It would be convenient if words really didn’t matter, if there really were issues and ideas that stood strong and true and those ever fickle words were, at best, ornament and, at worst, fickle beasts. But, alas, words matter. They are inflection points turning confusion to clarity, indifference to passion, sadness to joy. A word is an architecture that distributes ideas, feelings, history, audience, speaker. To wit, abortion.
I will say upfront that I am against abortion. Now, I’m not against the medical procedure a woman undergoes to begin her menstruation and save her and her spouse — or fellow parents, as the case may be — from the misery of child rearing.
But I am against this loaded word in this context: abortion, as if it were a matter of stopping something in progress. The minute we use that word, we’ve drafted the discussion in terms of a fetus rather than the terms of the voting, tax paying, living working breathing real air human being — a human being, that is, in both the absolute and civic sense of the word.
Our focus on the fetus — which we do the minute we call it abortion — makes for some strange arguments. There are, for instance, people who call themselves “pro-choice.” It’s an insane and incoherent position. Choice is not something citizens ever get to enjoy when it comes to life and death. For fuck’s sake, suicide is illegal. Talk about keeping laws off my body!
But by calling it abortion, we’ve framed the discussion in terms of the fetus and hence, in some sense, obligated legal intervention. That is what the government does: it creates laws that move bodies, presumably to protect them (the draft is an obvious example of the opposite). Hence to say it is my choice whether I let this fetus live or not is, frankly, utterly insane.
I realize that people saying they’re pro-choice believe they’re saying the pregnant woman has the choice, not the government, presumably because this fetus she’s choosing about is inside of her. But to say “keep your laws off my body” is insane because, well, that’s what laws do: they nudge bodies. Red light, stop; green light, go. Young man, go kill overseas. You, don’t go into that building — it’s not allowed. Laws move bodies; that’s what they do. Try walking in the middle of the freeway and see what the law does to you (and, again, that’s not even mentioning suicide). You don’t get to choose if it’s a good place to walk or not. To say “keep your laws off my body” is to say “get rid of law.” Which may or may not be the right thing to do. But, in any case, it’s not what I think these liberal pro-choicers want.
Meanwhile, the nutty pro-lifers seem like the sane ones. If we’re talking about stopping the fetus’ growth, then screaming at the top of your lungs, Stop, it’s a life! You’re murdering a baby! seems like the only reasonable thing to do. And when they start blowing up abortion clinics it seems, again, sane — not just to them but sane in terms of the debate about abortion.
So I say: Let’s call it something else! Let’s call it a renaissance. It’s a renaissance of a woman’s menstruation cycle. It’s a renaissance of a life, or lives, that would be thoroughly disrupted by the crying, shitting, expensive little beast. As any parent knows — and, yes, I am a parent — parenting is the stopping of a lot of things. So call it a renaissance and there’s no longer any debate. The government is no longer involved because it’s not charged with deciding to protect a fetus or not.
It’s easy to be against abortion. But who’s gonna be against renaissance?