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Yes but women and reproductive rights organizations must take stock of this situation and adjust their strategy accordingly.

The "abortion" debate cannot be won on its own terms. It's not a debate with inquiring participants trying to figure out the facts and agree on a solution. It's not a debate at all. Fundamental rights like individual autonomy are not negotiable, not debatable. They are a given in a liberal democracy, one of the foundations of democracy itself, and trying to sap them is an attack on democracy as a whole.

The anti-choice side has nothing to lose in this "debate". Abortion is not the issue. It's just a pretext to rally the authoritarian plebe and weaken progressives. They win by the very fact that there is a "debate" at all on an issue which is not open to discussion. It's the debate itself that allow them to exist. They don't need to ever win anything. They don't suffer anything from failure as it's not about gaining or defending anything for themselves. It's just about hurting others.

They can come back over and over and over with new objections every morning : life is sacred, teenagers are irresponsible, aborted blastocysts are icky, it's expensive for the NHS, what about the parents?, etc. It's exactly the same strategy as oil corporations on global warming. Make noise, stall action, force the other side to spend inordinate efforts on the defensive to refute their bullshit arguments, rinse and repeat.

And even if they don't gain anything substantial they win as long the issue remains open so they can keep the troops fired up in righteous indignation. Actually winning in real terms can be a disaster as the religious right is starting to realize in the US after 7 years of Bush.

The anti-choice camp is not a legitimate partner in a democratic debate. It's an authoritarian enemy that has no specific right to exist in a liberal democracy. They can be tolerated if they are not a nuisance but they have no role in a democracy and democracy has no requirement to respect and be fair to them.

So the pro-choice side must adapt to this reality and get out of this rear-guard action trap. The pro-choice side must go after the anti-choice side itself to undermine, weaken and finally push it outside of the public sphere. It must go after select individuals and after the structures that support them - churches, publications, right-wing financiers, conservative organizations, etc. It must use harassment strategies - legal, fiscal, demos, etc. - to make the anti-choice existence very uncomfortable.

The "debate" as it exists inflicts no cost on the anti-choice side. It's free. It's all benefits. The pro-choice side must change the terms of that equation. It must make the anti-choicers pay a price for their actions.

by Francois in Paris on Fri Mar 21st, 2008 at 05:28:38 PM EST
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