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DEMOCRACY: Government & Politics | July 18, 2005


An E-Mail to Democratic Activists & a Posting in "GordonTalk"

In Response to an Article about "Framing" Issues in General

& Another about "Framing" the Abortion Issue in Particular


In America, one of the oldest "frames", if you will, is "Give me Liberty or give me death." No war, for example, is ever "sold" unless it is framed in terms of defending liberty: For that, and probably that alone, will Americans kill and die. Liberty is more important than life itself, in the best and oldest American traditions.

"Choice" may be a "consumer" word, but "liberty" or "freedom" is a values -- a quintessentially American -- word.
"Reproductive freedom" or "reproductive rights" are, thus, better phrases than "reproductive choice"; and these terms indeed frame broader issues for women (and men, for that matter, as in parental rights cases).
Ultimately, however, the best "selling point" for any issue is the truth of the matter: It ultimately trumps all other frames (assuming the press and public discussion remain free and vigorous). One need look no farther than the current Valerie Plame mess, which is unraveling and backfiring on the Administration with each revelation of the facts, regardless of how they try to frame the scandal to their own advantage (Those RNC talking points [being circulated are]...in the best traditions of "the best defense is a good offense"; but of course and happily, the strategy doesn't seem to be working for the Bush Administration any more than it did for the Nixon Administration).
In the case of abortions -- and although that word is ugly and unpopular, to avoid it entirely is to play into the hands of the anti-abortion forces (the word can become conspicuous by its absence, as in "are you ashamed to even mention it by name?") -- the truth of the matter is the balancing of the rights of the mother with those of the baby, from the point at which the fetus does indeed become a person with rights equal to those of the mother.
We who support "reproductive rights" do not truly believe that we are "baby killers". That is the key argument with which the moderate voters must grapple, even though it is extremely personal and uncomfortable.
But the scientific facts of life are incontrovertible (and, thus, have been accepted by virtually every moderate with whom I have shared them): The neurological connections required for truly human thought, feeling, and awareness (the essence of the "soul" in most people's theology) do not develop in the fetal brain until the 28th week of pregnancy. Terminating a pregnancy in the first two trimesters is, thus, no more murder than "pulling the plug" (a flip phrase to use very sparingly) on someone who is "brain dead". Reassuring those who would not want to overturn established precedent simply because it is indeed established precedent, Roe v. Wade came to virtually the same conclusion, although from different, older reasoning (considerations of "viability", which are more a matter of technology than human nature -- God-given human nature, if you will, as discovered by the God-given talents of medical researchers).
In bumper sticker form, "Brain Life is Human Life"; or in longer but better framed terms, "We Democrats support and defend the reproductive rights of women; we support and defend the freedoms of every person, from the moment their mind first awakens to the moment their mind thinks its last thought."
Just a thought.

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