[eDebate] Final Thoughts on Roe

Veronica Barreto veronica_m_barreto
Thu Apr 13 02:12:28 CDT 2006

What I find most interesting in your approach to thinking through the consequences of debating Roe, is that your argumentative structure mirrors very closely that of the pre-Roe pro-life camp.
  It combines conservative rhetoric (in the Albert Hirschman sense) with a deductive structure to convince a given audience that we should refrain from taking an action because of a risk of a risk, no matter how small, of an unquantifiably large impact.  
  For the prolifers the argument is that you can never reduce the risk that a fetus is a life to zero. You can read scientific evidence about conception but even that literature is unsure of the precise moment when life begins.  Couple that with the risk that women would use abortions as a callous form of birth control, you know those welfare queens. Thus the conclusion that we should control an individual's ability to make a choice.  A friendly form of Marcusian facism -- to protect the unborn -- those that have no voice.
  How can a person advocate choice in one instance and then eliminate the possibility of a choice by eliminating the possibility of a Roe choice in a topic wording vote, for fear that the opportunity to make that choice will be abused?
  How do you weigh increased program retention rates versus the risk that a woman who chose not to run overturn Roe will debate an affirmative that overturns Roe, the risk that said affirmative overturns the decision on politically conservative grounds, plus the risk that the experience that that woman has defending her perspective and her right to choice will have an experience so negative that she will leave the activity?
  What happens when that woman debates at Alabama (semis at CEDA nats in 1998 didn't save that program apparently) or Southern Utah, or Southern Illinois or Lewis & Clark or others on the death watchlist like Eastern New Mexico or Oregon....and that list continues. How do women participate, when there's nowhere for them to participate?
  Doesn't feminist epistemology demand that we recognize that the personal is political? Couldn't  it be possible that a debate that you indicate through your interactions could cause some women to leave, could actually increase women's participation by creating a debate that is accessible for women at any level of debate, a debate that gives them a unique ethos over most of their competitors.
  Do you think that debates aren't routinely personal?  Do you think that the Cuba portion of the sanctions topic was somehow not deeply personal?  When people argued that the sanctions regime was already being circumvented in the status quo...I thought:  hmm...could that be because every Saturday morning on off-weekends, I wake up and leave posh Coral Gables and drive to West (way West) Kendall to pick up my grandmother and drive her to Cubanacan in Westchester (a company that quasi legally takes goods and money to Cuba by funneling it through Jamaica).  There were good experiences and then there were devastating debates about my family. Imagine participating on the Native American topic and having to increase federal control over yourself or debating about whether people should call you a Native American or an American Indian.
  So if the question isn't really about shielding people from debating the personal, is it just about shielding certain people?
  As Sarah mentioned, why can we talk about FGM and not abortion?...because it happens "OVER THERE," because it's not about us, it's just available for us to talk about.  Is that why we could debate One Child Policy affs and negate those affs with MALTHUS ....because it wasn't about American women or infants, just Chinese ones?
  Elizabeth Gedmark is right -- the greatest threat to choice is the left's inability to talk about it. I was in a long car ride with a grad asst. at Miami while I was there. I assumed somewhere along the way that the person I was speaking to was pro-choice in this conversation -- after all, he was young, a registered democrat, all the best leftist credentials -- until I realized that I had entered a full fledged choice debate. And he was ready and I wasn't.  I found it difficult to support and articulate my views on choice. I would probably be fine in a conversation but put toe-to-toe with a debater, it was ugly. My claims about personal autonomy weren't really clashing with his risk and impact analysis. The pro-life camp has uniqueness on their side.  They feel the urgency of the moment.  If we won't initiate the debate, they will. The choice camp has been lulled by a Supreme Court decision that they think will never be challenged.  Even the events in South Dakota barely
 caught much attention.
  Which bumper sticker (both found in the parking lot behind the Pearson residential hall at the University of Miami) is more rhetorically powerful:
  "Get your laws off of my body"
  "It's a baby, not a choice"
  The left still rests on its laurels, completely unprepared for the day Roe does get challenged.  That's the day that the debate over Roe will truly matter, not when the topic wording for the 2006-2007 topic is released.  We have the president that we do because the left got lazy -- because the left couldn't talk about the war too early; because it was insensitive and unpatriotic.  The worst thing the left can do is evade the tough questions and encourage a censorship of debates.
  And finally, how could you or I or the topic committee decide that the debate over Roe has been decided.  There are people on this list who don't take choice as a foregone conclusion.  The topic committee is not charged with making that ethical judgement for anyone; they merely have to find a combination of words that provides for a fair division of ground.
  I directed the research with the rookies this past year.  They decided on One Child Policy.  It was easy for everyone to research.  They (all women) were very encouraged by their progress and felt their self esteem buoyed because there was finally an issue on this topic that they had heard about (surprising how revaluation of the yuan doesn't really resonate).  I sat down with them to write the aff, ready to write a choice is good which is why coerced abortions are bad aff.  What I found at that table was that some of the debaters wanted to write a OCP is bad because abortion is bad aff because it's what they believed.  So different teams had different versions to defend.  As an educator, it was not my place to hand them a political or ethical judgement.  All I could do was teach them how to argue the political and ethical judgements they brought to that table. And they all debated their aff, because regardless of how they argued it, they said what they believed and that
 made them feel better about their participation in debate.
  Having said all of this, I think that depending on the wording, I may not be in favor of the inclusion of Roe. I'd like to see list of decisions that share a legal principle like equal protections, similar to the previously crafted privacy topic.  My point is that the question of what is off limits to debate is arbitrary and dangerous.
  Good luck on your thesis work,

