50 percent of the people of this state are not bright, strong, or smart.

Dying Gaul | Julie R Neidlinger

recent local magazine edition caught my attention.

I am a life long North Dakotan.

I have a degree in art and art history, have traveled my fair share around the world, from Europe to South America to Australia, and also around my own country. I’ve stayed in hostels, traveled by train, lived out of a backpack. I have been involved in humanitarian work in Central America for nearly a decade. I’ve been a newspaper reporter and photographer, a public school teacher, and freelance designer and writer. I’m a small business owner/entrepreneur, published writer, artist, private pilot, and even a former pastry chef. I grew up on a farm, a Centennial farm, which has been a productive part of this state for over a century. I’ve shown horses, learned to weld, carved trees with a chainsaw, am an avid reader, and have season tickets to the local orchestra. I’m a member of the NRA, and I like to shoot at targets but I don’t hunt. I do not support the death penalty. I care about the environment a great deal.

My great-grandmother homesteaded out west for a time, on her own, and I come from a long line of hard-working adventurous brave women who went out and did what they were going to do and didn’t allow their life to be one of victimhood.

I consider myself as a member of the “brightest, strongest, smartest” North Dakotans. I have worked hard, pursued education and excellence, and given back to community. That ought to qualify. Imagine my surprise, as I read that local magazine, to read Marnie Butcher Piehl’s article entitled “Do Something About It” which gave that moniker (by supporting the words of her friend) only to those who supported abortion.

I understand that many people support abortion rights. That’s their privilege.

But I do not.

I am ardently, unabashedly pro-life. I have concluded that the history, the reality, and the philosophical theory of abortion is incompatible to reason and to faith. You might disagree, but know that I didn’t arrive at my conclusions from thoughtlessness, but rather from thoughtfulness.

I didn’t come to my conclusions from a pragmatic situational view, but a holistic, spiritual, and societal view. I don’t call abortion supporters Nazis or eugenicists, even though I’ve been called “the Taliban” and worse. The assumption that anyone who isn’t a supporter of abortion is less intelligent, and less of a woman or a traitor to her sex, is just one of many disgusting myths some supporters of abortion continue to perpetuate. It was very disappointing to see even a hint of that in the magazine.

Piehl didn’t stop there.

Her article, though praising her mom, somehow insinuates that anyone not in agreement is some kind of lesser, lower-grade North Dakotan intent on taking the state back to pre-dawn-of-man, and that 50 percent of the state is up in arms over the recent legislation that restricted their abortions in North Dakota. I assume that 50 percent figure is because she assumes all women support abortion and that the gender mix of the state can safely be figured at around the 50 percent number (which is not true in this oil boom state, but let’s let that slide).

Not all women support abortion. Not all women felt they lost rights, because the right to have an abortion wasn’t a right at all. It is, to us, a matter of life and death and humanity, and we should not be mocked because of it. You need us and our opposition as an informal checks and balances; every force needs an opposing force to be kept in check. You should be thankful we are here. You should be thankful we do not all think alike.

Many women rejoiced in the recent legislation, and we are not simpletons, backwards, or traitors, nor are we spitting on our ground-breaking pioneer roots just because of our belief that all life deserves a chance to exist.

Not all of us see this legislation as a step back, but a step forward for a state when everyone else is falling backwards. Abortion isn’t groundbreaking. I am of the first generation legally able to be killed in the womb, that group of babies born in 1974, the year of Roe v. Wade. It’s not groundbreaking at all. It’s not the same as the ERA, and women getting to vote. To us, this is about the fact that there are human beings that should exist that do not, and that is devastating to consider.

To include this article in the “Be Smart” issue is insulting to smart women everywhere, even if bracketed in a message of encouraging people to “do something.”

Piehl has a right to her opinion and to be heard, but not at the expense of making bold and insulting assumptions about those who disagree with her. I could understand the sloppy language of this article if it were a one-off interview of a non-contributor, perhaps, but Piehl is listed as a contributing columnist. As a journalist and a professional writer, she should know better, even with an opinion column. She is welcome to voice her thoughts in a way that does not denigrate those with whom she disagrees. She should speak in fact and reason, and to show the reader the nobility behind her opinion rather than slander and insult those with whom she disagrees.

Making the opposing person out to be less in order to make your own view appear better is weak-minded.

Never assume your opponent arrived at her position based solely on a lack of intelligence or ignorance. You put your own ignorance on display in that moment. Solid belief in abortion rights would not cause Piehl, and those who agree with her, to refer to opponents with derogatory terms unless they were afraid to meet them on equal footing as full and complete human beings with valuable thoughts.

Sloppy, careless language has an effect, no matter what the issue is. If there’s anything I’ve learned (and am learning) as a professional writer and as a person, it is that truth.

Dying Gaul | Julie R Neidlinger

One of my favorite art history pieces is The Dying Gaul (shown above; one of my sketches). In that era, it was rare to see an opponent depicted as a worthy, as having emotion, as being human and not a caricature. The artist even provided the torc, giving us information that told us the tribe this man was from. The artist decided to show this opponent as an equal. In that way, their own victory was that much more impressive. To defeat a worthy opponent was indicative of real strength. To defeat a slow, unintelligent caricature of an opponent meant nothing. It is time to give those who do not support abortion something other than a facade of humanity, or a caricature.

I am fine if you disagree with me. Many dear friends disagree with me, and we can get along. But please don’t patronize or belittle those you disagree with in an effort to rally your troops.

I’ve no doubt Piehl is a great person and valuable contributor to that magazine, and many of the charities she suggests supporting at the end of this article are wonderful. Her admonition of encouraging people to do something isn’t one I would ever argue with; I am a big fan of people doing something. However, I hope Piehl will rethink any assumptions on who is and isn’t pro-life, assumptions on women, and try again.

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