Friday, March 05, 2004

Running on empty

GetReligion: "Here is the back story. This past fall, there was an interesting dust-up when Illinois Right to Life leader Bill Beckman sent a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune. But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the printing press. The Trib changed the actual wording of Beckman's letter, changing each 'pro-life' reference to read 'anti-abortion,' in accordance with the newspaper's stylebook."

That was the Chicago Tribune. At the LA Times: "It seems that critic Mark Swed recently wrote an article in which he noted that the opera 'Die Frau Ohne Schatten' is 'an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-life paean ...' Sure enough, something strange happened on the way to the printing press and 'pro-life' had been changed to 'anti-abortion.'" Only problem is, the opera had nothing to do with abortion. Successive corrections just made the matter worse.

Terry Mattingly at suggests that the copy editors are on auto-pilot, and I'm sure that's part of it. Another part is that the pro-life side has a broad view of the issue, opposing various assaults on the right to life from cradle to grave. The anti-pro-life side sees each issue as a discrete unit: abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and so forth. The abortion activists may favor cloning, but they don't get quoted on it. Same for the cloning advocates on euthanasia, or euthanasia enthusiasts on abortion. So if someone is pro-life, their opponents can think of them as fitting only the one category: anti-abortion, even if the relevant topic is pro-children or anti-euthanasia. At best, I think, it's a failure of imagination.

In fact, the whole approach of the anti-pro-life side makes it difficult to stitch it together for the uninformed, uninterested mass of people without a lot of philosophical groundwork. Pope John Paul can talk about a culture of death, but people who haven't followed his argument can easily dismiss the phrase as overwrought if not paranoid. I agree with him, but I think it's harder to get that point across in sound bites.

On the other hand, James Taranto makes a case, which he he calls the Roe effect, that the culture of death is gradually killing itself off. That's a blunt way of saying it; his explanation is more nuanced, having to do with abortion rates in the "red" states vs. the "blue" states. It comes with Allan Guttmacher statistics and scatter diagrams in a very persuasive formulation. It offers a cogent explanation for the fact that the pro-abortion (I get to say that; it's my blog) forces are aging baby boomers, and the pro-lifers include a growing percentage of young adults.

So maybe the argument is being made after all.

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