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On the Language of the Antis


Amanda’s got a solid post up today at RH Reality Check in which she dissects the anti-abortion/forced pregnancy brigade and its rhetoric.

Consequences: Punishment. Aware of the unpopularity of the straightforward argument that sex is wrong and those who indulge deserve punishment, anti-choicers use the euphemism “consequences.” Sex does indeed have consequences, both positive (good moods, closer relationships) and negative (unplanned pregnancy, STDs), but anti-choicers usually only use the word to refer to the negative, and usually only to those consequences that are avoidable, but that anti-choicers wish to make harder to avoid. When an anti-choicer petulantly says, “Sex has consequences,” he usually means, “People are getting away with having sex and we should artificially introduce more risks in order to scare people off of it.”

Amanda’s right to lift the oh-so-sheer sheet of euphemism to reveal the dirty underbelly of their smart talk. But what she doesn’t address — and what I think is important — is why their rhetoric is so powerful and ours is, well, not. They won the war of words. Think about it: most Americans still use “pro-life” to describe the forced pregnancy movement and still label people who support reproductive justice as pro-abortion (as in, we love a procedure that can include invasive surgery! Woo hoo!). While it’s good to decode their language, it only gets us so far. What’s next – -and perhaps even more important — is figuring out how to get away from that language, not only in our happy progressive blog world, but more broadly. So long as we are not understood to be “pro-life” — despite the fact that we are actually the only ones in this debate who actually are supportive of life — we won’t be able to make any gains.

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