Aug 032015

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.”

Call Names

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 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?

 Posted by at 7:31 pm
Jun 302015

Dudes and dolls, I started kicking around the idea of taking the long weekend off from, and that quickly became the entire first week of July. I’m on a complete social media hiatus (Twitter too) from July 1 to July 7. I’ll be back with a post on Wednesday, July 8.

I need the break. I need the break from here, but I mostly need it from the way I get up and do and think about things day to day. This is shed as a subset.

There is no catastrophe. Everything is fine. The best way I know how to say it is that I’ve gradually—insidiously—lost too much of the narrative to suit me. I feel like I’ve woken up and I’m suddenly telling a different story from the one I wanted. You know the old party game Telephone?

I need a look from 10,000 feet. I need to speak the metalanguage, not the language, for a little while. I need to take a much more active interest in where I should be a motor, and where I should be a gear. I need to evict relativism from my self-assessment.

Relativism is one seductive bitch.

Thank you for reading We’ll be back after these important messages.

Hey, want something to read in the meantime? Guess what? There are 2,811 posts at Here are five random ones:

 Posted by at 12:01 am
Jun 272015

My dear friends Jennifer and Melissa, life partners since 1993, got engaged yesterday. I am so very happy for them and the many other couples who were similarly unencumbered with this ruling. I’m also exhausted. Oh, not that I’ve been some kind of tireless activist. I’m just so weary of this being a thing. This […]

 Posted by at 12:36 am
May 292015

I remember being in the fourth grade and sitting in Mrs. Dillard’s room watching a film about the Holocaust. I remember seeing footage of repurposed agricultural equipment moving literal bucketloads of gassed Jews’ corpses around like dirt, filling huge mass graves with them. It was the first time I saw such vivid and graphic imagery […]

 Posted by at 6:00 am is using WP-Gravatar