Friday, July 27, 2007

Can't we all just...

Gosh, yesterday's LA Times story, "Democrats shift approach on abortion," gets so many idealogical things wrong it's almost impossible to address it all here. So, focusing on my two largest bones of contention:

1. While it's commendable to offer services (financial and otherwise) to women who want to have children and feel that barriers are preventing them from making that decision, such programs are hardly the panacea the story suggests them to be. The fact, is some women simply do not want to -- or are not ready to -- have children and, for them, abortion may be their best and only option. To exclusively promote services that neglect that reality does a real disservice to the decision-making process that women go through when they consider what is best for them and their families. Working to prevent unintended pregnancies and offering women tools to help them make a life-altering decision is both important and helpful; villifying abortion is not.

2. The conservative push to frame increased access to birth control as promoting free love begs a knee-jerk, post 60s reaction: "No, that's not what we're doing! Sex? Who said anything about sex? Nobody is talking about sex here!" Umm, my question is, so what if it does? If people are having safe, consensual sex, what problem, exactly, does that pose to the greater good? I'm so tired of this (morality police) idea that we constantly need to assure people that increased access to birth control won't increase sexual actiivty... what if we actually said, "hey, what if it did -- that's STILL NOT A BAD THING?"

Alright, rant aside and with due diligence to reality: #2 is a hypothetical argument. While I personally don't see anything wrong with increased access = increased sex, everyone (conservatives included) should sleep more easily at night knowing that studies show over and over again that increased access does not actually change ( e.g. increase) sexual activity.

So there.


Molly said...

Hear hear. The democratic rhetoric of "safe, legal, and rare" is doing a disservice to those women who, for whatever reason, decide that they need to terminate their pregnancies This policy will only make it harder for women to get the health care they want and feel is best for them. As a pro-choice medical student who plans to learn how to provide abortions, I believe that choosing to terminate a pregnancy is a decision that should be left to a woman and her doctor. The outcry from the Terry Schiavo case is some indication that the public agrees with this on some level. The Democrats would do well to stop pandering to the 20% of the country who will never be pro-choice.

Frank Mills said...

"The democratic rhetoric of 'safe, legal, and rare' is doing a disservice to those women who, for whatever reason, decide that they need to terminate their pregnancies."

I gotta respectfully disagree with Molly, noting first that she and I are very much on the same side of this battle.

While I absolutely support the right of these women who want to terminate their pregnancies, it seems to me that it would be better for everyone - the women in question especially - if the unwanted pregnancies in question had never occurred.

Many women (and their partners) have complicated feelings about their abortions, even if those feelings are (the vast majority of the time) dominated by a clear sense of relief. Emotionally though, I think it's hard to argue that the emotions that relate to "having used birth control to ensure that no pregnancy occurred in the first place" can even begin to compare. In addition, there are small but measurable health risks to becoming pregnant in the first place, and of the surgical abortion procedure.

Everyone, except very fringe Christianists - the crazy 20% Molly refers to, who want us all to be fruitful and multiply - agrees on this: that it is better to ensure that there are fewer abortions necessary by preventing those pregnancies in the first place.

I think (again, just IMO) that this is the principle - preventing abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place - is what's behind the Democratic rhetoric of "rare". And I think that principle is to the benefit of all people.

Now, you may be right that the rhetoric itself - rather than the principle behind it - is sub-optimal, because it fails to defend the right to abortion robustly enough, and allows the anti-choicers unnecessary rhetorical leverage.

On the other hand, many Americans - including those who are firmly pro-choice - are still nonetheless uncomfortable with the reality of abortion; I personally know a lot of people who are personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice.

I think the "rare" portion of the rhetoric is actually quite useful in communicating to those (many) Americans (whose support the pro-choice movement absolutely has to have to survive) that we understand them.

Interested to hear your thoughts.