Overstatement of the Week

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Last week, I picked up a copy of the Syracuse University Daily Orange, and it had an interesting article [registration may be required] about some students who wanted to start a chapter of N.O.W. on campus but decided against it because N.O.W. is a top-down organization that wouldn't let them promote the issues as they wanted to promote them, and there was also some hesitation related to the perception that N.O.W. consists largely of rich, white women. That was an interesting enough issue, but I have little to say about it. I do have something to say about one thing in the article, however. They include a quote from Marcia Pappas, president of the New York State division of N.O.W. Pappas says, "If you can't control your own reproductive system, you can't control anything."

Really? I'd like to see some evidence that societies that illegalize abortion are forced to prevent women from having jobs or to decide what kind of car they'd like to have. Show me even just a strong correlation between restricting contraception and removal of things like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and other freedoms that someone who can't control anything wouldn't possess. I'd be interested in any sign that those whose reproductive choices are restricted will somehow lose control of all their limbs and be unable to control what words come out of their mouths. That's what her statement implies. She probably just meant that those without good control over their reproductive options have far fewer options on matters of great importance, but her way of saying it makes it sound as if she can't distinguish between having fewer options on matters of great importance and not being able to control anything in your life. Probably even worse is that she's insulted anyone who struggles with fertility issues. Her statement implies that their lives are completely out of their control simply because they can't control their reproductive system.

Whatever you think of the views N.O.W. puts forth, this sort of ridiculous overstatement does not in any way serve their purposes, because it just makes her sound really stupid. People are then going to associate stupidity with the agenda of N.O.W. On one level I have welcome this sort of rhetorical blunder, because I think the N.O.W. agenda is ultimately evil, even if most of the people promoting it have good intentions. Still, I regret that anyone would say such foolish things and thus bring the entire public debate over abortion down to this kind of idiocy. It's bad enough that both sides ignore some important philosophical issues that aren't always obvious. It's much worse if we support our views with statements that are this obviously false while also insulting to a significant enough portion of the population.

7 Comments

Well, a woman can always control her reproductive system by letting her brain override her ovaries when she gets the urge to rut outside a stable relationship than can support any new life she creates. What a novel concept!

I think the Pappas quote would be more germane if it were in the context of a men's gathering :)

It's been my impression that abortion rights and all left wing issues are the pseudo religion of the left, they have faith based dogmas just like religious righties, only their conclusions don’t site facts or examples, just feelings.

Plenty of people on the right do the same thing. This isn't a left-wing or right-wing thing. Someone actually did a study of some particularly influential figures in Congress who held views considered strongly partisan, and the examination of the arguments on both sides concluded that there was little substance and much emotionalism.

Greetings Jeremy,

Your blog entry and your comment are absolutely to the point. The extremes on either side of the abortion debate seem to act as if thought other than their own is utterly absurd. And that is what I find to be utterly absurd.

The Supreme Court decided people have an inherent right to privacy, that some areas of our lives are so private that the government doesn't have a right to regulate them. The decision to have children or not is one of these areas. The same legal principle that was used to strike down a law in one state outlawing birth control for unmarried women on the basis that they shouldn't be having sex anyway, and a law in another state that banned birth control for all women. They used the same legal principle in deciding Roe vs. Wade.

If the reverse that decision it means the government can regulate anything they want, that people have no right to privacy from government intrusion into their lives.

I think abortion is wrong and women should avoid putting themselves in a position of having to decide whether to get an abortion or not, but I do think that is decision they should be able to make for themselves, without government intrusion into their most private and intimate decisions. I'm against abortion on moral grounds but I don't think I should be able to impose my morals on anyone else, and I don't think it as simple an issue as most morons make it out to be.

I do agree that the statement in the original post is a pretty moronic overstatement.

I can't see how not having a right to kill your offspring means you don't have any rights to privacy. That just seems like a total non sequitur. We don't have the right to kill our kids who have been born, but that doesn't mean we lack other privacy rights regarding how we raise children.

I don't think it's as simple an issue as most strong partisans on the issue make it out to be, but I wouldn't call someone a moron simply for taking a fairly extreme view on it. I think the right view is usually viewed as fairly extreme.

I don't think your view is as easy to defend as you think. It seems to me to be morally spineless to call it the moral equivalent of murder and yet not be willing to enforce it the way we enforce murder. Maybe you don't see it as that bad, but I think that's what you need to say to maintain a libertarian attitude toward allowing immoral conduct. It has to be immoral conduct that isn't all that bad (or perhaps immoral conduct that doesn't affect anyone else, but that's not the case here).

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