October 13, 2006

When quote-mining bites you in the ass

Like proponents of Intelligent Design, the anti-abortion psueodfeminist org Feminists For Life tries to use quote-mining appeals to authority to prop up their position.

There's just one little problem:

What is generally not mentioned is that the essay [by Anthony, at the top of that FFL list] argues against an anti-abortion law; its author did not believe legislation would resolve the issue of unwanted pregnancy. Also not mentioned is the vaporous textual trail. According to the editors of Anthony’s papers, the article is not hers.

There's a bigger point, of course:

The bottom line is that we cannot possibly know what Anthony would make of today’s debate. Unwanted pregnancy was for her bundled up with a different set of issues, of which only one truly mattered: rescuing women from “the Dead Sea of disfranchisement.” In the 19th century, abortion often was life-threatening, contraception primitive, and a woman as little in control of her reproductive life as of her political one. The terms do not translate, one reason time travel is a risky proposition. No amount of parsing the founding fathers will reveal what they think of the war in Iraq, just as no modern chorus of mea culpas will explain away their slave-holding. To suggest otherwise is to wind up with history worthy of those classic commercial duos, Fred Astaire and his Dirt Devil, Paula Abdul and Groucho Marx.

Also, this Anthony quote is great:

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

Via Amanda, whose take on this is also worth your time.

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