Ah, the post I wasn't really looking forward to, but here it is...
I recall a little over a year ago, I got involved in an online discussion group with a "pro-choice" focus. In particular, I had followed a link claiming that it would take me to a sound argument that "the Bible is pro-choice." I didn't doubt that picking and choosing the right texts could probably be used to show such an argument, and so out of curiosity, I went and read the argument.
Well, I ended up being disappointed with the argument as it was presented, but I thought there was some good material there, so I gave some constructive criticism. It's an odd quirk of mine that I'm dedicated to the concept of free speech in such a way as to want to help everyone do their best in making their point, even if it's one I don't really agree with. So I pointed out which parts of the argument seemed very strong to me, which parts might sound nice but would likely not convince a Bible-believer due to the context and/or the way they were worded, and even suggested a few verses that they might wish to cite to further bolster their case.
Now, surely nobody likes to be told some personal project of theirs is less than the perfection they had hoped for, but I had assumed that in offering advice and a fresh perspective--while at the same time not daring to forward my own perspective on the subject--I would be perceived as at least trying to be helpful. After all, I was trying to be helpful.
Well, I was blasted as a "fundie" and a misogynist. At first, it didn't surprise me, as I assumed that the person blasting me had read my personal profile, which no doubt evinced my Christianity if not outright stated it. These days it's a pretty fair bet that someone professing to be a "born-again" Christian is against abortion. Okay, so I clarified that my aim in giving input to the discussion was not to attack their position, but to help them better clarify it, and also not to push my own position, which they had no way of knowing concretely from anything I had said yet in the discussion anyway. (In fact, I am not a hard-line "pro-lifer", as I may get to in this post, but positions are irrelevant to the point of all of this.)
I was responded to with yet still more personal assaults. Furthermore, any attempts to reason around any secondary points being made (such as the idea that the only possible reason one could have for being against abortion is hatred of women) were also met with stonewalled denials. Around that point it occurred to me, the link I had followed into that particular discussion seemed to me to be an invitation towards those who claimed to follow the Bible--and/or those who knew one of the same--to see a new perspective. Rather than responding to myself as a Bible believer by opening further discussion, they blasted me before even ascertaining if I might be the sort of target they were looking to aim their argument towards. Any chance of converting me to their viewpoint was lost under a tidal wave of hatred.
And for the only time I can recall, I completely lost my temper in the midst of an online discussion.
See, the thing is, while the "pro-choice" and "pro-life" movements have very little in common, there is one thing they share at the core of their being. Extreme disgust and hatred for the vile beings that are not on their side. The discussion I came into was on a "pro-choice" discussion board, but the exact same thing could have happened if I'd wandered into a discussion on a "pro-life" board and someone had noticed that I was a registered Democrat. Some recent stats I read in Newsweek were very interesting, and I wish I had them in front of me. Apparently, more people are against legal abortion than for it. At the same time, there are more people strongly for abortion than strongly against it. Overall, there are more people who don't feel strongly about abortion than people who feel very strongly about it, regardless of how they lean. But those who do feel strongly, whichever side they happen to be on, are quite vehement about the issue, and can't stand people who less than 100% agree with them.
Many had been the time that I, as a Christian, had tried to reason with my fellow Christians (that felt strongly about the matter) that perhaps people who support legal abortions aren't ruthless, bloodthirsty baby killers. The sort of response I get from closer friends is a bit of shock and statements doubting the veracity of my Christianity; if someone doesn't know me well, they're likely to dismiss me outright as a heretic. Once again, that's just for questioning, not even for making a claim about abortion rights directly.
The real problem with the abortion issue, in my opinion, is not even that one side is right or the other is wrong, but that there are four positions on the issue--strongly pro-choice, moderately pro-choice, moderately pro-life, and strongly pro-life--and the only people who ever seem to have anything to say about the issue seem to assume that there are only two positions: their position, and the wrong position.
I remember a pile of frustration stored up somewhere in my mind suddenly letting loose and being unleashed on the denizens of that pro-choice discussion group. I don't remember the exact words, but I probably called them idiots, and told them that they and their extremist counterparts on the other side of the issue were both so blessedly self-assured that they occupied the high ground that they were missing the reality that abortion even is an issue. There's no issue, says one side, those people are just baby killers. There's no issue, says the other, those people just want to take away every right a woman has one by one until they're back to property like they were in medieval times. Meanwhile, while those in the two other moderate camps waver, they see no sign of sanity from either camp, and are given no sound reason to make a specified decision on matters, only reasons to hate their fellow human beings. No dialogue, no discussion, only self-righteousness, hate, and a complete lack of understanding of the true motives of those on the other side of the fence. And thus the abortion debate remains a vicious battle that never settles, with both sides blindly pushing their agenda and promoting fear of opposition.
Let me tell you something. Very few (if any) "pro-life" advocates hate women; they are only concerned with preserving life as they see it, and that's not wrong. Very few (if any) "pro-choice" advocates have absolute zero disregard for the life of the pre-born; they only value the life of the mother above it, and that's not wrong either.
I used to know a woman who had had an abortion. She had been about five months pregnant, and her health began to seriously deteriorate to the point where she was admitted to the ICU. Her doctor told her that she had a rare condition in which the baby she was carrying was threatening her life. Chances were very slim that the baby would survive, but just about zero that the mother would survive if the baby were not removed. She and her husband decided, wisely I think, to have the baby/fetus/whatever you want to call it removed. I'm sure some people would think she was wrong for undergoing the procedure. I'm sure there are some people who also would think she was wrong for feeling bad about it afterwards. In the end, it's between her, her husband, and God. And so it is with all abortions, which makes them neither right nor wrong.
Shutting the door on legal abortion isn't going to make the issue simply go away. Neither is throwing the door wide open. Maybe we could find a real answer if only people on all sides of the debate could just sit down and talk about it. Is it ever going to happen?
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Ah, the post I wasn't really looking forward to, but here it is...