By now, you have seen the reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that cell phones “may” cause cancer. Of course, those who have been warning against cell phone use and opposing the construction of cell phone towers in residential neighborhoods now have another argument, another sound bite.
What most folks will miss, however, is that the WHO did not conduct its own study. It simply reviewed all the previous literature and the other studies and, because ONE of those studies suggested that phones MAY cause cancer, the WHO is suggesting that maybe we need to study the issue again!
This whole thing makes me think about how arguments are presented in the abortion debate, how the participants usually cite individual anecdotes to make their point.
For example, when the pro-choice movement cites how thousands of women died from illegal abortions, the pro-life movement will immediately refer to Doctor Bernard Nathanson. Doctor Nathanson performed thousands of abortions each year at a clinic in New York City and he was one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League. At some point, Doctor Nathanson switched over to the pro-life side and he became a national spokesman for their cause. At one point, he said that, when he was at NARAL, they simply “made up” the number of women who had died from illegal abortions. He suggested they just exaggerated the numbers to bolster their case for keeping abortion legal. And today, when a pro-choicer talks about how women died from illegal abortions, they scoff and say that the numbers can’t be trusted because the one and only Bernie Nathanson said those numbers were made up.
What’s missing here is that, since he had converted to the pro-life movement, could his “correction” about the numbers be trusted? After all, wouldn’t you expect him to come out after his conversion and debunk any of the arguments for legal abortion that he had originally espoused?
What I’m suggesting is that, when debating an issue, shouldn’t one look at the entire scope of the literature, at all of the testimony before the Congress and the state legislatures, at all of the reports from other doctors who saw women entering the emergency rooms after a botched or self-induced abortion?
The same thing occurred with Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in this country in 1973. Norma was one of thousands of potential plaintiffs in that famous case but, because she signed the paperwork, she was
the one who ultimately became famous. Ultimately, she became a symbol for the pro-choice movement and specifically for the tens of thousands of women who were being denied access to abortions services at the time.
Then, several years ago Norma McCorvey announced she was pro-life. She had been lobbied heavily for years by Flip Benham, the head of Operation Rescue, and he successfully convinced her that abortion was wrong. She made a big public statement announcing her conversion and soon became active in the pro-life movement. Understandably, the pro-life movement made as much hay out of this “conversion” as possible. I would have done the same thing. They suggested that because one of our pro-choicer “leaders” had converted, it was evidence that our arguments were spurious and not credible.
But because one individual like Norma changed her mind, should that reflect on the arguments of the entire pro-choice movement? Now, if the Pope came out tomorrow and said same-sex marriage was okay, then that would be a big deal and would be taken very, very seriously. But because one doctor who happened to be on the board of NARAL or one plaintiff in a lawsuit changed their minds, should that be given a lot of weight?
But this is the world we live in. This happens in all movements, in Congress, on a school board. Someone finds one thing out of the ordinary, a chink in the armor and they pound away. President Ronald Reagan learned years ago that some woman who bought vodka with her food stamps and for the next year he insisted that ALL food stamps needed to be cut because people were cheating the system. We see a politician do a stupid thing, make a mistake and, if they are on the other side, we try to bring ‘em down. We no longer look at the body of work, at the history of the causes. We just sit back for the “gotcha” moment and run with it – because it’s the easy thing to do.
But is it the right thing to do?