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.