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It’s in your own best interests

When it comes to the issue of abortion, what are you pro? “Life” or “choice”? Well, there is now a terribly clever new alternative in this hoary old clash of Unspeaks, as anti-abortion campaigners have begun to describe themselves – titter not – as “pro-woman”. UPI reports:

“We think of ourselves as very pro-woman,” Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee [sic], told the Times. “We believe that when you help the woman, you help the baby.”

Right. I for one will not protest that I am “anti-woman”. So they win!

  1. 1  Gus Abraham  May 24, 2007, 10:22 am 

    On a seperate – but surely related matter where are you on the whole McJob mcflurry?

    I think we should be told.

  2. 2  AlecPatton  May 24, 2007, 11:31 am 

    I seem to recall seeing bumper sticker that declared ‘Pro-child, pro-choice’. The ‘pro-‘ construction surely is one of the shortest pathways to unspeak.

    On a tenuously related note, John Stewart’s ‘America: The Book’ asks “If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?”

    Also, I learned from last week’s New Yorker that some American sociologists refer to religion as a ‘motherhood issue’ – meaning that nobody will ever say they are against it, and as a result poll results are always skewed (i.e. people say they’re regular churchgoers because they feel like they ought to be). The phrase comes from the assumption that nobody will ever say they are against ‘motherhood’.

    As far as Mcjobs go, I can’t see what old Ronald’s angle is. Is the presence of a word buried deep in the verbiage of the OED really that much of a liability? Surely by turning it into international news, they’ve ensured that it will be more widely-used than it was before.

  3. 3  Richard  May 24, 2007, 11:35 am 

    can I be pro-femme-enfant?*

    Note that, in the US, “Woman” is a category of clothing sizes, wider than the standard dress-number-sizes up to 16, so there may be fat-as-a-feminist-issue things going on here, too (complicated by ideas of being ‘legitimately wide’ on account of being pregnant).

    *I’m actually not, BTW, to forestall angry ripostes.

  4. 4  John Fallhammer  May 24, 2007, 11:48 am 

    I’ve thought for a while that a neat alternative to “pro-life” would be “pro-forced parturition”, on the basis that abortion being illegal essentially means the government leveraging its monopoly on legitimate violence to ensure that a woman carries an embryo/foetus/unborn child to term.

    Well OK, not so much a neat alternative as a wildly provocative alternative, but it would a good way to rub the noses of the “libertarian” right in their own mess.

  5. 5  Gus Abraham  May 24, 2007, 11:50 am 

    The connection between the anti-life pro-lifers and McJobs (I think) is the notion of life for lifes sake but then to inhabit a throw-way world of crap-consumables. Its the irony of a co-joining of christian fundamentalism with producvist capitalism. “Thou shalt procreate and churn out consumers of a low-quality life experience”.

  6. 6  Larsaan  May 24, 2007, 11:57 am 

    Because forcing a woman to have a baby that she has to feed, take care of and more or less sacrifice her future for is really supporting for her. Do they think mankind will face annhiliation if free abortion is introduced?

  7. 7  Richard  May 24, 2007, 12:33 pm 

    I understand (though I can’t quote sources right now) that the development of contraceptive drugs and the ‘demographic crisis of the white race’ did, indeed, cause such a panic in the early 1960s among certain square-headed US policy folks. Their spiritual successors might well think this way.

  8. 8  Alex Higgins  May 24, 2007, 5:20 pm 

    “Anti-abortion” seems to be an accurate description more or less, although it would be consistent to be anti-abortion while holding any number of views about what legal status it should have.

    But what about its implied opposite number? Isn’t pro-abortion a kind of Unspeak (suggesting that the person desires abortions for their own sake rather than legal access to one if requested). I can’t imagine it being used except as an insult.

    What is the snappy but non-unspeaky term for the pro-choice position?

  9. 9  dsquared  May 24, 2007, 5:51 pm 

    “Pro-abortion rights” would be my candidate. I would also offer up “pro-baby” as the natural Unspeak term for anyone who is “anti-woman” but doesn’t want to self-describe as such. It’s doubly Unspeaky because a) your enemies have to be anti-baby and b) it smuggles in the implication that a foetus is a baby, which is 90% of the whole controversy.

