Pro-Choice and Pro-Life: Of Tribes and Nuance

-Zenia Zuraiq, I Year B.Sc Physics
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Abortion. Whatever your feelings on the issue, it cannot be denied that it is an extremely important one and one that deserves critical discussion and debate, especially considering its immense real-life consequences. Unfortunately, as with a lot of things, the discussion on abortion, as is to be expected with any subject of its potential in current times, has quickly descended into an extremely hostile form of tribalism. People dividing themselves into “tribes” and factions – presenting themselves as polar opposites of the other.

From something as trivial as Cats v. Dogs to something on a larger scale like religions or political parties, the very basis of human civilization has been the grouping together of people into tribes, ideas larger than themselves – and it is an extremely charming and useful trait of societal evolution.

What becomes a problem is when the discussion moves away from the topic and on the tribes themselves. We become so enamored with the tribes and the motifs and symbols that we come to associate with them. The discussion becomes purely an exercise in glorifying one’s tribe – or an attack on the one opposite to you. A vs. B.

This detraction has become so common in any sort of debate recently, it’s disheartening. We’ve become so successful in painting things black and white – there are no shades of grey. Nuance is a lost art today in society and it is an extremely saddening thing. Today, more than ever, we need nuance. A fast paced society like ours with its layers of complexity deserves critical thought and discussion, and it’s about time we emphasize on that again.

With that in mind, let’s explore the two tribes, as it were, of the abortion debate – pro-life and pro-choice.

We have the pro-life side of the debate – the people who argue that all life is sacred and that the very idea of abortion – of making a decision resulting in any harm to the concept is sacrilegious. Life, here, is a right. It isn’t something one person decides for another, and this extends to a foetus. Life isn’t something up for debate.

On the pro-choice side of the debate, we have the assurance of a woman having the right to her own choices. A woman having bodily autonomy. The belief that a foetus in the early stages, a mass of cells, with its ill-defined autonomy cannot be places over the woman’s. Life is sacred, yes – but a woman has life too. This is a faction of people tired of having women in society silenced; talked over. And contrary to popular belief, these folks aren’t 100% pro-abortion. They just respect a woman’s decision to choose whether or not she has one.

Both sides of the debate have their points, beliefs and reasons for doing so. It is very easy to twist either argument as inflammatory. It’s also extremely easy to paint the pro-lifers as “woman haters” and pro-choicers as the “baby killers”. I’ve seen multiple inflammatory posts circulating around groups with no nuances whatsoever. Just pure generalization.

It’s ironic that in a debate that revolves so much around the problem of identity and how we define personhood, we so often paint over individuals. By this swooping generalization, all that happens is that both sides never hear what the other side has to say but instead, operate on their biased view of what the other tribe is. There is no discussion because it is shot down before it even starts.

And you might be one of either tribe, or identify strongly with either view. You might see my middle stance, my attempt at nuance as cowardice. “Just take a stand! Align yourself!” And there is much to be said for the conviction with which people hold opinions – it is indeed admirable. But maybe it is time to let go of a little bravado. Maybe it’s time for a little more caution. Especially when it comes to matters like abortion where our discussions and decisions have real life impacts on real people.

So, today, I urge all of you, to exercise more of an open mind, no matter where you stand. In the age of the internet it’s very easy to get lost in the loud, inflammatory rhetoric that prevails. But take a step back. Exercise some nuance. It might do you some good.


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