The big news in uteruses everywhere is that the FDA is considering approving OTC sale of emergency contraceptives (e.g., Plan B) for 18-year-old women. Amusingly, most media coverage of this story focuses on the suspicious timing of this announcement right before the Senate confirmation hearing of Andrew von Eschenbach as permanent head of the FDA rather than on the controversy surrounding the morning after pill itself. Apparently questioning someone's integrity is more interesting than whether women have the right to prevent zygote implantation without doctor approval. It's a relief not reading to the same predictable pro-life/pro-choice debate every time reproductive choice is a topic in the news.
But why do I find that incessant debate so pointless and boring to begin with? I realized that it's not the content of the controversy that puts me to sleep; in fact, considering the legal relationship between the state, women, and their fetuses is fanscinating. Rather, what bores me to tears about the abortion debate is that the prevailing arguments used on either side are so rhetorically useless.
None of the names assigned by a side's opponents-- pro-abortion, anti-choice, and so on--is actually true, and none of the self-assigned terms--pro-life, pro-choice, and so on--is unique to that side.
Honestly, do "pro-abortion" supporters actually round up women, put them on a shuttle to the nearest Planned Parenthood, and encourage them to get abortions? Do members of the "anti-choice" camp intervene when someone is waffling between a latte and a mocha, insisting that she isn't allowed to choose? Alternately, since when do "pro-lifers" have the monopoly on thinking that death is a bad thing? I'm obligated, of course, to bring up the irony of how the "pro-life" constituency usually also supports war the death penalty, and vice versa.
When pro-choicers accuse their adversaries of being universally sexist and ignorant of basic scientific fact, do they really mean that? More ridiculously, when pro-lifers claim that "abortionists" (as if it were an ideology) are murderers with no regard for human life, have they bothered to look up "murder" first? Why are phrases like "unborn child," which is oxymoronic, even allowed into the debate?
This disregard for semantic accuracy is as effective as calling George W. Bush a terrorist. Yes, we get it; W. is a horrible human being. But he's not literally a terrorist, and calling him one accomplishes nothing.
Making exaggerated claims with overblown or inaccurate terminology clouds the real argument about the legal and ethical grounds that need to be considered when granting women access to abortion. It's much easier, of course, to call Planned Parenthood a Nazi-like death machine than to actually argue about why fetuses should be granted certain legal protections. But it doesn't get us anywhere. I'm more swayed by science and rhetoric than picket signs and name-calling.
Science is especially important when considering drugs like Plan B. Knowing exactly what emergency contraceptives do and being able to clearly identify why your do or do not oppose these medical processes makes arguments on the topic so much more productive and interesting.
This could be my bias as a coathanger-weilding pro-abortionist, but I think the pro-life side has a larger arsenal of meaningless phrases and groundless invective than does the pro-choice side.