Friday, February 15, 2013

Embracing cognitive dissonance?

The abortion rights movement has long struggled with a fundamental problem of cognitive dissonance. Most “pro-choice” people are nice, well-meaning folks; they certainly don’t view themselves as the sort of people who would condone violence against helpless human beings. But abortion always requires the violent destruction and disposal of a human being. How, then, to support abortion while staying true to humane values? This is the question.

Abortion advocates begin with the conclusion—support for abortion on demand—and then try to work their way backwards to a justification. For a long time, the dominant solution was to deny the humanity of the unborn child and the violence of abortion. “Clump of cells” was the key phrase. But the denial of scientific facts couldn’t last forever, and as sonogram images became more and more ubiquitous, pro-abortion leaders struggled to maintain a hold on public opinion.

Abortion advocates are now in the midst of a large-scale attempt to reinvent themselves. Their new take? Don’t try to resolve the cognitive dissonance—embrace it!

The idea is to reach out to middle-of-the-road people by acknowledging that unborn children are alive and that abortion kills them—without, of course, reconsidering the premise that abortion on demand must be preserved at all costs. I call this the “abortion is great, as long as we sort of feel bad about it” movement, or the “batshit crazy” movement for short.

The subscribers to this view actually seem to believe that this cognitive dissonance is a sign of intellectual achievement. They like to think that they grasp the great complexity of abortion, unlike those narrow-minded, plebian “antis.” (Why settle for just being wrong, when you can also be obnoxious?)

This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon—it goes back at least as far as Naomi Wolf’s “Our Bodies, Our Souls” piece in the mid-nineties—but it’s been resurgent lately.  From Planned Parenthood’s abandonment of the phrase “pro-choice” (in favor of talking about how golly, abortion sure is morally complex), to Mary Beth William’s infamous “So what if abortion ends life?” article in Salon last month, the batshit crazy movement is getting lots of press.

Abortion advocates appear convinced that this is the way to bring middle-of-the-road people into the fold. They’d love to embrace abortion; all this time, they’ve just been looking for permission to have ambiguous feelings! So the thinking goes.

But the American people don’t merely want to feel bad about abortions—they want to stop abortions. Polling shows that a majority of Americans—and even a slim majority of self-described pro-choicers—would like to see a ban on abortion in the second trimester (a limitation that cannot happen until Roe v. Wade is overturned). In the third trimester, 79% of self-described pro-choicers join the pro-life side in wanting abortion illegal. And all the various restrictions proposed short of a ban, such as informed consent, waiting periods, parental consent for minors, also enjoy majority support from middle-of-the-road Americans.
All of these limitations are vehemently opposed by the abortion lobby, whatever messaging of the day they’re using. To those who truly understand the tragedy of abortion, they can offer nothing more than lip service. That is why the pro-life movement will continue to win people’s hearts and minds until all human life, born and preborn, is protected.


Gordon Duffy said...

" But the denial of scientific facts couldn’t last forever"

you should issue a warning before allow irony to burn that hot.

Bill Samuel said...

This is an excellent article. But I would also like to go further and note that cognitive dissonance is a way of life. For example, President Obama movingly expressing sorrow at the death of 20 elite children in Connecticut, while at the same time giving orders which result in killing dozens of poor children in other countries (the 5 killed in Afghanistan yesterday, for example). Or the inherent cognitive dissonance in the death penalty - killing people to show that killing people is wrong!

Frank L. Ludwig said...

I totally agree. And it is amazing what bizarre pseudo-philosophies some people come up with who are well familiar with embryonic and fetal development, for example Richard Dawkins who (in The God Delusion) claims that abortion can be morally justified because the children suffer less than "adult cows or sheep in a slaughterhouse".

Jameson Graber said...

There is a difference between having cognitive dissonance and embracing it. You could perhaps *argue* that one who believes in the death penalty and is pro-life experiences cognitive dissonance, but such a person does not *embrace* cognitive dissonance as a sign of strength in her argument. Likewise for President Obama. Perhaps there is cognitive dissonance there, but I doubt he embraces it as a strength of his argument.

C.S. Burgess said...

You know, I was rather interested and excited at the prospect of a secular pro-life perspective. I thought "only religion gives people a reason to oppose abortion". Now seeing the secular pro-life side, I realize that it's not just the religious who use shoddy reasoning and fallacious arguments to support their claims.

Jameson Graber said...

That's a pretty harsh comment that seems unwarranted here. I do find this post particularly polemical, which I think isn't very typical of this blog. But it doesn't seem fair to critique the argument being made in this post, because it is just an observation about a trend in the pro-choice movement, not an attempt at thorough refutation. Maybe you were talking about more than this post, but I'd really like to know why someone would just post such a broad sweeping statement without referring to any problems in particular.

Jameson Graber said...

I wonder what would happen if the majority of Americans actually got to democratically decide what happened in abortion law. The result might not be all the pro-life movement could hope for. I live in France these days, and one thing that interests me is how moderate their abortion laws are and how little anyone talks about it. The pro-life movement hardly has a shred of influence in this country these days. I wonder if part of the reason for the strength of the pro-life movement in the US comes from the way in which our abortion law was decided from the Supreme Court. If the issue had been decided democratically, I wonder if we would've just ended up with something like France's law and been done with it. Would that be a good outcome? I'm not sure. Abortion up to 12 weeks sounds a lot better than abortion up to any time, but it's still abortion. It still leaves behind a corpse. It still isn't right.

I do wonder whether the pro-life movement has enough momentum to one day truly convince people of that.

Colie said...

Want to elaborate on that?

Obliged_Cornball said...

Mhmm. Cognitive dissonance is something most people typically try to minimize, even. There will likely always be some (because it's hard to be *perfectly* consistent in all of one's positions), but inevitable != desirable. Furthermore, "complexity" would imply a position between that of typical pro-life and pro-choice stances, not one that is firmly pro-choice.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I am vehemently pro-life, and I am also pro-capital punishment. I experience no cognitive dissonance because abortion, killing an innocent human child because they're in the way, is worlds apart from capital punishment, putting to death a convicted criminal after a fair trial by their peers.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Except that it's a true statement. Pro-choice advocates can no longer use the argument "it's not a human being" because the evidence now can quite literally stare at them in the face. As if science coming to a consensus that human life begins at fertilization wasn't enough for them.

LN said...

"This blog post is so stupid and false. I don't have any facts to back up my claim. Just take my word for it." --Brilliant Blog Commentators.

SynerGenetics said...

Prolife- no solutions other than saying no.

A woman has a right to an abortion as the same right not to have one.

Seriously what is the plan? Do you plan to make abortion illegal in the US? Because if Roe v Wade is overturned it returns to states rights, so what then?

Will you make contraceptives illegal as well?

Will you arrest women if they go to pro-choice states and return?

Will you have an pregnancy registry that ll women must report to medical centers to prove their are pregnant?

So, prolife what is the plan?

Anonymous said...

SynerGenerits: what is your plan, other than ask straw man questions? How do you fill up your day helping women in crisis pregnancies?