Seeking Clarity in the Abortion Debate

This weekend on Secular Right, John Derbyshire proposed pruning some of the language we use to frame the abortion debate:

Isn’t there any way to wean people off the silly, prissy, dishonest terminology of “pro-life” and “pro-choice”?  What’s wrong with “anti-abortion” and “pro-abortion”?  That’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it?

I sympathize with his frustrations about intellectual dishonesty in the abortion debate, and agree that semantic chicanery is rampant on both sides of the issue.  However, the four terms in question – pro-life, pro-choice, pro-abortion, and anti-abortion – constitute a set of distinctly meaningful positions that are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

For example, in the absence of a belief in automatic ensoulment, can’t one be anti-abortion because the idea of snuffing out a potential life is offensive, but pro-choice in the recognition that medical professionals and clergy are better qualified than the government to help women and couples make family planning decisions?

I realize “pro-choice” and “pro-life” entered common parlance thanks to savvy pollsters engaged in propagandist wordplay, but they now serve a purpose in helping people define their viewpoints.   Positions on abortion are not binary and the language we have reflects that, so devising a simplified linguistic framework would actually impede clarity in the debate.

Finally, while I understand where John is coming from, trimming the language is a little Newspeakish for my taste, even if suppression of free discourse isn’t the intention.  I think I like the Oldspeak just fine, warts and all.


One Response to “Seeking Clarity in the Abortion Debate”

  1. Faiezzah on August 4th, 2015 12:44 pm

    Pleasing you should think of sointhmeg like that

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