It's often hard to have a dispassionate conversation about legislating on X, and one could be forgiven for thinking that those against abortion rights in Ireland have chosen to capitalise on this. The language used is selected for its ability to elicit an emotional response - for fetus they say unborn child, for blastocyst they say person with potential, and to describe the debate we're currently almost having they use the term literal tsunami of death. Their choice of images also falls foul of this criticism - be it faked pictures of late-term abortions or smiling, cherub-like babies the appeal to emotion is obvious.
True, facts are used, but more often than not they're flat out wrong. Pro Life Campaign's most recent video culminates in an impassioned speech saying that Ireland is the world leader in maternal healthcare. Now I see no need to rest on such laurels and avoid providing doctors with the legal clarity needed to perform lifesaving operations, but a more significant counterargument is that their statement is untrue. We are not the world leader in maternal healthcare, a fact that can hardly have escaped those behind Pro Life Campaign, and it's hard to take them seriously when such gross inaccuracies are present. It would be like their chairperson forgetting they were in a video with a group that promotes gay conversion 'therapy' while falsely associating vaccinations and autism.
These groups tend to say they represent the majority opinion in Ireland despite 64% of Irish people favouring legislation on X. It's also instructive to note that their supporters on Twitter seem overwhelmingly to be American Republicans, not to my mind a group that should have significant representation in Irish affairs.
Inaccuracies and misstatements aside, is there a downside to leaning on emotional argument? I think there is.
An emotional argument's ability to change one's mind is not notably dependent on the argument being true. The Make It Happen Foundation, for instance, use images of sick children visiting Santa Claus in Lapland to solicit donations. This can be an effective emotional appeal, but if you look at how the funds are raised and where they go you might find yourself less convinced of their good intentions. Reason trumps emotional appeal. (If you're unconvinced, I highly recommend philosopher Stephen Law's blog post on the subject.)
I find myself wondering if I am immune to such criticism. I suppose that rather depends on what I'm doing here. A confession is in order. I am pro choice, but I was not pro choice when I started writing these posts. Had anyone asked during the first three or so I would have called myself pro life with various caveats. Over time I realised that those caveats effectively made me pro choice, and my views have shifted somewhat further the more I've read. At the outset I honestly hadn't given the subject sufficient thought. My interest in the debate was sparked by a dislike of misrepresentations by groups opposed to abortion in Ireland. My desire was to show that, in influences, association and funding, they owed more to American Republicanism than the Irish Republic.
If I'm viewed as primarily advancing the pro choice position there may be a gap. That anti abortion groups have unsavory connections, advance incorrect arguments, take funding from outside the State and are not representative of majority Irish opinion does not guarantee that they are wrong, even if it can reasonably cause one to raise an eyebrow. Have I been trying to plug that gap with emotional argument? I'm interested in your thoughts. Though either way, I will be trying to make a more positive case for being pro choice in future blog posts.