Anti-Choice, Pro-Abortion: Our Rhetoric Defines Us

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Recent letters to the editor have made it clear that The Flat Hat has not done its part in fairly and accurately representing both sides of the abortion debate as it takes place on our campus. Through articles about VOX’s activism and the screening of “Trapped,” it seems clear that some writers suffer from intense bias and are prone to portraying the pro-choice movement in a far more positive light than its counterpart. This bias is not just limited to The Flat Hat (see Slate, Bustle, Mother Jones, Cosmopolitan, Jezebel and the New York Times), but I think it’s important to address even on a local level. Activists, bystanders and members of the media alike are clothing the complexity of the abortion debate in rhetoric and sanitized language, instead of dealing with philosophical and moral qualms in an intellectually-honest way.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s philosophy, as preached in Notorious R.B.G. and displayed in countless oral arguments, is to be as charitable with her opponents as possible. Assume that they have both good intentions and intelligent arguments, and treat them as such. Otherwise, nothing can be learned or gained, and you have limited your own ability to seek more truth. Perhaps this impressive creed is why R.B.G. and the late Justice Scalia were such close friends and a valuable example of compassion and friendship crossing ideological lines.

I ask for the same in our campus discussion surrounding abortion. The pro-choice movement has branded itself beautifully, using the language of rights and empowerment, presenting abortion as mere healthcare (the same as any routine procedure, despite the clear differences in moral quandaries) on its path to being destigmatized. But to present abortion only as a right or as healthcare sells the other side short — reduces the deep and compassionate convictions of so many who see the issue differently — and doesn’t even begin to touch the complexity behind the issue.

 I expect The Flat Hat to fully represent these viewpoints and keep writer bias in check, and for members of our community to engage with more intellect and less rhetoric.

So many things are caught up in the balance — class mobility, potential partner abuse, future wellbeing of the child and ability of women to pursue their careers and desires unfettered. It’s such an important issue, but we talk about it in a way that refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of each argument. It wouldn’t be so controversial and difficult if it truly were a routine healthcare procedure, so we should acknowledge both the costs and benefits instead of pretending it is wholly one or the other.

I consider myself a secular sex-positive pro-life feminist; these beliefs are not rooted in a deep desire to oppress women, evangelize the masses, or create a less sex-positive world where you’re barred from buying condoms until you present a marriage license. To the contrary, I see pro-choice rhetoric as something that sells female strength and empowerment short. I expect The Flat Hat to fully represent these viewpoints and keep writer bias in check, and for members of our community to engage with more intellect and less rhetoric. True ideological understanding only happens when we learn where the other side is coming from — and, conveniently, many of us come from similar places of compassion for women in tough situations and yearning for good solutions that compromise neither the wellbeing of the mother nor the wellbeing of the fetus.

It’s my biggest hope that members of both VOX and Students for Life actively seek out understanding of the other side, and that The Flat Hat will thoughtfully represent our activism. If ever interested in talking about this issue further, please email or message me — there’s so much to be gained through simple discourse and genuine curiosity. Most people at our school have great intellect and even greater intentions.

Email Elizabeth Wolfe at elwolfe01@email.wm.edu