Is the Pro-Choice Movement Too Aggressive? Michael O’Dwyer Connelly and Amy Crean argue for and against the motion with Michael O’Dwyer Connelly’s article and Amy Crean’s rebuttal appearing first. Scroll down for Amy Crean’s article and the following rebuttal.
Michael O’ Dwyer Connolly argues that the pro-choice campaign is not truly independent and suppresses the views of others.
Abortion is arguably the most controversial and divisive topic this country has faced in decades. It remains a moral dilemma for billions of people who view it as an issue of basic human rights or, more seriously, life and death. Due to the fact that it is such a serious and morally dividing concept, how campaigning is done for or against its legality is of immense importance. The eighth amendment was added to our constitution in 1983 with a resounding referendum victory of two thirds of the vote for the pro-life cause. In the decades since, public opinion has shifted to be more ambiguous, with various polls suggesting any vote on the issue now would be a close call.
Both sides have accused each other of unbecoming tactics but there is far more controversy surrounding the pro-choice campaign. One of the most noticeable issues with their campaign is the reported financial backing of foreign billionaires and organisations, most prominently Hungarian-American-Jewish investor, George Soros. His various NGO groups have pumped tens of millions of euros into the pro-choice campaign, giving it considerable fiscal pull and contributing to its glamorous and completely one-sided media coverage. This is a man famous for profiteering off economic hardships, using his billions to fund the sneaking of refugees into Europe via Libya. He has also helped fund the overthrow of democratically-elected governments in places such as Ukraine, as well as engaging in shady political activities via NGOs. One must question exactly how much foreign moneyed interest is invested in the pro-choice campaign. Are they truly independent, and if so, do they really want to be associated with such a man?
“Both sides have accused each other of unbecoming tactics but there is far more controversy surrounding the pro-choice campaign.”
There is also the issue of attitudes within the pro-choice campaign, with many rightly criticising it for demanding extremely liberal abortion laws. This includes the view of some who wish to legalise ‘partial birth abortion,’ which is essentially without restriction and up to the day of birth. This is a concept most find morally reprehensible, and this aggressive view actually turns away many moderate voters, who would be in favour of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and so forth but not abortion on demand.
In vast swathes of the western world there is an all-consuming ‘liberal’ or left-wing bias in the media and among the younger generations. This has created an intellectual vacuum that tends to restrict open debate on controversial issues like abortion, as many people feel too intimidated to openly express their views. They fear social reprisals and being ostracised by their peers simply because their views do not conform to the will of the great behemoth of political and social establishment thought.
“In vast swathes of the western world there is an all-consuming ‘liberal’ or left-wing bias in the media and among the younger generations.”
All of this is without mentioning the lack of attention being paid to global trends. In Russia, the USA and Poland especially, pro-life movements are fast gaining traction. These countries have had lenient abortion laws for decades. In the case of Russia, for almost a century due to communist policy between 1920 and the collapse in 1991 (with well over 50 million abortions performed there in that period). However, the countries most experienced with abortion now appear to be rejecting it, something often overlooked by the pro-choice campaign.
On the issue of abortion, on which there is no consensus and which is often approached from completely opposing moral standpoints, can elements of the pro-choice campaign afford to be so aggressive, divisive, unscrupulous about their backers and opposed to free debate? If they want success, which requires persuading the middle ground, the only logical answer is no.
REBUTTAL by Amy Crean
It is undoubtedly true that abortion remains a divisive topic, but this is largely rooted in the spread of misinformation by anti-choice movements. There are many pro-choicers calling for abortion on demand, but the framing of this as being in favour of ‘partial birth abortion’ is incredibly misleading. In jurisdictions where there is no legal restriction on abortion, very few occur late in term, and almost exclusively when there are direct threats to the life of the pregnant person.
In New Zealand, where abortions have no restriction based on gestational age, but can only be performed if a doctor deems it necessary for the health of the pregnant person, abortions after 20 weeks constitute only 0.5% of all abortions. In Canada, where abortion is entirely decriminalised, under 0.6% of abortions occur after 21 weeks. This shows that the ‘aggressive’ stance of abortion on demand does not have the outrageous impacts often suggested.
What is morally reprehensible is only permitting people bodily autonomy when their pregnancies are results of direct violence. The anti-choice movement shares inflammatory and misleading narratives to stir up anger towards those already in incredibly vulnerable positions, framing their choices as murders. That is far more aggressive than any demand for legislating human rights.
