The political right seems much better at coining seductive phrases to promote its agenda than the political left. Consider the likes of “death tax,” “job-killing,” or “pro-life.” Heaven forbid that progressives should combine the inevitable death and taxes, should want to extinguish jobs, or be seen as opposing life itself. Yet each of these examples of right-wing rhetoric is manipulative and disingenuous.
The most recent issue of Trinity, the official publication of Bob Duncan’s Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, has introduced me to yet another crafty neologism from the political (and religious) right—“abortion-vulnerable.”
The Lent 2011 issue contains a story titled “New Pro-life Non-Profit finds Support among Anglicans.” (I don’t know what style guide would permit both “Pro-life” and “Non-Profit,” but grammatical consistency is not really the subject of this essay.) The article promotes a “new Christian endeavor in the Pittsburgh area” to discourage women from choosing abortions. The effort is the product of a non-profit called Vision for Life–Pittsburgh.
Both the article and the organization’s Web site describe the effort to drive “abortion-vulnerable women” to “pregnancy medical centers,” where, it is hoped, sonograms will discourage them from having abortions.
Normally, we do not speak of “liposuction-vulnerable,” “Botox-vulnerable,” or “facelift-vulnerable” women. Nor do we speak of “massage-vulnerable,” “shave-vulnerable,” or “financial-advice-vulnerable” men. To do so is frankly demeaning. It suggests that the consumer of a service is not so much an independent actor as a hapless victim of providers or circumstances.
To suggest that women contemplating or seeking an abortion are “abortion-vulnerable” is to deny their personhood. They are not being acted upon by inscrutable forces over which they have no control. Such a woman is not a potential disaster victim, but someone in painful circumstances faced with making an intelligent, informed decision that is necessarily a fork in the road that is her life’s journey.
Having an abortion is never a happy event, but neither is it a denial of “life” or an act of God. Women (and men) can and should make their own choices for their lives and avoid simply being abortion-foe-vulnerable.