Monday, April 15, 2013

How Abortion Poisoned Public Discourse

James Taranto observes:

Which brings us to the poisoning of American politics. In this respect neither side is innocent, though it is our impression that the pro-abortion side is far more aggressive. We hasten to acknowledge that our observation here may be biased by experience. We have lived almost all our life, and the entirety of our professional career, in big cities or upscale suburbs where the "pro-choice" view is dominant. Someone from Houston or Salt Lake City might have a different perspective. Then again, we are very widely read, and it seems to us that, say, National Review is a lot more respectful toward opposing viewpoints than the New York Times editorial page, and that antiabortion news sites are models of civility and reason compared with leftist and feminist ones. 
Perhaps the most pernicious manifestation of this incivility is the effort to turn the sexes against each other--or perhaps more accurately the effort to cow men into submission. The imaginary "war on women" rages on: "Man, the feeding frenzy over Gosnell is a sobering reminder of how much hatred there is out there towards women," tweeted Slate's Amanda Marcotte Saturday. Over at Salon, Irin Carmon casually dismissed critics of the media's noncoverage as "almost uniformly male," a gendered argumentum ad hominem and quite a thigh-slapper given that she, like this column, opened by citing Kirsten Powers. 
If you're a man and you're opposed to or uncertain about abortion, you've almost certainly had a woman tell you that because of your sex, you have no right to your opinion about the subject. (We've heard it from antiabortion women too, though much more rarely.) It's idiotic, offensive and indicative of a war on men. 
The gist of Carmon's argument is that the horrors of the Women's Medical Center were caused by "politicized stigma, lack of public funding or good information, and a morass of restrictive laws allegedly meant to protect women." She favorably quotes a Philadelphia writer, Tara Murtha: "The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more." 
In other words, if only abortion opponents were out of the picture, abortion would be safe and legal in no time. Problem solved. That conclusion, while arguable, strikes us as dubious. But the premise is delusional. 
We live in a free society. People have an absolute right to form opinions about matters of public concern, and a nearly absolute right to express those opinions, individually or in concert with others of like mind. "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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