Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On facts and rhetoric

I liked this post from JohnOnLife:

As I have become more involved in the pro-life vs pro-abortion scene, I have been struck by the need for a Joe Friday-type character to grab the players by the throat and insist on just the facts. What I have encountered is a good deal of rhetoric, sweeping generalizations, unexamined premises, political correctness and incorrectness, ideology, painting of oneself into a corner--almost everything except for an objective, scientifically rigorous examination of all the relevant facts and the compelling arguments that should come from them.

I can already hear your objections: "What do you mean, we ignore the facts!", followed by emails listing pages of information, references, and conclusions. I'm not suggesting that certain medical, historical, legal, political and other types of information are lacking. But as a layperson in this field, reacting in a "person on the street" way, I find that the key arguments tend to be more ideological than factual, with facts used as a battering ram to buttress preferred points of view (what in biblical interpretation circles we call proof-texting).

Perhaps I had better give a few examples. I received a most interesting email message recently from an American doctor, who is also involved with a secular pro-life medical group, describing the life vs abortion debate in his country. He told me in part,

"On a professional level we are aware that the long-term complications of abortion on the woman are often very devastating. And this is bad medicine--particularly because these women get practically no benefit from 'informed consent'. For starters, in the American system, there is practically no record of who got an abortion, so there is no practical way to link later complications...We get a lot of good information from Europe's socialized records system, but our medical people basically ignore it, since the results are politically incorrect." Compare this with a statement I read on the website of an organization that calls itself pro-choice but which provides abortions, "Abortion does not interfere with your future fertility." Somebody is either lying or is badly misinformed.

I feel that way about the issue of the status of a fetus.

The fetus is a human being. Period. That is a scientific fact. I wish people who support legalized abortion would just admit it. There are some who do. But many don't. It's a politically incorrect scientific fact.

Another issue that bothers me: abortion pictures. If pro-lifers really do fake abortion photos, then by all means, the abortion lobby should take pictures of aborted fetuses (pieced together) and show what they look like, and compare them to pro-life photos.

I'm sure that would be extremely educational.

I suspect that most proponents of legalized abortion do not want most people to be truly educated about what really happens during an abortion.

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