Opposing the motion, Amy Crean argues that to hide the rage of repealers would be to hide the myriad reasons to be angry.
As the pro-choice movement in Ireland grew, so did the criticisms of how it presented itself. Not surprisingly, the various campaigns, from the Abortion Rights Network advocating for Free Safe Legal to the ‘depressing’ Repeal jumpers, were all met with backlash of a similar nature. The overall movement has been described as aggressive, angry, and shrill. The policing of their presentation came largely from non-campaigners and was telling of a common perception amongst those less politically active, who are influenced to view minority battles for rights as extremist. There are numerous issues with the prioritisation of respectability politics in any movement. It shifts focus from the central cause of concern. It upholds misleading narratives about who is entitled to justice, and it weakens the foundations of the movement for further progression.
“Clearly playing heavily on sexist assumptions, the aggressive women stereotype is seen as unpalatable and somehow not representative of the average woman, who is presumably more docile.”
There are valid ways to engage in critiquing a movement and constructively analyse its methods. Tone policing however, looks less to the arguments of a group and more to how it presents them. The problem with that, and particularly in an issue so emotive as abortion access, is that it completely changes the focus from the inhumane abortion legislation to the supposedly angry, hostile women charging the fight against it. Clearly playing heavily on sexist assumptions, the aggressive women stereotype is seen as unpalatable and somehow not representative of the average woman, who is presumably more docile. Angry feminists have long been framed as overreacting and by talking more about that characterisation of Repealers, the movement becomes seen as more vicious than the regime it is combatting. This is in spite of the eighth amendment having been condemned as torture by the UN, as well as meeting heavy criticisms from other bodies internationally.
This troublesome and misrepresentative characterisation leads into another issue; presenting a question of who deserves justice, and more disturbingly, presenting a restrictive answer. The stories of those who have travelled for abortions are being shared with increased regularity to appeal to the humanity of prospective voters and to demonstrate the cruelty of our laws. Yet those saying the movement is too ‘aggressive’ want these stories packaged in a specific manner, one that has no room for anger at the injustice of the situation. The Perfect Victim phenomenon is as strong as ever. This is the idea that only survivors who are otherwise flawless, who are modest and forgiving and unthreatening, are even seen as victims at all.
“The Perfect Victim phenomenon is as strong as ever.”
Anger won’t earn you sympathy. Aggression doesn’t look good when abortion is already framed as an act of violence. While there are issues with earning understanding and empathy as part of the campaign, to attempt to police a natural emotional aspect of being treated unjustly is demonstrative of how removed you are from that injustice. It is unfair to ask the movement to hide its anger, when doing so means there won’t be attention given to the long list of legitimate reasons we have to be angry. The years of unheard appeals, the exporting of healthcare, the ongoing influence of religious institutions in spite of their history of cruelty towards Irish citizens, how is hiding that somehow fundamental to the movement’s success?
If every pro-choice campaigner were to be nothing but mild-mannered and polite, it would be misrepresentative of the pain many have suffered that has brought it to such levels of mobilisation. They’ve been engaging politely for years to no avail. The emotive image of the movement is not in contrast to well-presented facts and reasoning behind the challenge to legislation, but an imperative accompaniment, examining not only the legal implications but the personal devastations.
REBUTTAL by Michael O’Dwyer Connelly
It is unfair to suggest that criticism of presentation is something suffered most by the pro-choice side, if anything far more media criticism is directed at the pro-life campaign for religious elements or for using shocking (albeit real) abortion imagery in campaign material.
The aggressive feminist stereotype is not unwarranted, as anyone who has witnessed a pro-choice march can confirm.
No one likes aggression from either of the two genders. Image matters, and it is not an image you want cultivated. To refer to the eighth amendment as “torture” is a gross misrepresentation and quite frankly insulting to anyone who has been through actual torture as I’m sure Guantanamo inmates would attest. The eighth amendment has saved thousands of lives whether or not you believe the woman’s choice matters more than the child’s right to life. Torture exists only to harm. Not to mention the questionable judgement of the UN given that they have Saudi Arabia on the human rights council.
I disagree that you still have a long list of reasons to be angry about this topic. We are no longer the Ireland living under the oppressive religiosity of times past, as we saw with the referendum of 2015. To risk looking angry or unwilling to debate will turn away the middle ground (as anger and irrationality always does) that you desperately need if you wish for your campaign to succeed.