Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hot Topic: abortion and rhetoric

"Someone against abortion might define 'abortion as 'the murder of an
innocent still-born person'. This definition carries a negative connotation,
as the term 'murder' suggests that abortion is wrongful killing, and it also
assumes that the aborted fetus is already a person. Such a definition is
surely not appropriate in a rational debate on the moral legitimacy of
abortion, even though it might be useful as a rhetorical tool"
(Joe Lau
Department of Philosophy, The University of Hong Kong, August 2003).

Someone might also describe pregnancy as having a parasite growing inside the uterus.

But let's look at "murder" and "abortion" beyond their trigger words. "Murder", according to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, is "the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought". Well, I'm not sure how many people get an abortion out of malice for their unborn child. Most probably do it out of fear: fear they don't have the money nor the education to raise the child, fear that the father of the child will beat them, fear of their parents, fear of the unknown, etc.

And let's look at the rest of the definition: "the crime of unlawfully killing..." well, thanks to Roe vs. Wade, it's not unlawful to have an abortion, therefore there is no crime. So, strictly speaking, abortion is not murder. Ok, moving on.

According to Lau's definition, the abortion is the murder of an innocent still-born person. says that the definition of "stillborn" is "dead at birth". Well how, Mr. Lau, can you kill something already dead? (I'll let it slide that it also has to be born and dead to be considered stillborn.)

Mr. Lau's definition doesn't work.

But let's go on. He assumes that those against abortion consider the fetus a person. Now, I am not going to argue the philosophy, psychology, biology, or morality of whether or not a fetus is a person. I'm going to argue that there is nothing to kill if the fetus isn't a person, and you can't even kill it if it's dead, as in the aforementioned definition, so why are we discussing abortion in Mr. Lau's terms?

Let me ask you this: if we can legally kill something that doesn't exist anyway (not my definition), we morally wrap our minds around genocide (in this case, infanticide). Why can't we, therefore, euthanize our elderly like we do our old dogs and cats? Why can't we "put them out of their misery" of old age, cancer, dementia, brittle bones, etc. Come on, we kill our kids in the womb! What's the difference between deciding the first breaths of infants and the last breaths of the elderly? The difference is, I offer for your consideration, that fetuses have no eyes, no smiles, no names, no faces, no emotional to pull at heartstrings. But are they any less alive?

Is a plant a viable organism while it is still a seed or a seedling and still growing? Is it "alive" before it shoots out of the ground and grows leaves? Is it "born" only after it has sprouted roots?

No, I'm not going to go off on the tangent of the evils of eating plants, because "plants have feelings too". I honestly don't care if you eat cows or elephant ears. (For those that don't know, an elephant ear, in this context, is a large green leafed plant, not the actual ear of an elephant).

But I am going to say that Joe Lau, by his own definition, uses rhetoric to attempt to argue that those who oppose abortion are wrong to do so. I say it's wrong to grow peas in a 5th grade science class because they are only going to be discarded after the experiment and not planted into soil to continue to grow and thrive and become mature plants!! Plant Killers!!!!

Now go hug your grandmother.


MoJoe said...

The abortion debate has been as much about language as much as abortion.

Here's an interesting tidbit for you:

abortion: Use "anti-abortion" instead of "pro-life" and "abortion rights" instead of "pro-choice." Avoid "abortionist," which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions; use a term such as "abortion doctor" or "abortion practitioner."

The above is from the Associated Press Stylebook, which is filled with words and quick explanations of when to use them. Things such as the proper way to refer to the United Methodist Church, the difference between affect and effect, common non-postal abbreviations for states, etc.

The entry on abortion was designed in response to how both the pro-life and pro-choice movements have dramatically altered the meanings of words -- specifically, the pro- terms create the assumption that someone not affiliated with the movement is somehow con-.

AP got it right way before the rest of the country. Whether your for it or agin' it, call it what it is.

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