I started reading Karen Swallow Prior's "My View" with interest. She writes clearly and intelligently. That's why I was so disappointed when I finished. I do agree, in general, with her divisions of the history of human thought: that there is a premodern, religious view; a modern, scientific view; and a postmodern view. My disappointment began with her explanation of the abortion debate in these terms.
Prior is a pro-lifer, and since, as she claims, "pro-lifers tend to base their positions on modernist thinking," I feel entitled to expect that what she says reflects how the world really is. She also affirms that she is a Christian.
Prior makes a clear distinction between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. She says those who defend the right of a woman to control her reproduction tend to rely on postmodern thinking to justify what they say. That is, when pro-choicers say a woman has the right to control her reproduction in all situations, they think that what they say creates the truth of the matter. This must mean they don't really believe what they say. Why? Because if you assume that words are themselves the truth, you don't have to convince anyone about anything you say.
Shouldn't anyone who takes a stand in a national debate as heated as the abortion issue have beliefs and convictions?
I know many people who firmly believe in a woman's reproductive rights. They also believe there is a tangible truth that women have such rights, and that this truth entitles them to their belief, not the other way around. I do not presume to speak for the late Dr. Barnett Slepian, but I think I can say he died for his beliefs.
Around the country, the staffs of clinics put up with harassment, obscenities and terrorism to give women control over their reproduction. That doesn't sound like escaping into some cloudy literary theory to me. That sounds like people who believe what they say and do what they believe, in spite of the danger.
I could be irresponsible here and say that Prior was trying to smear her opponents by making them look like they have no moral fiber. However, I know better. I know she believes that pro-lifers see certain truths their opponents don't. Her column was an attempt to make sense of that difference. But I think her words have buried the convictions of her opponents beneath a shroud of unintended insults.
KEVIN CHRISTOPHER Amherst