De-constructing a one sentence defence of “Pro-choice”

Here is some back-story – Senator John Madigan wants to put abortion on the political agenda and has done so by putting forward a funding bill. I think he is going about it the wrong way. I think he should be upfront about it and I think he should start by ensuring that the government collect accurate statistic about abortion so that we can have an informed debate about it.

I actually find this encouraging considering it came from the SMH

I actually find this encouraging considering it came from the SMH

Here is the article I want to comment on though … primarily because it represents the typical response in the media towards discussion around abortion ….. and that is to try to shut down the discussion without engaging in it. This article in the SMH started in brilliant fashion.

“Every once in a while they pop up, these old white men who feel they have a God-given right to meddle with women’s bodies.”

Wow …. Stephaine you could have stopped there …. You won the argument without even trying … or without even putting up an actual argument ….actually I just re-read the article … you didn’t really put up any argument or add anything new to the debate in the remainder of the article. So let us just look at this first sentence ….
Argument Strategy Part 1: “Establish annoyance.” Pop-ups are so annoying – always they are trying to sell you something you don’t want. Google the term “pop-up” and you also get references to telemarketers and Jehovah’s Witnesses. A great way to shut down a conversation in almost any setting is to say “It is so annoying that you keep bringing up ….”.
Problem: Just because one person (or a group of people) finds a topic of controversy annoying to discuss does not mean it all of a sudden becomes off limits to discuss it. This is an attempt to shut down further conversation, after all I don’t want people considering me one of those annoying pop-ups. It is what I call silencing by negative association.

Argument Strategy Part 2: “Beware the ruling class” – I mean the arrogance of those “old white men”. They have had it so good for so long that they have lost the right to hold an opinion. I wonder if the opinion came from an “old black man” would could we perhaps have been a little softer. Does skin colour, gender and age affect the quality of the opinion that much?
Problem: While the area of concern does primarily affect women (although I would argue that a significant number doing the dying are male). Any opinion on the matter should be discussed on its merits and not on the gender, age or skin colour of the individual. This would be akin to saying that a female inner city politician’s view on the high rate suicide amongst rural males should be ignored regardless of the quality of her thinking on the matter.

Argument Strategy Part 3: “Thou shalt allow religious view to be peddled” – The “God-given right” part here is trying to establish a link to Australian’s general dislike of having religious views thrust upon them or even discussing religion at all.
Problem: Firstly The Senator doesn’t openly present his point of view from a religious framework. None of his language as quoted in the media is framed this way. Yes he is a catholic, but he is rather quiet about it. Secondly, this is not a specifically religious issue. I have met atheists who would think along the lines that this senator does.

Argument Strategy Part 4: “Appeal to rights”. Of course this is an old chestnut – it’s my body, it’s my right. This comes out in so many permutations. Framing abortion as a women’s rights issue is a master stroke. We are the generation of self – it appeals to us. It also frames those who are against us as oppressors!
Problem: It assumes that the human life inside of its mother has no right to exist unless that right is conferred onto the child by the mother. In other words – my right to live was given to me by my mother. Of course you can get around this if you think of the foetus as being a “potential human” in other words they are a lesser type of human and we can of course choose whether or not to confer such rights on them. This is sort of like how people in Australia in the past thought of the aboriginal people, as human, but not quite on the same level as us whites, less evolved perhaps … and look how that turned out. No, human rights are “God-given rights” …. “it’s my body, it’s my right.” Doesn’t really work because there are two bodies involved here. I think that my right to life trumps your right to a career, your right to convenience, your right to emotional well-being, your right to be financially stable. I think that your right to life trumps those things for me as well. I think that every human has this right to life. I think that a child in-utero is a human and by logical extension they have a right to life.

Meeting Jesus

I’ll probably be sniggered at in my current church, but this is where I met Jesus.

When I was twelve years old I attended a Christian youth camp. At one of the small group sessions we had, the youngish leader said something about Christianity that I was taken aback by. I knew it was wrong, although I couldn’t articulate exactly why it was wrong. I knew that if this guy was right, then the Jesus that I knew was a liar.

I knew Jesus pretty well. I knew his capacity for love. I knew his capacity for anger. I saw his seriousness and enjoyed his wit. I experienced his patience. I saw that he was right to declare guilt and yet forgive. I was afraid of him. I knew that I was not up to his standard; but I trusted him when he said it was all going to be all right. Even though I sometimes tried to dismiss Jesus, I always knew that he would be there.

Today I attended a seminar in which Richard Glover spoke so eloquently of having a relationship with the characters in a book, of escaping the reality of the world and developing a strong empathy with these characters. I take it that Richard did not have in mind the character of Jesus as presented in the four books of the New Testament of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; but that is very much what I was thinking of as he spoke.

Now, I did not read the bible myself when I was young. My father, even though he was a priest, did not read the bible specifically to me when I was young. The sermons at church did not help me to understand. (I cannot even say if they were good or bad; orthodox or heretical, I just did not listen to them). The thing that I did listen to was when everyone stood up and the priest would process down carrying the big book and we would face him as he read from the “Holy Gospel of ….” Week in, week out, sometimes two or even three times a week I would stand and listen. I would stand and listen to Jesus. That is how I got to know him.

I had heard him speak to me so many times that when I was teased for being a preacher’s son; when the atheists mocked me at uni; when I was full of self-doubt; when things were hard; Whenever I doubted the very existence of God; I knew Jesus.

That is why tonight I started reading Jesus’ story to my kids. Not the sanitised for kids version. The real one. I have often prayed that they would have the same opportunity to know Jesus that I had. It only occurred to me today as Richard spoke of the power of empathising with characters in books, that the way I got to know Jesus, might actually work for my kids (although I won’t be dressing up or burning any incense!)