Thursday, February 19, 2009

When you're up agaist Sauron, it's hard to lose a popularity contest

Time has a great article about the very real campaign against the non-existent Freedom of Choice Act. I thought this passage was especially interesting:

Still, FOCA is proving to be the perfect political issue for anti-abortion advocates — and for congressional Republicans, who have taken up the cry as well. Unless and until FOCA is voted on by Congress, they can invoke it as a looming threat. And the longer it remains a dormant issue, the more credit they can take for their own "proactive" efforts to "defeat FOCA," as a letter from House Republicans to Cardinal Rigali on Tuesday put it.
I'm reminded of a time when I got into an argument over the fictional procedure now commonly referred to as "partial-birth abortion," and was told that I was just unable to face the truth that partial-birth abortion is real and widespread and legally-condoned infanticide.

I thought that was a pretty weird tack to take - that I wanted to preserve my illusions about abortion; why why WHY would I want to do that? If PBA is/was legally-sanctioned infanticide on a whim, what would I get out of opposing the ban? I am pro-choice, and I support any woman's freely-chosen abortion. Like almost anyone, I would love to see the need for abortion reduced or eliminated. I think of abortion as a treatmen for the symptom of the underlying disease of unwanted pregnancy. Alleviating symptoms of disease is great, but it's sure better to be able to forego the disease to begin with.

Advocates for choice and health were thrilled when Obama rescinded the Global Gag Rule, which not only left women's health underserved worldwide by denying funding to groups who provide abortion referrals, but abortion itself is on occasion medically-necessary so it's kind of counter-productive for pro-choice folk to rely on the non-abortion medical services that are denied under GGR-type regulations.

It's that type of silence on the issue of actual abortions that makes crusades against fictional abortion legislation so constructive for anti-choice organizations. Faux-outrage is a tool we don't need to keep handing over to political opponents, which is why I was kind of glad when Alito was nominated for the Court, and the word "abortion" started being used again in public discourse. When we all thought the right to abortion was perfectly safe forever, no one would actually talk about what abortion is and why women choose it. Since I was a kid I have constantly been told that debating issues surrounding abortion is fruitless, because people are too emotional about it and won't ever listen or actually engage in conversation. The Bush era abortion fights were really instructive to me, since it gave me a chance to test my preconceived notions about the issue against the arguments of others, and I realized how many of these deeply-held beliefs that are so taboo that people won't argue them aren't very well-thought-through.

Being accused of pushing for infanticide for no good goddamn reason gave me a lot of insight into what anti-choicers imagine goes on in my head. It's a good lesson that when you imagine your political opponents getting caught up in a completely irrational emotional jumble, you're probably wrong about what they're thinking. If "it's in the Bible," is your argument, you don't really have an argument. The religion wall behind which people can hide their inexplicable and irrational beliefs probably makes it hard for people who oppose abortion for religious reasons to understand that I believe things for reasons that have explanations referring to the world in which we all live. It's not turtles all the way down. I can accept that people take moral dictates from religious traditions to which I do not subscribe, but I don't have to think it's wise or meaningfully defensible.

I can only conclude that stirring up constituents with the threat of FOCA relies on extremely poor modeling of what pro-choice is and what advocates for choice believe. There's also the extremely poor modeling of what a FOCA would do:

While the USCCB's literature about FOCA has been generally accurate, the chain e-mail has disseminated a number of false claims, including warnings that the proposal would force Catholic hospitals to shut down and lead to at least 100,000 more abortions each year. Some versions of the e-mail even claimed that FOCA could "result in a future amendment that would force women by law to have abortions in certain situations — and even regulate how many children women are allowed to have."
It's like the weird lies about gay marriage that were thrown around this year in CA: when church and state are separate, they're separate. I was civilly married, but not religiously. My civil marriage doesn't reach backwards into the church and suck the religion out of other religious marriages.

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