Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nuance vs Knee Jerk

Often times is observing political discourse, I get extremely irritated at the lack of depth and detail in the reporting and analysis of the issue. The Republican pundits will spin it in one talking point, while the Democrats will spin in it another. This is especially evident whenever politicized statistics are cited, like in gun control debates or in health care reform. The problem that I notice most is that the pundits will talk past each other and dismissing the other point of view instead of trying to actually understand the premises of the other party.

Take the issue of abortion. From what I can see, each side approaches the issue from a completely different starting point. The Pro-choice view seems to look at it entirely from the perspective of the mother, and her bodily autonomy. The Pro-life views it from the perspective of the fetus. The fundamental disconnect is that the pro-life view is that the fetus is a person with rights, and that those rights should be respected. Taking this view, to remove the fetus and kill it would be murder, since the fetus is a person. From the pro-choice perspective, removing the fetus is not murder, but instead a medical operation.

Now, it is often the extremes that grab the microphone, but I think that it is important that the more moderate and considerate voices are heard and listened to. On the pro-life side, it should be made clear that the life and health of the mother is important. On the pro-choice side, they should acknowledge the idea that some procedures that are labeled as abortions are close to the border of murder, if not across it entirely.

This is a case where the knee-jerk responses dominate the conversation rather than a more nuanced discussion of the fundamental ideas that are at odds. In the abortion case, what happens is the pro-choice will only trumpet the rights of the woman over her body, and the pro-life will trumpet the rights of the baby. Worse, I think, is that the debate is often framed in terms of a false dilemma: support federal funding, or ban it. This misses an important middle ground of not funding abortions through the government, but not banning it completely either. This means that the pro-lifers would not have to support abortion financially through taxes, and the pro-choice people would not have the strict morality of the pro-lifers forced on them.

I think that so far my preferred stance would be to balance the two sets of rights. The mother has a right to her body, and can in a sense kick the baby out. However, once the fetus is viable, then the fetus should not necessarily be kicked out without concern as to whether it survives or not. If the life of the mother can be reasonably protected during the c-section, then it makes some sense that the operation should be taken to preserve the lives of both the mother, and the child. 

This is just one example of this situation where emotions and knee jerk reactions result in unproductive discussions, where no one gets anywhere. I think what is important here is to attempt to approach each issue from the perspective and assumptions of the people on the other side of the issue.