Seeing the country becoming increasingly pro-life is proving distressing for many pro-choicers. Not distressing enough, mind you, to reassess their position on the humanity of the unborn but enough to consider changing tactics.
Los Angeles Times columnist Nancy Cohen hit the pro-choice panic button in a piece yesterday by suggesting that the cultural shift is the result of word wars. She frets that the term “pro-life” has gained the upper hand in the nomenclature war over “pro-choice” in the American mind.
On a side note, this perceived upper hand is a testament to the ascent of new media and the irrepressible pro-life movement that the term “pro-life” is known at all in that it has suffered from all but a complete media blackout. In fact, the only time the media uses the term is when someone in the pro-life movement does something not very pro-life and the media scoffs by introducing them as “supposedly pro-life…”
But Cohen’s suggestion is most remarkable for being one of the worst and most crass examples of rhetorical gamesmanship since “Freedom fries.” Cohen is suggesting calling people in favor of abortion rights “pro-freedom” activists. Weak, huh? Hey, it still beats being called pro-abortion which would be a heck of a lot more accurate.
Cohen tries admirably in her first nine paragraphs to assure us that all is well in the pro-choice community but eventually is forced to get to the point and sound the alarm herself. By the end of the piece she is essentially throwing deck chairs off off the HMS Abortion.
“Pro-choice” has turned into a tone-deaf rallying cry, inadequate to our actual policy preferences and to the philosophical values Americans hold on the subject of abortion. It essentially cedes the moral high ground to the antiabortion movement. It doesn’t do enough to communicate the very American ideals at the foundation of the abortion rights movement — the belief that, in a free and democratic nation, the decision to have a child should rest with the individual woman and those with whom she freely consults.
Perhaps “pro-choice” was once good enough shorthand for liberty, human dignity, individualism, pluralism, self-government and women’s equality. But anyone who thinks it is still sufficient, as we enter our fifth decade of the culture wars, hasn’t been paying attention.
Legendary feminist Gloria Feldt wonders if Cohen’s term “moves the dial” enough because “Freedom is a strong American value but it doesn’t move the dial of public opinion because in the rhetorical wars, ‘life’ still trumps ‘freedom.’”
So Feldt seems to be shooting down “pro-freedom.” But don’t worry, Lynn Harris, the author of the piece in Salon.com who seems like she may be ready to jump up and down on the panic button is offering a radical suggestion indeed. She seems to be suggesting foregoing words altogether. I’m not sure exactly how that would work as far as signage would go but she seems earnest:
Certain words are potent weapons, yes, but they’re not the war itself. And, as the polls suggest, we can win the war without them. Perhaps we should choose other battles after all.
You know, I’d be willing to forego words too. Let’s just show ultrasound images. But pro-aborts…pro-choicers…pro-freedom activists are against those too.
So to be clear they’re against words and images.
All of this is turning a blind eye to what is really going on here which is that pro-lifers are winning is because 1)pro-lifers have more babies than pro-choicers and 2) technology has opened a window into the womb and an increasing number of people are seeing humans in the womb. Not choices. Not freedom. Humans.
Note to pro-choice nomenclature alarmists: Renaming the Titanic wouldn’t have avoided its sinking to the bottom of the ocean.