Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Roe v. Wade's 35th Anniversary

A number of bloggers participated in "Blog for Choice Day 2008" on 1/22/08 to celebrate Roe v. Wade's 35th Anniversary (I'm a bit late). Via Shark-Fu, here's a long list of participating bloggers, and here's Salon's "Roe, 35 years later," featuring reflections from several feminists.

Melissa McEwan adds a few thoughts and passes on John Edwards' statement on the anniversary. Meanwhile, over at Crooks and Liars, Blue Gal has a good post with several valuable links, including a great video you really should see if you've missed it before, asking anti-abortion activists what should happen to women who have abortions (I'd post it myself, but embedding is disabled). Blue Gal also asks the question many liberals have asked in the past few years: "WTF is up with NARAL?" Finally, over at Obsidian Wings, Publius provided a nice roundup of Scott Lemieux's Roe series.

It occurs to me I've written a fair amount on reproductive freedoms, but besides RWCW, most of it has been in comment threads, debating the issue, rebutting people who want to make abortion illegal again, and the like. It's one of those issues that provokes strong emotions, and the most recent few times, I've seen "murderer!" thrown about pretty freely, although tellingly, it's almost always hurled at female commentators. (Remember, kids, if you can't shame a woman and make her feel bad, she might not do what you choose for her to do!)

The links above provide so much coverage on the issue a more comprehensive post by me may be redundant. Still, without providing a bevy of other links, I'll say that reproductive freedom, including the right of women to get emergency contraception from a hospital, clinic or pharmacy, are line-in-the-sand issues for me. I do know people who are very troubled by the thought of abortion, but nonetheless pro-choice. I can respect that, because they understand the dire consequences of making it illegal again, as the pro-lifers in the video do not. Women would certainly die again due to unsafe, "back alley" abortions. In contrast to conservatives' stereotypes, some of those women would be (as they are now) mothers who simply can't afford another child. A pro-life activist who honestly considered the consequences of his or her stance would have to hold that letting those women die or be maimed is an acceptable trade-off for preventing the greater "sin" of abortion. Meanwhile, the basic pro-life position holds that forcing a woman to carry, give birth and perhaps raise a child against her will is a lesser "evil" than abortion. The most extreme abortion opponents make no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Forcing a woman to bear and raise a child to "learn her" makes no sense, although that is precisely the punitive mindset of more than a few pro-lifers. Moreover, as the saying goes, conservatives' commitment to life ends at birth. Making abortion illegal and simultaneously aggressively opposing social systems and health care makes little sense. Fighting for life in the abstract while dishonoring it in reality makes little sense. Fighting against honest, comprehensive sex education and opposing birth control makes little sense, either, for people who claim to oppose abortion.

The truth is, as the video bears out, that most movement conservatives don't think through the consequences of their positions, certainly not on abortion. It's all the more striking that almost all of the people interviewed are women. But ideological purity means never having to say you're sorry, nor to live in the reality-based community. Never mind that abstinence-only sex ed and purity pledges mean when teenagers have sex — as, new flash, teenagers do — they're much less likely to use birth control, and more pregnancies result. There's a dread irony there. I remember reading the statement of one extreme pro-life woman who didn't want to vaccinate girls against HPV, because she wanted to keep HPV as a tool to scare young women with the threat of cancer and death if they had sex. Of course, that "tool" doesn't work (Reefer Madness, anyone?), and it's a shocking, sociopathic mindset. But a zealot needn’t worry his or her self about such paltry matters. And while among the pro-life crowd there is much crying, screaming and rending of garments over the fate of a fetus, an embryo, a bundle of cells — in the abstract, that is — the feelings of the woman rarely if ever are considered. But then, a deficiency of compassion is also a defining characteristic of movement conservatism.

That's not to mention the larger picture, that many pro-lifers also oppose sex without marriage, even though sex without marriage between consenting adults has been common for millennia. There's a certain narcissism in their assumption that their special blend of Victorian prudishness mixed with American religious dudgeon represents "tradition" or what's "natural." As the saying goes, "Don't like abortion? Don't have one." What another women chooses is none of their damn business.

There are sincere, rational pro-lifers out there, but I'd ask that they really think through the consequences of their positions. Meanwhile, many pro-lifers are authoritarian conservatives who simply want to tell other people what to do, most of all them uppity wimmin, who lord knows, are too hormonal and irrational to make good decisions for their pretty little selves. The pro-life movement isn't really about babies and life. It's part of a larger agenda of social control, and that's one more reason reproductive freedom is so damn important.

Update: BH coding wizard Buck has added the video to the BH version of this post (link directly below).

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

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