I recently read Epistemic Injustice by Miranda Fricker, and it got me thinking about terminology in politics– the way we use certain phrases, terms, or arguments to establish credibility or diminish the credibility of others. I think, though, that we also use terminology to establish or diminish the credibility of ideas themselves, and not just of individuals putting forth ideas, e.g., calling health care “socialism,” or terming tea-partiers “tea-baggers.”

Recently we saw that support for gays and lesbians in the military drops when they are referred to as “homosexual” rather than “gay or lesbian.”

Which leads me to a conversation I had recently, with a woman who kept referring to pro-choicers as “pro-abortion.” Similar rhetoric surrounded the controversy of Obama giving a commencement speech at Notre Dame. While this might not be particularly popular with my fellow liberals, I think we need to stop using the term “anti-choice.” The thing is, I don’t like being referred to as “pro-abortion” because I’m not. I don’t think that term adequately reflects the nuance of my position on the issue. But, regardless of accuracy, the abortion debate is divisive enough without fighting over what to call each other. If we don’t want to be called “pro-abortion” (and I don’t) then I don’t think we ought to call pro-lifers “anti-choice.”

I think when we use terms to manipulate the debate, or to debase others, we’re really lowering the level of discourse. And the abortion debate doesn’t need to go any lower. If we can’t even respect what each side wants to be called, how can we respect each other enough to have a real conversation or come up with real solutions?

Maybe I’m just naive, but I think pro-lifers and pro-choicers can (and should) work together to minimize the number of abortions that happen. Ultimately, whether it’s financial reasons, lack of sexual education, social stigma (of being a single pregnant woman, pressure to adhere to beauty ideals, etc.), health risks resulting from lack of medical care, or just plain fear- there are external factors that can play into a woman’s decision to abort, and those are factors that we can do something about. It’s a divisive issue, but there’s a lot of common ground that tends to get overlooked.

There’s probably people on both sides who think that meeting in the middle will compromise their values; but from a pro-choice perspective, these issues are fundamentally issues of equality and justice for women- and if external factors largely determine a woman’s choice, then it’s not really a choice at all. From a pro-life perspective, again, equality and justice, not to mention actually preventing abortions. If we work together we’ll be much more successful in these respects.

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