Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Poor-choicers can't win the war of symbols

David Edelstein, a reviewer for New York Magazine comments on the abortion documentaries Lake of Fire and Unborn in the USA:

Of course the photo of a woman who fatally hemorrhaged in the course of a coat-hanger abortion is ghastly and heartbreaking. But most people who believe that terminating a pregnancy is murder will think, “Very sad, but that’s what happens…” And they’ll have less sympathy for obstetricians stopped by bullets from continuing to practice their “unholy” procedure. On the other hand, those wholly innocent babies … those little hands and feet … Even Alan Dershowitz, a strong supporter of choice, admits in Lake of Fire that memories of seeing the fetal heartbeats of his (now grown) children remain lodged in his mind as he grapples with the issue of when life begins.

Both films (Lake of Fire more so) suggest that a significant percentage of anti-abortion leaders (and followers) are fanatics with little regard for babies after they’re born and no interest in bringing down the number of abortions by promoting birth control. (They’re not on the streets protesting the deaths of children and babies in places like Iraq, either.) They’re bugged by sexual choice no less than the Islamic fundamentalists who have sworn revenge on Western freedoms — a point made explicitly by Dinesh D’Souza in his book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.


But when you watch the demonstrations and the counterdemonstrations in both documentaries, it’s the anti-abortion activists who stand gravely, photos of fetuses upraised, sometimes even (in a new tactic) engaging the other side in measured, empathetic tones. The pro-choice demonstrators, on the other hand, are sneering and profane. They shout “f***ing Fascists” at people who (a) are not behaving like Fascists and (b) probably don’t f*** enough.

In light of this, that might explain Amanda Marcotte's recent crazed fantasy about pro-lifers banning menstruation. They can't deal with the fact that the unborn are human beings. They have to change the subject, so they make it about something else-- the ickiness rather than that humanity. And then they to make up some crazy idea to attempt to lampoon pro-lifers. And hat tip to Unrepentant Old Hippie for clueing me in on the fact it was supposed to be funny. I missed that. I guess reality isn't very important in that oft-vaunted sense of feminist humour.

As Edelstein underscores, poor-choicers appear to be unable to discern what the reality of the situation is. In both Edelstein's quote and Amanda Marcotte's piece, poor-choicers try to superimpose an interpretation of the situation that is not rooted in reality. In Edelstein's quote, people treat the pro-lifers like fascists, when they don't behave like that. In Marcotte's piece, she imagines pro-lifers banning menstruation. They can't confront the truth, so they make up another truth-- said in jest in Marcotte's case, but people have a way of saying things in jest that they want people to believe or act as if it's true. It completely ignores the real issues, like the fact that fetuses look like babies. It distracts the populace from the issues that pro-lifers raise, because the more pro-lifers raise them, the less their views seem valid. As Edelstein says: we're looking at innocent unborn babies.

But okay, if they want to make the abortion war about something other than the status of the unborn child, they can do that. They can also look completely disconnected from what pro-lifers say and do. They cannot confront the intellectual issues raised by the pictures of dead babies. They're the elephant in the room that they have to mock or re-create into some kind of humour in order to advance their agenda. They make me think of adolescents in high school who, when they couldn't sit down and really think about situation and were to afraid to face their fears, they'd laugh at it. I think they implicitly sense that the more you confront the fetus, the more you give legitimacy to the unborn child. That's why they do their utmost to bury the fetus in the debate. To debate the issue is to lose the issue.

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