- November 29th, 2009
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This post is a few weeks late. I was not sure I even wanted to post the photo as some will certainly find it offensive. The choice of imagery used by those organizing the protest was chosen exactly to offend those with whom they disagree, and thus extract an argument. The chord the display struck with me, however, was not one the organizers likely intended. Take a look and see what your initial reaction is, and then scroll past the photo to read my reaction.
When I came across the “Warning Genocide Photos Ahead” signs early in the morning, the main display had yet to be erected. I figured perhaps there was some Holocaust memorial display going up for whatever reason, or perhaps a radical anti-war protest was setting up a display. Either way, the probability anything that would phase me would be shown was very low. You do not spend 26 months in a combat zone without seeing things most people should never have to see.
A few hours passed, and the display was put up for all to see. I was wrong in my assumptions, and was greeted by an anti-abortion display. That’s all good and well. Personally, I do not believe it is the government’s business at all to legislate the medical decisions between a physician and a woman. I also strongly believe in personal responsibility. Either way, you live with the choices you make.
My reaction was not really even related to the imagery, which certainly distressed several students that passed by the very central location in front of the library. No, my reaction had much more to do with the application of language. Hyperbole is often used when a group seeks to garner attention, and this is certainly no exception.
The first, and most obvious, use of sheer hyperbole is in their most brightly colored sign which reads WARNING GENOCIDE PHOTOS AHEAD. On one hand, there actually are a few images from the Holocaust and that certainly amounts to the deliberate and systemic killing of all people of a specific demographic. On the other hand, it would be foolish to assume the warnings were directed at the inclusion of the Holocaust photos instead of the photos of aborted fetuses. As the warning clearly applied to the abortion photos, someone failed to grasp or apply the word genocide very well. For abortion to amount to genocide, there would need to be a concerted effort to eliminate all Homo sapiens sapiens fetuses. Logically, such a concerted effort would be a genocide of the highest degree as far as our species ought to be concerned. An effort on that scale would absolutely threaten us with extinction. Fortunately for our species, no such effort exists. For nearly two decades the slope of the graph representing the abortion rate in the United States has been a negative average value. Genocide was a poorly chosen and improperly used word.
My other issues are not quite as clear cut, linguistically. One of the large signs brings up the concept of Constitutional Rights, something rather dear to me considering the oath I took (twice). Generally, anytime I read those two words together I assume the user has not once actually read the Constitution. Experience has proven this to be a wise assumption, and I will continue to operate under that assumption here. I asked one of the protesters what exactly that sign meant, and was greeted with a poorly educated answer. In short, the inclusion of any potential for the pending health-care reform measures to direct any funds to the procedure of an abortion has been equated with a constitutional right. If ever there was a stretch, this is it. While a law may certainly pass making abortion a procedure paid for by the government, such a law would in no way make abortion a constitutional right. Some might even argue such a law would be entirely unconstitutional. At any rate, unless Congress proposes an amendment explicitly proclaiming a right to abortion, a constitutional right it is not.
From there I cannot help but dive into a little scientific argument. The abortion-by-choice rate, globally, is far lower than the rate by which embryonic growth is rejected by nature itself. Full, or even partial, term birth is not the normal outcome of fertilization in our species. If pregnancy is detected early, and the conscious decision is made to act against that pregnancy it cannot really be said with any certainty that the result would have been live birth had such a conscious decision not been made. Of course you cannot say for sure that nature would reject the pregnancy either, but rejection does in fact happen quite often. If you want to draw up some more hyperbole, these protesters ought to actually protest fertilization, as the body is more likely to abort than it is to carry to term. If you want to apply a little Washington-style circular logic, these very protesters should support an action that would actually be genocide.
The moral of the story? Words matter. Pick the right ones when making an argument, and make sure you actually understand the subject matter before you put yourself in a position from which you may have to answer difficult (or even easy) questions.