An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

It’s always fascinating to see how sloganeers can distort issues simply by the names they attach to them. 

Campaign rhetoric is the worst, and with the 2012 elections approaching, we’ll soon see and hear enough of that to choke a planet full of elephants. But, spin doctors love to put their mark on legislation, too.

In North Carolina, for example, where Republicans are now running the legislative show, social reformers of the conservative sort are poised to pass bills that would limit abortion rights and oppose gay marriage.

The abortion bill is called “The Woman’s Right To Know Act,” when it should properly be called “The State’s Right To Bully Women Considering Abortion.” The bill, similar to one passed in more than 20 other states, would require clinics or doctors who do abortion procedures to provide more information about risks and alternatives, enforce a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure is actually done, and mandate that an ultrasound be performed within four hours of the abortion.

While clinics should indeed provide appropriate information about potential risks and alternatives, the bill is clearly designed to pile on guilt and put pressure on women to forgo planned abortions.

I do not wish to suggest that abortion should be as easy as simply saying “I want it.” And abortion should never be considered as just one more method of birth control. Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is serious business and usually one that is considered only in situations of extremity. In those situations, women do need appropriate information, but they also need considerable compassion. They do not need to be forced to view ultrasound images designed to increase their present and future angst. The bill is not about a woman’s right to know, but about the legislators’ right to bully.

In a similar fashion, the so-called “Marriage Protection Act” is not designed to strengthen marriages or protect them from sinister anti-marriage forces, but to deny the advantages of marriage to gay and lesbian partners who wish to make the same kind of life commitments that heterosexual couples can make — and to have the same legal and economic benefits. 

It is abundantly clear that straight people are quite capbable of both succeeding and failing at marriage: allowing homosexual persons equal opportunity to try their hand at it will not threaten the institution of heterosexual marriage, and denying them the opportunity will do nothing to protect it. 

Lawmakers certainly have the right to propose any sort of legislation they choose, but perhaps it’s time for somone to introduce a “Truth in Titles Act.”

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