With the recent news of the Virginia House passing a personhood bill and a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bill, I’ve found myself searching for anyone who supports these measures. In my search, I turned to pro-life blogs and news articles that discussed these issues or the issue of abortion in general. While reading, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the misleading rhetoric that the authors built upon to make their points. So, I’ve decided to highlight some phrases that I’ve come across and explain exactly why I think they are so dangerously misleading.
“Pro-Life”: The very term used to describe a person who favors the illegalization of abortion in the U.S. is unfair and deceptive. This implies that anyone with a dissenting view is, of course, anti-life. The fact still remains that a fetus is not considered a living, breathing human being. Therefore, aborting it does not mean taking away its life. Furthermore, those who don’t call themselves “pro-life” certainly don’t advocate abortions for everyone. It’s not an all-or-nothing attitude. Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion; many pro-choice women have never and will never have one, themselves. They simply recognize that their decision is exactly that: a personal choice, and one that they don’t assume they can make for another person.
Contraception: Though I don’t take issue with the term “contraception,” I am continually shocked that the discussion of contraception revolves entirely around women, as in the video above. As an extension of reproductive rights, it is clearly a women’s issue. However, seeing as women cannot get pregnant by themselves, I fail to see how this is not also a pressing issue for men. Birth control is a two-way street, and male sexuality should be held to the same (ridiculous) standards that female sexuality is. The sad truth is that our society doesn’t hold men responsible for their sexual decisions, as it is a woman’s job to make sure she doesn’t get pregnant. This attitude leads to more issues, like men failing to take responsibility for the children they have fathered, or making glaringly sexist comments about…
Purity: Women’s virginity is discussed as a commodity that can be bartered and lobbied for or guarded like a prize. Organizations hold purity balls for young women, and bombard them with propaganda advocating for sexual purity until marriage. This type of discourse over a woman’s sexual decisions gives rise to a virgin-slut dichotomy where women are seen either as pure and chaste, or else whorish and worthless. However, the discussion of male sexual proclivity is scarce. Where are the campaigns to tell men to keep it in their pants? If all women kept their legs shut as often as the GOP suggests we do, I guarantee there would be a lot of frustrated men and a change of attitude.
Lifestyle Convenience: Last week I read a blog that explained a recent comment citing abortions as a “lifestyle convenience” because not all abortions that are performed in the U.S. are medically necessary for the woman’s health. This implies that, if a woman who is physically capable of giving birth decides that she does not want to, her decision is as blasé as would be her decision not to re-do her kitchen cabinets. I would argue that in cases of financial question, the decision to have an abortion is not a lifestyle convenience, but a lifestyle necessity. For many women, having another child is simply not financially possible. Raising a child is an incredible financial drain, and simply bringing a pregnancy to term is as well, especially if the woman is going to lose time at work because of her pregnancy. To imply that this decision, which will cost hundreds of dollars itself, is a matter of “convenience” is incredibly insulting. Additionally, women who decide to have abortions even if they are financially capable are not making a “lifestyle” decision; they are making a life decision. Having a child is a commitment that impacts every aspect of a person’s life, and implying that the decision not to do so is simply a matter of convenience and not a legitimate determination that you are not ready to be a parent is insulting.
Comparisons to the Holocaust/ genocide: Comparisons that I hear far too frequently from “pro-life” advocates liken abortion to terrible historic tragedies, such as genocide or the Holocaust. The issue I find in this is how terribly insulting it is to compare the abortion of a non-sentient fetus to the mass slaughter of living people. These large-scale human tragedies are so terrible because they did happen to the living: they happened to sentient people, and they happened because of the malice of those in power. Comparing something so terrible to abortion is exploitive, and delegitimizes the pain, suffering, and horror that comprised those events when likened to a legitimate medical procedure.
Though we still have far to go to have a large-scale civil discussion of abortion, I hope that using fair and accurate rhetoric will bring us closer to an appropriate national discourse.