The Grand Ol’ Party has a problem. They have been the ones responsible for raising the level of rhetoric on abortion, the voice amplifying the series of videos purporting to show the discussion of the extraction and sale of fetal body parts.
Over Thanksgiving break, an individual reportedly heard that rhetoric and used it to justify terrorizing a strip mall and Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. Make no mistake, this was domestic terrorism. It had a soft target, an inherent message intended to terrorize, and an attempt to intimidate.
Just as Muslim terrorists do not represent the entire Islamic world, just as a section of violent protesters does not represent Black Lives Matter, an anti-abortion radical does not represent the pro-life movement.
But we are asking Muslims to help fight the radicals in their ranks. Here in the U.S., that message has been heard – tips from American mosques have foiled several potential terrorist plots.
I have asked Black Lives Matter to moderate their more radical sections to ensure their goals can be achieved. Conor Friedersdorf and self-described pro-BLM supporter at The Atlantic wrote one of the best articles I have read this semester calling out the more radical elements of the movement, including the one here at Wesleyan.
If the GOP is going to be the one responsible for generating the discussion around abortion, then they have to make peace with a significant part of that message. I was appalled at how long it took the GOP candidates to post a message of support—a delay that was obviously politically driven.
I cannot and will not support any GOP candidate that does not directly address the problematic sections of the far right. In that domain are individuals who are willing to cross several lines, including using terror. Having compassion for your fellow Americans, regardless of political affiliation, is a sign of true presidential character.
If American mosques can be asked to report radicalized behavior from their worshippers, then American churches and pro-life protesters can be asked the same.
The issue itself, abortion, is two issues intertwined. The following are my theories on the issue and why it is so contentious.
The first issue, of woman’s reproductive rights, gives rise to a valid argument, despite what the pro-life crowd argues. The government and a woman’s fellow citizens should not have any agency over what she decides to do with her body.
However, if we take this right to the extreme, I would hardly expect it to sit well with anyone if a woman decided to get pregnant specifically to abort it, such as an actress for a pregnant role or as a social experiment. Thus, I think the majority of us can agree that even though the baby may not be born, there is a certain stage of development that passes in which the fetus stops being a fetus and becomes a human.
That is the second issue, determining the exact moment when a baby transitions from being a fetus to being a human, and receives all the rights that go along with being an American citizen. This is also a valid point of contention, despite what pro-choice crowd argues. One of the main responsibilities of government is to ensure that everyone has access to their rights as a human.
However, if we take this view to the extreme and imagine a disaster in which an elementary school and a frozen embryo clinic were to both catch on fire, I would hardly expect anyone to criticize a fire department for saving the children and letting the embryos perish. Thus, I think the majority of us can agree that human rights do have a priority over fetus rights, at least before that transition point is crossed.
Thus, the pro-choice camp tends to focus on woman’s rights, while the pro-life tends to focus on the rights of the fetus. The conflict arises from each side battling to contextualize the debate under their own terms—which is why we see women’s rights statements on the pro-choice protest signs, and pictures of a fetus on pro-life signs. Ultimately, the goal for each side is to legally define exactly when that crossover happens. Pro-life wants it defined at conception, pro-choice wants it defined somewhere between the second and third trimester.
One side is speaking Latin and demands that the issue be discussed in Latin, while the other group speaks Greek and wants the issue discussed in Greek. This split has led to radicalization on both sides, which is exacerbated by the dangerous effect of living in an echo chamber.
As my editors pointed out, the difference of discussion is in the name itself: Pro-choice activists focus on women and think the other side is anti-women’s right to choose the course of their life; the pro-life activists focus on the fetus and think the other side is for killing babies. So simple, yet to me it is the base of the conflict.
Sections of the pro-choice camp have convinced themselves that the pro-life camp believes women are second-class citizens, when in fact this is a generalization.
Sections of the pro-life camp have convinced themselves that the pro-choice camp is filled with murderers, which is also a false perception.
One side is screaming about women’s rights, the other is yelling about murder. They are two distinct frameworks for contextualizing the same underlying issue. Both sides have their radicals, but the Right’s rhetoric is laying the foundation for acts of domestic terrorism in the name of this issue.
One of the fastest ways to lose popular support is to be seen as complicit in violence and vitriol conducted in your name. This is a lesson for political parties and movements in general—the actions of your radicals will rapidly undermine your public image. The GOP needs to recognize this by identifying the excellence in its party while condemning the radical far-right groups.
Incidents like the Planned Parenthood shooting will do more damage to the GOP’s image than any swipe Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders could ever conjure up. Continuing to rely on right-wing political groups that have hate, fear, and vitriol running 24/7 will only ostracize the independents, which comprise a significant percentage of the American voting bloc.
I’m sick of seeing my country attacked by terrorists who think that their way of thinking should be the only way of thinking. I’m sick of seeing and hearing similar rhetoric from liberals and conservatives—that their political views are absolutely perfect and the other side deserves to be demonized. I’m sick of politicians putting politics ahead of doing the right thing. The lack of integrity is flooring.
I’m sick of seeing the GOP shoot itself in the foot over and over. I want a candidate who has a solid base of ethics and will no longer turn a blind eye to conservative radicals.
It may be naïve, but I can dream.
Stascavage is a member of the Class of 2018.