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Anti-abortion rhetoric: Sometimes the truth hurts

By Scott Tibbs, October 3, 2008

Opponents of abortion are often criticized for the rhetoric we use in discussing the issue. They object to terms like murder or infanticide in referring to abortion, and they object when we refer to a fetus as an unborn baby. Such rhetoric, critics say, harms the ability for abortion rights advocates to find common ground with abortion opponents.

It is true that anti-abortion is often inflammatory. But when pro-lifers say that abortion is murder or that leaving a baby ("previable" or not) who survives an abortion and is born to die with no medical care is infanticide, we are saying exactly what we know to be true. We know that abortion kills a human being growing in the womb. Many of us have seen the photographic evidence to prove it.

The truth can often be uncomfortable, especially when discussing a grave evil. People often recoil in shock when what they truly support is labeled for what it really is. This is to be expected, but is not a reason for abortion opponents to moderate our rhetoric. It is precisely because the truth is uncomfortable that we need to proclaim the truth as loudly as possible. When we face an evil like abortion, we cannot sugar-coat it by calling it "reproductive choice" or "terminating a pregnancy". We call a spade a spade.

But what about common ground? What about building a coalition that can reduce the number of abortions? Let me use an analogy. Republicans were loudly criticized earlier this week when they suggested that Nancy Pelosi's criticism of the Bush Administration's economic policies harmed the chances of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. Republicans were accused of blocking a bill because of "hurt feelings". And any Republican who was pushed to vote against the bailout simply because of Pelosi's partisan rhetoric deserves all of the criticism he gets for such a childish decision.

However important (or destructive) the bailout legislation may be, we are talking about the economy, not human lives. We are talking about financial hardship, not a "medical procedure" that kills over 1.2 million people each year in the United States, including several each week in Bloomington. If Republicans were "childish" for casting a vote on the bailout legislation, how much more childish and petty are abortion rights advocates who refuse to work with abortion opponents on what they claim is a common goal - reducing the number of abortions?

Abortion rights advocates often object when abortion opponents say that life begins at fertilization (or conception) and should be protected from that point forward. They argue this is "extreme" rhetoric. It is a scientific fact, however, that when sperm and egg meet, a new organism is created with a new DNA code. If you do not draw a line at fertilization, where do you draw the line? Any time after that is an arbitrary line.

It would be nice to find common ground on public policy where we can reduce the number of abortions. But abortion opponents are not (and should never) stop speaking the truth about what abortion really is. Abortion rights advocates should also understand that the anti-abortion agenda will not stop with "common ground" measures, because our goal is ultimately to protect the lives of each and every child who is aborted in this nation. On that, there can be no common ground.