Monday, January 24, 2005

Amy Welborn has a post called Old and Tired in which she says:

Haunting various posts and news stories on abortion is the accusation or even blunt assertion that pro-life objections against abortion are one thing, but what positive things are these people doing? Don't they understand that women and girls have reasons for seeking abortions? Why don't they address the reasons? Don't they understand that women and girls who have their babies have needs? Why don't they try to meet the needs?

It's time to flip. Really. We need to address the question forcefully, without accepting the assumption underlying it, which is that pro-lifers could even, for a second, be legitimately accused of these things. And we need to throw the burden of proof back on the questioner.

So before we start making our lists, simply ask: "What's your evidence, bub? Give me specific evidence that supports your contention that pro-lifers - and I mean specific groups and many, representative examples of individual prolifers - aren't aware of women's reasons, don't try to meet needs or address the broader cultural context."

And settle for nothing less. Which would mean that your questioner would have to take himself down to the local Crisis Pregnancy Center, filled with real, live pro-lifers, and evaluate the activity there. He would have to evaluate the activities of the largest pro-life organization in the world - the Roman Catholic Church - and report back with an evaluation of that organization's attitudes and treatment of the poor, the sick and neglected children. She would have to go down to a vigil at an abortion facility, talk to the protesters and pray-ers there and ask them the questions she thinks she already has answered: "Hey, you hate women and children, right?"

As a person who has actually been involved in the movement and knows actual pro-life activists - as do many posters on this blog - here's what I can tell you to save you the trouble:

. . .


First off all, we all need to state the truth, the Pro-Life movement is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. It is a vote generator, a broken slot machine that generates votes with utmost ease as the movement has checked its brains and Christianity at the door. And BTW, this straw(wo)men bit about "hey you hate women" is nonsense. But I will not unilaterally swear off straw(wo)men, because they are quite useful-Welborn makes her point with them, I make mine with them.

Whether or not the pro-lifers want to flip assumptions or not is not the issue, we all know, which party fights for a more equitable and just society, ie., a culture of life, and what party fights for a LESS equitable and just society. Welborn's question is like the erudite discussions among misguided 19th century US Catholic who wanted to explore if the Negro had a soul. It sounds reasonable only to people who share the same bias, while others incredulously ask, "are you serious?"

Many of us who criticize the pro-life movement know what we are doing. We didn't just show up and decide to mouth off. I joined the pro-life movement in 1983 when I was 13. I had no idea that Catholic Church had anything whatsoever to do with pro-life issues, I had just left Catholicism and got involved with the fundamentalists and that's were I discovered the movemenent. At the time people like Keith Green, the deceased musician and his wife Melody Green were prominent leaders. One of my all time favorite music albums was Andre Crouch's "Waiting for the Son" released in 1981, in which he has a song called "I'll be good to you baby" about abortion, and at the time this was not uncommon to find many pentecostal CCM recordings on abortion. I've been part of life groups, in my undergrad I represented the pro-life side of an argument in a debate. I have hosted march for life out-of-towners and all that stuff. I KNOW the movement, I KNOW the people. And its not just me, there are hundreds and thousands who have signed off on the Republican Pro-life movement, who have decades of personal experience with the pro-life movement, and i think some are represented in Catholic blogsphere, although, most are not.

When we charge whatever it is we charge about the Republican Pro Life movement, it is out of experience. I can speak for myself, I KNOW that on the whole, you cannot get the same people who will willing die for the pro-life cause, excited about poverty, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, racial reconciliation, healthcare, education, etc. The pro-life movement is now a classic case of where the ethics or morality has shifted from action to identification. What I mean is this. If I say, "I do not want any babies to die from abortions," that statement should direct our consciousness to actions that underlie that commitment. The statement itself is inconsequential, it is the actions and commitments that it represents that's what's relevant. The Republican Pro-life movement has changed the context so that it is no longer about the commitment or the actions, but rather about the statement itself, the empty words. So that orthodoxy in pro-life matters is no longer about what one does or what one is committed to, but what statements one can agree to.

If I said, "I do not want my children to starve," (which is the sort of thing one ends up saying when the faithful and orthodox Deal Hudson and thousands of his faithful and orthodox Pro-life friends desire one's children to starve), that is not simply a creed to agree to, but it depicts a commitment on my part to take actions and create a context in which I can provide for my kids. Now what if I simply hung out at a street corner and begged for food, I could still claim to adhere to that statement about my children not starving, but my commitment can be challenged by my actions.

Yes, we can call into question the actions of pro-lifers so called. There is a reason why George Bush came up with the "compassionate conservative" lie, it is because political/religious conservatism and compassion are mutually exclusive, if not mutually exclusive, then pretty darn close. The pro-life movement is a conservative movement and its commitment is not to life but to a creedal identifier.

Now, about these crises pregnancy centers. I recently posted pictures on this blog from the BBC of US soldiers in Iraq firing on a car, then the next shot shows the car door open with a dead person falling out and then a four year old is shown crying with the blood of her parents and siblings all over her and then the next shot is the US soldiers administering first aid to another sibling. The conservative fixation on crisis pregnancy centers would be similar to George Bush bragging that our troops provide better first aid to injured Iraqis than they would otherwise receive. No crap!

Pro-lifers are not trying to solve the problem of abortion in society, this is simply a cause they have identified their faith and conservatism with and press on in the we're-persecuted mode with fervor. All they want to do is make abortion illegal and throw women and doctors in prison. If they argue that that is not the case, then how on earth, does making abortion illegal solve the problem of abortion? It doesn't. Crisis pregnancy centers do not solve the abortion problem, it is simply a band aid solution for a 95% major burn victim.