nrichter at umsis.miami.edu wrote:
  I have taken some time off from this discussion to regain the emotional 
strength necessary to re-enter the debate. I cannot speak about this topic in a 
detached sense, and my entire life is affected by this discussion, so I am 
ready to make a final statement and move on. I know there are many line-by-line 
arguments that I do not have the time to respond to (my thesis is due in a 
week, and I do not have the ability to respond to everyone's thoughts). But in 
general, I think they overlook the most troubling aspects of this topic. Please 
try to listen with an open mind and heart:

1. I am speaking for the invisible voices in this community. I have gotten a 
flood of e-mails from womyn (and men) who do not feel comfortable talking about 
this issue in the public sphere. They see the repercussions of posting on e-
debate and they fear being criticized and silenced by members of this 
community. They do not feel safe to speak out. If you believe the debate about 
this is open, I urge to consider the voices that are not visible because they 
fear being neglected and delegitimized through arguments about why "switch-side 
debate" is good or the educational value of the topic. The truth of the matter 
is that there are womyn all across the country that support the position Nicole 
and I are taking, but because of privacy and fear they cannot come forward. I 
completely understand their position. I have felt hurt and attacked by some 
posts over the last couple of days, when my goal is really to just to call 
attention to the voices we do not hear. Nicole and I are not alone.

2. There are womyn in this community that have had abortions. I urge you to 
consider their ability to debate this topic and the potential consequences 
these debates might have on those womyn. Some womyn that have abortions have no 
emotional trauma, but some feel extreme shame and guilt about what they have 
done. Some womyn become extremely depressed, lead a life of self-hatred, and 
some even commit suicide as a result. I don't feel comfortable forcing these 
womyn to debate about their personal experience. Inevitably, they will be 
negative against a team that approaches this from the right, and I don't want 
to sponsor a decrease in the self-esteem of these womyn. Yes, personal 
experience is important in debate, but should we force it? Many womyn cannot 
debate this from a detached standpoint. I want to make this community safer for 
womyn, I feel that debating Roe undermines that goal. Debating this topic will 
further ostracize some womyn in this community. My evidence to support this: 
the womyn that already feel unable to participate in this discussion. I think 
even if participation is increased by debating this topic, we will lose the 
most important participants. I think we should consider the feelings and 
thoughts of those in the community affected by this topic, not commodify their 
suffering for the educational value of switch side debate, and seriously 
consider the psychological damage this could do to womyn in this community. 

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Veronica M. Guevara
Weber State University
Dept. of Communications
1605 University Circle
Ogden, UT 84408

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