems to think that the issue should be settled by now, but because both sides are fundamentally talking about something different, this is an issue that pro-lifers are not going to let go, even as progressives win rights for women, LGBT people and other minorities. This isn’t like those fights where one side is for equal rights and the other isn’t. To pro-lifers, this is literally a battle of life and death, and only arguments that recognize that are going to get any traction in a debate.
What the right doesn’t get:
When you proclaim that you love life, then do everything in your power to make that life more difficult, it rings hollow. Progressives who charge the right with being pro-life from conception until birth are not wrong, when there are pro-life politicians doing their best to remove protections and support from the most vulnerable members of society. If the right wants to be taken seriously about their pro-life beliefs, then they are going to have to do things like make contraceptives available at low cost to everyone who wants them. They are going to have to make maternal benefits available to women who don’t fit with their notion of ideal motherhood, and they’re going to have to make health care (including that provided at places like Planned Parenthood) and day care accessible to everyone. Every time these benefits are removed, every time a right-wing politician makes a reference to “welfare queens”, they put the lie to the notion that they are pro-life.
Right-leaning politicians have ceded the ground on language to the left when they started passing bills to make abortion more difficult in the name of women’s health. That muddies the water and dilutes the message. Whether we are Christians who believe that embryos are endowed by the Creator, or atheists who believe that anti-discrimination should extend before birth, the foundational message of the pro-life lobby ought to be that there is a life at stake, and it is a human life, and ought to be protected solely on those bases. No one is going to be won over to the cause of pro-life by being put through something like a forced transvaginal ultrasound, but if someone can be convinced that the life within them is a human life, with all the rights that implies, that may change some minds.
Those are my thoughts – what are yours?