A Presbyterian I knew as a kid became a frequent visitor to the local Methodist church. She was forever stumbling when she got to forgiving those who trespass. She had, since her own childhood, been forgiving debtors, leaving trespassers to their own devices. The force of childhood habits, like childhood attitudes, is nearly irresistible. There was a sort of juvenile reassurance to seeing adults fumble, a feeling that childhood insecurities were shared in some way.
Sometimes this passive comfort became more active. I enjoyed being able to occasionally correct an adult. The phrase "under God" had just been added to the Pledge of Allegiance by Congress a few years before, and older folks were forever forgetting it. I liked that, and I was grateful for federal piety.
Missouri Senatorial candidate Todd Akin (R-CrazyLand) recently explained a mistake by a television network on the Pledge of Allegiance, after some technician or director or editor had omitted the phrase "under God." He made it very simple, really easy to understand. The network was run by liberals. Liberals hated God and America.
Another day, another extreme statement by Todd Akin.
He talked about student loans that enable kids from poor and middle class families to go to college. He was opposed, of course. But he could not resist talking about his emotional reaction as well. Student support was the socialist equivalent of stage three cancer.
Thing is, he is not an Ann Coulter equivalent. He does not try to insult or create controversy. He is not a publicity troll. He simply states facts as he has always heard them. In the circles in which he has traveled, such judgments are a simple fact, hardly worth noticing, a daily part of normal conversation, something everyone knows. He often seems astonished that some of what he says creates any news at all.
There was a certain inevitability to the outburst of Todd Akin about "legitimate rape." The new definition of Rape Shield was a bit of a surprise. Before now, it was defined as a legality to protect rape victims from aggressive interrogation by defense attorneys concerning sexual history. Was she kind of asking for it? Now it has a medical definition.
The new, very new, Rape Shield, the secretion that unwilling sex caused in women, is not all that new. It may have been news to those outside of conservative circles, but the myth has been around for many years, backed up by partisan self-styled experts. It has caused some misery over generations. It goes back a long way. If a woman is truly an unwilling participant she can't get pregnant. If she does, she must have asked for it, or at least enjoyed it. The harsh reality faced by rape victims was a little harder when they were surrounded by unsympathetic looks by suspicious people who had received such wisdom. If a woman was one of those educated by gossip, an occasional tract, or email, self-doubt could lead to unjustified guilt.
The myth was energized in recent decades by the abortion controversy. It was seized on by a few partisans who saw an argument against any abortion exception. "Legitimate" rape was not invented by Todd Akin. It has been a phrase used to describe real rape, the kind involving genuine unwillingness, the kind that caused the secret secretion, the kind that never actually caused pregnancy.
In a way, the entire debate about abortion is an intellectually frustrating exercise. It is nearly impossible to discover a firm position that is not, in some way, absurd. The political reaction for most people is not so much to be for some position on abortion. It is to be against an opposing stand that seems unacceptable. That is one reason the demonizing of opposing viewpoints is a more common method of reasoning than the adoption of a firm stand.
Most controversies are like that to at least some degree.
One of my favorite corrections for conservatives is the myth that liberals are in favor of big government. I don't know anyone who likes big government. I do know a lot of folks who simply don't see it as an issue. The range of human reaction to size and scope of government ranges from extreme antagonism to abject apathy. The closest liberals come to caring for government is seeing some issue for which an avenue of finding a solution is government. Seeing government as a likely solution for a pressing problem involves wanting to solve the problem. If that involves increasing the size, role, and scope of government, some of us simply don't care. That is quite different from the conservative stereotype that holds liberals as salivating in their lust for bigger government.
Similarly, I don't know of anyone who favors abortion. Those who are pro-choice are, for the most part, as reactive against what we don't like as those who are anti-abortion. The separation of rape into distinctive degrees is what unites most Republican elected representatives. Legitimate rape is determined for Todd Akin by lack of pregnancy. This is kind of an abortion Catch 22. If you get pregnant you weren't really raped. For Paul Ryan and almost all Congressional Republicans, the standard is based less on medical myth than philosophical distinction. If a rape is "forcible," an abortion may be allowable in some limited circumstances. Presumably, interrogation of a victim by appropriate authorities will determine whether a rape meets strict qualifications. Did she struggle enough?
The Republican Convention platform, just decided by a committee of delegates in preparation for the quadrennial national convention, is that there are no distinctions. Abortion will be outlawed as a convenience, as a medical necessity, as a life-saving last resort, as an answer to child incest, or rape: whether legitimate or forcible or otherwise. This is the platform to be embraced by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
What defines the debate for those most affected is not some philosophical or medically mythical consideration. It is cold practical effect. The propositions of legitimate rape, forcible rape, transvaginal probes, forced viewings of sonograms, and complete prohibitions, complete with prison time for violation, are the natural consequences of a way of looking at the process of life and the role to which women are consigned by the Bible, by law, or by philosophy.
At the moment of conception, ownership of a woman's body, her right to live as she wants, is temporarily given over to a pre-zygote: a cystoblast. Since a fertilized egg cannot properly exercise ownership, ownership will devolve, in loco parentis, to the tender care of whatever judge, or prosecutor, or anti-abortion activist manages to bring the force of law to bear.
Just as liberals are not particularly pro-big government, and pro-choice voters are not particularly pro-abortion, so anti-abortion activists are not particularly motivated by a desire to force women into second class citizenship.
That is simply the best avenue to achieve a worthwhile goal.
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Just to be clear: Romney and Ryan accept abortion in cases of rape and incest. That is new for Ryan. However, both already accepted abortion when the mother's life is in danger.
"The political reaction for most people is not so much to be for some position on abortion. It is to be against an opposing stand that seems unacceptable."
I completely agree. It is important that each side understand not just the other's general position, but its underlying desires and beliefs. For the less reasonable and imaginative of us, that requires meaningful interaction with people outside of one's own group and a willingness to listen.
I simply cannot imagine having no interest in genuinely understanding other people.
I don't understand. I don't see how the pro-choice argument as I understand it--that a woman should have the complete right to decide--is absurd. Certain implications may not be practicable, but I don't see how the position is absurd. Additionally, this stance is not dependent upon one being pro-abortion or necessarily adopted as a reaction to the anti-abortion mindset. What am I missing?
So am I correct in assuming that the antonym of “anti-abortion” must be “pro-abortion”?
Ryan, kudos to you sir in setting the record straight on Romney and Ryan’s positions on the issue, sir.
This is true, Mr. Paine. However, as the article notes, the "liberal position" on this is not pro-abortion, but pro-choice.
I am in support of choice, and yet I am mostly anti-abortion. Ironic, huh?
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