Richard Weaver, rhetorician and philosopher, wrote concerning the use of “devil terms” and “god terms” in rhetorical discourse. As we consider the recent book by Rebecca Todd Peters, Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice, we are provided with abundant examples of what Weaver meant.
Consider just a few representative quotations:
Women’s ability to exercise their legal rights to abortion has increasingly fallen victim to the patriarchal desire for control of women’s sexuality and women’s bodies.
Given the continued scorn aimed at women who have abortions in our culture, we need to identify and expose how patriarchy and misogyny have shaped attitudes about contraception and abortion if we are to build an alternative theology of reproductive justice.
[Pro-choice] language indicates a focus primarily on the autonomy and moral agency of the pregnant woman. For this side, the issue is about pregnant women’s ability to exercise control over their bodies and what happens to them.
Once we dislodge the assumption that women are obligated to carry every pregnancy to term and we establish that women must assent to a pregnancy before moral obligation arises, the question that remains is how women discern what to do when they face an unplanned or problem pregnancy.
Patriarchy, misogyny, and unchosen moral obligations are clearly the devil terms; reproductive justice, autonomy, moral agency, and control over one’s body are the god terms.
The deepest shift that Peters attempts to accomplish in the book as a whole is to move the word “abortion” itself from the bad side to the good side of the rhetorical toolkit: “The heart of an ethic of reproductive justice is the affirmation that women’s capacity to control their fertility—whether that happens through contraception, abstinence, or abortion—is a moral good.” This is a very conscious critique of those pro-choice advocates—such as Naomi Wolf, with her famous essay “Our Bodies, Our Souls”—who speak of abortion as a tragedy, a moral failing, a sin that needs to be grieved over and atoned for.
Read more at the Public Discourse.