Silencing the voice of the voiceless (Reflections on the abortion debate part 2)

In part 2 of this discussion, I want to pick up on the nature and tone of the debate. First of all, I want to speak to Christians.  Sometimes when we engage with ethical issues, we forget that this is not just a public theology issue, it’s a pastoral one too. This means first of all, that if we are simply applying the sharpness of our minds to solve a problem without love then we are missing something. It also means that angry marches, ugly banners and protest picket lines may do a job in stopping things from happen (though the jury is out) but may forget that there are vulnerable, frightened, guilt burdened people seeing and hearing who are not seeing much by way of grace. It means that we need to do as much thinking about what happens after someone has had an abortion, or chosen not to.

Secondly, I want to make some observations about the way that proponents of abortion have conducted themselves. I was a little surprised (not completely) at the quite aggressive response there was on social media towards people asking questions or putting forward a pro-life position. Surprised because:

  1. To all intents and purposes they have won the fight. The debate had been heard in Ireland and abortion has been legal for a long time in the UK with little sign of that changing.
  2. The people who seemed to object to questions or points of view they found uncomfortable were journalists and commentators. Surely these should be the very people who would support those, especially those in the minority to ask questions and put forward points of view that the establishment might find awkward.

I am not surprised because I think a few other things are going on.

  1. That they are so consumed with their own sense of rightness that no opposition can be allowed.
  2. That they are fighting a “war” and therefore, they are not going to make the mistake of letting their opponents get a foothold.
  3. That they see themselves less as journalists and more as campaigners.
  4. That they either don’t recognise or don’t care that their status in the media means that they are the power-holders.

The result is that there are implications here for democracy as well.  It wasn’t just that my interlocuters wanted to disagree with and defeat me, they wanted to silence me.  That isn’t healthy for democracy.

The arguments used to “silence” are important as well.

One journalist argued that I should have the humility to recognise that my decision and my view might not be right. Fair enough, and if he had bothered to listen he would have noticed that I take them time to ask questions of those I disagreed with. But, doesn’t that work the other way? Isn’t he prepared to consider that I might be right and that the foetus is a baby and therefore an actual human life, not jus potential life. If some then what are the risk factors associated with him being wrong. If I’m wrong, a medical procedure may or may not happen. If he is wrong a life may or may not be taken.

I was quickly told by a few people that I had no right to speak unless I was a woman and/or had lived in a country where abortion was illegal. Note a couple of things here:

  1. That this is an example of victim/identity politics. Only those who have had a certain experience can speak. This is how thinking has developed over the past 20 years. A little while back, all truth was subjective and all truth valid. Now, we still see truth as subjective but we assign values to it. The validity of my truth depends on whether or not I am recognised as a victim. Notice as well that the decision about who is a victim is subjective and made by those who have the political power and the voice to do so. For example, anti-Semitism has been permitted to breed in certain quarters because the Jews are not assigned “victim” status.
  2. That only some victims have a voice -those who happen to speak in support of the pre-determined position. The rape victim who carries her child to term, the person with a debilitating disease who opposes euthanasia are discounted. In reality, this is not about giving victims a voice or power it is about using them to support an agenda.
  3. That this is about the fragmentation of society. The individual is left with their choice and no-one else can speak.  This is a specific worldview. It is a world view that goes against the belief that we are interdependent, that family and community matters. It is an extremely lonely world-view.

So my surprise at the response is tempered by seeing that it fits with an agenda. It fits with an agenda where truth no longer matters. It fits with a culture that has rejected true love and does not really care for the vulnerable and the needy.

The aim of the pro-abortion lobby is not to win a debate but to stop debate, to silence the voices of those who speak against what they are doing. When you realise that this means they are silencing the voice of those who speak for those without a voice it makes it all the more chilling.

This challenges us all the more. We can’t simply point the finger but must ask whether or not our engagement on these issues shows that we treasure both truth and love.

But it does mean that we should speak all the louder for those without a voice whether that’s the asylum seeker, victim of abuse, terminally ill or unborn child.

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