Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Just Don't See Rives Miller Grogans in the Pro-Choice Movement

So last week I asked if pro-choice advocates use violent tactics toward achieving their ends, as much as pro-life advocates do. I didn't answer the commenter's question: "what motivated my question?" I sat back and read what people said on the matter. Yesterday's outburst during the Supreme Court hearings from a passionate pro-lifer, forced me to think about this question again. While, abstractedly, it seems "logical" to assume that any and every political cause has its zealous and "violent" activists, I don't think that a pro-choice stance lends itself to violent and radical tactics. Rives Miller Grogan's outburst underscores this point for me. To Grogan, abortion is a "sin." To sin is to reject God's commands. Moreover, to pro-lifers, abortion is a repulsive, inhumane, selfish act that threatens our very humanity. If you frame your issue in these terms, you are far more likely to attract passionate advocates, willing to use any tactic possible to stop the sin. What is at stake in abortion is our soul, our humanity as a people, and if we don't stop this sin, we are turning our back on God.
There is no room for disagreement from this paradigm. Abortion is wrong, wrong, wrong.

However, if you are pro-choice, fundamentally, you respect anyone who would choose not to have an abortion because she found it sinful. You don't demand that the opponent to abortion change her view on it. All you ask is that the opponent not assume that her view, which is based on her own moral convictions, shaped by a narrow theological view, not pretend to be infallible.

There are many political causes on the left that inspire violent tactics, for example, environmentalists, animal rights activists, or anti-globalization activists. What inspires violent tactics in the more radical branches of these movements is the belief that their view is the only right view; again, there is no room for moral disagreement. Free trade agreements necessarily lead to the death and impoverishment of peoples in the developing world, for example. Those who protest "free trade agreements" don't say: look, we are opposed to free trade agreements, but we grant your right to believe in the merits of free trade agreements for developing economies.

The built in respect for different positions on the moral issue is what distinguishes the pro-choice movement from the pro-life movement. If you acknowledge that all moral positions are fallible, then it is hard to inspire passionate, doggeded commitment to your cause. In what way does it make sense to use violence to impose respect for moral disagreement? Why would you blow up the courts, for example, to make the point that the legal judgments should respect the diversity of religious convictions in this country?