Thursday, June 13, 2013

Logic versus Storytelling

The abortion lobby is has found its latest poster child: a Salvadoran woman, known only as Beatriz, who allegedly needed an abortion to save her life. The reality, as usual, is more complicated.

El Salvador protects unborn life, and recognizes the lives of mothers as well. Balancing these concerns, El Salvador has legal abortion in cases of self-defense, but elective abortions are outlawed. The Salvadoran courts determined that Beatriz's condition was stable, but that she should continue to be monitored and doctors could proceed with an abortion if an emergency arose.

A short time later, Beatriz went into labor. Doctors performed a Cesarean section, and her baby was born alive. Sadly, the baby died a few hours later, as was expected due to a serious neurological problem the baby had developed in utero.

But in the parallel universe inhabited by hard-core abortion supporters, Beatriz did not give birth. She had an abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

On Tuesday, a consortium of pro-abortion groups held a rally for Beatriz. (Side note: our polar opposites, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, got involved, and the rally became a prayer vigil. Apparently the God of Crowds was unresponsive, since it reportedly drew only thirty people.) Abortion advocacy groups are essentially reusing the template of Ireland: find a sympathetic woman of color (Beatriz in El Salvador, Savita in Ireland), play fast and loose with the facts, hold rallies, earn media, and try to change the country's laws on abortion.

Tonya Reaves
I'll believe that abortion advocates are the great champions of women of color when they start holding rallies for Tonya Reaves and Karnamaya Mongar. Who are they? Tonya was a black woman who died after an abortion at a Chicago Planned Parenthood. Karnamaya was a Bhutanese refugee who overcame unimaginable obstacles in life and emigrated to the United States, only to die in an abortion at Kermit Gosnell's "clinic."

Gosnell was convicted of manslaughter for Karnamaya's death. So far there has been no justice for Tonya, but her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Karnamaya Mongar
I appreciate hard facts, and I believe that the facts are on the side of the pro-life movement. But facts alone don't always win policy arguments, even if they should. The pro-choice movement has done a much better job of sharing (some would say exploiting) the emotional, personal stories of women with the media.

We need to do a better job of balancing logic with emotion. It's not enough to debunk their stories; we must also tell our own. The moderate publicity received by Tonya and Karnamaya is a start, but we have a long way to go.


Jameson Graber said...

Yeah, you're certainly right. I find that a lot of pro-life organizations have at times done a pretty bad job of choosing the stories that need to be told. For instance, telling miraculous stories of mothers who refused to abort despite their doctors warning their pregnancy could kill them--let's be honest, that's not really helpful. (This is the kind of thing I see on and the like.) However, there are plenty of other stories worth repeating. Stories of women who die from abortion, stories of women (and men) who regret their abortions, stories of children who survive abortion, stories of children who could have been aborted because of a disability but weren't ... yes, there are lots of stories to tell, but the trouble is finding the right outlet for them and getting the media to pay attention.

KB said...

Yes, we need our own stories, but you have to be careful since people often come up with their conclusions based on their preconceived beliefs. In the case of Karnamaya, you can already hear it from the pro-choice side; this is supposedly evidence of why abortion must be maintained as legal and easy to access (what goes unsaid in their logic is this idea that more freedom of choice regarding the killing of the unborn results in more abortion safety. That there is nothing to support this logic, particularly at the more extreme end of "abortions on demand", does not concern them.) in this way they are very much able to hijack the story.

Is there the same scenario on the pro-life side? Is there a way to "hijack" pro-choice poster children? I don't really think so. There is nothing good about the case of Beatriz. It is lucky things turned out whereby she did make it, but that was a huge risk put on the mother for the purposes of maintaining a pregnancy whereby the fetus was missing much of the brain, and would not survive. To me, the story of Beatriz is that if in a perfect world, this would be the only case where an abortion would be even desired. It is really hard to paint that negative picture though.

I wonder, if pro-life groups couldn't try to use these stories to reach out and say to the other side, look, we agree here. Let's work on these cases, to make sure the life of the mother is never jeopardized in a pregnancy. We care about mothers. Now maybe you will take us seriously when we say we care about the unborn.