Monday, February 14, 2005

What about 'pro-choice'?

My friend Cathy brought up a sidelight on my Name-calling and perceptions post that I didn't have a good answer for: "What about the power of a term to soften or hide what's behind an idea? Such as 'pro-choice.'"

After further cogitation, I think the principle still applies. Over the long term, it's the connotation of the word that changes, not the perception of the reality behind it.

For example, "states' rights." Federalism is the principal that decisions happen as close to the people as is practical. Unfortunately, the South used "states' rights" to justify the unjustifiable before the Civil War, and now anytime someone uses the term for something like zoning or education, it raises the spectre of the KKK.

We haven't seen that happen with "pro-choice" yet, maybe. But the reality of abortion has been hidden for these 30 years -- in doctors' offices, in people's unspoken history, and kept from public view by a complacent media. And now opinion is beginning to turn on the abortion issue -- thanks to scientific developments, ultrasound, population reversals, overreaching abortion proponents (consider the fight to the death over partial-birth abortion and the Unborn Infants Protection Act), the traumatic experience of many women who aborted their children and men who lost theirs to abortion, and the tireless and undaunted efforts of all stripes of pro-lifers.

I predict -- and I could be wrong, but let's see what happens -- that within 20 years, "pro-choice" will mean "arrogant, thoughtless, selfish to the point of not caring the outcome of one's choice." I don't think all pro-choice people are like that -- many are simply uninformed or whatever. (I also don't think all homosexuals fit the new derogatory meaning of "gay.") But sometimes the language-makers (all of us in some mysterious mix) don't care about the fine points of generalization and specificity, and sarcasm usually trumps nuance.

But there, I've gone on record. If anybody (including me) remembers this prediction in 20 years, we can have fun revisiting it.

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