You may have heard there are some secretly-recorded Planned Parenthood videos floating about. The links are volatile, so I’ll let you find them yourself if you haven’t seen them and want to. This is probably a good start.
So then a friend had a link to this (language warning):
Now, upon seeing this video you probably had exactly the same reaction I did, namely: “wow, so angry and confused. She’s really cute, though!” Heh.
The undercover videos make it plain and unambiguous that Planned Parenthood performs abortions with preservation of the body parts in mind. These body parts are then systematically cataloged and shopped, and ultimately exchanged for money. Whether this constitutes “selling” body parts apparently rests largely on the semantics of “storage” and/or “processing” charges.
Shift the Rhetoric
But do you notice how, with this line of argument, that all of the particulars still settle into the narrative? That’s the dangerous genius of it. We’re up here in the front room arguing about whether this is a for-profit activity, but while we are doing so, the systematic removal, the cataloging, and so forth all continue unabated. Oh, we’ll discuss whether this is crass moneymaking, sure. But it becomes beyond the pale to question whether the activity should be occurring at all.
(Indeed, that’s the goal of the rhetoric.) And as I’ve chewed on this, it’s occurred to me that this is similar to one of the defining rhetorical shifts of the larger debate.
When I was a child, abortion was called abortion. Sometime around when I went to college, it became “a woman’s right to choose.” It stayed there for a good while. I remember Al Gore using the term during the 2000 campaign.
But not long after, it began shifting to “medical procedure.” You know, phlebotomy, Pap test, throat culture, abortion… And now the term du jour is ultimate and unassailable: “women’s health care.”
That’s the opening shot now. If you raise questions about abortion, you oppose women’s health care. It is this highly effective rhetorical shift that has enabled truly absurd concepts to get traction. Of course there’s a Republican war on women! Listen to these neanderthals! Can you not hear that they’re against women’s health care?
Well, no. A civilized society ought to have a lot of tough questions about third-trimester procedures, for example, or about the age at which a girl can have an abortion without parental consent, or about the nature of appropriate counseling for a woman of any age. These are valid questions for those who value human rights and dignity, and it is legitimate to consider them just as diligently as the rights of the woman. They are not reasonably discarded as supposed opposition to women’s health care (even if the asker has a penis; imagine that!).
If you’ve been reading BoWilliams.com for any length of time, or if we’ve ever talked about it, or both, then you know that I’m neither pro-life enough nor pro-choice enough to suit anyone. I have a tortured position because it’s a tortured issue. Nothing makes me warier than for anyone on either end to claim it’s simple. Yet that seems to have become the hard left’s only play. Abortion anytime for any reason, or you’re a radical. And it’s this rhetorical shifting that makes it effective.
“Abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.” – Bill Clinton, 1996
If we ever had any statement that might unite some large number of us on this most divisive of issues, that was it.
So is it hate speech yet?