  10. 10  Alex Higgins  May 24, 2007, 6:22 pm 

    Not a bad formulation, Dsquared, though it raises the question of what we have a right to in this regard.

  11. 11  anon  May 24, 2007, 6:47 pm 

    I think you may enjoy this…

  12. 12  Steven  May 24, 2007, 7:16 pm 

    Pro-“abortion rights” or pro-“reproductive rights” are formulations often seen, but it does raise the hairy issue as Alex notes of where these “rights” come from, which as I understand it is part of why Roe v Wade, finding them implied by a right to privacy, is not considered bulletproof by all.

    I rather like “opposed to the criminalization of abortion”, emphasizing that this is a legal issue (and law is not coextensive with morality except in totalitarian states and chez Slavoj Zizek etc), but it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

    For the other side, I think John’s “pro-forced parturition” is great, and spookily accurate. Is it Unspeak? I’m not even sure.

    “Thou shalt procreate and churn out consumers of a low-quality life experience”

    Can I use this as the slogan for my blog from now on?

  13. 13  Alex Higgins  May 24, 2007, 9:58 pm 

    “…the question of what we have a right to in this regard”

    I should retract that “we” by the way, since, not having a uterus, my rights are not under discussion here.

  14. 14  Richard  May 24, 2007, 10:12 pm 

    not having a uterus, my rights are not under discussion here.

    I wouldn’t be so fast with that: your point is basically true as long as you assume that there is no social contract, you have no obligations to any woman you get pregnant, and the children, once born, have no rights of their own and will never have any claims over their parents. None of these ideas proves reliably true out there in the world. Ideally, I would think, abortions would be discussed by both partners (and I stand by that “ideally,” even in the face of the challenge that “ideally there would be no need or motivation for abortions at all”).

  15. 15  Jeff Strabone  May 27, 2007, 6:44 pm 

    I’ve always thought the issue under discussion should be framed in terms of state powers rather than individual rights. Should we grant the state the power to compel women to have children? That would also solve some of the doubts regarding the right to privacy that American conservatives claim not to acknowledge. Instead of liberal justices having to find an unspoken right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution, conservatives would have to find an express grant to the state of the power to police reproduction.

    In Unspeak terms, are you for unlimited state power over families or are you for freedom from state control?

  16. 16  Richard  May 27, 2007, 7:04 pm 

    framed in terms of state powers rather than individual rights
    Thanks. I’ve been trying to avoid this mainstay of US political division ever since I arrived: this, at last, is a good way to slice through it. Not that I’ll ever get into a debate about the topic except online: I find it’s something that you just don’t discuss (unless you’re a political activist on the topic, in which case you don’t discuss, you declaim).
    Of course, it doesn’t get us out of the “abortion is murder” thing.

  17. 17  Jeff Strabone  May 28, 2007, 8:10 am 

    [I hope it’s okay to link to my own material here.]

    Richard, if you want to read more about framing sex legislation in terms of state powers, see my two-part series on sex toys and the Constitution:
    part one
    part two.

  18. 18  Richard  May 28, 2007, 9:00 am 

    Jeff: very interesting, thank you. I had no idea how flimsy the legal protections I take for granted actually are.

    I assume when you write conservatives believe in the unlimited power of the state to impose the majority’s will, you (and they) are using a non-obvious meaning of ‘majority’ (as ‘elected majority’).

    This is tempting me to dust off my old copies of Foucault’s books.

  19. 19  Alex  June 1, 2007, 9:16 am 

    They can play with words and their meanings, but by no means a person/organization/state can tell a woman what to do with here future – it is entirely her own decision.

  20. 20  John Fallhammer  June 5, 2007, 2:37 am 

    …several weeks later…

    “For the other side, I think John’s “pro-forced parturition” is great, and spookily accurate. Is it Unspeak? I’m not even sure.”

    Well, for me it evokes an image of burly uniformed agents of the state holding a screaming woman down on a bed, with their colleagues holding guns in one hand and towels and warm water in the other, whereas the reality would more likely be a dingy backstreet clinic or a short holiday in a neighbouring country. So yes, it is a little unspeaky. (One does wonder what went on in Ceausescu’s Romania though.)

    As events move on, I did think The Independent’s ‘nutty bishop’ front page was a bit naughty. Good, but still naughty.

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