The Problem with Today’s Abortion Debate

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will probably know that there has been a move to severely limit abortion in Alabama and Georgia. Many are understandably outraged, myself included, and all over social media there has been the same image being shared. Several rows of white, male senators with a caption along the lines of ‘Notice any similarities?’. The image was given exposure by the likes of Kylie Jenner with the caption, ‘Makes me sick’, and Rihanna ending a short rant with, ‘SHAME ON YOU!!!!’ and the widespread anger is, of course, understandable.

However, I don’t think this meme and wider narrative of white men scheming to own women’s bodies is helping at all. When you play identity politics, whether you are correct or not, you create tribes. With our hostility, we have put a fence between them and us and made people who are currently against abortion feel damned to be our enemy forever. On a large scale, we have forgotten what the argument is about. The questions we should be asking should be “When does a life start?” or “At what point does a woman’s bodily autonomy stop usurping her future child’s right to life?”.  It is lazy and dangerous to just fling muck at the white men we can see, because they have supporters who voted for them that we cannot see. These supporters in Alabama and Georgia include women and we are not winning them over.

The admission that a pro-choicer has to make is that most people on the other side of the argument have good intentions. Most of them think abortion is murder and we need to convince them otherwise. In the past weeks there has been enough backlash that characterises pro-lifers as nothing more than tyrants to stop many of them from listening and that scares me.

Now, I know many will argue that pro-lifers are worse for this. They are the ones who intimidate women outside abortion clinics. They are the ones who avoid the argument by showing graphic imagery, appealing to emotion rather than reason. And I reply, who has been winning the battle up until this point? It is only now that with the rise of talismans like Ben Shapiro leading the way that the pro-life movement has started to look less militant than their opposition.

So what is the alternative? In today’s social media world with click-bating and anonymity, there are far more polarising titles fighting for attention than balanced ones. Despite this, it’s not all bad. Emma Watson has taken a lead in using her exposure to post a longer less inflammatory statement, both informing people as to the specifics of the laws, something the media has largely failed at, and explaining what is wrong. We need more people to be posting like this, aiming to convince instead of sensationalise.

Even if there are monsters out there, we need to see that they are a minority. Most pro-lifers need convincing, not ridiculing. “Clicktivism” that polarises may strengthen our side, but it also strengthens theirs. Hopefully the trenches are not yet fully dug and we can win people over, but I fear we may be too late. Even so, it is worth a try. Next time you post something political try to help the debate along instead of taking satisfaction in blind insults like too many well meaning people do.

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