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Rehumanizing the Victim


A standard tactic in politics is to dehumanize the opposition. Those who disagree are painted as extreme abstractions, and it becomes easy to forget that enemies remain persons. Contentious topics, with their increasingly strident debate, frequently devolve into the harshest depersonalizations.

Abortion is such a topic. The rhetoric is pure polarized abstraction. But as Vanderleun shows, abortion is intensely—and essentially—personal:

It seems to me that if the issue remains, or is contained, as an abstract notion (What would you do if...) then "choice" -- given the agnostic temper of the times -- remains paramount. In the abstract. we'd all like to be given a choice and not a mandate -- from the state, from God, from our society, or from ourselves. We'd all like to go through life doing what we want, when we want, with no consequences. You know - "No judgments, man," "Hey, no blame, Dude," "No problem. It's all good." Alas, abortion is not an abstract procedure or some harmless gedankenexperiment, although many of the more virulent Pro-Choice people would like it to be thought of in that way.

My own experience has been that when you are confronted with the abortion issue after having nurtured a child, abortion is no longer an abstraction -- i.e. "Resolved, all women should be able to control their bodies without interference" -- but becomes more concrete -- i.e. "Resolved, all women should be able to control their bodies without interference including ending a life within them at will."

It seems to me that (absent the usual banal disclaimers involving crime, rape, incest, danger to the mother, etc.) the abortion issue splits between those who base their position on the abstract notion of choice, and those with more concrete experience -- parents. This is not to say that those with children who remain pro-choice are caught in an abstraction, quite the opposite. I place them in the latter camp. It is to say that, no matter where they stand on the issue, the opinion of people with children has more standing, to me at least, than those without children. Parents have, to use an expression not without irony, "Real skin in the game."

You must read the whole thing.

No matter where you stand on the issue, it seems important to remember that abortion is never joyful. Those who choose life do not avoid suffering. Those who choose otherwise are not free from pain. By every definition, abortion involves at least one human. And in a most trying circumstance, that human deserves compassion.