In one of my high school psychology books, I remember a chapter discussing language. An example given was of a news report about a civilian uprising in two very distinct ways. In one version of the news brief, the terms “rebels”, “terrorists”, “criminals” were used. In another version, again of the same news item, the terms “revolutionaries”, “heroes”, and the like described the situation.
I think that lesson will always stick with me. We see documentaries made about conspiracy theories, mass-murders, and terrorist attacks that are filled with biased language. News reports, journalistic accounts and the like are almost never neutral these days. It actually frustrates me. What happened to presenting all sides of the story in a fair and balanced manner and allowing the reader to form their own opinion?
And so, when I got an email this morning telling me I needed to sign a petition against my own government (which, to be honest, I’ve done in the past) because they are “attacking women’s rights” with a new proposal to define at which stage a fetus becomes a human being (presumably with rights), I was a little miffed.
As much as I am against opening the legality of abortion debate (no good will come of making abortion procedures illegal – it will merely drive the activity underground where it cannot be monitored and safety standards cannot be enforced), I also cannot agree with the terminology used to drum up opposition to this movement.
When I was pregnant with Abby in 2008, a private member’s bill came forward to specifically protect the rights of women to carry their babies to full term should they choose to do so. There was a provision in the bill to exclude the choice to abort the pregnancy from any of the legal ramifications of the bill. The overall intent of the bill was to make it an extra criminal offence to injure or kill a fetus in an attempt – successful or otherwise – to injure or kill a pregnant woman.
In Canada, some 21% of women who are abused by their partners report that abuse occurred during a pregnancy. In as many as 40% of the cases, the abuse began during the pregnancy. Internationally, it’s estimated 1 in 4 women are abused during pregnancy.[Source]
And that’s just records of partner abuse. There are certainly situations where pregnant women are abused or assaulted by people other than their partner. There are definitely cases where women feel forced into aborting their pregnancies for fear of their lives or simply because of pressure from family members or partners to abort.
The bill was well thought-out. But due to the government’s (then) minority position, the opposition parties decided that they would use anything and everything to push a non-confidence motion on the government in order to force an election. The pro-abortionists had a heyday with this bill and stirred up a lot of press, not much of it true. The bill was scrapped, filed in the dust bin.
And while I do see that this current movement could be used to re-open the abortion debate, I resent the implication that at it’s current stage it is an outright attack on women’s rights. It comes down to language again, choice of words.
In one sense, it feels like I’m being told my rights to carry my baby to term are less important than the rights of other women choosing to abort. My right to feel safe and secure during pregnancy, which is indeed a very vulnerable time in a woman’s life even if all potential financial and emotional needs are met, is not less important than any other rights. But when we say that a proposal to define the point that a fetus becomes a legal human being is an attack on women’s rights, we are being ridiculously single-minded.
I have more rights than just the choice to abort a pregnancy. If our country could get as fired up about the rest of my rights, the rights of all women, as we seem to be regarding abortion, perhaps we would be in a better place where abortions don’t occur as frequently.
At the root of the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” movements is a common belief: women are people, human beings, and thus women have value and are worth protecting.
If only we could become passionate about showing this to be true, instead of expressing our passion about abortion.