Sunday, December 05, 2004

Words are important, Pt. 2

In preparation for our discussion relating to Abortion, I have begun reading The War on Choice: The Right-Wing Attack on Women's Rights and How to Fight Back (Bantam, 2004) by the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Gloria Feldt. I shall refrain from discussing the argument presented, since I have read very little. I wish to discuss with reference to this book, that of which I wrote very generally yesterday.

In the Introduction to the book, Sally Blackmun, daughter of US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun who wrote the majority decision in Roe v. Wade, refers to "women's reproductive freedoms", also referred to as "women's reproductive choices", as being "under serious threat" and a "crisis" (p. xvii). She goes on to describe the threat as "a war...being waged against those rights by an active, extremist minority, with frightening success on many fronts."

Notice that the pro-choice position is stated in the most positive of language: women have reproductive freedoms, choices, and rights. The result of framing the argument with this language is such as to demonize anyone whose position might result in even the slightest limits upon those rights. Unsurprisingly, those who consider themselves Pro-Life are linguistically framed as an extremist minority that pose a threat, who are creating a crisis and waging a war against women. In fact, Ms. Feldt consistently refers to Pro-Lifers as Anti-Choice (p. 4 and throughout). And she complains that the use of the term Partial-Birth Abortion is "incendiary language" designed to "deceive the American people". Is it uncouth of me to suggest that Ms. Blackmun and Ms. Feldt are likewise guilty of using incendiary language designed to deceive the American people and that by engaging in the very practice that they criticize in their opponents, they risk marginalizing themselves as being an extremist minority?

When I do suggest this, it is not without recognizing that Pro-Life people do engage in the very same thing. I mention it because there is no shortage of incendiary language in use by all sides. This very language inhibits, rather than encourages, understanding and compromise. From what I have read so far, Ms. Feldt is not interested in compromise but wants nothing short of unconditional surrender of those who are Pro-Life, however, in fairness, I have not read the whole book so this is just a preliminary impression at this point.

What's my point? I suggest that participants in our discussion not use incendiary language. While I will not edit posts, other than in the case of profanity and personal attack, it will be an assistance to understanding if we keep our language as neutral as possible, if we refer to those whose opinions differ from ours in the positive language--Pro-Choice and Pro-Life--that they use in reference to themselves, and so forth. We are after understanding here, not victory.

1 Comments:

Blogger sara said...

Both sides want 100% unconditional surrender, which I find to be horribly foolish. Something in the middle that allows for reality while eliminating the bulk of abortions would be ideal. But it can't just be about legislation, it has to be about solution otherwise we'll see a spate of ill-performed abortions the way it has been in the past.

Meant to get you a discussion of this topic from the pov of a left winger erring on the side of "choice" (although I hate to call it that). But busy day- will get it to you tomorrow. :)

12/05/2004 10:54:00 PM  

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