I found myself in a debate on Twitter with writer Sarah Benincasa. After the GOP debate, she had referred to all Republicans as “Shitheads.”
Your humble correspondent is a libertarian-republican. (Small L and small R). The small letters indicate I’m not beholden to either party, but just the principles of liberty and a constitution, the defining factors of being a libertarian and a republican.
Feeling somewhat insulted by someone I typically felt was fair and tolerant of other people’s opinions, I decided to respond by pointing out that some of the people on that stage had indeed shown that they were not your stereotypical Republican, and that ultimately the type of bigotry one uses to paint all people of a group with one brush, isn’t really fair. Below was my response followed by Sarah’s passionate counter-response.
This got me thinking about the issue a little deeper. I won’t point out more of the discussions that followed. They were mostly followers of Sarah attacking me or the candidates with contempt, instead of showing any interest in respectful debate. So I explained my position as respectfully as I could, and exited stage left.
But this exchange brings a couple of issues to light.
The first of which is the concept of being a one-issue person. I believe many of the pro-choice people are often pro-legalization of marijuana as well. Senator Rand Paul has worked with Democrat Corey Booker to accomplish exactly that. If that had been the one issue Sarah (if she is pro-legalization) opted to key on instead of abortion as an important issue to her, she might have painted him in a different light.
The point being that no candidate will ever agree with you 100%; It’s that simple. As a voter, the best you can do is find common ground with candidates where you’re able, support them when you do, and dissent when you don’t.
You should certainly side with the person who most commonly aligns with your beliefs, but it’s silly to assume someone is all bad and treat them as if they’re evil “shitheads.”
As much as I dislike Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, I don’t paint either one to be evil, or call them names. I just think they’re wrong, more often than not, and challenge their positions or their integrity when they are found to be disingenuous, a trait common in politicians of all parties.
But delving into the abortion issue, I first want to point out the flaws with the basic pro-life/pro-choice argument.
The converse of pro-life is not pro-choice, it’s anti-life. And thus the converse of pro-choice is not pro-life, it’s anti-choice. The two are slightly separate issues. So I’ll first explain my position and why.
As it is typically understood, I am pro-choice. I believe there are many understandable instances where a woman would choose to abort, that I compassionately cannot condone throwing her in jail on a 1st degree murder charge for, where I absolutely would if she killed the child the same child after birth. So I’ve always argued that viability is a fair cut-off in my opinion—emphasis on opinion.
But that being said, I’m also pro-life in an untraditional sense. I would encourage anyone who is pregnant and healthy, to bring the child to term and either raise it, or put it up for adoption if so desired. But that’s an issue between her and the father, not her and the government, also in my opinion.
Yet in my debate, despite being pro-choice myself, I ended up arguing the pro-life point. I suspect mostly because I believe in fairness over ideology.
It’s interesting that the pro-choice crowd typically claim to be the more scientifically enlightened, attacking the pro-life group who are largely religious, and often they argue are anti-science as a result, yet they overlook that fact that once an egg is fertilized, and the resultant zygote begins to replicate, approximately 24 to 30 hours after fertilization, it is inarguably a life because of that natural cell replication, and it’s purely human DNA means it is inarguably human. Like it or not, it is a human life, and all the science you can throw at it, backs that.
Being atheist, I don’t lend much credence to religion, so I won’t point out the religious component to all of this, it doesn’t matter. Whether you believe it’s a human life because God says so, or because science says so, you believe it’s a human life.
So then the question becomes when is it a life that deserves protection under the law?
I cannot say this with enough emphasis; that question can never be a matter of fact. It is pure opinion, and no one person’s opinion is any more valid than another’s, because with opinions, there is no scientific truth you can apply to make one argument better than the other, otherwise it would be fact. I believe in such situations, you can either respectfully agree to disagree, or you can behave intolerantly and attack your dissenter for having a differing opinion.
But the issue I take with many of my fellow pro-choice advocates, is that they call this a woman’s right issue, then argue that pro-life advocates are against women’s rights. This is where the pro-life/anti-life and pro-choice/anti-choice argument I made earlier becomes rather important.
If you are concerned about the woman’s rights, you will either be pro-choice or anti-choice. If you are viewing this argument from the embryo’s point of view, you are either pro-life or anti-life. The two are not interchangeable.
So when pro-choice people attack pro-life people for being against women’s rights, that’s a straw man argument.
The pro-life people believe it is a human life, with rights under the law. They believe that it’s not part of the woman’s body, but instead a separate body inside the woman’s body. As such, not believing it a woman’s rights issue whatsoever, or even framing it that way.
Pro-choice people however, believe that as long as the embryo resides in the mother, it is part of the mother, and therefore not a separate life, and not worthy of protection under the law, but instead, something a woman should have the right to remove, similar to a breast reduction to remove unwanted tissue to increase her quality of life.
I am not saying such people equate a fetus to a breast, so please no outraged response, understand I’m only saying they paint the procedures in a similar light, from an ethics perspective.
In either instance, again these positions as to whether it’s part of the woman’s body, or its own separate body within a body are matters of opinion, not fact, and can be argued either way. Tolerance dictates you must respect the converse opinion.
I have to point out that from a science perspective, the DNA of the embryo is unique from the mother’s, something that wouldn’t be true of any other organic substance inside the mother, she might opt to remove from her body; aside from a disease or another foreign invader of some sort anyway. So it’s hard to argue with science that the embryo is part of the mother’s body when it doesn’t share her exact DNA, but instead, a mix of her’s and the father’s.
I have a long history on this site of being all about science, so in theory, I probably should be what is traditionally thought of as pro-life and equate abortion to murder.
But I frankly know that if I had a daughter, and she had an abortion a month after fertilization versus a year after the birth, I cannot conflate the two as equally heinous. So despite all the evidence to the contrary, I remain pro-choice from a legal standpoint, and pro-life from a personal one.
As for Sarah and her followers, they are passionate about women’s rights, and that’s a good thing—I wish them well even if they think I’m a jerk.
I just wish they would embrace a little more empathy for those with differing opinions, and not conflate opinion with fact, because arguing someone is wrong, must revolve around facts, never opinions.