Edited again:

A certain political issue is typically framed by both sides of the debate by a question that I consider invalid as it implicitly assumes the acceptance of some false premises. I once referred to this as a "false dichotomy" without really knowing what that phrase meant, when what I actually meant was something closer to "false conceptual framework."

Is there a way to summarize what I'm getting at here in one handy phrase?

Another edit: I've since realized that the correct term was indeed 'false dichotomy' in my particular situation, since the false assumption being made was that a certain thing was assumed to be in either state A or state B, rather than on a continuum between A and B.

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    In American English, the usual word is bullshit. – John Lawler Jan 24 '15 at 21:38
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    This is a crap shoot. You have your beliefs, they have theirs. All arguments start with claims which place the argument in their court. Claims of definition often suggest that a certain definition ought to apply to a particular category of things. You want to frame their definition as wrong; they yours. Don't throw labels around to justify your viewpoint. Studying logic or argument or rhetoric would serve you better than a label you can toss off to dismiss the viewpoints of your opponents. – anongoodnurse Jan 24 '15 at 21:52
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    What you are trying to do is a well-known debate tactic: re-framing the issue. ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/advocacy/… As debaters, both you and your opponent are free to frame the issue, but there is a burden of proof. Calling your opponent's conceptual framework false does not make it false. If you can demonstrate the fallacy of your opponent's framework you have an advantage. You don't seem to have the capacity to do that, so you will need to do some more direct research on the issue. – Good A.M. Jan 24 '15 at 22:32
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    We are not here to discuss abortion. Comments should be restricted to clarification. Even if politics and/or religion are involved, they can be excluded from a discussion about language. If you want to discuss the politics or religion or ethics or whatever of the question, please use a chat room. – Andrew Leach Jan 25 '15 at 19:59
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    That said, @Blrp it would probably be a good idea to reframe this question so you don't make use of such an emotive issue. How about using something innocuous like whether dragons exist, or something? – Andrew Leach Jan 25 '15 at 20:04

Employing 'an invalid way of framing the debate [by assuming] the acceptance of some false premises' (specifically to add improper weight to the argument) is known as begging the question.

begging the question Definition:

A fallacy in which the premise of an argument presupposes the truth of its conclusion; in other words, the argument takes for granted what it is supposed to prove.

Richard Nordquist_About.Com Grammar

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    I'm answering the question '[Is there a term for] an invalid way of framing the debate [by] assuming the acceptance of some false premises[?] Vote for closure as a rant – or better, provide a better example; I'm not saying anything for or against abortion here. But I do acknowledge that the word life needs careful qualification; a 'living' human somatic cell has different life from a living human, and non-definition of terms here may well be disingenuous and will certainly lead to lack of clarity. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '15 at 0:02
  • @EdwinAshworth The fallacy of petitio principii, or "begging the question", is committed "when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof".(Welton, 1905)A problem with bgging the question is that people for years have used it incorrectly to the point where its modern usage is now seen as a valid alternative. E.g.''If Manchester United can't beat Cambridge, it begs the question as to why United are in the Premier League*. That is the modern usage, the Aristotelian meaning is quoted above. I'm not suggesting, by the way, that you have used it incorrectly. – WS2 Jan 25 '15 at 10:25
  • Have you stopped beating your wife? classically, and in an Aristotelean sense begs the question. – WS2 Jan 25 '15 at 10:31
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    I agree that you were answering the question, @EdwinAshworth, but the answer simply reinforces the fallacy of the question, which which was begging the question itself: presupposing the truth of the conclusion as part of the argument. The fallacy of the presupposition has been aptly demonstrated by other comments. Perhaps we should be more careful in such a life and abortion matter. – Good A.M. Jan 25 '15 at 19:00
  • Your use of 'simply' in this comment is itself disingenuous. My answer may be seen to bolster the argument OP puts in his example, but certainly gives an expression used for employing 'an invalid way of framing [a] debate [by assuming] the acceptance of some false premises' (specifically to add improper weight to the argument). As voters happily seem to appreciate. Perhaps we should be more careful not to practise hypocrisy. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '15 at 23:53

When someone attempts to divert the course of a debate into a different argument it is sometimes referred to as a red herring.

The figurative use arises from the practice of using a strong odoured cured fish to distract dogs from the scent of something they are pursuing.

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