It bugs me when opponents deliberately talk past each other in an attempt to confuse listeners and avoid the real issues. It's distracting, and doesn't actually further the discussion. Of course often times the purpose of such misstatements isn't to encourage legitimate debate, but simply to generate soundbites and make indirect ad hominem attacks on your opponent.

Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in the debate about abortion, and it's typically the pro-choice crowd that misstates the arguments of the pro-lifers. For example:

Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League), derided McCorvey's motion as a "sad anti-choice publicity stunt" in a June 17 statement.

"Instead of leaving private medical decisions up to a woman and her doctor, anti-choice forces want the government to decide," Michelman said in the statement. "This case shows the extreme lengths to which they will go to overturn our constitutional right to choose."

Where to begin?

1. Pro-lifers don't get away with labeling their opponents as "pro-death" or "anti-life", or even "pro-abortion".

2. Michelman states that the position of pro-life advocates is that the government should be involved in people's private medical decisions, when that isn't the crux of the matter at all. To an opponent of abortion, the critical issue is that a fetus is a human being, and as such should not be killed without a cause more substantial than mere convenience. It has nothing to do with a lack of respect for the privacy of the mother, or with a desire to interfere with her private medical decisions. To a pro-lifer, the decisions to have an abortion isn't private, because it necessarily involves another person: the unborn baby.

3. Both sides in the debate label their opponents as "extreme"; that's pretty typical for politics these days.

4. Michelman states that there is a Constitutional right to an abortion, but that's precisely the question that is at issue here. The Supreme Court created that right by its interpretation of the Constitution, and that interpretation is at the center of the controversy. To assert that such a right is guaranteed by the Constitution and to then use that right as an argument in favor of the interpretation that created the right is disingenuous and deceptive.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that we have much more biological information available than we had 30 years ago, there is no legitimate debate about the facts of abortion being held in America. The pro-choice side has little incentive to engage in actual debate as long as their position is entrenched in law; their motivation is to maintain the status quo, and they know that recent polls have shown they would lose the debate if they were forced to make substantial arguments.



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