Pro-lifers have aligned themselves with the Republican Party and George Bush, there is no getting away from it. If they want to be taken seriously then they'd have to actually begin to care about life. Democrats and those of a similar sentiment, care about life. If there isn't the party-platform passion for the unborn yet, it is only a matter of time, because care for the unborn is simply a logical extension of current and existing Democratic values. For the Republican pro-life movement, concern for humans after birth doesn't appear to be a logic extension of their values. There is a difference between saying that one is prolife and being pro-life. The burden of proof is not on the questioners of the pro-life movement, it remains on the pro-life movement. Show us you have a heart and we'll take you all seriously.

7 Comments:

Blogger Lanoire said...

Good post.

"What's your evidence, bub? Give me specific evidence that supports your contention that pro-lifers - and I mean specific groups and many, representative examples of individual prolifers - aren't aware of women's reasons, don't try to meet needs or address the broader cultural context."I can think of one immediately: the fact that the pro-life movement touts abstinence before marriage as the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This shows a total disconnect from the realities of women's lives, needs and desires, as well as a barely-hidden misogyny.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ono, two questions:

1. You've been horribly and recently mistreated by the pro-life 'movement.' Is it a fair reading that your anger at the movement spills over into venom toward the regular folks who express anti-abortion sensibilities?

2. The grotesque stereotypes prolife and prochoice activists hold of each other serve the purpose of rallying the troops. Do you really buy into these stereotypes, or is it a matter of rhetorical convenience to evoke them? What do you make of 'consistent ethic of life' folks who frame abortion very different from the prolife movement?

Peace, Mike McG...

4:03 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

1. You've been horribly and recently mistreated by the pro-life 'movement.' Is it a fair reading that your anger at the movement spills over into venom toward the regular folks who express anti-abortion sensibilities?If the archives on this blog go back far enough, you may be able to trace moments of my disullusionment with the Pro-life movement. Deal Hudson and his friends, did not reveal anything new about pro-lifers and Republicans. But actually, the thing that got me going full blast was the whole Swift Boat for Kerry thing. That's when it really hit home that these are Republicans first, Catholics, second.

2. The grotesque stereotypes prolife and prochoice activists hold of each other serve the purpose of rallying the troops. Do you really buy into these stereotypes, or is it a matter of rhetorical convenience to evoke them? What do you make of 'consistent ethic of life' folks who frame abortion very different from the prolife movement?You'll note that I point out that Amy Welborn uses a strawperson (note my politically correct usage) and i will do the same. The fact is that it is easier to make a point that way. However, I often use the story of the scorpion and the duck to illustrate that I do not believe that dialog with the current crop of Pro-lifers is possible. They are, on the whole, a mean-spirited and cold group (see, I nuanced a little there, in the past I might have broad brushed).

The fact is that we are not all on the same side. Concern for the unborn is not the defining issue. The fundamental defining issue is, "What kind of society do you envision and do you hope for?" That's what I share with Democrats. I find the Republican vision, scary.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, Ono......I ask again, what do you make of 'consistent ethic of life' folks? Are we all frauds? Are we merely inconvenient distractions to your narrative that opposition to abortion is trivial and mean-spirited?
Peace, Mike McG...

10:58 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

But, Ono......I ask again, what do you make of 'consistent ethic of life' folks? Are we all frauds? Are we merely inconvenient distractions to your narrative that opposition to abortion is trivial and mean-spirited?
Peace, Mike McG...
The abortion debate is like the race debate, where a Latino or Native American watches all the sniping back and forth between Black and White and wonders, "Am I chopped liver?"

I've always assumed the "consistent ethic of life" was code for "we are not single issue on abortion." I may be wrong on that, but that was my general take on it. I think it all still boils down to certain things.

Do you believe the solution to the abortion is criminalization primarily and no other approach is morally acceptable?

If you say "yes," then that's the Republican Pro-life approach. If you say "no, but I believe it is the best way to do it," believe it or not, we are in the same ball park. "Consistent ethic of life" is phrase that can mean just about anything and it still boils down to what you think is the way to solve the problem and where the moral boundaries are.


Are we merely inconvenient distractions to your narrative that opposition to abortion is trivial and mean-spirited?Also you have to chose how you frame your argument. If you accept that someone like me is or can be pro-choice and pro-life and that pro-choice is not pro-abortion, then we are in the same ball park. If you decide to cast yourself as the one who is "opposed" to abortion while we pro-choicers are in favor of it, then it is a different ball park. It wouldn't matter if you describe yourself as a "consistent ethic of life" adherent. It's all about what your view your approach to be and where you place the moral boundaries.

Now if the seamless garment crowd feels it has a different approach and can't be boiled down simply like I am doing, well we are not hearing it. You guys need to stand up and make the point. I don't imagine you can take the seamless garment talk to the conservatives, because they'll shoot it down as liberal crap. OTOH, liberals will willingly provide an audience.

I'm not a seamless garment person only because I don't think in those terms. For something as profound as this issue, everyone has to come to terms with it in their own personal terms. Which means, I don't have to speak for everyone, only for that subset of people who feel like I do on the issue.

I'm pretty certain that if seamless garment people sat down to talk about the issue, I'd feel pretty left out because it is an approach that doesn't resonate with me personally. But that's how it all has to work. We are not the borg, our individuality must produce a cacophony for this issue to be meaningful.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ono,

"current crop of Pro-lifers is possible. They are, on the whole, a mean-spirited and cold group"

It is sad that you believe this. It is certainly not what I saw today while watching the March for Life. I saw good people who love both the unborn child and the women in crisis pregnancies.

2:05 AM  
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