A couple months ago, Mary Elizabeth Williams posted a column at Salon.com entitled, “So What If Abortion Ends Life?” The vitriolic nature of the piece prevails from the title to the final phrase, designed to enflame the most seasoned of post-Roe veterans on both sides of the debate. Her flippant handling of what’s often considered a sacred issue does its job. The article was low on fact and high on accusation, but it is still able to accomplish its goal of engendering strife and perhaps, even a little bit of nausea. However, as acerbic as the article is, Ms. Williams makes two salient points. The first is about the use of language in public debate and the second about the arbitrary philosophical distinction in the “life-begins-somewhere-other-than-conception” camp.
Her immediate use of the phrase “diabolically clever” is diabolically clever, because it automatically brings to mind thoughts of a red-clad, pitchfork-wielding imp, mostly drawn from religious allusions. Comparing the religious-right with the devil will certainly get folks stirred up in a hurry. Then they’re not seeing straight when she gets to her arguments later. But her use of rhetoric is not as prominent as her analysis of how rhetoric is used. Her opening paragraph begins,
Of all the diabolically clever moves the anti-choice lobby has ever pulled, surely one of the greatest has been its consistent co-opting of the word ‘life’. Life! Who wants to argue with that? Who wants to be on the side of…not-life?
Then with all the hubris she can muster, she boasts, “that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.” Read more…